Georgia Court Assesses Stiff Internet Defamation Penalty Against Anonymous Poster
In Georgia’s first case to address Internet libel, the Georgia Supreme Court has awarded a plaintiff approximately $400,000 after he was victimized by an online character assassination labeling him him a “pervert” and a drug addict, and claiming that he had a criminal record that included time served in jail (Cooley v. Ballew, Ga. Super. Ct., 08-CV-648 DM, 1/13/11). The “anonymous” defendant utilized several user-names to post the defamatory assertions.
Equally, if nor more offensive, is the fact that the defamatory material was posted immediately following the murder of plaintiff’s fiancee, by her ex-husband. News sources have reported that the negative publicity cost plaintiff his job and severely damaged his reputation. When questioned, the defendant admitted that her allegations were merely based upon a “feeling” and that she did not possess any proof whatsoever.
It is anticipated that this case will aid Georgia lawmakers in their efforts to solidify a state anti-cyberbullying statute.