The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, April 05, 2004

The Kerry/Kos delinking: link = endorsement?

I stay out of these franco-fran├žais affairs as a rule.

But, as Kevin Thurman flags up [1], Kerry's action does raise the question how far linking should be taken as endorsement [2].

Clearly, for a pleb such as your humble blogger - scarcely a household name in his own household - the matter does not bulk large; the crucial aspect of the current case is the intersection between the regime of hyper-control over utterances aimed at by a candidate for the US presidency - the odd crooked lying apart - and the Wild West [3] of the blogosphere.

It's not for nothing that the enterprise Kerry is undertaking is described as a campaign. Apart the material requirements, there can be no factor more crucial to success in war than discipline.

And the massed ranks of Dem bloggers are a rabble. The idea of bloggers metaphorically rising out of the trenches at H-hour when the whistle blows and marching in regular order towards the enemy is wholly fantastical.

Two words: friendly fire.

Thurman, it seems, actually created a campaign blog for Gary Hart with links to congenial sites, accompanied by a disclaimer - though apparently the Dean people suggested the links were a bad idea.

Now, having established de facto that linking is equivalent to endorsement, Kerry has his work cut out policing all his links till November 2.

And Thurman brings up Air America. The mood now may be love-in amongst liberal Dems. But chances are - given the format, and, I suspect, the ratings - that things are going to get pretty ugly pretty soon (the Randi Rhodes barrage against Nader gives some idea of what to expect).

If Rush or Imus run off at the mouth, there's no comeback on Bush - unless he's implicated in some way in the particular broadcast. But the evident widespread desperation on the left to make liberal talk radio work, and its necessarily intimate connection with the Kerry campaign (the timing alone...) mean that blowback is eminently possible.

That's not just a linking thing, of course.

  1. He has loadsa links on the subject.

  2. I think we're just talking ethically and practically, not legally.

    The only defamation-through-linking case I can find was that brought in 1999 by academic Daniel Curzon-Brown against educational bodies linked to by an allegedly libellous student website. The documentation in the case (ended by a dismissal by Curzon-Brown in October 2000) is here.

  3. Relatively speaking. Mostly, one is relying not on New York v Sullivan but on being too damned insignificant to worry about. And the McLibel factor, of course.


I'm puzzling as to why there seems - on cursory search - to have been no other attempt than Curzon-Brown's to seek to make linkeees liable for linkers' libels.

[There has also been something of a period of quiet reflection on the deep linking front. This page handily summarises (with links) around a dozen cases on linking from various jurisdictions, including Ticketmaster from California and Newsbooster from Denmark.]

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