Scheff says she wanted to make a point to those who unfairly criticize others on the Internet. "I'm sure (Bock) doesn't have $1 million, let alone $11 million, but the message is strong and clear," Scheff says. "People are using the Internet to destroy people they don't like, and you can't do that."
Even with no opposing counsel and no defendant there, $11 million is a huge amount," says Pollack, adding that Scheff is considering whether to try to collect any money from Bock. "The jury determined this was a significant enough issue. It's not just somebody's
feelings are hurt; it's somebody's reputation is ruined."
The case reflected how blogs — short for web logs, the burgeoning, freewheeling Internet forums that give people the power to instantly disseminate messages worldwide — increasingly are being targeted by those who feel harmed by blog attacks. In the past two years, more than 50 lawsuits stemming from postings on blogs and website message boards have been filed across the nation. The suits have spawned a debate over how the "blogosphere" and its revolutionary impact on speech and publishing might change libel law.
Legal analysts say the lawsuits are challenging a mind-set that has long surrounded blogging: that most bloggers essentially are "judgment-proof" because they — unlike traditional media such as newspapers, magazines and television outlets — often are ordinary citizens who don't have a lot of money. Recent lawsuits by Banks and others who say they have had their reputations harmed or their privacy violated have been aimed not just at cash awards but also at silencing their critics.
A key principle that courts use in determining whether someone has been libeled is what damage the offending article did to that person's reputation in his or her community.
Susan Crawford, a professor at Cardoza Law School in New York who specializes in media and Internet issues, says the ease with which false postings can be corrected instantly, among other things, will force judges to reconsider how to measure the damage that is done to a plaintiff's reputation."Libel law depends on having a reputation in a particular town that's damaged," she says. "Do you have an online reputation? What's your community that hears about the damage to your online reputation?