In America (the Land of the Free) you can't win a libel suit unless you can prove not only that what was published was false, but also that it was published with actual malice—i.e., you must show that someone meant to hurt you on purpose with false information. But in the UK, the situation is the opposite; it's up to the publisher to prove what they wrote is true. So offended parties from across the world practice "libel tourism," filing suits in the UK against writers and media outlets who have only sold a few copies there, in order to take advantage of the crazy English laws. Luckily our (USA) legislators have now done something useful by protecting gossip sites like us from libel suits across the pond. Here's how one evil Saudi billionaire is helping Gawker write more freely: Commentary has a think piece out this month on new legislation signed by New York's heroic blind governor last spring, which allows judges here to invalidate libel judgments obtained in countries with lesser free speech protections (hello, UK). The prime motivation was reportedly the nonstop libel tourism of Khalid bin Mahfouz (see below), which threatened to bankrupt some journalists. Huzzah for our right to write things, and yours to read them! Here are some of recent history's most notable libel tourists:

  • Khalid bin Mahfouz—a Saudi billionaire who may be the chief libel tourist offender. He's been successful three dozen times, according to Commentary, winning either cash or an apology. His main problem is that lots of people say he funds Al-Quaeda.
  • Sidney Blumenthal—wonky former Clinton advisor and (irony!) journalist who sued Matt Drudge for $30 million for alleging Blumenthal abused his wife, based on anonymous sources. Drudge later apologized, but Blumenthal never won his suit formally.
  • Richard Perle—hawkish Bush advisor "threatened to sue investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in London, because of a series of critical articles Hersh had written about him." Jerk.

Truth is the ultimate defense! [Commentary (abstract); pic via Reuters]