Companies Sue Online Critics Not to Win, but to Intimidate

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Consumers who use online social media and other websites to vent about businesses run the risk of being “slapped.” Known as in legal circles as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” (or Slapp), this tool is being utilized by companies that file litigation against individuals for posting unflattering comments about products or services on the Internet. The aim of the lawsuits isn’t to win, but to use the threat of long and expensive court battles to intimidate consumers into piping down.

Take, for example, Justin Kurtz, a junior at Western Michigan University. After his car was towed from his apartment parking lot because his permit was not visible, Kurtz created a Facebook page—Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing—which attracted 800 followers in just two days. He told The New York Times, ”The only thing I posted is what happened to me,” but that didn’t prevent the towing company from suing him for $750,000, claiming the Facebook page had hurt its business.
Congress is considering adopting an anti-Slapp law, modeled after a similar statute already on the books in California, one of 27 states with anti-Slapp laws.
_noel Brinkerhoff


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