Home » Uncategorized » Does Social Media Make You a Public Figure?: New Law Review Comment

Does Social Media Make You a Public Figure?: New Law Review Comment

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Matthew Lafferman. Comment. Do Facebook and Twitter Make You a Public Figure?: How to Apply the Gertz Public Figure Doctrine to Social Media.  29 Santa Clara Computer and High Tech. L.J. 199-247 (2012).

Abstract: In Gertz v. Welch, the Supreme Court expanded First Amendment
protections to defamation law by requiring a plaintiff who qualified as a
public figure to prove a higher burden of proof to recover for damages
under a defamation suit. The Court relied on two major rationales to
delineate the Gertz doctrine: public figures “voluntarily exposed
themselves to increased risk of injury” and had “significantly greater
access to the channels of effective communication.” Applying this
doctrine to online media poses challenges, specifically when applied to
social media platforms. Many scholars have recognized that social media
users have equal access to the same basic media features, rendering the
Gertz Court’s access-tothe- media rationale inapplicable when applied to
social media. A 216% rise in defamation suits against Internet users in
the last three years alone, due to the recent discovery that most
homeowner’s insurance policies cover libel liability, signals an almost
inevitable rise in defamation suits that will eventually force courts to
face the challenge of applying the Gertz public figure doctrine to
social med


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