Writing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth can keep you out of trouble — both in your personal and public life — only to a point. While truth is the defense for libel and slander, it is NOT a defense for invasion of privacy and the Internet is the new frontier where not everything is clearly defined.
And even if you consider your blog a diary, that doesn't keep you safe from character defamation charges - and the cost could be as much as 23 years of your life.
When the Internet began to gain public popularity, the issue of libel and slander was fuzzy. Radio and television broadcasts, if defamatory, are considered slander under California Civil Code Sec. 46. While television is not specifically mentioned in the law, the section refers to "orally, uttered, and also communications by radio or any mechanical or other means" and this was later taken to cover television.
Why is this important? Because for slander the plaintiff must prove special damages. Slander is considered more ephemeral than libel. In the case of libel, damages are presumed because it is more permanent or "writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye."
In November of 2003, the Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled that Internet postings were considered libel, not slander, under California law. According to an article that appeared in the Metropolitan News-Enterprise on 14 November 2003, in the case of Varian Medical Systems, Inc, v. Delfino, H024214 "two former employees [of Varian Associates, Inc.] posted a series of messages on an Internet bulletin board devoted to the company's publicly traded stock. The messages maligned the company's products and suggested that the two executives were incompetent and dishonest and that one of them, a woman, might have obtained her position by having sex with a supervisor."
A jury found them guilty of libel, invasion of privacy, breach of contract and conspiracy, according to David Watson's article. They were further fined $425,000 for general damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.