A while back I posted a news item about TheDirty.com, a gossip blog that targets ordinary, non-celebrity people who have had the misfortune to wind up in an unflattering photograph, and then barrages them with a spleen-venting hate-filled spew of off-the-charts invective.
The site delivers cyberbullying with assembly-line efficiency.
Before you click on any links, let me warn you that TheDirty.com should be considered “safe for work” only to the extent you are eager to experience the thrilling adventure of looking for a job in the midst of an economic meltdown. As a law professor who writes about media law, I figure I have a good-to-go explanation for anyone prying into my browsing history. But your results may differ.
Let’s take a look at TheDirty.com’s legal disclaimer:
TheDirty.com, The world’s first ever reality blogger™ is all about gossip and satire. The content that is published contains rumors, speculation, assumptions, opinions, and factual information. Postings may contain erroneous or inaccurate information. All images are credited to their original location. The owner of this site does not ensure the accuracy of any content presented on TheDirty.com. ©
Wow. Well, good luck with that!
This is a sweepingly ambitious disclaimer. I’ve got to say, I can’t imagine it working. Proclaiming that you don’t ensure the accuracy of your content will be about as effective at preventing a defamation judgment as crediting sources of photographs will be in preventing copyright claims. Which is to say, not at all.
About the only way I could imagine a disclaimer like this having any chance at all would be if the publication making the disclaimer was engaged in some activity so socially worthwhile that it was guaranteed to gain the sympathies of the court.
But TheDirty is not crusading for civil rights or trying to save whales. They are not even trying to take jaded celebrities down a peg or two. Ambushing private people with a torrent of meanness and taunting is not the kind of thing that will charm a court into stretching the law.
TheDirty is a ticking A-bomb of litigation. Blog Law Blog will be watching (in a trench 10 miles away wearing welding goggles).