Google Sued For Hosting Insulting Blog Posts

The New York entrepreneur behind an organization called the National Association of Professional Women has sued Google and four unknown bloggers who allegedly libeled him by calling the group a "scam."

The businessman, Matthew Proman, is seeking an injunction ordering Google to delete the blog posts -- all allegedly hosted through Google's Knol or Blogspot. He's also seeking a court order unmasking the bloggers.

This lawsuit -- like recent actions against Craigslist, Facebook, MySpace and numerous other Web companies -- appears headed for certain dismissal. That's because the federal Communications Decency Act says that Web companies can't be sued for allegedly unlawful content created by users.

Proman's attempt to unmask the bloggers should meet a similar fate. He alleges that the bloggers defamed him by calling the NAPW a scam -- but doesn't provide the context surrounding those alleged statements. That alone is reason for the judge to reject his attempt to learn the bloggers' identities, says Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Matt Zimmerman. "You can't determine if statements are defamatory in isolation," he says.

What's more, only factual statements can be libelous -- not opinions or hyperbole. For that reason, other courts have ruled that simply using the word scam isn't necessarily defamatory, Zimmerman says.

Of course, Proman can still make things difficult for the bloggers, who probably don't want to be dragged into court even if they can appear anonymously and have their attorneys argue against unmasking.

Still, it's hard to see what Proman stands to gain by doing so. After all, if he aims to stifle allegations that the NAPW is a scam, suing bloggers must be the worst possible way to go about that.

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