In what might become an important ruling limiting the legal free speech rights of bloggers, a Freehold, NJ Superior Court Judge J.S.C. Loucuascio has ruled that a Washington state blogger, Shellee Hale, who writes for Oprano.com, does not have the same equal free speech protections as a normal journalist to shield sources when writing. The case revolves around claims by blogger Hale, who has also contributed articles to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and BUSINESS WEEK, that claimed a security breach in some Internet business software developed by a New Jersey based software development company, Too Much Media.
Too Much Media claimed in court that no such security breach issues had ever developed, whereby hackers might steal important customer information. Further, Hale even claimed that the company somehow threatened her life, which is another claim that the NJ software developer company also denies. The judge also noted some discrepancies in the testimony of Hale. Hale also claims to hold a private investigator's license in Washington state. However, both Hale and Too Much Media are both somehow actively associated with Internet free speech rights. Hale posts the Electronic Freedom Foundation free speech Blue Ribbon Logo on some of her blogs, while some of the clients of Too Much Media are businesses actively involved in free speech rights or causes.
While this whole case might actually just pit the credibility of a single blogger against the reputation of some software company that prides itself in the quality of the software products they develop, as well as dueling serious claims by both parties, it also brings in fresh new legal issues such as are blogs entitled to the same equal protection free speech rights as other journalists. So far, the judge in this particular case views blogs as merely a message board, and not a true news forum, which offers far less legal protections to bloggers. However, important issues that define the legal limits of what bloggers are allowed to publish in the way of consumer protection or investigative journalism stories might hinge on part of the new legal ground set by this case.