Okay. So it's not really a news flash – it's kinda the bread and butter of the L.A. Times to print whiney panic pieces. However, this story hit upon our sweet spot. Reporter David G. Savage writes to warn us all about the dangers of criticizing others on teh interwebs. The advice to bloggers and emailers: "think twice before sending a message."
With all due respect to the attorneys quoted in the piece, the story is a load of shit. It paints the picture that you can and will be sued for posting anything negative about anyone or anything. We understand that there is only so much space available for a story, but this one was so halfway done, that we question the article's intent. Newspapers are losing their grip on the dissemination of information, as blogs and citizen journalists deliver information to the masses. It almost seems like the L.A. Times was trying to scare us all from encroaching on their turf – and that it must have consciously failed to complete the story.
The article quotes our friend Professor Eric Goldman, of Santa Clara University, as saying that someone can be sued for saying "My dentist stinks." Conveniently, this is the end of the quote – convenient because it supports the message behind the piece, i.e., don't be mean to people and hurt their feelings by writing unkind things about them. We're sure that, if the entirety of Professor Goldman's input were published, he would have gone on to state, unequivocally, that "My dentist stinks" would never carry the day in court. In fact, in California, bringing such a frivolous suit would leave the plaintiff paying everyone's attorneys' fees, after getting hit with a special motion to strike pursuant to the state's anti-SLAPP statute. We've never seen Goldman shill for the "fraidy cat" contingent, and we bet our entire publication's credibility that he didn't do so this time.
Let's break it down LS style, in case someone out there is now afraid to complain about how much her dentist stinks on yelp after reading the article. There are two ways the statement "My dentist stinks" can be interpreted: