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Court Rules Website Doesn't Have To Remove Defamatory Comments

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the set-in-stone dept.

Censorship 145

DustyShadow writes "In the case of Blockowicz v. Williams, The US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to force Ripoff Report to remove allegedly defamatory comments posted by a user. The Ripoff Report has a well-publicized no-takedown policy, even if the author wants to remove his/her post, so the Ripoff Report refused. The Blockowiczs then claimed that the Ripoff Report violated FRCP 65(d) because the Ripoff Report was 'in active concert or participation' with the initial posters by refusing the injunction's removal order. The district court (and the Court of Appeals) disagreed with the Blockowiczs. Absent the 'active concert or participation,' the website was outside the court's control. Ripoff Report has released a statement concerning this case: 'In keeping with our core mission of protecting speech to the fullest extent of the law, we decided that it was not just our right but also our duty to ask questions and dig deeper before we could comply with such an order. Other sites claim they support free speech, but when the going gets rough, they will usually protect their bottom line rather than the Constitutional rights and freedoms this country was founded upon. Unlike other sites, even when the speech involved is harsh or negative and even if our position sometimes generates negative press for us, we think that the First Amendment requires us to put our principles before our pocketbook and fight against censorship.'"

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145 comments

Precedent (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#34702930)

Since it was a circuit court of appeals decision, does this set precedent in other districts? Hopefully it won't be overturned by our good DoJ friends up in the Supreme Court during an appeal.

That would be a sad, but not unexpected, precedent.

Re:Precedent (3, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#34702992)

Since it was a circuit court of appeals decision, does this set precedent in other districts?

No. The case would have to be appealed to the Supreme Court and the judgment upheld to apply outside of that specific circuit.

Re:Precedent (3, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703310)

Since it was a circuit court of appeals decision, does this set precedent in other districts? Hopefully it won't be overturned by our good DoJ friends up in the Supreme Court during an appeal.

It can be used as persuasive authority in other courts; the fact that the 7th circuit made this holding strengthens similar arguments elsewhere. And not sure what you mean by DoJ.

Re:Precedent (1)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703942)

It can be used as persuasive authority in other courts; the fact that the 7th circuit made this holding strengthens similar arguments elsewhere. And not sure what you mean by DoJ.

The DoJ under any administration seems to want to do what the administration wants it to do regardless of law.

Re:Precedent (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704180)

Well the DoJ can't overturn decisions. The most they could do would be to have the Solicitor General's office file an amicus curiae brief.

Re:Precedent (3, Interesting)

Weezul (52464) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703408)

Precedent isn't exactly so black and white. If there is no contravening SCOTUS decision, then other lawyers will cite this decision and judges will evaluate it's relevance. Those other judges are always free to disagree, but they'll get slapped down if they're under any circuit court who's affirmed a similar decision.

There is also legal scholarship wherein this decision gets further analyzed, likely strengthening it. All that discussion can be brought to bear on future cases.

SCOTUS need not necessarily ever consider issues that lower courts have resolved satisfactorily & consistently. If however the circuit courts are split on an issue, then SCOTUS will invariably take up their favorite appeals, thus forcing all the lower courts into agreement.

Re:Precedent (4, Informative)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703664)

Not quite true. SCOTUS has had several cases where ISPs and websites have been sued to have content taken down, where the ISP wasn't "in active concert" with the purveyors of the content. It allowed the hosting providers/webmasters/portals to be held harmless-- so long as the ISP/webmasters didn't edit or delete user-added content/comments, thus NOT providing a role that shapes the content. IF you don't touch the content, then you're not actively being involved. That's why the Seventh Circuit's language is what it is in this particular ligitation. IANAL, but understand the law and SCOTUS speech precendents well.

Of course, other US Agencies have taken down some websites based on another legal theory, but that hasn't been litigated yet. And in my opinion, they did this without probable cause and without due process.

Re:Precedent (2)

Weezul (52464) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703772)

Ahh thanks! So this case merely extends the existing SCOTUS decisions for ISPs to message boards. To me, that sounds like exactly the sort of legal precedent that SCOTUS might never need to even consider, as many judges will simply accept the existing SCOTUS decisions plus these arguments. Otherwise, they'd need to justify why the SCOTUS decisions for ISPs don't apply to message boards, which doesn't sound easy.

Re:Precedent (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703864)

Pretty much.

You're merely a transport until you do something that's not transport-like. If you do something that's not transport-like, then you're somehow become a part of the problem captioned in the litigation. Otherwise, you're just a neutral fact of the matter.

Re:Precedent (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34706814)

I'm still not connecting the dots here, in this case it seems they were hit with an injunction issued by the court not just a cease-and-desist letter. It can't be the intended meaning of this ruling that if a user uploads something to a provider, that provider can host the content forever in disregard of all laws. If an user uploaded say kiddie porn, could the provider then just turn around and say "as a policy we don't touch the content, so we refuse"? It's one thing to avoid self-censorship so the hoster doesn't have to take it down because it thinks maybe one of the models looks like she's 17, but there has to be a way for the courts to say "take this down" even though they're held otherwise harmless. I would think this would be that method, but maybe I'm missing something.

Re:Precedent (2)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34706954)

No, that's not quite the case. If the content is copyrighted material not owned by the uploader, then the ISP/site may or may not have knowledge of the copyright violation. In this case, DCMA notices in the US are what are frequently issued to the site, so as to take down the copyrighted or otherwise claimed material.

If you check the links, you'll see that defamation, and speech is the crux of the matter. Someone got slimed online, and holds the site responsible as well as the slimer. The courts have said that the site isn't responsible unless it edits the material in some way. If it doesn't touch it, then it's not a party to damages as a result of the content of the speech. Movies, MP3s, and digital movies aren't thought to be 'speech' in the circumstance described by the litigation in the post we're talking about. And so, it's not censorship; if it were censorship, then the site involves themselves in the motives of the poster, who is accused of defamation. If they don't touch it, they do nothing but provide the sheet of paper which is written upon by the defamer. Decisions say that when there is no censorship, the site isn't active in the results of what's posted.... in this case, defamation.

Sites like YouTube and others try to enforce terms where they can. They're often held harmless regarding the content that their users upload. It's then up to copyright holders and law enforcement officials to assess and act upon illegal or contravening content posting. You can complain to YouTube if someone has posted your stolen video. But if you don't own the video, it's difficult for you to claim nexus to ask YouTube to take down the video unless the video fails YouTubes terms test.

This means that YouTube primarily offers space, and users upload whatever to that space. YouTube's terms include community guidelines at http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines [youtube.com] which spell out what they'll enforce. Notice that they're clear, non-discriminatory and will generally take a complaint to be enforced.

The Seventh Circuit, however, says that the site in question merely delivers all messages, and as a messenger, didn't add to whatever injury occurred.

Re:Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703858)

SCOTUS needs to clarify exactly what rights the poster has vs. the companies that retain by users posting on the site or by the company harvesting data from other sources and making it part of their site at a later time.

Too many companies are starting to take a we-own-your-data type of policy and a we-won't-remove-it-at-all-without-a-court-order resistance to data removal. This is wrong. User data was meant to be transmitted and shared, yes, but was not ever intended to be stored permanantly.

The user, not the company or government entity, needs to be in full control of their data retention. They who retain the data need to make it as easy as possible for someone to remove their own data that has been retained at any time, without allowing the user to commit fraud and remove someone else's data.

Not removing data without a court order or even resisting data removal after a court order just shows the company is effectively being hostile to users who have posted data on the site, or to the users whose data was acquired from another source and added to the site.

YES it will in other districts. (IAAL) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34704902)

I think there are some confused terms in the other replies. Regarding this question, "Since it was a circuit court of appeals decision, does this set precedent in other districts?"

The short answer is YES, it will set precedent in other *districts*. It will NOT set precedent in other Circuits or District Courts within the other Circuits.

The 7th Circuit includes districts in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin (iirc). So, any U.S. District Court in those areas would be bound by that decision, unless of course there were distinguishing facts in a particular case, not just the original District Court the initial case was heard. Whereas, say, no District Courts in the 11th Circuit which is Florida, Georgia, AL etc, would be bound by the decision and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals would not be bound.

Districts outside the 7th Circuit would not be bound, but would in all likelihood cite the case and say something like, "Look, a *Circuit* Court said this, as a District court you might want to pay attention to it." No doubt they'd look at the reasoning.

District Courts are the lowest level, essentially the trier of fact aka the trial court. Then the Circuit Courts and then the Supreme Court (USSup) are above them and generally only deal with questions of law - e.g. they'll say, "given the facts as presented" or "there was a mistrial here because of X" etc. (Short, summarized overview, with exceptions most likely, but enough for here).

And IAAL. ;-)

but it was false anyway? (1, Interesting)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 3 years ago | (#34702954)

They fought to protect a statement found false in federal court? Why keep it up then if it isn't true in the first place? I can understand the whole "We didn't have our day in court" deal, but it's a lie to start with. You won, but you're still publishing a lie, at least of some sort.

Re:but it was false anyway? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703000)

It is obviously a principle issue since they talk about the first Amendment and their principle is that they do not remove posts(no qualifications), they stuck to their principles and didn't remove it. The court held that they are true to their word, and certainly did not act in concert or participation with any other party(including court orders, which serves to strengthen their case on appeal in my mind).

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705140)

It is obviously a principle issue since they talk about the first Amendment and their principle is that they do not remove posts(no qualifications), they stuck to their principles and didn't remove it. The court held that they are true to their word, and certainly did not act in concert or participation with any other party(including court orders, which serves to strengthen their case on appeal in my mind).

That's possibly because of an inadequate understanding of the site. The website owners, by their actions and requirements, create an uneven playing field that favors those who make such inaccurate statements, by making it either costly or impossible for those maligned to post counterstatements or corrections.

While this may also seem a First Amendment win, it's also something that can be perverted into a tool to malign anyone or any company with full knowledge that such statements will not be taken down, and cannot be contested or countered without either (a) lots of difficulty, (b) monetary contributions to the site, or (c) simply cannot do it at all due to the difficulties the site owners create for such actions.

Of course, IANAL, and those who are, and are dealing with this, may have already tried pointing out such issues or found they do not apply - but I'd think they should.

Re:but it was false anyway? (2, Informative)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703012)

I know a person who who was hurt by this. She is a wedding photographer and was unable to meet the increasingly demanding requests of a Bridezilla, who then posted an extremely negative review on ripoff report which contained numerous falsehoods. Even after Bridezilla recanted and wanted to take it down, the website won't remove the comments.

I personally do not see what free speech or the first amendment have to do with not letting anything be taken down, even if the author wants it taken down.

Re:but it was false anyway? (4, Insightful)

TheCRAIGGERS (909877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703226)

Some sites allow users to edit or remove their posts. Some, like Slashdot, do not. I'm not sure what would happen if I posted something so stupid that I felt the need to email a Slashdot mod to remove my comment, but people need to realize that just like screaming something foolhardy at work or in public, posting something on the internet never really goes away. Even if the mod did take down my comment, Google and a handful of other indexing sites have recorded it, etc.

If the statements posted by Bridezilla were factually false, the photographer probably has a case for libel. Perhaps some might think suing the bride after she recanted would be wrong- to those, I redirect to the first paragraph of my post.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

JSG (82708) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704270)

I think you have put it very well.

If someone wants to sound off on t'interwebs then surely they must do so within libel laws.

So in the case of the Bridezilla, if it was that important to a potential plaintiff, then a sub note to those postings noting a finding of libel would be the fair approach.

Publish and be damned - if you are a Twatter, /.er or whatever, there is a good chance that your First Amendment protected free speech can also be looked at from a libel perspective.

Now this simply raises the question that as it is much easier to "publish" to a potentially huge audience nowadays, should it also not also be simpler to sue for libel?

Then throw in multiple jurisdictions 'n' sets of laws to make it all properly complicated. For example, I couldn't give a monkeys about a First Amendment set of rights - there isn't one in the UKoGB!

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703252)

I personally do not see what free speech or the first amendment have to do with not letting anything be taken down, even if the author wants it taken down.

That sounds like Slashdot!

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703322)

Imagine that the author was being threatened into taking it down.
Now do you see what free speech has to do with not letting anything be taken down?

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703560)

Or if the bridezilla demanded a refund before taking it down.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703370)

The first amendment has nothing to do with ripoff reports' terms of use: there is absolutely no logical connection whatsoever between freedom of speech/first amendment and whether or not a website allows you to perform certain operations on their servers that will alter the appearance of one of their webpages. Completely disjoint issues.

However, the first amendment/free speech considerations do, quite arguably, have a strong bearing on whether or not a website operator should be allowed to either speak freely on their own behalf, or operate a venue wherein anybody with an account may speak as they wish.(this doesn't mean that the speaker necessarily enjoys absolute impunity, libel/slander can be a punishable thing).

One may, (as I would), urge the operators of ripoffreport to, where further information is available, append or prepend that further information to a report, in the style of an editorial comment. If the commenter was later found guilty of libel in a court of law, that would be sort of salient information to note, if resources permit, in the comment record. That doesn't mean, and freedom of speech would arguably protect against, imposing a legal duty upon the mere venue of speech to censor the libel, any more than a research library could justly be compelled to burn its collection of transparently libelous propaganda materials from some historical social or armed conflict...

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703906)

Not at all a disjoint issue. If ripoffreport chooses not to take stuff down, the only way to force them to would be through the legal system, which requires enforcing a law that restricts either freedom of speech or the freedom of the press, which the first amendment says the government should not be able to do. The first amendment says they, not the government, should get to choose what to do here.

Re:but it was false anyway? (3, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703018)

They fought to protect a statement found false in federal court? Why keep it up then if it isn't true in the first place? I can understand the whole "We didn't have our day in court" deal, but it's a lie to start with. You won, but you're still publishing a lie, at least of some sort.

They came first for the Communists and I didnt speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
They they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Its right to fight censorship and oppression even when it targets the fringe. Even if it means defending "liars", the KKK, flag burning, and pornography. If you let them come after those, and set precedents, its going to be a much harder fight when they come after you.

Re:but it was false anyway? (3, Interesting)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703188)

Its right to fight censorship and oppression even when it targets the fringe.

And by "fringe" you mean defamers? A type of speech that has never been ruled to be protected by the 1st amendment? Not to mention that common law tradition stretches back hundreds of years prior with precedents declaring that defamation can carry civil and/or criminal penalties?

Re:but it was false anyway? (3, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703530)

So charge the defamers with defamation... leave the 3rd party website host alone.

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703634)

Bingo.

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705224)

Bingo.

No, NOT Bingo, or any other idiotic game metaphor you choose to use.

Ripoffreports KNOWINGLY is using ILLEGAL speech to make money. First through the publicity, advertising revenue and membership fees they earn, and secondly (in various cases) through charging companies who have been illegally maligned a FEE to post a correction/counterclaim, etc.

AFAIK, benefiting from illegal actions is not legal. That is what they are doing. There is no free speech protection covering ILLEGAL speech. And there is no free speech protection covering another benefiting from speech they know is ILLEGAL.

Re:but it was false anyway? (2)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705610)

Ripoffreports KNOWINGLY is using ILLEGAL speech to make money.

And now so is slashdot. :)

First through the publicity, advertising revenue and membership fees they earn

Like slashdot.

and secondly (in various cases) through charging companies who have been illegally maligned a FEE to post a correction/counterclaim, etc.

I regularly see celebrities maligned in tabloids in the supermarket, and find it hard to get worked up about a website that appears to have an equivalent level (or lack thereof) of integrity. I ignore the tabs, and I've never heard of riffreport and now that I have will likely ignore it too... just as I ignore yelp.

AFAIK, benefiting from illegal actions is not legal.

Did it occur to you that you might know wrong? What is "America's Most Wanted" business model? Or C.O.P.S.? What activity do you think the Charles Manson Fan Club and Memorabilia Superstore?

There is no free speech protection covering ILLEGAL speech. And there is no free speech protection covering another benefiting from speech they know is ILLEGAL.

Is it actually illegal speech? Or is merely alleged to be illegal? It sounds like the plaintiff wanted an injunction to remove it from the web, before it was actually established that it was illegal, and ripoffreport fought that injunction.

Apparently the 7th Circuit Court of appeals agrees that the injunction doesn't extend to ripoffreport.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#34706078)

Big differences in your examples and rebuttals. Slashdot does indeed allow for things to be taken down. Perhaps you have not participated in that procedure, but it does exist and does happen. Also, it's a lot different than continuing a crime (as ripoffreports does, if the reports are correct) by posting speech deemed illegal. It also continues the liability of the original poster who is not allowed to remove their own comment. Explain the reasoning that allows that. Or do you not realize that "continued damage" for statements not retracted/removed results in "continued sanctions". The party who made the statement cannot get ripoffreport to remove it, thus... you see where that's going hopefully.

And no, if other reports are correct, it's not ALLEGED to be illegal. It was FOUND TO BE ILLEGAL, which was the basis for the attempt to remove it from ripoffreport (the injunction) - OR, you are correct, and the other outlets that have reported this are incorrect. So... guess you can chalk that up either way. I will submit that I should not believe everything I read.

As for America's Most Wanted - that's a silly comparison. It's portraying past events, WITH a disclaimer about the innocence of the individuals. It is not acting in a fashion that creates continued harm by statements ALREADY deemed illegal and libelous and/or defamatory.

To counter a report on ripoffreport, you must pay money. You must also be vague in your countering (ie: in this case, the defamed could not post info about the lawsuit proving such that would indicate, imply or lead to the identity of the person(s) who broke the law). Your post is also subject to review and ripoffreport's "discretion" (on whether it will even be allowed to be posted).

What category does knowingly maintaining information found to be in violation of the law and then extorting money to counter it (but only if the counterclaim is vague and thus not indicative of what really is going on) fit into? No, it's not a rhetorical question. I'm serious.

Their whole business model is to allow people to post as many negative reviews as they want, with whatever content they want, with no regards to the legality of the statements, for FREE - all while extorting money from anyone who wants to defend themselves against such claims; who are then limited in the responses they can give (assuming their responses are approved) - at least that's the understanding that they have given as interpreted by numerous people who have used/visited or been a victim of their site.

Re:but it was false anyway? (3, Insightful)

clone52431 (1805862) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703790)

And when the defamers are convicted and ordered to take down the defamatory posts, which 3rd party webhost refuses to do?

Ladies & Gentlemen: We have a show prepared 4U (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703908)

For your viewing pleasure, ladies and gentlemen - We have prepared in an exhibit for you:

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---

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---

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You have to pardon him, because as you can see? He has some "StRaNgE FaNtASiEs", rotflmao...

Re:but it was false anyway? (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704056)

Does the New York Times go back and redact the microfilm version of their paper? Or do they print a correction?

Why jump to erase history? Just because it is easier to do than in the past?

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705252)

Does the New York Times go back and redact the microfilm version of their paper? Or do they print a correction?

Why jump to erase history? Just because it is easier to do than in the past?

Ah yes... the correction ripoffreports WONT post? That correction? Or the correction that the maligned party must PAY MONEY TO POST? That one? The one that's VERY difficult to actually get on ripoffreports, and gets reviewed to be determined if ripoffreports will allow it? That correction? The correction that cannot cite WHO the loser who broke the law in their initial claim is? That correction?

See the problem now?

Re:but it was false anyway? (2)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#34706452)

Ah yes... the correction ripoffreports WONT post?

I think you need to visit the original [ripoffreport.com] reports [ripoffreport.com] .

Attached to each of them is an extremely detailed account of the case, complete with links to relevant court documents and an explanation of their actions. Far, far more information is provided than any NY Times redaction that I've ever seen.

See the problem now?

What I'm seeing is a system that is working. Ripoffreports has a blatant lie on their site, are reluctant to edit it, get dragged into court and as a result of all of this the page gets updated with the full story. That's a win for the disparaged party.

By the way, the original posts are so hilariously bad that it's amazing anyone even cared to sue. They are almost incoherent.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705692)

And when the defamers are convicted and ordered to take down the defamatory posts, which 3rd party webhost refuses to do?

How exactly does your argument work here?

If the court didn't order ripoffreports to take down the posts and they refused to do it... that would be simple, they would be in contempt of court, and all sorts of enforcement actions are available to the court.

However the court agreed that ripoffreports did not have to take down the posts, so what exactly is your complaint about ripoffreports here?

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703552)

A type of speech that has never been ruled to be protected by the 1st amendment?

Ruled by whom? The first amendment, or by a random judge who doesn't know the meaning of interpretation (it doesn't mean "change the meaning of"). I see nothing that says that defamation isn't protected speech in the first amendment. It isn't true free speech if you limit certain forms of speech.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705450)

That would be a valid line of reasoning if we didn't have 200+ years of interpretation of the constitution to tell us that it isn't a literal interpretation that counts. I realize that the right likes to claim that if it isn't literally there under their interpretation that it isn't there, but that's not true.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705542)

That would be a valid line of reasoning if we didn't have 200+ years of interpretation of the constitution to tell us that it isn't a literal interpretation that counts.

Again, that isn't what interpretation means. It doesn't matter how long they've been doing it incorrectly, because it has always been incorrect. It mentions interpretation, not change.

I realize that the right likes to claim that if it isn't literally there under their interpretation that it isn't there, but that's not true.

Right? Left? I don't adhere to such labels or groups.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705574)

A type of speech that has never been ruled to be protected by the 1st amendment?

Oh, this is just precious. First you have a law protecting all speech. Then you have courts making exceptions on speech they don't like. Now we've come to the point where speech is not protected unless a court specifically declares it is.

Are you people trying to make a mockery of your own Constitution?

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703262)

So you're Godwining the thread by comparing people's right to say libelous things on the internet to Jewish people's right not to get exterminated?

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703306)

In this case I'll be glad to see you cry when the lies you so strongly protect concern yourself.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703812)

They came first for the libelists and I didn't speak up because I didn't defame people publicly.
Then they came for the muggers and I didn't speak up because I didn't beat people up in the streets.
Then they came for the rapists and I didn't speak up because I didn't rape people.
Then they came for the murderers and I didn't speak up because I didn't murder people.
They they suddenly decided out of the fucking blue to change their entire M.O., ignore the entire "these people were actually criminals" part of their previous actions, and come for me and by that time there was no more criminal element left to speak up...?

What? WHAT?!? Are you seriously comparing the extermination of the Jews to silencing people who maliciously lie about people/companies in an attempt to harm them? I mean, even if this is snide sarcasm, there's nothing else in the thread you're responding to! Did they forget the meds at the asylum today or something?

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

Imrik (148191) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704242)

1. Only most of those people were actually criminals, some were falsely convicted.
2. Anything can be made a criminal act if enough people with power want it to be.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

Myopic (18616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704758)

I disagree. I don't think protecting all things people say is necessary to protect most things people say. But, I don't think in absolute terms, so that's just how I roll.

For instance, I don't think we need to protect the right of people to scream obscenities at the funerals of soldiers, in order to protect the right of people to voice their opposition to government policies.

It's not a slippery slope, it's more like a nice, light gradient on a hill with paved steps up the side, and hand rails. It's easy to stop wherever we want.

Re:but it was false anyway? (2)

ubernostrum (219442) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705116)

Except not really.

Slander and libel are civil torts; basically, when you say or publish something false about someone, and your false statements cause harm to that person, they can sue you. And you can be ordered to pay them for the harm you caused, and ordered by a court to stop saying or publishing the false things that harmed that person.

And this isn't government restricting speech; it's basically no different than, say, a court ordering you to pay someone because you threw a brick through their window, causing damage to their property, and ordering you to stop throwing bricks through the window and maybe even to stay away from that person's property.

This case boils down to, basically:

  1. Person A posts some false things on a website, which cause harm to Person B.
  2. Person B sues Person A.
  3. Person B wins the lawsuit, and gets a court order to have the false things taken down.
  4. The website says "wait a minute, we weren't the ones who got sued, and the court just ordered us to do this without letting us show up and present an argument".
  5. Appeals court says "yeah, you're right" and that's the end of the court order.

This doesn't mean websites are immune from defamation claims. It means that if you want, as part of your lawsuit, to get a website to take down defamatory material, you'd better be suing the website. Which does complicate things a bit if somebody goes on a spree posting defamatory material about you on a bunch of sites, but if you've sued that person and won, and have the documentation, then -- one hopes -- most sites wouldn't make you go to the trouble of suing them too. RipoffReport, then, isn't standing up for free speech or any sort of high moral principle; they're just being douchebags and saying "too bad this other person screwed you over royally -- now we're gonna do it too, hope you've got a good lawyer and money to pay him!"

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705300)

And this isn't government restricting speech

Except that the government is involved and they're ordering you to censor speech due to the actions of another, correct? I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't support (for example) the ability for someone to sue someone else merely because the other person said something that they disagreed with, all because the lawsuit is started by people and not the government.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34706414)

Forgive me if I don't agree with you. Not everything is so black and white. This isn't about slowly creeping bigotry: this is about...

to harm the reputation of by libel or slander

I think it's more a case of "first they defamed and ridiculed the communists, then they defamed and ridiculed the Jews...".

I'm with Kid Zero on this. I do not care for principles which say it's okay to hurt someone else with known lies.

Re:but it was false anyway? (3, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703044)

They fought to protect a statement found false in federal court? Why keep it up then if it isn't true in the first place? I can understand the whole "We didn't have our day in court" deal, but it's a lie to start with. You won, but you're still publishing a lie, at least of some sort.

Are you suggesting that people should yield to those who claim something is found false? That is wishy-washy ground you stand on. Say a site dedicated to AGW publishes a study showing a positive correlation to technological growth and increased global warming.

Another group comes out and claims the studies methodologies are incorrect, inherently making the conclusions drawn false. Enter beatnik judge/jury who rules in favor of a take-down because of the ruled 'false-ness'. Should we be the arbitrators of 'truthiness' of all published data, especially if it is from a private entity?

If I start a website called oneplusoneequalsthree.com, and it is proved false through the axioms of arithmetic, do you suggest that if I was brought to court I should just give up since I have been proven wrong? This is a strength, and I may be off base with the topic, but I believe in a free society in which there is no censorship by the government, the corporations, or the courts.

Lately it has seemed that free speech has only been free as long as it doesn't piss anybody off. This ruling is a step back in the positive direction.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703292)

No, the case as I understand it, goes more like this:

You start a website called oneplusoneequalsthree.com

I post on a third-party site (ripoffreport.com) that you suck and your theories suck and don't work

You prove to me that your theories are based in reality and could work.

I decide "whoops, he does know what he's talking about!"

I ask the third-party site to remove my original post.

The third-party site refuses to remove the original statement.

Now, here's the fun part: I, as the original poster, could (in theory) now go after the third-party site for copyright infringement for continuing to post my copyrighted post after I revoked their permission to use it, barring any agreement between the two parties that give them publishing right in perpetuity. Should I so choose, that is.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703464)

Defamation, slander and libel arise from the falsehood of the statements against the person. If the statements are found to be false in court then the plaintiff is entitled to compensation, if the libel is ongoing and perpetual then that compensation can be ongoing and perpetual. If the court actually found the statements to be false then the court erred by not ordering them removed. If the statements are provably false then the plaintiff has cause of action against the author of the statements and the publisher of the statements, regardless of the first amendment. It is not protected speech to deliberately publish falsehoods against another person.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703598)

now go after the third-party site for copyright infringement for continuing to post my copyrighted post after I revoked their permission to use it

Could you? Don't you have to agree to their terms of service before you post (or at the very least, it's available on their website)? I'm pretty sure that, unless they state otherwise, you can't just agree to the terms and then later change your mind. I'm not sure on that, though.

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34704026)

for continuing to post my copyrighted post after I revoked their permission to use it

Is it practical to give people the right to revoke permission to publish a comment on a public website? What about the Google cache? It seems that once you give permission to publish it, you no longer have an expectation of control.

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34704668)

Replace:
'post' with 'announce'
'a third-party site' with 'third-party radio broadcaster'
'The third-party site' with 'A radio recordings archive'

and then read your post again.

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703346)

Should we be the arbitrators of 'truthiness' of all published data, especially if it is from a private entity?

No need to put quotation marks around truthiness. I believe Stephen Colbert has entered that into the modern lexicon.

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34705894)

But it is trademarked, so you should say Truthiness(TM)

Re:but it was false anyway? (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703246)

If their policy is to be, essentially, a public write-once-read-many record to consumer interactions with businesses(which it seems to be) protecting their right to continue that policy seems both perfectly logical and, frankly, to be in the public interest.

It is not at all uncommon for businesses to apply various sorts of suasion, either positive(take down your comment and we'll throw in a free XYZ.." or coercive(take down your comment or we'll sue/report you as a bad buyer/scotch your warranty/whatever). Anybody who has spent time on ebay should be familiar with the phenomenon. Thus, making reports irrevertable likely keeps that to a minimum.

More broadly, there is a much more basic, and vital consideration at stake: Historically, there have existed various common venues that, in general, were never considered responsible for the behavior that occurred on them(If a piece of land, say, is owned by the state or somebody who has never seen it in his life and it has existed as a public right-of-way for 200 years, who are you going to punish, other than the guilty parties themselves, for the fact that something bad happened on it? The idea is barely plausible, and certainly not practical.) On the internet, clearly a vital communication medium of the present and future, there are no such "natural commons". If somebody doesn't maintain the server and pay the bandwidth bills, any internet venue will vanish into the ether within months, at most. All "spaces" on the internet have an owner(at most, an owner who exploits jurisdictional blind spots to try to stay out of sight; but there are no "commons").

If web operators are not given a degree of impunity for material that they happen to host; but have no other relation to, the results will be unpleasant: On a purely practical level, censorship of anything more than some tiny little hobby forum is extremely expensive. Say goodbye to any largely-automated online services. This is why even the DMCA, almost wholly an odious giveaway to the most reactionary of IP lobbyists, recognizes "safe harbor".

In an analogous vein, so long as ripoffreports does not purport to speak for the truth of the statements, merely to provide a venue for making them, suppressing them, would be analogous to forcing landowners to control the speech of anybody they let use their land, even if they do so on a "free public access" basis...

Re:but it was false anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703446)

They fought to protect a statement found false in federal court? Why keep it up then if it isn't true in the first place? I can understand the whole "We didn't have our day in court" deal, but it's a lie to start with. You won, but you're still publishing a lie, at least of some sort.

If it's a "lie" then would not the libel laws be the appropriate laws to be used in order to bring a case?

Re:but it was false anyway? (2)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703566)

Never been to ripoff report, but does the site allow a retort, a citation of the proven lies in a comment, Personally in my experience the best remedy to a lie is to counterballance it with the truth, not to attempt to shut the lie up. Now admitted I am probably a minority but to me logically. Person A: The world is flat Person B: The world is not flat, here is evidence, here is a picture of the world from other angles, here is a peer reviewed science report explaining such You keep person A's lie there, keeping person A with their rights, but anyone looking can see, they don't have a leg to stand on, from a quick glance at ripoff reports site, they allow just that, a Rebuttal box.

Re:but it was false anyway? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705336)

Kind of.
(1) You must pay to make such a post
(2) Your report cannot cite specifics that may indicate the author of the illegal complaint (thus in this case, the company could not say "John Doe was found guilty of libel over this post, and here's why")
(3) such posts are reviewed and approved (or not) by ripoffreports. Their criteria is pretty vague.

The site seems hell bent on and built upon the idea of making money off negative publicity, with little concern for counterclaims and positive publicity (possibly because negative publicity attracts more people, and thus is their money maker). But that's all just how they "seem" to operate. Their actual business model may be different in intention, even if the end result doesnt seem to be.

Only true free speech should be protected (1)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705438)

You must be British. If only verifiably true free speech is protected, then someone (in this case the government) has to determine what is true and what is false. One need only look back at the Bush II administration to see the potential problem with that.

year old post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34702984)

Everyone should note that the last update to the page was from Dec 29 of 2009. Why is this news?

Re:year old post (1)

immortalpob (847008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703416)

That lies, from the ripoff report page which I assume is what you are reading: Submitted: Friday, October 31, 2003 Last posting: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 ... Unwilling to accept the court’s decision, the plaintiffs appealed the case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 27, 2010, the Seventh Circuit issued a ruling which affirmed the district court’s decision in all respects. So on the page claiming to have been edited in 2009 is a reference to an event in 2010.

I Think I Will Visit Ripoff Report's Web Site (0, Offtopic)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703006)

It has been my experience that when a person wants to be a Tyrant, the first thing this person does is find a way to shut up any differences of opinion. Murder appears to be the first tool of choice for Tyrants to shut up offenders. When Murder is not convenient, then gathering a small group of same believers to scream lies in public of the offender is the second best option. I find it a time sink that the sin of pride acts like a cancer to Tyrants, but as Malcom X once publicly said, "the chickens will come home to roost". Then the fall of the acidic proud becomes good reading, and great TV.

wat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703192)

you like hearing yourself talk, right?

Re:I Think I Will Visit Ripoff Report's Web Site (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703270)

In your experience? Do you deal with many tyrants?

Re:I Think I Will Visit Ripoff Report's Web Site (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34706206)

A grinning show off with a gun and a radio is, by definition, a tyrant. And one of the first things they do is tell you to shut up. That's not cool to me.

Re:I Think I Will Visit Ripoff Report's Web Site (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34706276)

I just went over to the Ripoff site. It looks like the good guys use it also. It looks like who ever modded me down should maybe RTFA.

A popular misunderstanding (3, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703078)

The 1st Amendment is so misunderstood. Yes you have a right to speak. Yes the GOVERNMENT is forbidden from censoring speech in most cases. But the 1st Amendment is entirely concerned with what the Federal (and some say it extends to the states now by the 14th Amendment) can't do to you. A private entity is perfectly within their rights to censor itself, what it transmits, retransmits, etc. The right to speak is not a requirement to speak. Remember that the 5th Amendment is clear that we have an equal right to remain silent.

So this website isn't 'protecting the 1st Amendment' or 'required by the 1st Amendment' to leave a post up, especially if they know it is false. CAN they leave it up? Sure. SHOULD they? Perhaps, but at a minimum a modicum of responsibility should require they edit the post in question to include (even a small link) to the truth. That isn't censorship, it is seeking the Truth.

Re:A popular misunderstanding (4, Interesting)

pem (1013437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703146)

I think you yourself are misunderstanding the article and position of the website.

Their position is that the first amendment prohibits others from forcing them to take the defamatory material down. Nowhere did they claim that any law required that they themselves had to leave it up. And, BTW, they apparently did make some minor edits to the article for the exact reason you cite.

Misunderstanding this case (4, Informative)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703174)

I think you are misunderstanding this case, or didn't read the summary.

The government issued an injunction to remove comments from the web site that the site refused to obey, which puts it squarely in First Amendment territory. Their claim to be protecting the First Amendment is perfectly valid, as that amounts to government censorship of speech. From TFA:

Plaintiffs got an injunction that ordered defendants to remove defamatory content from the web that defendants had posted. When the defendants did not comply with the injunction, plaintiffs asked the court to enforce the injunction against Ripoffreport.com, the website on which some of the defamatory content appeared.

I don't know where you got the notion that this is just a private entity acting without any government intervention or involvement.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703230)

The government issued an injunction to remove comments from the web site that the site refused to obey, which puts it squarely in First Amendment territory. Their claim to be protecting the First Amendment is perfectly valid, as that amounts to government censorship of speech

If the comment truly is defamatory, it carries no 1st Amendment protection and thus their entire claim is false.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (1)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703436)

Depends, it would also have to be false. Defamatory statements are perfectly acceptable in the US when they are true. The UK and several other countries are less concerned with the truth of the matter and more concerned with protecting the character of the subject of the statements.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34704036)

You're not a lawyer. When a defamation case goes into the public record, the actual defamatory remarks are not stricken from the record, so they remain published for the world to see. Anyone is then free to publish this material. This website is claiming a similar type if immunity.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703266)

I read the summary and found it a confusing mess. Going by TFS the sequence of events is this:

  1. Appeals court refuses to force defendant to remove allegedly defamatory comments posted by a user.
  2. Appellant then claims that defendant violated the law by refusing the injunction's removal order.

WTF? Where did "the injunction" enter the story? Yet another case of a /. editor failing to do his job.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703548)

The actual article is a confusing mess too.

"Defendant" refers to two different entities here. There's the defendant who posted the material to Ripoff Report (who was sued in the original case), and there's Ripoff Report as the defendant in this case. What happened is that the (first) defendant lost his case and was told to remove the content, and when he didn't, Ripoff Report was sued to try to make them remove it instead.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (2)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703624)

Reread the summary. They claim the 1st Amendment 'requires' them to fight this case. No it doesn't. The 1st Amendment would remain perfectly intact had they exercised some responsibility and allowed the original poster to remove or at least add a disclaimer. Everything doesn't have to be a multi-year Federal case.

And unless you are a total anarchist, we have laws against libel and defamation, etc. and we agree that Congress (and State legislatures) are within their lawful authority to make those laws. When a court issues a ruling (well after the appeals are done) all are bound by that. And again, no 1st Amendment issues remain after the lawsuits are done.

The 1st Amendment has never been understood to be an absolute right to say anything with no possibility of consequences. There is a big difference between one Citizen using the Courts to seek redress of a wrong and the State telling you what you can and cannot say. But there are (and/or should be) exceptions even there.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705502)

Reread the summary. They claim the 1st Amendment 'requires' them to fight this case. No it doesn't. The 1st Amendment would remain perfectly intact had they exercised some responsibility and allowed the original poster to remove or at least add a disclaimer. Everything doesn't have to be a multi-year Federal case.

I disagree, it is essential to the use of the 1st amendment protections that a site not be required to remove materials posted by a 3rd party which turn out to be defamatory and false.

Were they to bow to the pressure then it would potentially lead to a situation where a website or newspaper could be held liable for something which somebody else posted. Enforcing their first amendment rights is really the only way to ensure that that doesn't happen.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34706014)

> Were they to bow to the pressure then it would potentially lead to a
> situation where a website or newspaper could be held liable...

Strawman if I ever saw one. Look at copyrights, a site isn't liable for user contributed content until the rights holder files a DMCA takedown notice. Only if the site then refuses is it possible to hold it liable. Exception being when a judge rules your site is nothing but a warez operation like in the recent Limewire fracus.

In this case we aren't talking about something so abusable as a DMCA takedown, we are talking about a real court order issued by a real judge. So if you are running a site and you get a court order you simple verify the authenticity of it and then replace the content with a link to a scan of the order. Since the order usually includes enough of the content in dispute... so unless there is a specific gag order included it can't be a crime to display a public document. :)

Again, we are talking about court orders here. Unless you want to go full anarchist and declare no judge anywhere has a right to stop anyone from printing anything whatsoever there are going to be limits and judges are the part of our system of government empowered to exercise that power. If you don't like the libel or defamation laws make it a voting issue and push to get the law changed.

Re:Misunderstanding this case (3, Informative)

DRJlaw (946416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704054)

Since this is currently the highest modded "First Amendment" post, I'll critique it -- not you specifically.

[1] The government issued an injunction to remove comments from the web site that [2] the site refused to obey, [3] which puts it squarely in First Amendment territory.

[1] Yes. The trial court issued an injunction in a default judgment against the defendant (the poster, not the web site).

[2] Indirectly. The web site (correctly) argued that it was not required to follow the injunction, because it was neither the defendant nor a party "in active concert or participation" with the defendant. There is a rule of the Federal Courts, FRCP 65(d) [cornell.edu] , that constrains the courts' ability to issue judgments affecting those who are not parties to the case. The district court followed it. The plaintiff took this up on appeal.

[3] No. 47 USC 230(c)(1) [cornell.edu] says that the web site cannot be treated as the speaker, and apparently cannot be compelled to remove content (other than through mechanisms like the DMCA takedown notice existing in other statutes). It would/will be interesting to see if the web site could be compelled to take down content if it was defamatory and the defendant was seeking to have it taken down. However, that is not the case. Nobody has proved that the content is defamatory in a way that binds the web site to that conclusion, and the defendant is apparently MIA.

This is not a first amendment issue, it is first an issue of compliance with judicial rules, and second a statutory issue involving ISP/ICS immunity. The courts will not consider something a constitutional issue if it can be resolved solely though existing rules and statutes. Whatever policy or rhetorical relationship there is with the first amendment, this case has been decided purely based upon legislated laws.

Re:A popular misunderstanding (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703542)

Unless the courts are now private entities, the website resisting a court order to take down speech protected by the 1st amendment, it most certainly IS protecting it. Much like AT&T et. al. were complicit in the violation of the 4th amendment when they assisted the NSA in a domestic spying operation.

The website isn't really REQUIRED by the 1st amendment to leave the post up, but it did feel called upon by the spirit of the 1st amendment to do so.

It would be perfectly fine within the spirit of free speech to place a note that the subject of the posting and the courts question the truthfulness of the speech while leaving it up.

It would be equally within the dpirit to simply allow the plaintiff in the case to make a post of their own.

1st amendment not applicable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703082)

The first amendment is nice and all but not really applicable here. It only states congress can't make laws infringing on these rights. A website can walk all over them so long as they do not violate any laws that the congress has made. That being said I admire their position and willingness to stand up for these rights.

Re:1st amendment not applicable (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703602)

The principle of the first amendment is free speech. It may bind only the government, but that's not to say that it's a nonsense for a private entity to voluntarily uphold the principle as well.
I don't think it was ever intended that the government being the only entity against which a person has an enforceable right to protection of freedom speech should mean that free speech should naturally exist nowhere else.

Does Ripoff Report encourage defamation? (2)

akirapill (1137883) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703090)

It's an honest question since I know nothing about this website. I thought this court motion [scribd.com] from the defendants was very interesting, especially this part:

"Xcentric encourages consumers to post complaints about companies, while at the same time offering its “services” to help these companies improve their image -- for a fee. Xcentric’s practices are controversial. In one recent lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged that Xcentric “actively solicit[s] defamatory content from third parties and directly encourage[s] the use of hyperbole and exaggeration in the title and body of the complaint to maximize the impact and marketability of false reports.”"

The motion then goes on to say that this issue is addressed in an faq on Ripoff Report's website, but I was unable to find it. While I certainly don't agree with the brittish model of "sue for libel first, ask questions later", I think we're all in agreement that protecting defamation is definitely not in the spirit of free speech. Is this really part of Ripoff Report's business plan? Anyone familiar with Ripoff Report care to enlighten?

Re:Does Ripoff Report encourage defamation? (1)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704662)

  Agreed. Although the judge ruled that the history of the matter may be kept, there are several items that trouble me:

ROR holds an original (false) claim by a poster, defaming citizen. It also holds the follow-up, most of which is useless banter, and then a legalese summary of the matter.

ROR seems to be taking the position of "historical records holder" instead of "discussion facilitator". But by providing a forum for each post, the line seems blurred. Essentially, they seem to represent a mock "court" of their own, whereby a statement is made, then bandied about, settling into some sort of eventual inactivity (proven false, uninteresting, circular, etc)

I can agree that ROR should take the stance that comments of extreme libel or slander shouldn't be removed. But court cases have a summary and they split sections into Ruling and Transcripts. ROR is much less organized. From the perspective of the slandered individual, it seems they might suffer from a any cursory reader thinking the statements are true. ROR should perhaps stamp a Snopes-like summary on the issue and lock comments out.

Forums are funny thing. Keeping all posts in the spirit of "freedom of speech" is one thing, but "common decency" is another.

I wonder if this site would keep singing it's tune if the slanderous materials (true or false) were about the site/company/owners themselves.

Re:Does Ripoff Report encourage defamation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34704876)

I thought this court motion [scribd.com] from the defendants was very interesting

Never, ever assume that information in a court motion is true.

Wait a minute!!! (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703232)

You mean someone in this country (who didn't represent corporate interests) got justice. Inconcievable.

hmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703284)

Other sites claim they support free speech, but when the going gets rough, they will usually protect their bottom line

Aww, stop bashing slashdot, OP.

It took RTFA and referenced, but I get it (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703512)

Not only does ROR refuse to comply with the original order because it was not a party to it, but the original order was entered as default judgement. Legally it's a finding, but in reality the judge didn't get a chance to hear evidence and make a decision - the original defendents never appeared.

A cautionary tale. You really should answer lawsuits. You have nothing to lose if the alternative is to ignore it and let the court issue default judgement. And you might at least catch a sympathetic judge who will at least listen.

Well, maybe not, but again nothing lost.

This seems counter productive? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34703558)

If I understand the article correctly, it's basically completely okay to go to this website (or a similar consumer-watch site) say whatever you like about a competitors business, and even if it's completely untrue nobody can do anything about it?

It's things like this that make great ammunition for those seeking to supress free speech in general.

Re:This seems counter productive? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34703804)

How can you claim to support free speech whilst also censoring speech because it is false?

Re:This seems counter productive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34704172)

I don't know, if we can stop speech because it's false, there's a lot of Religion that won't be happy.

Re:This seems counter productive? (1)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704764)

  "Free speech" isn't a black & white issue - it's constantly under flux throughout all layers of the US legislative branch.

This site may support free speech, but the format they deliver their content doesn't quickly address slanderous posts. For example, if an urban myth of somewhat repulsive content about a single real person were to arise, Snopes.com would carry it. But they'd make it quite easy to discern the truth or falsity of the entire situation (or particular details). ROR takes the position that it doesn't need remove content, which I can agree to, but out of decency it should really point out simple malicious abuse.

If/When ROR were to suffer from a 4chan onslaught, I'm sure they'd change their tune - just out of the controlling the signal-to-noise ratio, not freedom-of-speech. If the majority of ROR's content was simply false or considered obscene, it would cease to be considered any type of authority on it's core subject.

Re:This seems counter productive? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704882)

it's constantly under flux throughout all layers of the US legislative branch.

It certainly isn't supposed to be, is it? Would I be incorrect if I stated that the constitution (especially the bill of rights) is supposed to be interpreted, and not changed completely? I believe that is the power (interpretation) that the supreme court has, is it not? It's very clear about freedom of speech. There's really no room for interpretation there (going by what is written in the constitution).

Also, as I said, you can't claim to have free speech without allowing all kinds of speech. Otherwise it should be "mostly free," but that isn't what the constitution states, anyway.

but out of decency it should really point out simple malicious abuse

But, the above isn't to say that I don't believe that they should at least make it clear that the information is false (if it is).

Re:This seems counter productive? (1)

Imrik (148191) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704324)

Not exactly, you can still be held responsible for the content of your post and be required to remove it if you are able. The website, however, cannot be required to remove it as a result of the findings against you.

shills for cash4gold (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34704892)

ripoffreport? the same site that shills for one of the biggest ripoffs around (almost no)cash4gold?

The Coast (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 3 years ago | (#34705838)

In Halifax we have The Coast which did the complete opposite. Not only did they not roll right over but they didn't even send a lawyer to defend their having to release the information on anonymous posters. They said something like, "The judge will make a good decision." Hello, in Canada, we too have an adversarial court system where without a defense the plaintiff will win the day.
So Bravo Ripoff Report and burn in hell Coast Magazine.
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