Defamation

CNET on Libel and User-Generated Content

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, Steve Tobak at CNET published a useful post -- "Bloggers beware: You're liable to commit libel." In it, he gives a straightforward and largely accurate account of the elements of a defamation claim and some good general advice:

Subject Area: 

Miranda v. Sykes

Date: 

01/03/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Robert Miranda

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Charlie Sykes

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Wisconsin Small Claims Court, Milwaukee County

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$5,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

Robert Dreps

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Charlie Sykes, a talk radio host and blogger for WTMJ-AM(620) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wrote an essay on his blog that criticized Robert Miranda, editor of the Spanish Journal. According to press accounts of the dispute, Sykes alleged that Miranda had in October 1991 been "one of the organizers of what became a violent shout-down, during which coins, hard candy and ice cubes were thrown at [conservative radio host Mark Belling] during a Pro-America rally at [the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee]." Sykes based his statement on an email he received from a listener. When he learned that the e-mail contained factual errors, he removed the posting from his blog within hours on November 12, 2004. Nevertheless, the posting was still available through Internet searches several months later.

On January 3, 2005, Robert Miranda sued Sykes in small claims court for libel, claiming that the posting was false and misleading. Sykes' employer, Journal Communications, offered a $5,000 college scholarship as a settlement ($5,000 is the maximum available award in small claims court) and the case settled just prior to trial. The scholarship is to be awarded to a South Division High School student who wants to study journalism.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

New School of Orlando v. McSween: Florida School Sues Blogging Parent for Defamation

On October 26, 2007, the New School of Orlando sued Sonjia McSween, the parent of a former student, in Florida state court, asserting claims of libel, slander, and tortious interference with business relations.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

New School of Orlando v. McSween

Date: 

10/26/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Sonjia McSween

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in and for Orange County, Florida

Case Number: 

48-2007-CA-014312-O

Legal Counsel: 

Daniel Wayne Perry

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

On October 26, 2007, the New School of Orlando sued Sonjia McSween, the parent of a former student, in Florida state court, asserting claims of libel, slander, and tortious interference with business relations.

According to the New School's complaint, McSween started a blog called "Say NO to New School of Orlando" after withdrawing her daughter from the school during her first grade year. On the blog, McSween criticized the school's treatment of students and described her family's negative experience with the school. Attached to the complaint are copies of the relevant pages from McSween's blog. Some of the statements described as defamatory in the New School's complaint include:

Who should choose New School of Orlando?
If your child is a mini Stepford Wife, this may very well be the school for you. If your child thrives under extreme stress and dictatorial conditions, this may well be the school for you. If your child doesn't mind being belittled, this may be the school for you. If your child loves to have work belittled because letters are not perfectly formed, this may be the school for you. If your child doesn't mind not having his/her emotional needs met, this may very well be the school for you.

Who shouldn't choose New School of Orlando?:
If your child needs love, in the form of hugs or even just genuine praise for a job well done, this isn't the school for you. If your child becomes anxious under undue stress, this isn't the school for you. If your child has any emotional, learning or physical problems (even minor such as ADD, ADHD) this isn't the school for you. If your child doesn't fit into a perfect mold, this isn't the school for you. If you as a parent do not appreciate being told how to run your home when your child isn't at school, then this definitely isn't the school for you.

The complaint also objects to a statement speculating that the New School might be receiving "kick-backs" from a school psychologist in return for referrals of students to be evaluated for learning disabilities.

On September 6, 2007, counsel for the New School sent a cease-and-desist letter to McSween, asserting that these statements were defamatory and demanding that they be removed and that no future defamatory statements be made about the school. In response, McSween moved the content of her blog to another blog, "Musings of a Disappointed Parent." At the top of the page on "Musings," McSween displayed a disclaimer indicating that her postings were her "opinion."

The school sent a second cease-and-desist letter on September 13, 2007. The letter argued that the "opinion" disclaimer did not eliminate or even reduce McSween's liability because she was publishing defamatory statements of fact about the school. McSween then allegedly removed the disputed statements from "Musings" and created a link to her MySpace page, where the statements apparently still appear.

The complaint also alleges that McSween has published similar statements throughout her community via other media, including oral communications and email. Besides seeking compensatory damages, the complaint includes a request for an injunction prohibiting McSween from "making any further defamatory, libelous, slanderous, and/or disparaging statements regarding New School, on or through any media, and such other and further relief as the Court may deem proper."

According to press reports, McSween is consulting with a lawyer, who was not specifically named.

Update:

2/25/2008 - The court approved a settlement reached by the parties.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

sb editing

Status updated on 6/5/2008, case settled according to WL docket, but no documents are available on WL. (AAB)

 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

New School of Orlando Preparatory v. McSween (Letters)

Date: 

09/06/2007

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Sonjia McSween

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in and for Orange County, Florida

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Description: 

On September 6, 2007, counsel for New School of Orlando Preparatory, an Orlando private school, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Sonjia McSween, the parent of a former student. The letter claimed that statements appearing on McSween's blog, "Say NO to New School of Orlando," were "defamatory, libelous, slanderous, and/or disparaging" and demanded that she terminate the operation of the website and refrain from publishing defamatory statements about the school in the future.

In response, McSween moved the content of her blog to another blog, "Musings of a Disappointed Parent." At the top of the page on "Musings," McSween displayed a disclaimer indicating that her postings were her "opinion."

The school sent a second cease-and-desist letter on September 13, 2007. The letter argued that the "opinion" disclaimer did not eliminate or even reduce McSween's liability because she was publishing defamatory statements of fact about the school. McSween then allegedly removed the disputed statements from "Musings" and created a link to her MySpace page, where the statements apparently still appear.

The New School of Orlando, Inc., the company that owns New School of Orlando Preparatory, filed a lawsuit against McSween in Florida state court. (For more information on the lawsuit, please see the CMLP database entry, New School of Orlando v. McSween.)

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

 

sb editing

 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Global Telemedia International v. Does 1-4

Date: 

11/22/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Global Telemedia International, Inc.; Jonathon Bentley-Stevens; Regina Peralta

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-4

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court, Central District of California

Case Number: 

8:00CV01155

Legal Counsel: 

Megan E Gray, Brian Ross, Bradley Kent Warner, David Olson

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Global Telemedia International (GTMI), a publicly traded telecommunications company, sued a number of anonymous users who posted negative comments about the firm and its officers on the financial message board Raging Bull, alleging that the posts constituted trade libel and libel per se.

On December 20, 2000, two defendants filed a motion to strike the complaint based on the California anti-SLAPP statute (California Civil Procedure § 425.16). This provision sets out a two-part test to gain protection, namely (a) the comments were posted in exercise of the defendants' free speech "in connection with a public issue", and (b) the plaintiff cannot show a probability of success at trial.

On February 23, 2001, the federal district court struck the case against the two defendants and held that speech can be "in connection with a public issue" notwithstanding the commercial character of the subject matter. The fortunes of a publicly traded company with a large number of shareholders is a matter of public and not just commercial concern.

The court also held that the posts were most likely to be taken by readers to be opinion rather than fact because they were "full of hyperbole, invective, short-hand phrases and language not generally found in fact-based documents," and "posted anonymously in the general cacophony of an Internet chat-room in which about 1,000 messages a week are posted about GTMI" (132 F. Supp. 2d 1261, 1267).

Update:

3/2/2001 - Court grants defendant Barry King's motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP law

7/20/2001 - Case dismissed for lack of prosecution

10/5/2001- Court awarded defendant Barry King attorneys fees of $17,969.25

1/22/2002 - Court awarded attorneys fees of $37,276.83 to defendant Ronald Reader

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Sorenson's Ranch School v. MySpace

Date: 

07/31/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Sorenson's Ranch School; Shane Sorenson; Jill Sorenson

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

MySpace, Inc.; John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual
School

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Utah

Case Number: 

2:06CV00632

Legal Counsel: 

None

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Withdrawn

Description: 

Sorenson's Ranch School, a rehabilitation center and school for troubled youths in Koosharem, Utah, along with two of its officers filed a defamation lawsuit against MySpace and 10 unknown John Doe defendants claiming that a MySpace page had been set up in which users criticized the school's operations (the page no longer exists).

In the suit, the school alleged that MySpace and some anonymous users published statements falsely indicating that the Sorensons engaged in child abuse, employed underqualified staff, and engaged in false advertising. The plaintiffs also claimed that the defendants used "vulgar and inappropriate language" and otherwise made defamatory statements regarding the school.

The complaint asked for $125,000 in damages and an injunction against further publication of the defamatory comments.

There is no indication in the case docket that plaintiffs served MySpace with the complaint, and no defendant filed an answer. About four months after filing the complaint, with no further filings or motions occuring in the case, the plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Subject Area: 

Citizen Media Law Podcast #4: Ciolli Dropped from AutoAdmit Suit; Libel Claim Against Perez Hilton Dismissed

This week, David Ardia talks about the lawsuit against AutoAdmit and Colin Rhinesmith speaks with Sam Bayard about a recent decision involving the celebrity blogger Perez Hilton.

Download the MP3 (time: 6:20)

Subject Area: 

Children of America, Inc. v. Magedson

Date: 

03/05/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Edward Magedson; Xcentric Ventures, LLC

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County

Case Number: 

CV 2007-003720

Legal Counsel: 

David S. Gingras

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (total)

Description: 

In March 2007, Children of America, Inc., a childcare provider, sued Ed Magedson and Xcentric Ventures, LLC, the owners and operators of the Ripoff Report website, for defamation in Arizona state court.

Ripoff Report is a consumer reporting website that invites consumers to file and document complaints about companies or individuals with whom they've had negative business experiences. Users of Ripoff Report posted a number of critical comments about Children of America.

Children of America sued, arguing that, in addition to publishing user comments, Ripoff Report itself augmented and/or added headlines for the allegedly defamatory postings.

The defendants moved to dismiss the claim based on CDA 230, which protects information service providers from liability for the defamatory comments of third parties. On October 24, 2007, the Arizona Supreme Court granted the motion with respect to those statements allegedly created by Ripoff Report users, but allowed the action to continue with respect to those statements allegedly authored by the defendants.

Update:

12/1/08 - According to the Case Docket, the parties have settled the case.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

I have emailed D's attorney seeking info about the date complaint initially filed --Jill

I found docket, see related links. SB

To-do: monitor status - this thing might settle

Status checked on 6/03/08 (AAB)

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Pivar v. Myers

Date: 

08/16/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Stuart Pivar

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Seed Media Group, LLC; Paul Z. Myers

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:07-CV-07334

Legal Counsel: 

None

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

In August 2007, Stuart Pivar sued science blogger P.Z. Meyers and Seed Media Group, LLC (SMG) for defamation in federal court in New York.

According to the complaint, Pivar is an "industrial, inventor and scientist" who edited a book called Lifecode, which puts forth a theory of "biological self-organization." Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota at Morris, posted critical comments about Pivar's work on his blog, "Pharyngula," which is hosted on SMG's ScienceBlogs.com. Specifically, Myers allegedly referred to Pivar as a "classic crackpot."

Pivar's complaint included claims for defamation and tortious interference with business relations. He sought injunctive relief and $60 milion in compensatory and punitive damages.

Extensive blog commentary on the case was largely derisive of both Pivar and his claims (see "Related Links" below). Only eleven days after filing the complaint, Pivar voluntarily withdrew the lawsuit.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Galveston Independent School District v. Tetley

Date: 

10/29/2007

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Sandra Tetley

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Legal Counsel: 

Tony Buzbee

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On October 29, 2007, a lawyer for the Galveston Independent School District sent a cease-and-desist letter to Sandra Tetley, who operates a "watchdog" blog about the school district called GISD Watch.

We have not been able to obtain a copy of the school district's letter, but, according to the Galveston County Daily News, the letter demanded that Tetley remove what it called libelous statements and other "legally offensive" statements posted by her and anonymous users of her site. The postings complained about in the letter apparently accused district officials of lying, manipulation, falsifying budget numbers, using their positions for personal gain, and violating open meetings laws, among other things. The letter indicated that the school district would sue Tetley if she refused to meet its demands.

Tetley retained a local lawyer who sent a response letter to the district's lawyer on November 8, arguing that Tetley could not be held liable for the statements of others and characterizing the statements at issue as opinions. Tetley has not removed the offending posts and has announced her intention to defend the suit vigorously.

On November 9, school superintendent Lynne Cleveland issued a statement recommending that the district not pursue legal action against Tetley. Cleveland reasoned that she did not want to pull attention away from educating the district's children any longer. It is not clear at present whether the school district has taken any further steps.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Should probably monitor this blog for updates.

Status checked on 6/4/2008, it doesn't appear that the GISD has moved ahead at all.  (AAB) 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Ronson v. Lavandeira: Court Puts Smack Down on Libel Claim Against Perez Hilton

As anyone who follows the celebrity rags already knows, a California judge dealt a mortal blow to Samantha Ronson's libel suit againt litigation-magnet Mario Lavandeira (aka Perez Hilton) two weeks ago. Sadly, we've missed the scoop on this one, but I do have a copy of the transcript of the court's November 1st ruling. Surely the gossip hounds among you won't mind if I delve into the details a little.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Fandino v. Lebanon Truth

Date: 

09/28/2007

Threat Type: 

Other

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Lebanon Truth

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Other

Legal Counsel: 

Tom McHill

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

The Lebanon, Oregon school district has been in turmoil for many years. On August 1, 2007, three members of the school board placed the superintendent on administrative leave pending an investigation. In response, an anonymous blogger going by "Lebanon Truth" ("LT") started a blog designed to give the public an alternative perspective on current events and access to information about alleged wrongdoing by school district employees (information that was supposed to be confidential, but that LT was able to confirm through a variety of sources). The blog claimed that the administrative leave action was both illegal and not helpful in resolving the issues facing the district.

LT also posted statements, self-described as opinions, about key players in the dispute, including the president of the local teachers union Kim Fandino, the athletic director, and the football coach, all of whom oppose the current district administration. LT also posted comments about board and audience behavior at school board meetings, rumors about the superintendent's alleged infidelity and why those rumors were not credible, and opinions on ways to resolve the conflict in the community.

Sometime in September 2007, Fandino apparently contacted local law enforcement officials claiming that the statements on the blog constituted criminal harassment and/or cyberbullying. According to the Lebanon Express, officials informed Fandino that the statements did not reach the level of criminal harassment or cyberbullying, but that the statements might violate civil libel laws or school board policy.

On September 28, Fandino filed a complaint with the school district, claiming that the blog was cyberbulling by a district employee (although the identity of the blogger was not known) and asking the district to subpoena Google to reveal the identity of the blogger. After consulting with the district's lawyer, the superintendent declined to take up the matter on behalf of Fandino and advised that she retain her own lawyer.

Fandino then appealed to the five member school board. The item was scheduled for discussion at the November 5, 2007 board meeting. At the meeting, the board chair indicated that the district's lawyer had advised against pursuing legal action against the blogger and requested that the board postpone any further action until the members had a chance to meet with counsel on November 19. One board member moved to allow Fandino to address the board directly and another member seconded the motion, but the chair rejected the motion as out of order and adjourned the meeting.

On November 12, LT published a post on Oregon's anti-SLAPP statute (Or. Rev. Stat. § 31.150), indicating that it should help him/her to strike the complaint and recover attorney's fees in the event of a lawsuit by Fandino or the school district.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

User submitted via threat form

Status checked on 6/4/2008, no new information.  (AAB) 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Experian Information Solutions v. Sheehan

Date: 

08/18/1997

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

William A. Sheehan, III

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

Case Number: 

C97-1360WD

Legal Counsel: 

Grant J. Silvernale, Noel Treat

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Denied
Injunction Issued

Description: 

William A. Sheehan sued a number of credit reporting agencies, including Experian, in federal court in Washington, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In that litigation, Experian asserted a counterclaim against Sheehan for defamation, commercial disparagement and other torts based on the statements appearing on Sheehan's website.

According to documents filed in that case, Sheehan operated a personal website, on which he posted criticism of government officials and credit reporting agencies. His postings included comments about Experian, allegedly calling its employees "liars" and "scumbags." Sheehan also allegedly posted employees' home addresses and telephone numbers.

Experian moved for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prohibit Sheehan from posting on his website: (1) "any false or defamatory statements about Experian, its employees or agents"; and (2) "any other language specifically calculated to induce others to harass, threaten or attack Experian, its employees or agents, including, but not limited to, their social security numbers, home phone numbers and maps to their homes." In June 1998, the court denied the first part of Experian's requested order, but granted the second.

In July 1998, the court granted Sheehan's motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order and denied Experian's motion for a preliminary injunction. The court reaffirmed its prior ruling that the first part of the restraining order would constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech because it asked the court to prohibit speech that had not yet been found to be defamatory. It further held that the second part of the restraining order constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint because Sheehan's online speech was protected by the First Amendment since there was no evidence that he had published anything that could be deemed an incitement to imminent unlawful action.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Lackner v. Sanchez

Date: 

08/30/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

R.L. Lackner, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Robert Sanchez

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

County Court, Cameron County, Texas; United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

Case Number: 

2005-CCL-1032-C; 1:05CV00264

Legal Counsel: 

A. Peter Thaddeus, Montgomery English

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Robert Sanchez lost an election for City Commissioner in Brownsville, Texas, but kept the forum on his campaign website active after the election. On that forum, users posted allegedly libelous material about Carolyn Lackner Baird, a jewelry store owner connected to Sanchez's political rival, as well as her daughter and her business.

The corporation operating the jewelry store sued Sanchez for libel based on these posts. Sanchez removed the case to federal court on grounds that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230(c)) protected him from liability.

On plaintiff's motion to remand, the federal court held that, as an affirmative defense, CDA 230 did not provide proper grounds for removal of the action to federal court when the parties were both from Texas and the plaintiff had asserted only state law claims for relief.

The federal court therefore remanded the case back to the County Court of Cameron County, Texas.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

To Do: continue to follow case

Status checked on 6/5/2008, no new information (AAB)

Status checked on 2/19/2009, no new information (VAF) 

 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Legal Threats Database Preview: Internet Solutions v. Marshall

Tomorrow we officially launch our Legal Threats Database, a catalog of the growing number of lawsuits, cease-and-desist letters, and other legal challenges faced by those engaging in online speech. As many of our readers are no doubt aware, the individual threat entries have been available for some time, but starting tomorrow users will be able to view the entire database and search the entries using a number of fields, including location, legal claim, publication medium, and content type.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

VeriResume v. Marshall (Email)

Date: 

10/30/2007

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tabatha Miller

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog
User Comment
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Description: 

Tabatha Marshall runs a blog and website at TabathaMarshall.com, on which she writes about suspicious online job solicitations and so-called "phishing" practices. Part of her site consists of the "PhishBucket," a "directory of companies / individuals suspected of targeting job seekers with deceptive offers." Included in the PhishBucket is an entry for "VeriResume (Internet Solutions)," which bears the statement "Pending Investigation Phisher" at the top-right of the page. The entry also contains physical and web addresses for the company, links to posts about it (internal and external), and names of affiliated companies. The PhishBucket also includes entries for other companies operated by Internet Solutions Corporation, including Ask America, Too Spoiled, and USA Voice.

Marshall's site also contains articles relating to her research and views about certain companies and their online job solicitations. Among these is a post entitled "Something's VeriRotten with VeriResume." In this post, Marshall excerpts a sample email from VeriResume soliciting job applications, criticizes the company's position on resume fraud, and links to other sites (like the Better Business Bureau) with information about VeriResume and Internet Solutions. She invites readers to "[c]heck out the research and YOU decide if you want to give them your info."

Several users submitted comments to the post that were critical of VeriResume. One user, who claimed to be a company employee, alleged that the company engages in a "bait-and-switch" routine after applicants submit their information, according to documents attached to the complaint. In an update to her original post, Marshall summarized these user's comments and expounded on the situation.

Starting on October 30, 2007, a representative of VeriResume (or Internet Solutions -- the record is not clear on this point) contacted Marshall via email, claiming that information about VeriResume and other companies posted on Marshall's website was incorrect and asking her to remove it. According to Marshall, the company representative also contacted her landlord, claiming that Marshall was operating a business in her house, a claim that Marshall disputes.

On October 31, 2007, Counsel representing VeriResume and ten other Internet Solutions-affiliated companies sent a cease-and-desist letter to Marshall via email. Marshall did not open the attachment because she did not recognize the email address of the sender. She received a hard copy of the letter on November 5, 2007, after a lawsuit had already been filed. The letter demanded that Marshall cease and desist from defaming the companies by characterizing them as "phishing" enterprises or "scams." It claimed that these and other statements were actionable under "numerous legal causes of action," including "libel, defamation, and tortious interterference with business contracts and business relationships." The letter further requested that Marshall remove all references on her site to any of the ten companies, and advised her that suit would be filed if she did not comply by 5pm the next day.

On October 31, counsel also sent a draft copy of the complaint, which was filed in federal court in Florida the next day. (For more information on the related lawsuit, please see the CMLP database entry, Internet Solutions v. Marshall).

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

User submitted; adapted from submission through threat form

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CAIR v. Whitehead (Letter)

Date: 

01/06/2004

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Andrew Whitehead

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Description: 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent a cease-and-desist letter to Andrew Whitehead, claiming that Whitehead had made defamatory statements about the organization on his website. The letter stated that CAIR would file a lawsuit against Whitehead unless Whitehead agreed to voluntarily cease-and-desist the publication of defamatory statements about CAIR. Furthermore, the letter stated that CAIR would file a lawsuit if Whitehead published the cease-and-desist letter, claiming that it was personal and confidential. The letter is currently openly available on Whitehead's website.

CAIR followed through with its threat and intitated a lawsuit in April 2004. More information on that lawsuit is available here.

 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Internet Solutions v. Marshall

Date: 

11/01/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tabatha Marshall

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida; United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Case Number: 

6:07-CV-1740-ORL-22KRS (district court); 08-12328-FF (appeals court)

Legal Counsel: 

Matthew T. Farr (district court); Marc J. Randazza - Randazza Legal Group (appeal)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On November 1, 2007, Internet Solutions, a company that runs a number of employment recruiting and Internet advertising businesses, including VeriResume, sued blogger Tabatha Marshall in federal court in Florida.

Marshall runs a blog and website at www.tabathamarshall.com, on which she writes about suspicious online job solicitations and so-called "phishing" practices. Part of her site consists of the "PhishBucket," a "directory of companies/individuals suspected of targeting job seekers with deceptive offers." Included in the PhishBucket is an entry for "VeriResume (Internet Solutions)," which bears the statement "Pending Investigation Phisher" at the top-right of the page. The entry also contains physical and web addresses for the company, links to posts about it (internal and external), and names of affiliated companies. The PhishBucket also includes entries for other companies operated by Internet Solutions, including Ask America, Scout 2007, Too Spoiled, and USA Voice.

Marshall's site also contains articles relating to her research and views about certain companies and their online job solicitations. Among these is a post entitled "Something's VeriRotten with VeriResume." In this post, Marshall excerpts a sample email from VeriResume soliciting job applications, criticizes the company's position on resume fraud, and links to other sites (like the Better Business Bureau) with information about VeriResume and Internet Solutions. She invites readers to "[c]heck out the research and YOU decide if you want to give them your info."

Several users submitted comments to the post that were critical of VeriResume. One user, who claimed to be a company employee, alleged that the company engages in a "bait-and-switch" routine after applicants submit their information, according to documents attached to the complaint. In an update to her original post, Marshall summarized these user's comments and expounded on the situation.

Starting on October 30, 2007, a representative of VeriResume (or Internet Solutions -- the record is not clear on this point) contacted Marshall via email, claiming that information about VeriResume and other companies posted on Marshall's website was incorrect and asking her to remove it. According to Marshall, the company representative also contacted her landlord, claiming that Marshall was operating a business in her house, a claim that Marshall disputes. On October 31, 2007, one day before filing suit, counsel representing VeriResume and ten other Internet Solutions-affiliated companies sent a cease-and-desist letter to Marshall via email. (For more information on the emails and letter, please see the CMLP database entry, VeriResume v. Marshall (Email)).

Internet Solutions's complaint includes claims for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and injurious falsehood (trade libel). It alleges that Marshall has "author[ed], post[ed], and publish[ed]" statements claiming that Internet Solutions engages in "phishing," "scams," and other criminal and fraudulent conduct. It requests compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction requiring Marshall to remove the allegedly defamatory posts and prohibiting her from making future defamatory statements about the company.

Marshall was served with the complaint on November 3, and she has 20 days to respond. Marshall maintains that she merely posts her opinions, publicly available information, and third-party comments and asks her readers to draw their own conclusions. She is seeking legal assistance in this matter.

Update:

4/8/2008 - The court dismissed the complaint, holding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Marshall.

4/24/08 - Internet Solutions indicated to Marshall that it intends to file an appeal and commence another lawsuit in Washington state.

04/29/08 - Internet Solutions filed a notice that it has appealed the dismissal to the 11th Circuit.

06/06/2008 - Internet Solutions filed its appellate brief with the 11th Circuit.

07/16/2008 - Marshall filed her appellate brief with the 11th Circuit.

02/10/2009 - The 11th Circuit certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court: "Does posting allegedly defamatory stories and comments about a company with its principal place of business in Florida on a non-commercial website owned and operated by a nonresident with no other connections to Florida constitute a commission of a tortious act within Florida for purposes of Fla. Stat. section 48.193(1)(b)?"

03/03/2010 - Florida Supreme Court heard oral argument on the certified question.

06/17/2010 - Florida Supreme Court issued its decision on the certified question:

We answer the rephrased certified question in the affirmative. We conclude that posting defamatory material on a website alone does not constitute the commission of a tortious act within Florida for purposes of section 48.193(1)(b), Florida Statutes. Rather, the material posted on the website about a Florida resident must not only be accessible in Florida, but also be accessed in Florida in order to constitute the commission of the tortious act of defamation within Florida under section 48.193(1)(b). 

9/30/2010 - District Court dismissed case based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

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User submitted through threat form

Status checked on 6/5/2008, no case in Washington yet (AAB)

Updated 1/22/09 - VAF

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Jury Awards $10.9 Million Against "God Hates Fags" Church

On Wednesday, a federal jury in Maryland handed down a $10.9 million verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist Christian church in Kansas that publishes a website at www.godhatesfags.com, on which it disseminates its rabidly anti-homosexual views. Among other things, the church advocates the view that God kills U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality and for the presence of gays in the U.S. military.

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