Defamation Threatened Against TechCrunch

14 Apr ’07

Mike Arrington has been threatened with a lawsuit over a recent post. Defamation suits don’t seem to be exploding in tandem with the explosive growth of user-generated media, but there is a steady trickle. For my part, I just don’t know why anyone would bother.

First, as popular as blogs are, particularly TechCrunch, they’re still in media oblivion, read by comparatively few, and by even fewer of the readers who (one would think) would matter to the plaintiff in a defamation suit, at least in the tech-‘sphere.

Second, to borrow from James Carville on the Imus story, these days media moves like a brushfire, and sending a demand letter is like lighting a match – it’s a guarantee that (i) all of the people you didn’t want to see the allegedly defamatory comments are going to see them, and (iii) an entirely new audience – those not interested in the original story but attracted by the controversy – is going to find those comments.

Third, in this day of personal soapboxes, responding to blog defamation with a demand letter instead of with a comment (notably, Mike has invited a comment from the complainant in his case) or your own blog post is – at least in this world – virtually an admission that some elements of the original story are true. Fair or unfair, it’s a gotcha moment – these days, it’s easy to answer a lie with the truth, and when a plaintiff doesn’t bother to do even that, folks are going to wonder why.

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