In National Technical Systems v Schoneman
, the California Court of Appeal has ruled that a "public forum" encompasses an Internet bulletin board. The Court made the finding in the context of an appeal from a trial decision concerning the posting of allegedly defamatory statements about a corporation and its President on an Internet bulletin board.
The plaintiff, National Technical Systems Inc. (NTS), brought suit against its former Vice-President, Brett Schoneman, for statements about NTS posted on the Yahoo! Finance message board. Schoneman had brought a motion to strike the lawsuit under California's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute and, based on a finding of no evidence that the Yahoo! message board is a public forum and that the postings concern a matter of public interest, the motion failed. (The California anti-SLAPP legislation was intended to curb lawsuits brought to chill the valid exercise of rights of free speech – specifically, it protects speech made in "a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest").
On appeal, the Court reversed the decision at trial and granted Schoneman's motion to strike the lawsuit. Citing earlier California decisions, the Court of Appeal affirmed that a "public forum" encompasses Internet bulletin boards or chat rooms that are open to the public and where information is freely exchanged. The Court had little trouble finding that the postings were of public interest. As a publicly traded company with approximately 1000 shareholders and over 20,000 postings regarding NTS, the Court found that there was a clear public interest in the company.
To review the decision, see:
National Technical Systems v Schoneman
Summary by: Colin Adams
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