Calling Someone a “Slum Lord” on Facebook Recognized as Constitutionally Protected Opinion

Calling Someone a

( – The rise of social media platforms like Facebook have created new challenges for the nation’s court system when considering free speech challenges. Despite what some users may think, the internet is not a digital version of the Wild West where anything goes! An Ohio appeals court issued a recent ruling regarding the scope of First Amendment protections for Facebook posts.

Richard Bauer, the owner of a real estate trust, was involved in a dispute in Sloan, Iowa, with a third party identified as KL. The matter eventually made it to court, and KL posted a remark on her Facebook page discussing the pending suit. Bradley Brinkman posted a comment on her thread calling Bauer an expletive and a “slum lord.“

Bauer filed a lawsuit for libel, and the Iowa Court of Appeals handed down its opinion in Richard Bauer vs. Bradley Brinkman on November 30.

The court ruled that the First Amendment protected Brinkman’s comments because they were opinion-based and not meant to be interpreted as fact. Reaching that conclusion, the court ruled the insulting nature of his remarks didn’t matter. It only mattered whether they were opinion-based or not.

The court did clarify that statements presented as fact could be libelous. However, opinion statements remain protected speech on Facebook as they are elsewhere.

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