Kent v. Hennelly

December 5, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 33 media organizations filed an amicus brief in Kent v. Hennelly, a case before the Sixth Circuit. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Tennessee against a South Carolina-based defendant, alleging that the defendant's online comments made on Facebook were defamatory. The district court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The amicus brief argues that the Sixth Circuit should affirm the district court and hold that courts cannot assert personal jurisdiction over defamation defendants solely because public comments they made over the internet are available in the forum state. The mere availability of comments online does is not enough to provide jurisdiction, and could subject journalists and news organizations who publish content online to jurisdiction in every state.


Microsoft v. Dep't of Justice

September 2, 2016

Microsoft challenged the federal law that allows the Department of Justice to impose gag orders, often permanently, on communications services providers when served with a search warrant for their customers' records. The Reporters Committee, joined by a coalition of 29 other media organizations, argued that the gag orders function as prior restraints that interfere with the news media's right to receive information, interfere with the right of access to court records, and threaten the confidential relationship between reporters and their sources. The brief was written with attorneys with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

Nine months and counting: the injunction in Garcia v. Google continues to violate the First Amendment

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Prior Restraints | Commentary | December 3, 2014
December 3, 2014

On December 15, the Ninth Circuit will rehear oral argument in a case that has odd facts and has made terrible law. In Garcia v. Google, a panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit issued a broad mandatory injunction compelling Google to remove and take measures to prevent the publication of a controversial video—all based on a novel copyright theory. The injunction was issued in February. In March, the U.S. Copyright Office rejected the plaintiff’s attempt to register her asserted copyright. Yet despite the plaintiff’s exceedingly attenuated copyright interest, the injunction continues to be in force almost a year later, restraining Google from publishing the video.

Yelp v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning

July 30, 2014

Hadeed Carpet Cleaning sued seven Yelp reviewers for libel, saying it suspects they were not customers but competitors intentionally lying about the companey. Hadeed subpoenaed Yelp for the reviewers' identities, and Yelp argued that the reviewers' speech was protected by the First Amendment and their identities should not be revealed. The Reporters Committee and 16 others filed an amicus brief in the Virginia Supreme Court, arguing that anonymous speech on matters of public concern, especially anonymous commentary on news websites, is vital to public participation and must be protected. The brief further argues that the Virginia unmasking statute must be interpreted robustly, so that a plaintiff is required to provide sufficient evidence to support its claim before it may unmask an anonymous speaker.

Company argues for release of Yelp posters' identity in Virginia appellate court

Latara Appleby | Privacy | News | October 9, 2013
October 9, 2013

A panel of judges in Alexandria, Va., heard an appeal today that will determine whether Yelp will have to reveal identifying information of anonymous commenters.

Hadeed Carpet Cleaning sued anonymous Yelp commenters in July 2012, alleging defamation and conspiracy to defame. Hadeed then subpoenaed Yelp seeking the names of those people, who had anonymously written negative reviews on the cleaning service’s Yelp profile.

Secret surveillance court's ruling paves the way for public disclosure of Yahoo's 2008 fight against PRISM

Rob Tricchinelli | Secret Courts | News | July 16, 2013
July 16, 2013

An order Monday from the United States’ secret surveillance court has brought several documents a step closer to being made public, after a disclosure request from Internet service provider Yahoo.

Yahoo sought the public release of a 2008 case, in which it challenged a surveillance order in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) but lost, therefore requiring its compliance in the National Security Agency's PRISM program.

Virginia Supreme Court reverses injunction against online commenter

Jack Komperda | Prior Restraints | News | January 4, 2013
January 4, 2013

A Virginia woman being sued by her home contractor for libel won't have to remove negative comments she posted on Internet review sites about him, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled.

The state’s high court reversed a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge’s ruling ordering Jane Perez to delete portions of her review of the contractor on Yelp and Angie’s List. In her review, Perez mentioned that her jewelry was missing. She also referenced the outcome of a suit brought by the contractor against Perez for nonpayment.

Businessman can pursue defamation suit without showing proof of monetary loss, N.Y. appeals court rules

Lilly Chapa | Libel | News | December 14, 2012
December 14, 2012

A man accused of throwing a severed horse head in a local politician's pool does not have to prove monetary loss to pursue a defamation lawsuit against his online accusers, an appellate court in New York ruled.

Google's latest transparency report shows government surveillance on the rise in U.S.

Lilly Chapa | Privacy | News | November 19, 2012
November 19, 2012

Paula Broadwell isn’t the only person whose Gmail messages were read by government officials – Google received almost 8,000 e-mail access requests from U.S. state and federal governments in the past six months, according to the latest Google Transparency Report.

Google fully or partially granted 90 percent of the requests made by federal, state and local U.S. governments, according to the report. The requests by stateside governments account for more than a third of requests worldwide.

Kansas Supreme Court allows live streaming, tweeting from state courtrooms

Lilly Chapa | Newsgathering | News | November 8, 2012
November 8, 2012

An amendment to Kansas court rules now lets journalists use laptops and cell phones to report from the courtroom.

Reporters still need permission from the presiding judge, but the recent amendment to Rule 1001 clarifies that such devices may be used by journalists. Before the amendment was added, there was no mention of laptops or smartphones in the rule, and judges assumed such devices were not permitted, according to court spokesman Ron Keefover.