Recently, I was the attorney who prosecuted the matter of Dana Goldhaber vs. Charles Kohlenberg. This case dealt with Internet defamation and the jurisdiction of Courts to hear a matter. This case has been widely cited by Courts across the Country and its importance continues to grow. My words of wisdom that are bestowed upon any party that participates in Internet news groups, Facebook, or other chat rooms, is that they should not post anything on the internet that they wouldn’t want their own mother to read. Moreover, they should not assume that an Internet chat room or a similar board is a “free for all” and that there are no potential repercussions for things they have posted. On the contrary, information posted on the Internet is akin to publishing the information in print. If the information posted is willfully false, or constitutes defamation per se, which is defined by statute, this party may be subject to a lawsuit by the aggrieved individual.
As discussed in Goldhaber vs. Kohlenberg, the Courts have extended the long reach of jurisdiction to parties well outside of the State of the victim, as long as the original party understood that his conduct might reach inside the State of the victim and affect that individual. As such, a strong word of wisdom for those posting to Internet news groups is to assume that what they are posting was published and passed out amongst their neighbors. To assume otherwise, may only lead to an unpleasant and costly lawsuit in the future.