Friday, March 13, 2009

Goss Kills Internet Libel Bill

State Senator Steve Goss today announced he has pulled SB 46, the so-called "Internet Libel Bill," from consideration by the North Carolina Senate.

"There is a need to bring our state's slander and libel laws into the 21st Century, but this bill as written does not in any way express my intent," Goss said. "In this day where misinformation can be sent around the world, literally in minutes, both on internet web sites and by e-mail, the laws need to be updated to cover it."

Goss says that such actions may be covered by current laws against libel and slander under Common Law, "but our laws also offer protections to journalists in more traditional print and electronic media that probably do not extend to bloggers and other reporters on the Internet. These protections cover those who make factual errors but who are acting in good faith, and they should cover the newer media as well."

Goss had intended that a section of the proposed legislation would remove liability from those bloggers who post items on the Internet they later find to be false and for which they then post apologies and retractions, "but that section does not appear to be strong enough to solve the problem," he said. In addition, the legislation had included criminal penalties that appear nowhere else in current libel laws, a section that "should never have been written," according to Goss.

"I do not ever want to weaken the First Amendment in any way!"

"This area needs to be addressed in the future," Goss said, "but for now the Legislature is focusing on the state's economy and budget shortfall. When I address this issue again, I'll bring it back with a focus on protecting the First Amendment as the first order of business."

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