On June 7, 2007, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a self-proclaimed journalist who posted allegedly defamatory comments on an Internet message board did not qualify for protection under the state's media shield statute. The individual in question, who considered herself a journalist that investigates and reports on corruption in the pornography industry, posted comments on Oprano, an Internet message board for the adult entertainment industry, about Two Much Media, an online pornography company. In her posts, the chat board poster claimed that Two Much Media profited from a data breach compromising the personal information of its customers and violated the New Jersey Identity Theft statute. When Two Much Media sued the chat board poster for defamation, she claimed protection under the New Jersey media shield statute, which protects "a person engaged in, connected with, or employed by news media" for the purpose of gathering and disseminating news. The statute defines "news media" as "newspapers, magazines, press associations, news agencies, wire services, radio, television or similar printed, photographic, mechanical or electronic means of disseminating news to the general public." The Supreme Court, affirming the lower court's decision, held that posts on message boards are not covered by the media shield statute as they are more like letters to the editor of a newspaper, but subject to even less protection because they are unfiltered and unscreened. In its ruling, the court noted that "we do not believe that the Legislature intended to provide everyone who posts a comment on Oprano or a response to an article on NJ.com an absolute reporter's privilege under the Shield law."
TIP: At least in New Jersey, individuals or companies who are defamed on Internet message boards may have recourse against the defamers who cannot hide behind the media shield statute.