A quick look at Matthew Couloute, Jr.’s resume gives you a sense of the young attorney’s glowing reputation. He was hired as the youngest assistant states attorney in Norwalk, Conn, he was promoted within two years to become the jurisdiction’s youngest prosecutor, he worked as a player liaison for the National Football League, and he served as an analyst for both Court TV and MSNBC. But what Couloute’s resume doesn’t reveal is his reputation among his ex-girlfriends, who claim the lawyer “lied and cheated his entire way through his 40 years of life.”
The negative statements were made in an anonymous forum online called LiarsCheatersRUs.com. The site claims to be “a website where victims can discuss their experience and report liars and cheaters.” It is also the first page that comes up when you Google the name “Matthew Couloute Jr.”
Now Couloute claims his reputation has been tarnished and is seeking retribution in court from the two women—Amanda Ryncarz and Stacey Blitsch—who allegedly posted the defaming comments.
Couloute’s case highlights an often-overlooked principle of Internet speech, specifically that users can be held accountable for statements they make in online forums. Additionally, the potential fallout caused by posting libelous and slanderous material online can be exponentially greater than when the same materials are distributed offline.
“The difference between offline and online defamation is like the difference between placing a small ad in the local community newspaper versus the same ad being shared during a 60-second Super Bowl commercial,” says Mitch Jackson, a partner at Jackson & Wilson. “Publishing comments on the Internet can result in tens of thousands and even millions of people reading or watching what has been said about you or your business. Because of this, people need to be very careful about what they say about someone else online.”
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