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Can Bloggers Be Sued for LIBEL??

fragileXfragileX palaban pa rin PExer
Of LIBEL and Honor
by: Nereo Lujan

THE BRIAN GORRELL blog-Gucci Gang controversy is gaining more and more following after the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN network has started to take it up in its various shows in an apparent attempt to downplay it with legal talks, what with Celine Lopez as among the targets, sending a message (read: veiled threat) that those who will mention the names of people involved, other than Brian’s, may face libel suits. Even the headline of an article posted at ABS-CBN News Online (Online libel: Aussie blogger’s victims are helpless) showed an apparent slant, picturing Brian as a culprit rather than a victim. And the story was a message from the network. But instead of deflecting interest and gaining sympathy for the Gucci Gang, ABS-CBN made Brian’s blog more popular and caused more enrage among bloggers.

There is no question that libel, based on Philippine definition, is present in Brian’s blog. But unless Brian is found guilty of libel or that his blog is proven to be libelous in the courts, people who will mention the names of those exposed in the blog or re-publishes alleged libelous portions of it have nothing to fear. As a rule, republishing a libelous item is libel. Yet, only the court can determine if the first publication is libelous. If proven as such, then republication becomes a crime. But since Brian’s blog came out March 4, no court action has been instituted.

Libel across borders is an interesting issue not only among lawyers but also among bloggers and journalists. Most bloggers are prone to committing libel because of the absence of editorial policies governing their posts. A scan of bloggers’ grammar, construction and content proves that. On the other hand, newspapers now have online editions and these can be accessed anywhere in the globe, and once an article offends someone, the offended party can file a complaint where defamation occurred and not necessarily where the writer is based.



Decades ago, media educator Marshall McLuhan already predicted that technology would shrink the world and that we will all live in one global village. This is true today. And libel across borders is a phenomenon that is already happening.

A landmark case on this involves an Australian businessman, Joseph Gutnick, who sued Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of Barron’s Online, for defamation. Dow Jones is based in New Jersey where the libelous article, which described Gutnick as a customer of a money launderer and a tax evader, was uploaded. And publication and jurisdiction had been the main argument of Dow Jones, saying that for the suit to prosper, Gutnick must institute it where the article was “published from.” But the High Court of Australia ruled in favor of Gutnick, saying he has the right to sue for defamation at his primary residence and the place he was best known, in which case, the state of Victoria.

“So far as damage to his reputation was concerned, Victoria, as the place of his residence, was where most such damage would be done, rather than amongst business, religious or other acquaintances in North America or with the very large number of strangers there who might read about (Gutnick) in the (Dow Jones’) Internet publications,” the Australian Supreme Court said in its 75-page decision, a copy of which can be downloaded from the Internet. In 2004, Dow Jones settled the case and paid Gutnick about $400,000 in fees and damages.

Using the same arguments forwarded by the Australian high tribunal, those who felt dishonored by Brian’s blog may institute a case in any court in the Philippines. But publication and jurisdiction are just among the considerations in this case. If the Philippine court can acquire jurisdiction and proceed in hearing the case, the next question would be: Did Brian actually commit libel as defined by law? Truth is not always a defense in libel, and while Brian might be telling the truth, he can still be held liable if his sole purpose is to besmirch and dishonor. Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code says: “Every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown.”

What was Brian’s motive is setting up a blog? To get back his $70,000 that Montano allegedly bilked from him. Is this a justifiable motive? The burden of proof lies in Brian. Does the end justifies the means? In Daez vs Court of Appeals (G.R. No. L-47971), the Supreme Court said: “The goodness of the intention is not always sufficient by itself to justify the publication of an injurious fact; thus the goodness of the end is not a sufficient motive to warrant the employment of illicit means to obtain it. The existence of justifiable motives is a question which has to be decided by taking into consideration not only the intention of the author of the publication but all the other circumstances of each particular case.”

However, if the dishonored parties bring the issue to court, it will sure take a long process before Brian can be brought to the Philippines to face trial. The Philippine government has even failed to extradite Rodolfo Pacificador back to Antique from Canada to stand trial in the murder of former Gov. Evelio Javier. Can the so-called Gucci Gang members be more influential than the Philippine government? Is the justice that they are seeking more important than the justice that the people of Antique have been aspiring for? Australia and the Philippines signed an extradition treaty but this can be a ticklish issue. Brian can invoke what Pacificador had invoked to block his extradition – that he can never get a fair trial in the Philippines. Who does?

Legal arguments and considerations in this case can be never-ending, not to mention the cost which may reach more than $70,000, the amount that DJ Montano allegedly took from Brian. But all that we hear in this controversy is the side of Brian, while the so-called Gucci Gang members have remained mum. While it is true that everyone has the right to remain silent, the Supreme Court has also ruled several times that silence can be construed as guilt. In Ortiz Jr. vs De Guzman (A.M. No. P-03-1708), it said: “Despite all opportunities accorded to respondent to appear and present his countervailing evidence, he failed to do so. Hence, respondent’s silence may be considered as an implied admission of guilt.”

But if the so-called Gucci Gang members break their deafening silence and sue Brian, they have to contend with one legal principle: He who comes to court must come with clean hands. Affirming this, the Supreme Court, in De Castro vs Utility Savings (G. R. No. 166445) said: “This is a frequently stated maxim which is also expressed in the principle that he who has done inequity shall not have equity. It signifies that a litigant may be denied relief by a court on the ground that his conduct has been inequitable, unfair, dishonest, fraudulent or deceitful…” Who’s the real culprit and who’s the real victim in this case?

Meanwhile, there was this female athlete who proclaimed herself “the Charles Barkley of figure skating.” Learning about this, the basketball legend and compulsive gambler quipped: “My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character.”

Indeed, libel takes place only when true honor is besmirched.
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Comments

  • fragileXfragileX palaban pa rin PExer
    "Can Bloggers Be Sued for Libel?
    By Steve Rubel --

    Fellow PR blogger Jeremy Pepper interviewed David E. McCraw, Counsel for The New York Times Co., to offer some insight on bloggers' potential libel liability...

    From the article:

    "Do bloggers deserve the same protection as journalists? On one side, it obvious that bloggers are journalists, and on the other side, people are just having private conversations. Bloggers are trying to site on both sides of the fence - citizen journalists and personal journals. They want the protection of shield law as a journalist, but at the same time not worry about fact checking since it is just a blog."

    Originally, people thought that since blogs had low readership there was no real reason to worry about libel. But, now the way that search engines work, blogs are being easily found - with comments and posts of an unflattering nature.

    What happens on blogs now is that posts are being picked up by major media outlets. The lonely, personal essayist is no longer true for blogs. There are now blogs that are influential and being picked up, and if it construed as factual information, there needs to be a level of fact checking. If it is false, the original source - the blogger - may be subject to liability just as much as a newspaper.

    Suing a blogger might not be worth the hassle, though. First, you have to prove that people have read the post, that you were damaged by it, then find the person that posted the libelous content, find the court that has the jurisdiction ... it is extremely difficult to deal with these hurdles in an economic way.

    It is unlikely that a person of prominence will sue a blog, because of the high hurdle public officials need to take. But, blogs and the potential of libel raise interesting legal issues.

    One more thought - In Europe, particularly the UK, libel laws are different. Unlike the States - where it is the plaintiff who is responsible for proving libel - in the UK it is up to the defendant to prove that what they wrote was true. (Interesting side note is that the Wall Street Journal just won a libel case in the UK, proving that only 5 people read the article)."
  • j42002j42002 Member PExer
    Hahahah..Frax.. wiling wili ka sa Brian Gorrel na yan ah...

    There should be some restrictions in what is being conveyed in the blog... Dapat yung issue lang ....As for libel.. as long as the concerned party does not do anything but give threats walang mangyayari.

    Here in the philippines.. wala pa atang concrete law against this kind of situation unlike in other countries.. ang labanan dito.. kung sino ang mas concrete ang regulations.

    Dito kaya sa pex? ang mga comments kaya ng pexers are bound by law?? Pwede din kaya tayong kasuhan ng libel? esp. dito sa Local and Foreign issues forum... hahahaha
  • j42002j42002 Member PExer
    Frax.. takot ata ang mga tao magpost.. bka makuha ang IP address nila at ma-sangkot pa sa libel hahahahah... nasan na ang matatapang na debaters natin?

    hahahahahah.....
  • sugargamesugargame Member PExer
    Bloggers can never be sued for libel. Anonymity is one of the primary factors contributing to the success of blogging sites. Take that away then you might as well ban porn, politically radical sites, and impose a heavily restrictive firewall that will block approximately 99% of all websites like China just did.

    Of course governments can always try to monitor i.p. addresses, regulate proxy servers, and network tunneling but this will consume too much bandwidth in the process forcing ISPs to demand compensation for loss of business.

    Try working on this website and see if internet censorship is worth it...

    Great Firewall of China
  • j42002j42002 Member PExer
    I think with China which holds everything even conception,the mere freedom of airing one's view can really bring you trouble.

    Now with Tibet, because of censorship, chinese people is brainwashed on thinking, Tibetan people and the Dalai lama is the problem.

    With regards to Bloggers in general, especially the one with Bryan Gorell.. there should be a regulation into how much one should freely give his sentiments, emotions, rage in certain situations.

    People are just criticizing freely because they remain anonymous. They know they cannot be sued, but one should always have a certain decency , even a small one for every opinion one gives.
  • rickymrickym Member ✭✭
    if it is true i don't think it will qualify as libel

    http://www.chanrobles.com/revisedpenalcodeofthephilippinesbook2.htm

    "Art. 361. Proof of the truth. — In every criminal prosecution for libel, the truth may be given in evidence to the court and if it appears that the matter charged as libelous is true, and, moreover, that it was published with good motives and for justifiable ends, the defendants shall be acquitted."
  • fragileXfragileX palaban pa rin PExer
    yes justifiable if it concentrates on the issues and the person/persons involve only not the whole lot.
  • fragileXfragileX palaban pa rin PExer
    I saw interview of Bryan Gorell with Ted Failon yesterday..(TFC)

    "interesting":)
  • answers4cashanswers4cash Member PExer
    sugargame wrote: »
    Bloggers can never be sued for libel. Anonymity is one of the primary factors contributing to the success of blogging sites. Take that away then you might as well ban porn, politically radical sites, and impose a heavily restrictive firewall that will block approximately 99% of all websites like China just did.

    Of course governments can always try to monitor i.p. addresses, regulate proxy servers, and network tunneling but this will consume too much bandwidth in the process forcing ISPs to demand compensation for loss of business.

    Try working on this website and see if internet censorship is worth it...

    Great Firewall of China

    Good thing you're too stupid to get into law school because you'd make a lousy attorney.

    For the record:

    Most pinoy bloggers use blogger.com (aka blogspot) and other freehosts. Those sites regularly turn over their IP and records to authorities. Libel is libel... whether you publish it on paper or online.
    Proxy servers also keep logs (on the the ROUTER side!). Unless these blogger.com users are going to use spam routers or "onion routers" (duh!) blogspot will block them if they use regular proxies. Spam routers and onion routers are nonstarters with big (read: spam target) sites like blogger.com
  • Gide0nGide0n Yonkou ✭✭✭
    interesting old article from Wired:

    Bloggers Gain Libel Protection

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can't be held responsible for libel for information they republish, extending crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers.

    Online free speech advocates praised the decision as a victory. The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated e-mail lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily.

    "One-way news publications have editors and fact-checkers, and they're not just selling information -- they're selling reliability," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "But on blogs or e-mail lists, people aren't necessarily selling anything, they're just engaging in speech. That freedom of speech wouldn't exist if you were held liable for every piece of information you cut, paste and forward."

    The court based its decision on a section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, or the CDA. That section states, "... no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Three cases since then -- Zeran v. AOL, Gentry v. eBay and Schneider v. Amazon -- have granted immunity to commercial online service providers.

    read full story...
  • answers4cashanswers4cash Member PExer
    WOW! I didn't know the US 9th Circuit is controlling law in the Philippines :lol: :lol: :lol:

    No wonder our libel laws here are just as restricted as in the US---NOT. :rotflmao:
    Gide0n wrote: »
    interesting old article from Wired:

    Bloggers Gain Libel Protection

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can't be held responsible for libel for information they republish, extending crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers.

    Online free speech advocates praised the decision as a victory. The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated e-mail lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily.

    "One-way news publications have editors and fact-checkers, and they're not just selling information -- they're selling reliability," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "But on blogs or e-mail lists, people aren't necessarily selling anything, they're just engaging in speech. That freedom of speech wouldn't exist if you were held liable for every piece of information you cut, paste and forward."

    The court based its decision on a section of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, or the CDA. That section states, "... no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Three cases since then -- Zeran v. AOL, Gentry v. eBay and Schneider v. Amazon -- have granted immunity to commercial online service providers.

    read full story...
  • SalaminkoSalaminko Member PExer
    WOW! I didn't know the US 9th Circuit is controlling law in the Philippines :lol: :lol: :lol:

    No wonder our libel laws here are just as restricted as in the US---NOT. :rotflmao:

    Dito sa pinas, we don't sue for libel. We just have them murdered. There are more journalists murdered here than anywhere in the world.
  • jonetjonet Wilmanure Fleas Republic PExer
    In some countries, defamation or libel action is essentially concerned with damage to reputation, rather than publication being untrue or an invasion of a plaintiff's privacy.

    And in some instances, the tort has 3 required elements-
    (1) the statement must be false (irrespective of whether it is defamatory of an individual plaintiff)
    (2) the statement must be published maliciously
    (3) it must have been intended to produce and resulted in actual damage, with the plaintiff having suffered direct economic loss because the falsehood deceived others :lovealot:
  • agnesD.PhDagnesD.PhD Member PExer
    Is this in reference to characters in the blog?


    http://youtube.com/watch?v=vwsRE7NR8K0
  • sheepslaughtersheepslaughter Member PExer
    In this blog someone actually claims that Gorrell has some criminal record in Canada. If that is false would the blogger or commenter be a candidate for libel?

    http://tesstermulo.com/2008/03/14/cautious-of-the-brian-gorrell-blog/
  • BeerhandBopBeerhandBop I Am WHIP ✭✭✭
    LoL, Ghey stealing someone else's ghey boyfriend.
  • j42002j42002 Member PExer
    welll, it depends sheepslaughter.. in that blog someone just shared his own experience but not necessarily would have the same situationas that of Bryan Gorell.. well, he was slighted of course but I think the one that did force him to do the "blog" is because he cannot believe that he was "cheated" and deceive with those people around him.
    Of course, being deceived by a A" BF" found in the streets of Manila or Ermita or the nightclubs..would not sound as a surprise but coming from a so called "elite" group is a cause for his "rage'.
    and the scheming way he was treated.
    I don't know if his 'blog' would be a case for Libel..
  • AltarBoy^_^AltarBoy^_^ Moderator PExer
    I don't think the people involved in Brian's blog would file cases soon. They will have to take oath for that, and the worse thing that would happen is that they will have to undergo drug tests for their testimonies to be counted in court. :laugh:
  • BchemistBchemist Head Coach aka The Sheriff PExer
    I don't think the people involved in Brian's blog would file cases soon. They will have to take oath for that, and the worse thing that would happen is that they will have to undergo drug tests for their testimonies to be counted in court. :laugh:

    And part of libel in a civil case is proving that what Brian is saying is NOT true. I can just imagine the size of the "witness party" to what he's claiming :lol:
  • BchemistBchemist Head Coach aka The Sheriff PExer
    One thing that I'm fairly certain of is that Brian is making about $2000-$3000 US per day from his blog.

    My business in Hong Kong does search engine optimization and we'd net over $2000 per day for less than 20,000 unique visitors at our peak. I can only imagine what he earns from 30,000-50,000 unique visitors per day.

    If Google personally contacted him to add Google ads to his site, you can only imagine what a cash cow that site is right now.

    Not only has he made back his $70,000, but if someone was to offer to buy his blog for $100,000, I'd bet that he wouldn't take it to close it down.

    Sheeeeeeiiit...I'll offer him $100,000 for his blog. It's worth 5-10 times that amount if he can keep the gossip going for a year.
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