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Reality TV Star's Lawsuit Flouts Laws Protecting Internet Speech

Internet Forum Can't Be Held Liable for What Commenters Post on Online
May 29, 2012

Reality TV Star's Lawsuit Flouts Laws Protecting Internet Speech

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked a judge today to block a reality TV star's attempts to censor critical comments about her company on a popular online fashion blog.

Corri McFadden, star of the VH1 show "House of Consignment," filed suit against in a California federal court after a commenter accused McFadden's company, eDrop-Off, of "shill bidding" – making bogus bids to inflate the prices of designer goods the company sells in online auctions. But California has strong legal protections against lawsuits filed to chill participation in publicly significant discussions, and now McFadden is asking the court in California to let her dismiss the lawsuit without any penalty so that she can pursue it in a state with more favorable law. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday, EFF urged the court in California not to let McFadden off the hook.

"This is a classic SLAPP suit – strategic litigation against public participation – and McFadden should have to face California's tough anti-SLAPP law, which lets defendants move to strike frivolous lawsuits and recover costs and fees if they win," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "The plaintiffs set the stage by choosing to file their suit in California. The court should finish the case there as well, protecting's speech rights by applying California law."

Additionally, the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), as interpreted by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, contains uniquely strong protections for free speech online, shielding hosts of online forums from liability for the speech of their users.

"Congress decided that speakers – not their soapboxes – should be responsible for what they say," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "That's why the Internet hosts such an incredible diversity of content today. If sites could be held legally responsible for anything anyone said on them, no one would allow users to post controversial views online."

For the full brief in eDrop-Off v. Burke et al.:


Marcia Hofmann
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Matt Zimmerman
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

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