RIM Slanderers Beware As Judge Rules Against Blogger Source Protection
You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? This month a Judge ruled against a blogger in a libel case of $2.5 million in a defamation case tried in a federal court in Oregon. Crystal Cox, who calls herself an investigative blogger who is also a journalist, wrote repetitively about the bankruptcy case of Summit Accommodations. Kevin Padrick, an Oregon attorney with Obsidian Finance Group, was appointed trustee in charge of paying Summit creditors. Cox accused Padrick of committing tax fraud, among other things. Padrick sued Cox and won a unanimous jury verdict. According to published reports, there wasn't any evidence that Padrick did anything wrong. Cox tried to use the Shield Law, which allows journalists to protect confidential sources, but the Judge ruled Cox was not a journalist and so is not entitled to the protections. This case is of most interest in both the blogosphere and in the media, as it outlines the continued growth of blogging, the gray area between journalists and bloggers and more libel cases born out of blog posts.
So why am I writing about this defamation case today? And what does it have to do with BlackBerry? Well, first off, it's a most important story that affects the entire blogging community. Secondly, this ruling comes right before yet another recent unsourced rumor about BlackBerry maker, RIM (Research In Motion), started by tech-blog site, BGR (Boy Genius Report). Essentially, BGR has on numerous occasions posted articles such as, RIM discontinuing WiFi PlayBook (RIM response here), Open Letter From Disgruntled RIM Employee (RIM response here), more disgruntled RIM employee letters, and the most recent, BlackBerry 10 is a failure that won’t be able to compete, company source says (RIM response here). These are just the articles I know off the top of my head.
Now let's be fair here, I'm not saying that what BGR posted is false, I'm also not saying it's true. The facts are, the sources are never revealed, so it's a case of he said / she said. What reason does the reader have to believe such information? Without revealing credible sources, these stories are nothing more than nasty slanderous rumors chalked up for media attention. So at what point does RIM stop giving them that attention? In responding to sites like BGR, RIM is essentially is giving them credibility. And if BGR has that much power as a blog to receive a response from RIM on every negative article, should they be required to back it up by revealing their sources? I believe the most recent court ruling against Crystal Cox says, yes. Does this ruling put RIM in a position to take BGR to court? I believe so.
In closing, I must say I'm all for a juicy rumor, but if the rumor can cause damage to a company, it needs to be backed up with a verified source.