The man, J.P. Weichel, allegedly made posts one year ago suggesting that child protection officials visited his ex-girlfriend because of an injury to her child, according to The Associated Press. And he allegedly wrote that his ex-girlfriend, who is also the mother of his child, traded sex for legal services, the AP reports.
It turns out that Colorado is one of 17 states that has laws criminalizing libel -- or speaking badly of others. And, apparently, the state also has prosecutors with too much time on their hands, who have taken on the task of policing the Web for incivility.
There's no reason Weichel's ex can't pursue a civil damages case against him, but there are many valid reasons why the state authorities shouldn't try to incarcerate people for saying mean things about each other. The most important is that the threat of having to mount a defense to criminal charges can be enough to stop people from voicing completely truthful gripes.
In fact, the statute itself, which defines libel as tending to "expose the natural defects" of others, appears to criminalize truthful remarks -- even though the Supreme Court has ruled that comments that are true aren't defamatory.
In the Internet's early days, the medium was often referred to as a Wild West, where anything went. But these days, it seems more heavily policed than the offline world. After all, it's still extremely unlikely that Weichel would have faced criminal prosecution for defamation for insulting his ex in the locker room, or a letter to a friend, or, for that matter, any forum other than the Web.