Any online publishers, including bloggers, can be accused of committing an act that intentionally or negligently injures someone in some way (a tort). If you disseminate information as a blogger, article writer, podcaster, video producer, or even comment writer, you are a publisher. In order to avoid a lawsuit, do your best to avoid committing defamation, false light, publication of private facts, and violations of intellectual property law.
Defamation and False Light
Defamation is a false statement that injures the reputation of a person, group, or organization. Libel and slander are forms of defamation. Libel is typically written or recorded, including blog posts, forum posts, videos, pictures, and web site commentary. Slander usually pertains to spoken comments (podcasts). Damages must be proven by the person or group that is suing. Also, it must be shown that the defendant is at fault for either doing something that should not have been done or failing to do something that should have been done. However, if the plaintiff is a public figure, only the intention of actual malice must be proven (not negligence). False light is similar to defamation in that it concerns untrue factual implications.
Publication of Private Facts
Even if all that you publish is true, you could be held liable for publication of private facts. The plaintiff must prove that you published (without permission) personal or private information that was not legitimately newsworthy or previously published. Also, the publication of these facts was unreasonably offensive, including sexual activities, financial woes, or medical conditions.
Violations of Intellectual Property Law
If you publish copyrighted materials, trademarks, or trade secrets without permission of the owner, you are liable for violation of intellectual property law. Do not ignore retraction requests. If you unknowingly committed the violation, you may find protection by promptly removing the content upon notification of the plaintiff. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) details the notice and takedown procedures that should be taken.
Other possible lawsuits for bloggers may concern conspiracy or interference with prospective economic advantage. Bloggers may be hit with SLAPPs, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, for acts such as criticizing political candidates, whistle-blowing against corporations, or organizing tenants. They may find themselves in a David and Goliath situation in which bloggers with few resources must pay to defend themselves against plaintiffs with deep pockets.
Media attorneys will advise you about the steps you should take to protect yourself from possible lawsuits. The Citizen Media Law Project, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation update bloggers about new media laws.