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15 Colo. Tech. L.J. 517 (2016-2017)
Preventing the Rogue Bot Journalist: Protection from Non-Human Defamation

handle is hein.journals/jtelhtel15 and id is 541 raw text is: 


                         LAUREL  WITT*

     The Mayor  Cheats on His  Taxes reads the headline of an
online newspaper article. Thousands of readers see the headline. But
the article incorrectly characterizes the mayor; he did not cheat on
his  taxes. The false description ruins the mayor's  reputation,
diminishing his chances of being re-elected. If a human journalist
wrote the headline, the mayor  could sue under defamation  law,
which  holds  a journalist responsible for damaging   the good
reputation of another. If the mayor meets his burden of proof, the
responsibility for harm falls on the shoulders of the journalist. As
the mayor is a public official, he would have to prove the journalist
maliciously published the article, rather than negligently.
     What  if the journalist is not human? A robot or algorithm
cannot think for itself. It can be programmed to write news stories;
stories which, inevitably, will harm an individual's reputation. A
plaintiff would lose in court, because the plaintiff could not show the
robot acted negligently or maliciously. If the newspaper that employs
the robot cannot be held liable, no incentive exists, apart from pure
morality, to remove the material or issue a correction. A robot can
publish any material, even false material, without the newspaper
checking the stories. Where does this leave the mayor? With a ruined
reputation and unemployment. The mayor--or  any other individual
harmed-has   no recourse.
     This note explores defamation law and its application to an
emerging  technology, robot journalism. This note suggests courts
should hold bots responsible for defamatory material, because the
harm  to the individual is greater than the value of robot speech. To
accomplish this, courts can substitute defamation's requisite intent
element with the doctrine of respondeat superior. Then, this note

    * J.D. Candidate, University of Colorado Law School, 2017; Executive Editor,
Colorado Technology Law Journal. Gratitude goes to Colorado Law Professor Helen
Norton for inspiring me to study and write about First Amendment law, and to Professor
Amy Griffin for her continual encouragement in the pursuit of the written word. Most of
all, thank you also to my early-morning coffee provider and late-night editor, Jonathan


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