UPDATE 12/12/2011: As reporters at Forbes and The New York Times point out, there seems to have been a wide ranging campaign run by Ms. Cox against Obsidian Finance Group, a project that relied as much on sensational SEO as factual information. There is also an email from Ms. Cox which asks for money in exchange “online reputation protection”.
Crystal Cox, an Oregon based blogger, may have taken this whole DIY thing a smidge too far. It’s pretty common for bloggers to run their own mini publishing empires these days and break big news that sets the national agenda. Representing yourself in court, on the other hand, is still a little dicey.
Ms. Cox runs www.industrywhistleblower.com, http://www.judicialhellhole.com, and http://www.obsidianfinancesucks.com, blogs from which she assailed the investment firm Obsidian Finance Group. The firm sued her in January for defamation and in court, Ms. Cox argued that her blog, like so many others, was a mix of fact and opinion.
The judge seemed to buy that, throwing out the suits against all but one of the blog posts. As the Seattle Weekly reports however, “The judge ruled that this single post was indeed defamatory because it was presented, essentially, as more factual in tone than her other posts, and therefore a reasonable person could conclude it was factual.”
Based on that, the court awarded Obsidian $2.5 million in damages.
The crux of the issue is that Cox couldn’t prove her facts were true without revealing the whistleblower who gave them to her. And the court ruled that since she was an indepedent blogger, not employed by any official media organization, she was not protected under the “shield laws” which protect journalists in Oregon.
That might be because the law was written before a little thing called THE INTERNET came along, but hey, who’s counting.