Tag Archives: SLAPP

How Do SLAPPs Limit the Freedom of Speech?

Many large companies do not follow all the rules if they can find a way to cut corners.When citizens are affected by these cheats, they sue the big business they believe caused the grievance. People often are SLAPPed which takes away people’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. SLAPPing, also known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, make suing large companies nearly impossible by creating a financial burden. The Public Participation Project explains that the United States Supreme Court has said that the right to petition the government is the very foundation of our democracy. The project is trying to help people understand how they can fight for their right of free speech. Part of their education process includes an interactive map of the states with the law and how effective it is, as well as a chart that explains all aspects of each states law.

A great number of anti-SLAPP defense attorneys believe that SLAPPing is a way to discourage people from expressing their first amendment right. The plaintiff assumes that the criticism is due to conspiracy or defamation. Professors George Pring and Penelope Canan give an example of a parents criticising the management of their children’s school. The school then SLAPPs the parents which buries them in financial debt they can never recover from. If there was a federal anti-SLAPP legislation, then people would be able to recuperate from the unnecessary financial burden of exercising their right to freedom of speech. When people find a flaw in the community, they will often speak out against the company responsible which in turn hurts this person. Big businesses should not be allowed to revoke people’s right to freedom of speech

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Can Customers Complain about Businesses?

Topic: SLAPP Cases and the First Amendment

 

Essential Question: Is customers complaining about businesses protected by the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment?

 

Nowadays, when a person makes one bad comment about a business on the internet, it goes much more viral than just one person complaining to friends. Businesses are now suing consumers who post negative comments about their businesses claiming they are ruining their reputation because these reviews are unfair. These kind of lawsuits are called SLAPP lawsuits. Under the First Amendment, these negative reviews about receiving bad service are protected, as long as they are true. However, if you claim there are rats in the kitchen of a restaurant and it is not true, that is not protected under the First Amendment. The issue with these lawsuits are businesses are not making these claims to win, they are making them to scare off other critics who also have negative things to say about their business. Also, these lawsuits can easily make a consumer go bankrupt trying to protect themselves.

One example of a SLAPP case is an instance that happened in Michigan: T&J Towing v. Kurtz. A college student had his car towed from his apartment lot, even though he had a permit stating he can park there. He had to pay $118 fine to get his car back and was frustrated. He created a facebook page to speak out against this company based off of his experience with them. Within two days, 800 people had joined telling their own negative experiences with this company. The business sued for $750,000 for damage to their business’s reputation. The student fought back claiming he was SLAPPed.

Today, many states have anti-SLAPP statutes to try and prevent businesses from being able to do this. In 2016, a Consumer Review Freedom Act was passed. This act does not protect against consumers being SLAPPed, however, it does protect consumers against businesses putting non-disparagement clauses in their terms and services contracts. These clauses state it is illegal to make a negative claim about the business. Since these clauses exist in a contract, it is illegal to make any kind of negative comments, no matter how true they may be, so consumers lose their right to freedom of speech. This act is trying to give consumers their voice back because consumers posting negative comments is protected under the First Amendment.

 

Tags: SLAPP, Consumer’s Rights, Fake Reviews, Negative Reviews

 

Works Cited:

“Businesses Can Actually Sue You For Posting Negative Reviews – And Now Congress Is Fighting Back.” The Conversation. N. p., 2015. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

“Congress Passes The Consumer Review Freedom Act.” Bbb.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

Frosch, Dan. “When Companies Respond To Online Criticism With Lawsuits.” Nytimes.com. N. p., 2014. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

SLAPPed

There have been a lot of problems with SLAPPs not only in the United States of America, but around the world as well. First, to understand the issue, you need to know what a SLAPP is. A SLAPP is a strategic lawsuit against public participation. What that does is if a person has an issue with a large corporation, the corporation can file a lawsuit against the person in an effort to intimidate them with money. For example, The New York Times released an article about a guy in Kalamazoo Michigan titled “Venting Online, Consumers Can Find Themselves in Courtwho got his car towed from his parking space at his apartment, so he created a Facebook page titled, “Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing.”  This Facebook page got quite a bit of traffic, and then the towing company filed a lawsuit against him for $750,000. The lawyer for the company feel that it was justified, however many others criticize the choice to file a lawsuit and call it a SLAPP. Many large organizations file the lawsuits to silence the bad comments about their company. They do this through fear of the fact that the average person can not afford these large lawsuits, and they end up taking back what they said. According to the article “SLAPPs–Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation: Coming to a Controversy Near You”, by Sharon Beder, she says, “Most [cases] are dismissed by the courts and 77% of those that are heard by the courts are won by the people being sued.” so it is just showing that companies are trying to put fear in people to reclaim their statements about the company. I did a lot of research to find a viewpoint where people support SLAPPs and oppose the Anti-SLAPP laws, I did not find any, so feel free to comment any that you find.

SLAPPs are dangerous because they go against freedom of speech, it forces people who have complaints to hold back because they are afraid that the company will file a lawsuit and cost them a lot of time and money for a little complaint.    

Citizens SLAPPed by Big Businesses

 

The United States Constitution grants every person the right to petition the government along with free speech. Yet, every year, thousands of individuals, community groups, and organizations are sued for exercising these constitutional rights. These lawsuits are known as “SLAPPs” (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).  SLAPPs are often declared by corporations, real estate developers, or government officials against individuals or organizations who oppose them on public issues. Usually, SLAPPs are based on ordinary civil tort claims such as libel or slander, malicious prosecution, abuse of power, conspiracy, and interference with prospective economic advantage.

The difference between an ordinary defamation lawsuit and a SLAPP suit is that the plaintiff in a SLAPP suit does not generally plan to actually win their lawsuit. Instead, SLAPP suits are intended to intimidate, and discourage activists from exercising their right to free speech and protest. The main purpose of a SLAPP case is to decrease public debate on specific issues. Defending a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and therefore diverts the defendant’s attention away from the public issue and/or forces them to discontinue the case. Furthermore, a SLAPP also sends a threatening message to others that they too can just as easily be sued if they speak up.

In one example of a SLAPP case was in Dallas, a $1 million lawsuit filed by a pet-sitting company against a couple who wrote a one-star review on Yelp. Prestigious Pets and its owner filed the lawsuit against the couple, accusing them of defamation, business disparagement and a breach of contract after the couple posted the negative review. The case was eventually dismissed due to an Anti-SLAPP law that allows judges to dismiss frivolous suits filed against people who speak out about a matter of public concern. This is just one illustration of how businesses or dominant people can use their power to try to keep citizens from exercising their first amendment rights if it could tarnish their image.

I believe that SLAPP cases violate the first amendment because big businesses are prohibiting the public from exercising their right to free speech by suing them and using the power of the court system along with their own money to silence public opinions. SLAPP cases are just a way for people or corporations to hold their own interests above public interest and protect themselves from any criticism or opposition. Freedom of speech is important because it allows people to form and share opinions that may be different from others. Because SLAPP suits limit the first amendment, I believe that they should be outlawed or at least highly regulated in order to prevent businesses from punishing citizens simply because they exercise their first amendment rights to disagree or speak out against them.

 

“Examples Of SLAPP Suits In Texas”. Slapped In Texas, 2011, https://slappedintexas.com/examples-of-slapp-suits-in-texas/.

 

“Jarrow Formulas, Inc. V. Lamarche”. California Anti-SLAPP Project, 2011, https://www.casp.net/california-anti-slapp-first-amendment-law-resources/caselaw/california-supreme-court/jarrow-formulas-inc-v-lamarche/.

 

“SLAPP Suits | Civil Liberties Defense Center”. Cldc.Org, 2017, https://cldc.org/organizing-resources/slapp-suits/.