Jon Stewart had a great bit on the Daily Show recently where he commented on the overheated rhetoric found on many blogs (no mention of this one, but we are pretty restrained most of the time). Stewart’s irreverent (that is a warning for sensitive readers) rant raises an interesting point. Courts have long recognized that hyperbole is essentially a defense to libel. That is, even if a statement is clearly false, if it’s so over the top, such that any reasonable reader would know it’s not intended to be taken literally, it’s not actionable. This sets up a bit of a legal anomaly – you can be liable for a false statement, unless it’s really false. Hey, I don’t make the rules. But it makes me wonder if courts ultimately will hold statements in cyberspace to a different standard. Will courts decide that hyperbole is just part of that universe, and as a result let things slide that they might not in other contexts? Will that finding eviscerate* libel law as we know it? Stay tuned.
* This will make sense once you watch the link