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Backlund v. Stone

2012 WL 3800883 (2012)

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Backlund v. Stone

California Court of Appeal

2012 WL 3800883 (2012)

Facts

Christopher Stone (defendant) ran a popular website called StickyDrama.com that posted lewd and scandalous photos. Stone also presented himself to the media as a sextortion expert and appeared in interviews to warn teenagers about the dangers of sextortion. In 2009, Stone posted an image on StickyDrama.com showing a teenage girl masturbating next to an infant. The caption mistakenly identified the girl in the photo as 19-year-old Alyssa Backlund (plaintiff), but it was actually a photo of an underage girl from Ohio. Backlund received hate mail because of the post. About one year later, Stone obtained a topless photo of Backlund and publicly tweeted a threat to publish the photo unless Backlund stopped attempting to contact him. After Stone publicly threatened Backlund, Adrian Chen, an investigative journalist from Gawker.com, interviewed Backlund about Stone’s threat. Gawker then used Backlund’s article in an article it published accusing Stone of sextortion. Backlund ultimately sued Stone and StickyDrama.com for posting the misidentified lewd photo. Stone filed a motion to strike Backlund’s complaint, arguing that Backlund’s complaint was a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) because the posted photo was constitutionally protected speech. The trial court denied Stone’s motion, holding that the photo was not constitutionally protected because it was child pornography. Stone then filed a defamation claim against Backlund based on the Gawker article. Backlund filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike Stone’s defamation complaint, arguing that the Gawker article was about a public controversy. The trial court denied Backlund’s anti-SLAPP motion to strike. Backlund appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Boren, J.)

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