N.Y. Judge Rules Bump Messages Are Not Defamatory

Slav Kandyba
NEW YORK — Ruling in a case that may be an early test involving online defamation, a New York state judge concluded that “bump messages” on Internet forums are allowable because limiting them would chill free speech.

“Bumping” is a common practice on adult webmaster boards such as GFY.com, where more “bumps” could mean more exposure at the top of the board to any given post.

The ruling came in a case before New York Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn, according to a Law.com report. It involved a higher-education admissions consulting firm, which had been trying to get names and addresses of two anonymous posters to BusinessWeek magazine’s website.

Posted to the site's "B-Schools" forum, the statements were part of a message thread entitled "Do not use AdmissionConsultants.com."

After getting rebuffed in legal action BusinessWeek publisher McGraw Hill, Admission Consultants attempted to compel Google to release the information because both individuals had Gmail addresses.

Cahn ruled in Google’s favor, opining that applying the "single publication rule" used for defamation action against newspapers and magazines was applicable to the case before him.

"Subjecting a single modification of an Internet website, such as a bump message, to the definition of a republication of defamation would have a 'serious inhibitory effect' on this form of communication," Cahn wrote in his opinion.