Is it wrong for a blogger to dispense advice about nutrition? According to the North Carolina state government, it is if you're not a licensed nutritionist or counselor.
That's what Steve Cooksey found out when Charla M. Burill, the executive director of the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition, targeted Cooksey's website, Diabetes-Warrior.net. The New York Times explains how Burill, supported by a North Carolina state law, succeeded in getting Cooksey to alter the site, which shared experiences about his "cave man diet" and how he believes it helped him overcome diabetes.
But now, Cooksey has filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Charlotte, N.C. claiming that his First Amendment rights have been violated. The Times elaborates:
“Cooksey’s advice,” his lawyers wrote, “ultimately amounts to recommendations about what to buy at the grocery store — more steaks and avocados and less pasta, for example.”
“The First Amendment simply does not allow North Carolina to criminalize something as commonplace as advice about diet,” they added.
In a post on his site, Cooksey told readers that state law had forbade him from providing counsel "no matter if it was for compensation or for free" and required him to display a more prominent disclaimer about his services.
Cooksey is represented by libertarian group Institute for Justice, which on its website defends Cooksey's position:
...the First Amendment does not allow the government to ban people from sharing ordinary advice about diet, or scrub the Internet -- from blogs to Facebook to Twitter -- of speech the government does not like. North Carolina can no more force Steve to become a licensed dietitian than it could require Dear Abby to become a licensed psychologist.
Cooksey told The New York Times that he hopes to lose his case, so that he can appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court. "Our blog traffic has gone through the roof," he exclaimed.
The Institute for Justice also posted an animated video explaining Cooksey's case, which you can see below.
Do you think bloggers need to be licensed in order to dispense advice?