No Case Is More Important Than Yours

Bloggers, the First Amendment And Cyber-Stalking

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2014 | Advice

Where there once was the town-crier, today there is the internet. Those unhappy with a person or business now have, as they should, the means to express their dissatisfaction to all who choose to view their complaints on the web. Many people are under the mistaken impression that they can blog anonymously without repercussions. This view is incorrect, particularly once a lawsuit is filed and civil discovery commences. At that point, internet host sites are required by law to supply identifying subscriber data via the discovery process.

For those who find themselves in the cross-hairs of a lawsuit for blogging, there is one guiding principle: the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because blogs enjoy such protection, they do not constitute “cyber-stalking” for injunctive purposes, unless they are being used “to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images or language…directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.” §784.048(1)(d) (Fla. Stat. (2013); Chevaldine v. R.K./Fl. Management, Inc., ___ So.3d ___, 2014 WL 443977 (Fla. 3d DCA Feb. 5, 2014); Murphy v. Reynolds, 55 So.3d 716, 717 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011).

As noted by the Chevaldine court:

Angry social media postings are now common. Jilted lovers, jilted tenants, and attention-seeking bloggers spew their anger into fiber-optic cable and cyberspace. But analytically, and legally, these rants are essentially the electronic successors of the pre-blog, solo complainant holding a poster on a public sidewalk in front of an auto dealer that proclaimed, “DON’T BUY HERE! ONLY LEMONS FROM THESE CROOKS!”

Since “cyber-stalking” can form the basis for a domestic violence injunction under §784.046(4)(a), Fla. Stat. (2013), it is important to retain counsel who is knowledgeable about these developments in the law if an injunction is sought against you on these grounds. Failure to defend yourself against the entry of these injunctions can result in many adverse consequences such as your ability to carry a firearm, your right to be in a certain place at a certain time, and subject you to possible criminal charges if it is claimed that you have violated the terms of the injunction.