Episode 59: The Politics of Free Speech and Defamation


Defamed cheerleader Sarah Jones is one subject of our free speech vs defamation debate

After a few weeks apart, we’re finally back in the same room doing what we do best. We turn our attention this week to story-telling at TED, politics, Super PACs and the story of the defamed cheerleader. To help us think about online publishing and defamation, we welcome Professor Eric Goldman onto the show.

Starting with politics, we recap the happenings on the GOP primary scene with Romney winning Arizona comfortably and Michigan only just. With the race still pretty close, we think it’ll all come down to the so-called 10 “Super Tuesday” primaries taking place tomorrow (March 6). 410 delegates (18 percent of the total) are up for grabs ! We also wonder how Newt will do. Quiet lately, but still supported by wealthy donors, we don’t think he’s done quite yet.

Trying to keep our finger on the popular pulse, we talk briefly about Rush Limbaugh and the argument with Sandra Fluke. Whether you agree with Mr. Limbaugh or not, there is always a first amendment angle to these sorts of stories. Free expression is free expression and should be protected as such (except for when it’s libel!)

Having said that, in this election year, with social issues already taking over (and at times getting out of control), this kind of speech from a public figure is not the kind we hope for in the public dialogue. Influencing the tenor of discourse, media personalities do need to speak responsibly, even if only for their own benefit !

Moving on other aspects of free speech we talk about the rules regulating Super PACs and the “speech” of corporations, and then finally to the fine line between speech and online defamation.

Delving into the complexities of “section 230” protecting websites from liability for third party content, we were delighted to be joined by Professor Eric Goldman from Santa Clara University Law School. We discussed the case of cheerleader Sarah Jones, the Communications Decency Act, anti-SLAPP protection and Pinterest !

Thanks again to Eric for his input. You can follow him here and @ericgoldman.

Tune in and tell us what you think:

Posted in: Constitutional, Podcast, Privacy