Internet defamation: rock semi-star sues woman accusing him of rape

It’s a he-said/she-said story, in essence. A woman accuses a man of rape, in this case on the internet. The man is a celebrity, the lead singer of a rock group. (I never heard of the group myself but that means little.) The man sues the woman for libel, i.e., defamation.

From the Daily News:

An indie rock star pal of Bruce Springsteen is suing a woman who posted an online rant accusing him of raping her 10 years ago.

Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst rips apart accuser Joanie Faircloth in a fiery libel suit filed Wednesday in Manhattan Federal Court.

“Faircloth is a pathological liar with a well-documented history of spinning tales and fabricating sexually themed stories about others to benefit herself,” the suit says.

What interests me about this case is that it involves a posting on an internet web site:

Faircloth accused Oberst of rape in three separate postings on the website xojane.com.

“I was raped by a rock star when I was 16 years old and he was in his 20s,” Faircloth allegedly wrote in the comments section of a December article.

xojane says it’s “where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded – regardless of age, size, ability, location…”

OK, but if an “unabashed” woman publishes an article that accuses a man of rape ten years previously, the accusation is false and/or unsubstantiated with evidence, the man detects the article within the statute of limitations for defamation (it’s a state by state thing, often one year), that woman may be unabashed but she will also be sued for damaging someone’s reputation. Especially when he serves his lawsuit within the statute of limitations (Faircloth published her stories in December, presumably 2013.)

Just in case we’ve all lost track of the definitions of (internet) defamation and libel, here is an authoritative run-down from a group called Media Law Resource Center. Internet lawsuits are becoming big First Amendment issues. This case will be interesting to follow.

(If you want to read more about this lawsuit, go into the federal court data base, a/k/a pacer — the link is under my Sites of Interest column on the right side of this page — and get into the U.S. court for the Southern District of New York, which is where Oberst filed his lawsuit.)

P.S. xojane may be “unabashed” but it seems to have taken down the Faircloth posts.

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