How’s your personal liability coverage? Does it cover claims alleging libel, slander, or defamation? Commercial liability insurance carried by business concerns generally have some coverage for such claims, but it’s a mixed bag for personal insurance policies such as your homeowner’s (or renter’s) and automobile liability. More often than not, individuals have little or no insurance coverage against such claims. Then again, why should I worry whether my personal insurance covers me against such claims? I’m just an average guy, college professor, living a comfortable but unremarkable middle class life. Who could possibly sue little ol’ me for libel, slander, or defamation?
Let me count the loss exposures… I blog. I use Facebook. I post reviews on Yelp. Uh oh. Did my negative review of the poor service and terrible food at that restaurant last week cause them to lose business? Are the restaurant owners indignant and angry and talking to their lawyers? Here it comes.
If you think I’m being silly, there are already commercial firms taking steps to chill the free speech, wild west of online review sites such as Yelp. These firms are including language in their online terms and conditions (which we all read, right?) such as “…[you] may be held legally liable for generating any potential negative, verbal, or written defamation…” Thankfully, there has been some blow-back on such tactics but it’s easy to see where this is going.
Now there is an even more chilling new front opening up on this battle between free speech and privacy rights. A new app (supposedly launching next month) called Peeple is billing itself as “Yelp for people” with its mission being the rating and reviews of individual people, by other people. Oh, I’m sure nothing can possibly go sideways with this idea. This new app will allow everyone that you encounter to rate you. This just might be the worst idea of 2015, if not the decade. I don’t even know where to begin… Do you remember the old-fashioned typewriters where each letter was mechanically connected to an individual key on the keyboard, and if you pressed several keys down at the same time all the letters would simultaneously rise toward the strikepoint and become a stuck, jumbled mess of mechanical arms? That’s how my brain is reacting to the Peeple app idea. Too many thoughts, too little time to express them all.
Besides, I’m not sure that I want to enumerate my concerns over this slander factory in waiting. After all, I’ve probably already said too much and will be hearing from Peeple’s legal team any moment now.
So I ask again, how’s your personal liability coverage? I’m going to go read my policies again. In the meantime, I think it best that I suspend my Facebook, Yelp, blogging,… ah, what the heck. Maybe it’s time to go off grid entirely for a while. Be warned, if you post a negative comment regarding my blog post, you could be sued.