A California Court of Appeal held earlier this month that a man could not sue his ex-girlfriend’s mother for the nasty things she said about him on the internet. She posted on Topix and Ripoff Report that he was a “deadbeat dad,” and accused him of picking up streetwalkers and homeless drug addicts. She said, “You should be scared,” and, “I would be very careful dealing with this guy. He uses people, is into illegal activities, etc. I wouldn’t let him into my house if I wanted to keep my possessions or my sanity.”
To be liable for slander or libel, she would have to say something provably true or false. But, according to the court, everyone looking at websites like Ripoff Report or like Rants and Raves on Craigslist knows that they attract angry people. Reading and posting exaggerated criticism is those sites’ very purpose. Because, the court concluded, no one could believe from an internet bulletin board that the guy had actually done all those things, she had done nothing more than state a colorful opinion.