A blogger sued for defamation over comments posted on an Internet message board is not entitled to the same protections
as a journalist, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled.
The court said that blogger Shellee Hale's criticism of a software company on a porn industry bulletin board was not covered by the New Jersey press shield law, which protects members of the news media from revealing their confidential sources.
In an online reader forum, Hale had accused Too Much Media LLC, which provides software to adult entertainment sites, of profiting from a 2007 security breach that exposed customers' personal information.
After the company sued Hale for defamation.
(We) do not believe that the legislature intended to provide an absolute privilege in defamation cases to people who post comments on message boards, the court wrote. Otherwise anyone with a Facebook account could claim the journalist privilege,
it said. Instead, the court concluded that online message boards are little more than unscreened reader comment pages or public forums for discussion.