Online Comments Lead To Internet Defamation Lawsuit

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Online Comments Lead To Internet Defamation Debacle

Online comments and missing public funds are the two ingredients of an Internet defamation stew brewing in Kootenai County, Idaho. The former chairwoman of the county’s GOP, Tina Jacobson, filed a libel claim against Linda Cook, who allegedly posted anonymous comments on “Huckleberries Online” – a blog associated with The Spokesman-Review.

Unlike a lot of other Internet defamation lawsuits, Jacobson, the plaintiff, didn’t include the blog’s administrator, Dave Oliveria, or the newspaper, on the defendant’s list.

The Allegedly Defamatory Comments In Question

This Internet defamation lawsuit centers around two comments posted on the Spokesman-Review’s website. They read:

“Is that the missing $10,000 from Kootenai County Central Committee funds actually stuffed inside Tina’s blouse??? Let’s not try to find out.”

And

“A whole boat load of money is missing and Tina won’t let anyone see the books. Doesn’t she make her living as a bookkeeper? Did you just see where Idaho is high on the list for embezzlement? Not that any of that is related or anything…”

First Comes Court Order, Then Comes Internet Defamation Lawsuit

Since the posts were originally posted anonymously under the handle “Almostinnocentbystander,” Jacobson first had to uncover the author of the comment to proceed with defamation litigation.  So, in April, Jacobson subpoenaed The Spokesman-Review to uncover the government name of Almostinnocentbystander. Jacobson succeeded and the newspaper had to give up the identifying goods. It was also ordered to hand over any correspondences between Cook and the media outlet.

Defense’s Online Libel Argument: It May Have Been False, But It Wasn’t Malicious

Judging from reports, it appears Cook is willing to acquiesce that her source may have been wrong, but maintains that she certainly believed her source’s information when posting.

Dave Oliveria also acknowledged that Cook’s posts were defamatory. Moreover, when removing Cook’s comments, he remarked that they were “baseless, derogatory, and unsubstantiated.”

Accusations of Conspiracy Abound When Online Comments Lead To Internet Defamation Lawsuit

Even though Jacobson is not suing Oliveria for Internet defamation, she does accuse him of initially conspiring to obstruct Cook’s identity. The plaintiff also claims that the blog administrator “coached” Cook not to mention their email exchanges.

Reminder About Internet Defamation: 1 Hour Will Do It!

The comments that anchor this online defamation case were only online for about 2.5 hours. Which is a reminder: If it’s posted — if only for an hour —  it’s actionable. As such, triple check facts before making online accusations.

Jacobson is suing for a cool $10,000, for both defamation and breach of contract. Confident in her litigation prowess, Cook has chosen to defend herself in court and is quoted as saying that “In the proper setting, which is now the court, [she is] more than prepared to vigorously defend [herself].”

Kelly/Warner Law maintains an active Internet defamation legal practice. If you’ve been libeled or slandered online, contact us to understand your options.

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