Crystal Cox Case Scares Blogosphere: Blogger Fined $2.5, Judge Rules Press Protections Don’t Apply

First, Crystal Cox is not a porn star, so let’s just get that out of the way right now.

If you blog, you’ve probably heard Cox’s name right now. The tale of woe that catapulted Cox’s name onto blogs and news sites across the web this week is somewhat multifaceted- on one hand, Cox was sued for defamation, fined $2.5 million for her words and a judge in Oregon ruled that the blogger’s words did not fall under typical press protections. On the other hand, her sites are- to be charitable- a bit alarmist and coarsely presented, and one could be forgiven to think that perhaps her intentions weren’t entirely altruistic in targeting Obsidian Finance Group as well as co-founder Kevin Padrick with her campaign of capital letters and red on black websites across several shrill, self-published sites.

Forbes suggests journalists– and by journalists, I assume the writer means people who spent $60,000 or more in J-school and don’t publish on the WordPress platform- should be reluctant to “claim” Cox as “one of [their] own.” Which on the surface sounds reasonable, and perhaps a case could be made for Cox’s postings being unreasonable, untrue, libelous, defamatory or- and I would stand behind this one- a crime against web design everywhere. But what I believe is most of note with the Crystal Cox case is what was said in US District Court Judge Marco Hernandez’s ruling. If you post anywhere on the internet- Facebook, Yelp or a message board for Corgi lovers- I’d encourage you to read this statement very carefully and with a critical eye:

“[While Crystal Cox] is a self-proclaimed “investigative blogger” and defines herself as “media,” the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.”

I’m no constitutional lawyer, nor am I a journalist, but it seems that in an era where we all rely on liberal First Amendment privileges to speak freely without fear of reprisal, Hernandez’s words leave much room for precedent-setting restraint of citizen journalism and blogging as a whole. Cox may not be the best poster child for the web, but Hernandez’s ruling could come back to haunt us all for words we already can’t take back.

Do you agree with the ruling against Crystal Cox?