Although we have a constitutionally protected right to free speech, legal trickery can still bypass this ostensibly impenetrable right. With the right lawyer, anyone can slap a bogus lawsuit on you for things you had every right to say publicly.
Matthew Inman, creator of humor website The Oatmeal, was a victim of what is called Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). Targeted by a rival website, he was demanded to pay $20,000 for articles he had written that criticized them. He could either pay settlement fees, or face a lengthy court battle.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) helped Matthew fight off the legal threat. However, independent bloggers that find themselves in a similar predicament may not be able to afford the legal counsel necessary to defend their right to online free speech. They could be forced to pay settlement fees, remove articles, or even shut down their blog entirely.
The EFF and the Public Participation Project are calling on congress to support federal anti-SLAPP legislation called the PETITION act. A blogger that is threatened with a SLAPP lawsuit for legitimate online content can file a motion to get the case dismissed quickly, without having to pay legal fees.
Laws like this exist in twenty-eight states, but it's important to have a federal law passed so that this becomes a non-issue for not only bloggers, but every person, every where.
Help stop anti-speech bullies. Tell Congress to protect free expression both online and off through the PETITION act – click here
Image by ElectronicFrontierFoundation, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.