Anti-Porn Site Can’t Shield Sources, Court Says

     (CN) – A Web site operator cannot protect her sources in her investigation of the online adult entertainment industry by claiming to be a journalist, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled.




     Too Much Media produces ad tracking software, and has some customers in the adult entertainment industry. TMM suffered a security breach in 2007 when hackers accessed its private list of e-mail addresses, which Judge Anthony Parrillo noted would be “especially embarrassing for the customers of the Web site.”
     Also in 2007, Shellee Hale began a career as a life coach. She ran a pair of Web sites and became disturbed over how often she witnessed “cyber-flashers” who exposed themselves to her via webcam while they were supposed to be seeking her skills as a life coach.
     When her Web server did not resolve her complaints, Hale launched “Pornafia,” a site dedicated to investigating criminal activity in the adult entertainment industry.
     During her investigation, Hale posted comments about the TMM security breach on adult industry message boards. She accused TMM of profiting on the security situation and of threatening people who publicized a class action lawsuit against TMM related to the breach.
     TMM sued Hale for defamation, false light and trade libel. Hale claimed in a motion that as a journalist, she did not have to reveal her sources.
     The motion court disagreed with Hale, and Parrillo affirmed the decision, noting that she did not publish any news content on Pornafia.
     Also, regarding Hale’s message board posts, Parrillo wrote, “defendant had no control over the operation of the Web site and made no editorial or journalistic contribution to it by posting her comments. Nor did she represent herself to be a newsperson in her posts.”

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