(CN) – A federal judge in Arizona dismissed Ripoff Report’s defamation lawsuit over an allegedly defamatory article published on a search engine optimization Web site, saying Ripoff Report failed to show how the site or its author had ties to Arizona.
Xcentric Venture, which operates RipoffReport.com, claimed it was defamed in Sarah Bird’s article, “The Anatomy of a RipOff Report Lawsuit,” posted on SEOmoz.org.
In her article, Bird claimed that Ripoff Report “has been widely and universally accused of promulgating defamatory content and then extorting money from the victims of the very libel it publishes,” the lawsuit states. Xcentric said Bird’s article was essentially a how-to manual on suing Ripoff Report. “If you’re going to sue RipOff Report,” she allegedly wrote, “it is very important to allege that the website created and/or substantially altered the content.”
Bird asked U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, claiming she didn’t know that Xcentric’s owner, Ed Magedson, lived in Arizona or that Xcentric was an Arizona company.
Xcentric and Magedson conceded they lacked evidence to support general personal jurisdiction over Bird and SEOmoz.org, but said the defendants could have discovered online that Magedson lived and ran the company in Arizona.
Silver ruled that “mere knowledge of the defamed individual’s residence is not sufficient to create personal jurisdiction.”
“Plaintiffs have not alleged any facts to support a connection between Arizona and the article,” Silver wrote.
“The exercise of personal jurisdiction over nonresidents merely because they allegedly posted defamatory statements on the Internet about a known forum resident could have dramatic consequences for Internet-based communication,” she added. “The ability to hale an Internet user into a distant forum based on an allegation of intentional defamation could be used to chill free speech.”
After tossing the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction, Silver denied Xcentric and Magedson’s motion for leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery.