Legal Mistakes to Avoid When Blogging

In the internet age, it is easy to be flooded with opinions and hot topics that everyone wants to speak about. To a degree, there is free speech allowed and blogging can allow many people to express opinions. However, there are still laws in effect that limit what bloggers can and should be posting online; especially, if you are speaking about something that is controversial or considered protected speech. Learn what is appropriate and what could get you sued before you post.

Know the Electronic Frontier Foundation
If you are starting at ground zero and have no idea what is okay and what is off limits, visiting the Electronic Frontier Foundation can be extremely helpful. A non-profit group, EFF is fighting for blogger’s rights to anonymity and confidential sources. They help to protect bloggers from being held liable for user’s comments on their pages as well as allow them to speak freely about elections, intellectual property, or even their workplace.

Right to Free Speech

Currently, the Supreme Court has worked hard to uphold blogger’s rights to speak anonymously as an aspect of free speech specified by the First Amendment. Authors should be free to decide whether or not to disclose their true identity; whether this is motivated by fear of social ostracism, job loss, or fear of retaliation. This does not mean you are totally free to say what you will. Your internet service provider, or ISP, can be subpoenaed to disclose your identity. You can hire a lawyer to quash the charges to protect your identity if they do not have a compelling need to demonstrate the identity is necessary.

Don’t get SLAPPed

A SLAPP is a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” and the anti-SLAPP laws are intended to help people who were sued for legitimate speech made about public issues. Being sued for something you wrote regarding public issue or concern is being SLAPPed and there is protection for you. Some states, such as California, have anti-SLAPP laws to protect bloggers so be aware of what is available in your state.

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Online is Still a Publication

Just because you are writing from the seeming privacy of your home does not mean your words are not considered a publication and held to the same standards. You receive the same freedom of speech and press protections but you could run into legal liability issues. Some main issues bloggers can run into are the problems of defamation, trade secrets, intellectual property, right of publicity, intrusion into seclusion or publication of private facts.

Know Your Rights

There is no reason you should be subject to the “Chilling Effect” from a lack of knowledge. Educate yourself on what you are allowed to post, and be aware of how “anonymous” you really are before writing.