Internet Law

Appeals Court Upholds Blog Take-Down Order in Harassment Case

A Minnesota appeals court has upheld a judge’s order requiring a woman’s onetime boyfriend to remove a blog questioning her relationships and mental health.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals found no constitutional problem with the “harassment restraining order,” which also restricted the boyfriend’s future electronic communications. Forbes’ The Not-So Private Parts blog and the Goldman’s Observations blog by Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman, have reports on the case.

The boyfriend, Andrew John Arlotta, had a romantic relationship with the woman that ended in September 2009, less than a year after it began, the court said in its Dec. 12 opinion. She obtained a restraining order against Arlotta after he continued to contact her, spurring Arlotta to turn to the Internet. He created a blog that claimed the ex-girlfriend was involved in abusive relationships, then sent emails purportedly expressing concern to her relatives, friends, a co-worker and a television news anchor. The emails linked to the blog.

The electronic missives led a trial judge to issue the new restraining order requiring Arlotta to take down the blog and to refrain from electronic contact with third parties if the message adversely affects the ex-girlfriend’s safety and privacy.

The appeals court found the second harassment order was not an unconstitutional prior restraint and not unconstitutionally vague. “The state has a compelling interest in ensuring [the ex-girlfriend’s] right to be free from harassment,” the court said.

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