WASHINGTON, DC — December 31, 2018 — The deputy police chief of Yonkers, NY has sued an online blog, YonkersTribune.com <https://yonkerstribune.com/>, claiming the blog hosted “hundreds” of false and defamatory comments about him. The lawsuit faces some obvious hurdles:
1. New York has a law that can lead to early dismissal of defamation lawsuits designed to stifle dissent – a “strategic lawsuits against public participation” or “SLAPP” law. This lawsuit will likely face a SLAPP motion to dismiss under NY CVR s. 70-a. If YonkersTribune were to win a SLAPP motion to dismiss, it could get an award of attorney fees.
2. A deputy police chief is almost certainly a public official who must prove he was defamed with actual malice to succeed in a defamation lawsuit – a very high standard of intent that is difficult to meet.
3. Under the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), section 230, 47 U.S.C. s. 230, YonkersTribune is probably an interactive computer service that was not responsible for creating the “content” (the alleged defamatory statements in the comments section). The protections apply to state law claims too. Therefore, Yonkers Tribune should seek early dismissal under subsection (c)(1) of the CDA.
INFORMATION: Andrew M. Friedman is an Attorney-at-Law with the firm of Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, P.A., located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He primarily defends government investigations and litigates civil fraud. He also has a long-standing sub-specialty in First Amendment / defamation / false light privacy litigation. From time to time he writes about defamation claims of interest. He has successfully brought and litigated claims of interest. He has successfully brought and litigated (usually by settlement) high profile defamation claims and has successfully defended many defamation lawsuits as well.
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