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Lafferman Comment Published in Law and Technology Journal

Matthew Lafferman, a third-year law student, is the author of a comment recently published in one of the top law and technology journals in the country, Santa Clara Computer & High Technology Law Journal (ranked 6th in Science, Technology and Computing by Washington and Lee’s Journal Rankings). The journal’s website currently lists Lafferman's article among its Most Popular Papers.

Entitled “Do Facebook and Twitter Make You a Public Figure?: How to Apply the Gertz Public Figure Doctrine to Social Media,” Lafferman’s comment discusses whether courts will, and should, treat Facebook and Twitter users as public figures who would be subject to establishing a higher burden of proof to recover for damages when bringing defamation suits.

“The Comment addresses the main problem surrounding this issue—whether social media users have ‘significantly greater access to the channels of communication,’ which the U.S. Supreme Court relied on as a major rationale for finding certain individuals public figures in the seminal case Gertz v. Welch,” says Lafferman.  “The Comment goes on to reconcile these legal and policy challenges and suggests an approach to help courts avoid any legal or policy repercussions from adopting alternative approaches.”

“This topic really piqued my interest upon discovering that in the last three years alone, there has been a 216% rise in defamation suits, due to the recent discovery that most homeowner's insurance policies cover libel liability,” explains Lafferman. “As social media use continues to spread, this increase in suits signals an almost inevitable rise in defamation suits between social media users, forcing courts to eventually deal with the issue.”

Lafferman, a May 2013 JD candidate, also holds a BA in History, magna cum laude, awarded by Sewanee: The University of the South in 2009.