Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

63 Federal Communications Law Journal 507 (2011)


Plaintiffs' access to media has long been a factor in defamation cases, enabling courts to determine whether that plaintiff is a public figure who must meet the actual malice standard, or whether that plaintiff is a private figure worthy of greater protection from defamation. This component of the public-private distinction can no longer be applied with clear precision, given the advent of social networking and today's world of widespread media access. In light of the massive changes that have taken place in the media world, the access to media test must be revisited and appropriately retailored to avoid an inappropriate assessment of an otherwise private figure's social networking capabilities. This Note explores the history of the access to media test and the rise of social networking in today's media landscape, and argues a reconfiguring of the test is the only way to continue to draw the distinction between public figures and private figures that the Supreme Court originally envisioned-and that it deemed so important. Despite an individual's excessive number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers, a presence on social networking sites does not necessarily equate to a visible presence in the media as imagined by the Gertz Court.