Billionaire’s Bogus Legal Tactics Against Bloggers Threaten Free Speech (EFF)

Discussion in 'News' started by Drew Wilson, Mar 3, 2012.

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  1. Drew Wilson

    Drew Wilson AKA IceCube Staff Member Moderator Contributor

    Recently, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald reported that Idaho billionaire and CEO of Melaleuca, Inc., Frank VanderSloot, has been engaged in a systematic campaign to silence journalists and bloggers from publishing stories about his political views and business practices. VanderSloot and Melaleuca have targeted national news organizations and small town bloggers alike by issuing bogus legal threats alleging defamation and copyright infringement in an attempt to keep legitimate newsworthy information from being released to the public.

    This aggressive tactic not only chills otherwise protected free speech, but in many states, also risks triggering liability under “anti-SLAPP” statutes. Anti-SLAPP laws prevent strategic defamation lawsuits—frequently filed by plaintiffs with deep pockets—that have little to no chance of winning, yet are aimed at pressuring the target into settling for fear of expensive litigation.

    Last month, after VanderSloot became a finance co-chair on leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s election campaign, Melaleuca’s attorneys sent threatening letters to Mother Jones and Forbes, forcing them to temporarily take down articles exploring VanderSloot’s public position on gay rights and Melaleuca’s business practices. It turns out that this practice is nothing new for Vandersloot: he targeted local political blogs in Idaho with similar tactics for years on a local level.

    At the beginning of February, a blogger for The Idaho Agenda was forced to take down a post after receiving a defamation suit threat from Melaleuca’s in house counsel. The author indicated that he took it down because he feared the expensive litigation battle but insisted that “the facts included in the post are a matter of public record found elsewhere, including the internet, periodicals and newspapers.”

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