Defamation Case Exposes Social Media Controversy – Robert A. Bertsche Quoted in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly

December 20, 2012

In a case that illuminates the struggle brewing between First Amendment rights and social media, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge has refused to issue an injunction in a suit involving a car dealership that was allegedly defamed by the relatives of a former employee.

The plaintiffs launched a social media campaign asserting that their sister was fired from the dealership because she had cancer. The campaign generated more than 50,000 followers and caused the dealership financial harm by convincing people to cease doing business with the dealer.  Rob Bertsche, a partner in the firm’s Media Law Practice Group and a Communications Law professor at Boston College, believes that the judge “properly denied the plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief.”

Rob added, “The question is whether the government — the court — has the power under the First Amendment to require that speech be silenced, and the judge is absolutely right [that] the government doesn’t have that authority. There’s been no indication in the caselaw or anywhere else that the Internet is sufficiently different to undo 200 years of First Amendment doctrine.”

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