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Court Finds Calling Someone a "Terrorist" Online Is Non-Actionable Opinion

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | about 2 years ago

The Courts 0

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Eric Goldman writes that after Town Board member Gail Soro of Wawayanda, NY discovered a severed horse head in her swimming pool in July 2006, community members started pointing fingers at each other over whodunit and although it was never determined who was responsible for the incident members of the community started posting accusations on blogs and newspaper websites. ""We all know who was behind the Horse Head . . . there is only one man around town dumb enough, violent enough and with a vendetta to do that . . . Dave LeBlanc . . . I hope all this negative publicity on him destroys his business," wrote one defendant. "Dave LeBlanc is a terrorist." In the modern post-9/11 era where we have sacrificed our liberty for the (usually false) perception of security, calling someone a "terrorist" is among the worst things you can do writes Goldman. However the court found that the "terrorist" epithet was "rhetorical hyperbole" and added that "readers give less credence to allegedly defamatory Internet communications than they would to statements made in other milieus." Still, the news isn't all good for the defendants. The court says it's still defamatory per se to assert that someone put a severed horse head in someone's pool, because "the accusation that the plaintiff placed a horse head in a political rival's pool, if true, describes conduct that would constitute serious crimes" so the court reserves dismissal of that claim."

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