I was sued over a blog post for $5m and content marketers should know these things

Chris Moody sued over a blog postWhere to start?

For those of you who follow this blog or keep up with me, you may find 232 days without a post a bit odd. Some may have chalked it up to my adorable son (now 14 months old).

But, that wasn’t it.

If you’re asking Can you get sued for a blog post?, buckle up.

I was sued over a blog post.

Yep. The same guy who has co-founded an MBA course on social media was named in a lawsuit over it. To be fair, I was never served, but it was a painful experience.

I didn’t really talk about it. I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t really want to pay to fight it. I was a bit lost.

Luckily, I have some extremely smart friends and an attorney in the family who provided some guidance.

Why was I sued over a blog post?

Disclaimer: I’m choosing to be vague here. Local news websites and broadcasts covered an event that took place a few miles from my old residence. The story discussed how the application of a new technology was used to help keep the public safe. I thought that was cool.

Boom. I shared the news article on my blog with an intro reading “Interesting use of technology” or something to that effect.

Years pass.

We were trying to sell our house and had just been notified that the offer we accepted was not going to work out due to an insanely low appraisal. We were crushed. We had packed, planned, celebrated and done all the things you do when you’re taking the next step as a family. Now we had to start over again.

An hour after that happened, my phone rang. It was a local attorney representing a large governmental organization. He was calling to update me on the lawsuit I was named in.

I literally had a WTF moment.

You must have the wrong person. I haven’t done anything wrong.

Then he proceeds to tell me about how a person named in a news story was unhappy with how they were represented and named all the news stations, websites, forums, users, etc. where the article was mentioned in the suit.

I laugh.

This is ridiculous. Nobody would take this seriously. Sue everyone who shares an article? Are they suing everyone who watched the news? Or everyone who read the website? What about comments, tweets, shares that didn’t stick to a blog?

The attorney was great. He couldn’t give me counsel since he represented another party, but was very calm, respectful and also a bit surprised.

I’m not one to deal with many legal matters. I contested a bogus speeding ticket when I was in my teens (and won). I was deposed when a startup imploded, but had nothing to do with that case (I just told the truth in a conference room for 9 hours). Sued? Really? I mean, come on man. Really?

I hang up the phone and cry.

The house fell through. I’m named in a multi-million dollar suit (I could give a flatscreen TV away). I’m screwed. I had started a new job. I was raising a new family. I am a Dad now. What do I do about all of this? It may sound dramatic, but seeing your name on a document asking for millions of dollars is new to me.

Normally, I would probably be a little more defiant. I believe in standing up for what you believe in. I believe in fighting to make things better, even if you endure the pain to get there. I believe in the greater good. I grew up a team player. I would have probably challenged this head-on if I wasn’t already in the dumps. But, I felt defeated.

I buried my blog away. I grew jaded. I marketed the heck out of all things cloud with my job, but didn’t share much of anything online.

This happened in April 2011… see the trend?

The next few months were stressful. Every time the doorbell rang, I thought I was getting served (that is what happened with the deposition after all). I did what I normally do – get a little analytical and research the hell out of my situation. That is what makes me a decent marketer after all.

Months pass. Eventually, things return to normal.

What to learn from this

You need to increase the buffer you have before putting things online. My motto was always to keep it offline if you wouldn’t want your mom, spouse or boss to see it. But, that isn’t quite enough. Be wary of anything negative or that could potentially damage anyone’s reputation – even if it seems like a no brainer.

After all, it is becoming commonplace to be sued or threatened if you leave negative reviews behind. A Google search now yields over 19 million results for sued over a negative review. Phil Buckley was just recently threatened over a negative review. I received a letter from Cash for Gold once about not referring to it as a scam. It is happening a lot now.

If you like erring on the side of free speech, just be prepared to spend some money to defend a post if someone takes offense to it.

I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice – just findings. These were relevant in my situation.

On the Internet, first source carries the burden.

Well leave it to the Fourth District, Court of Appeal to decide the issue. It determined that Internet websites are subject to the single publication rule. In plain English, (and grossly simplified) it means that you can only sue for damages based on the first publication of a defamatory statement. You can’t, for example, sue multiple times based on a single defamatory statement. This is important because the statute of limitations is triggered at the first publication of a defamatory statement. So the Fourth District effectively held that in regard to alleged defamatory statements made on Internet websites (like blogs or Twitter), the statute of limitations begins to run at the time the statement is first published.

In NC, the statute of limitations for libel, slander and defamation is one year.

You are protected from any statements from a third-party reposted on your blog under the Immunity for Online Publishers and Communication Decency act.

So, what now?

Obviously, I’m writing again. It took me a while, but here I am.

I’m also in talks with several lawyers about a potential resource for bloggers and/or insurance to protect others in similar situations and to have resources available without spending a ton of money. There are groups for the press, but I’m not aware of any for individual bloggers. Chime in if I missed something. It is tricky as I don’t think bloggers are entitled to the press benefits.

I don’t plan to deal with anything else like this in the future. It would be nice to take the Oatmeal approach to threats / lawsuits, but I don’t have the pull or the audience for that.

Be careful out there friends. It felt good to write this and I think I’m over it now. And this post about getting sued over a blog post performed pretty well too. 😀

Update from an anonymous journalist

I didn’t see anyone in the comments bring up this organization that you may want to be aware of:

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Also, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press also has done work protecting bloggers as citizen journalists.

Need to take your Digital Marketing up a notch?

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Check out the agenda below!

8:30 AM– 9:00 AM
Networking Coffee
Coffee and breakfast for attendees and speakers


9:30 AM– 10:30 AM
Keynote: Deliver Amazing Customer Service with Social Media

The Digital Marketing Training Camp will kickoff with a presentation from Peter Shankman. He will be leading off with the Social Media and Customer Service section. Peter is a New York Times Best Selling Author, in addition to a highly sought after speaker.

Every attendee of the Triangle AMA Digital Marketing Training Camp gets a copy of Peter Shankman’s latest book followed by a Q&A session with Peter Shankman.


10:45 AM– 11:45 AM
The Future Of Mobile – A republic wireless Case Study
Brian Dally
General Manager, republic wireless
republic wireless is an innovative new carrier spearheading a wireless freedom movement to return value and control of the smartphone experience to their members. republic wireless is a division of Bandwidth.com, whose network and solutions also power other innovative communication services such as Google, Pinger, Skype, Groupme, RingCentral, Phonebooth, and many others.


12:00 PM– 12:45 PM


1:00 PM– 1:50 PM
How To Leverage Video To Drive Conversions
David Rose
COO, Magnet Video
As COO of Magnet Video, David is responsible for overall corporate strategy, finance, sales & marketing, product development and operations. MagnetVideo delivers complete online video marketing solutions that help our clients increase the effectiveness of their content marketing and lead generation strategies. David has more than 15 years of leadership experience with Fortune 500, high-growth and start-up companies in the technology, Internet and media industries, where he repeatedly obtained results by driving new product and market innovations.


2:00 PM– 2:50 PM
Search Engine and Landing Page Optimization
Jenny Halasz
President at JLH Marketing, Inc.
Jenny has over a decade of experience in all aspects of online marketing. She develops technical and content strategies for clients, leads workshops and training, and speaks and blogs about all things search. Jenny’s worked with dozens of top companies including Motorola, Lowe’s Home Improvement, SAP, Four Seasons, Humana, Black & Decker, and CitiBank.


3:00 PM– 3:50 PM
Engaging Customers with Gamification Campaigns
Jon Barlow
Vice President, Senior Creative Technologist, Capstrat
The role of Creative Technologist is, as the name would suggest, a hybrid between a creative role and a technical role. This position provides solutions that properly blend design, technology and strategy. Jon has exemplified this role as a digital strategist and digital marketing professional working in website design, UX, paid search, SEM/SEO, email and social media outreach for a variety of customers in the healthcare industry.


4:00 PM– 4:50 PM
Steps to Converting Existing Visitors to Customers Using Data, Testing and Personalization
Gregory Ng
Chief Experience Officer – CXO at Brooks Bell
An award-winning creative director, designer and direct marketer, Gregory Ng has developed effective, integrated, results-driven marketing programs for Global Fortune 1000 clients with an expertise in the high tech and financial verticals for over 12 years. As CXO (chief experience officer), Greg is responsible for ensuring that marketing strategies are realized through exemplary creative work. Gregory’s direct experience runs deep and includes working for clients like Dell, Bank of America, American Express, Fidelity Investments, the Salvation Army, Microsoft, DSW Shoe Warehouse and Dunkin’ Donuts.


5:00 PM– 7:00 PM
Networking Social

Five Ways to Harness The Power of Community

At Social Fresh East, I was tasked with helping folks harness the power of community – even if they may not have clearly defined communities. My slides can be found below and the video can be found at Social Fresh Academy shortly!

Feel like you don’t have a community? Are people not talking about your product or service? There are still some easy ways to develop a community. Chris will walk through several examples and review the best practices of creating and harnessing the power of an online community.


Control your social media with if / then statements

Ever wished that one action or event triggered another to help you more easily manage social media (or your life)?

Well, you are in luck. ifttt is coming to the rescue.

I’ve been tinkering with the tool for a few days and wanted to solve a few work-flow problems. For example, I don’t check the weather forecast daily. But, if it rains, I’d like to have an umbrella or a jacket to look like I was prepared. ifttt to the rescue.

ifttt.com email for rainy days

Boom. If the forecast calls for rain tomorrow, ifttt will shoot me an email to say “Yo. Grab that jacket and umbrella today. Stay dry.”

This is a great tool to sync notifications across multiple channels.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

How to transition to a new job in 5 easy steps

Transition is difficult. Most of the time, you go from being a subject matter expert with detailed knowledge of the inner-workings of your company to being a complete newbie learning new systems, processes, procedures and how to get things done.

crossroadsAs I’m a few weeks in with my latest transition to Red Hat, I felt compelled to share a few of my learnings.

1. Become a sponge.

While you no doubt have tremendous knowledge in multiple areas, the best way to ramp up is to learn as much as possible about everything around you. This can also include learning about hardware, software or various tools you need to use to be successful.

What are other people saying? What are other people doing? How do they describe your product? How do they communicate internally and externally?

2. Use the buddy system.

Ideally, you know one or two folks in your new company. If so, pick their brain and bombard them with any of the “dumb” questions you may not want to pester your colleagues with.

Where is the bathroom? Where do you usually go for lunch? How do I file an expense report? When do we get paid? What should I wear to the company holiday party?

Having a buddy to bounce the non-critical questions off of is extremely helpful. If you don’t have pre-existing relationships in your new role, buddy up with a peer or neighbor and establish a decent comfort level.

3. Read and do your homework.

While you obviously have some time to ramp up, fast-track the process by doing your own research and due-diligence. Take some key readings home. Read up on your products and competitors on personal time. Many companies will expect this, but doing it proactively shows that you take initiative and are eager to start jumping in on projects.

What documents are provided to new hires? Who are your company’s competitors? Have you scoured the Intranet? What documents do the Sales folks use?

Some companies are great at providing tons of resources when you start (thanks Red Hat!), but for those that aren’t, this can give you help you dramatically reduce the learning curve.

4. Take great notes.

Show up to every meeting with a notebook. Personally, I prefer a nice bound notebook as opposed to a laptop or tablet. There is never the perception that you are doing something else (unless you doodle) and I love going through old notebooks once I fill them up. There are definitely times where it makes more sense to take notes electronically, but a nice notebook is a necessity in my opinion.

What words do you need to look up later? What actions do you have? Who are the people in your meeting (look them up on LinkedIn after)?

Balance your note-taking time with active listening (cough cough eye contact) and capture as much as you can.

5. Meet new faces.

Everyone knows that networking is important. It is crucial when you are in a new place with tons of unfamiliar faces. Meet friends of your existing friends. Reach out to your peers in other offices. Connect on LinkedIn to tie faces with names.

Do you know everyone on your team? What folks are critical to getting things on the website? Who helps out on Project X? Have you asked, who all should I meet?

Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know as many people as possible to shorten the ramp-up time.

Do all of the above and make immediate contributions.

Try to share your expertise and experiences when relevant to become a valued member of the team immediately. You were hired because you bring something desirable to the team – make that clear by adding value.

What tips do you have for making a successful job / role transition?

Image via laenulfean