According to the Courthouse News, the judgment of $2.5 million against Crystal Cox has withstood a motion for a new trial, championed by some of the bigger guns in blawgosphere, Eugene Volokh and the Electronic Frontier Foundation . While the law in the case may be problematic, the decision itself reflects one of the most fundamental and common problems with developing law; It’s based on the outlier.
Remember when the Virginia Bar Association found that Horace Hunter’s blog would require an advertising disclaimer? Many shook their heads in dismay, as the free speech hero was smacked. But then, Horace Hunter didn’t have a blog. Sure, he called it a blog. Sure, the Virginia bar called it a blog. But it was no blog, and it had nothing to do with what others in the blawgosphere did. It was nothing more than blatant advertising masquerading as a blog.
Same for Crystal Cox. She calls herself an “investigative blogger.” If she called herself a “savior,” she would have a better chance of being Jesus. I won’t link to her because there’s nothing she’s ever written that deserves to see the light of day. She’s a blight on the internet, an affront to any person who has the slightest concern about the insanity that appears regularly in a google search. She is not like us.
Anyone with a keyboard and internet access can claim to be a blogger. There is no test for character and fitness. Or sanity.
Aside from representing herself at trial, which certainly didn’t help matters, and without reference to the utterly bizarre and wholly unfounded allegations she claimed, there’s a special twist that needs to be understood.
“[T]he uncontroverted evidence at trial was that after receiving a demand to stop posting what plaintiffs believed to be false and defamatory materials on several websites, including allegations that Padrick had committed tax fraud, defendant offered ‘PR,’ ‘search engine management,’ and online reputation repair services to Obsidian Finance, for a price of $2,500 per month,” Hernandez wrote.
“The suggestion was that defendant offered to repair the very damage she caused for a small but tasteful monthly fee. This feature, along with the absence of other media features, led me to conclude that defendant was not media.”
How many blogger do you know who stay up all night buying websites with other people’s names on them, write the craziest crap they can dream up and then try to get the victims to pay to take the crap down? Good work if you can get it, right? Well, not for most of us.
District Judge Marco Hernandez included a lot of language in his decision that strikes fear in the hearts of legitimate bloggers, diminishing the role they play and the protection they deserve. He tried to correct some of his language in his denial of the motion for a new trial.
The judge clarified his position on the media status of bloggers, which was an issue that made this case a cause célèbre among some free-speech advocates.
“In my discussion, I did not state that a person who ‘blogs’ could never be considered ‘media.’ I also did not state that to be considered ‘media,’ one had to possess all or most of the characteristics I recited,” Hernandez wrote.
The judge said he focused on lack of evidence that would establish Cox as a member of the media.
If you’ve ever read anything Cox published, you too would conclude that she is most definitely not a member of the media. She’s not a member of the blogosphere. Whatever she is a member of, you wouldn’t want to join.
Comparatively speaking, Horace Hunter, self-promoter that he was, is at least a rational, sane person, if somewhat disingenuous in his claim that he speaks for the blawgosphere when he posts self-aggrandizing stories about himself and his greater glory. Crystal Cox speaks for Crystal Cox. She’s about a million miles away from anything you will ever see in the blawgosphere, even the absolute worst, most puffy crap that’s become the mainstay of legal marketing.
While the legal reasoning upon which Judge Hernandez based his decision may present a host of problems for bloggers in general, it only matters when totally separated from the facts of the case, the nightmarish content appearing on dozens of websites created by Crystal Cox to scream crazily in the night about whoever became her latest obsession. It has nothing to do with us. Cox is not a first amendment hero. Cox’s case will never come back to bite any legitimate blogger in the butt.
It should come as no surprise that our rights are often tested by the worst among us. Cox, however, is not the worst among us, but not among us at all. Don’t fear this decision. It’s got nothing to do with bloggers. She is not like us.
I applaud the fight by Gene and EFF for the issues of law at stake. As for Cox, she got what she deserved.
Update: If you need all the gory details, Marc Randazza spells it out in chapter and verse. It’s not merely ugly, but truly quite disgusting. This is a bad story of bad things that can happen on the internet. Bad, bad, bad.