ANTI-SLAPP – What Happens If You Try To Silence Your Critics

Explaination of Anti-SLAPP laws and how they can be used to prevent the courts from being weaponized.

If the lawyers behind the Grosfeld team try to silence and remove truthful information online they may be subject to Anti-SLAPP sanctions. Read more about it below and follow some famous cases with fines doled out to those who tried to remove their critics information.

In California, the laws broadly protect speech made in connection with a public issue. For the most part, anti-SLAPP laws are broad enough to cover SLAPP suits aimed at silencing or retaliating against journalists, news, and blogs for critical reporting.

Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws are statutes designed to prevent litigants from using the courts as a weapon to suppress speech. When someone files a meritless lawsuit or threatens to sue with the aim of silencing or intimidating another party, anti-SLAPP statutes can be invoked to dismiss the suit and award attorney’s fees and costs to the defendant.

The most famous anti-SLAPP fines or fee awards are typically those that involve high-profile individuals, corporations, or major public interest issues. Some of these fines can be significant, adding up to millions of dollars, due to the substantial legal fees involved in fighting these cases and the fact that the plaintiff ends up having to pay FOR ALL of the defendants costs because they tried to remove truthful information from the internet because they didn’t like it.

Anti-SLAPP laws have been invoked in cases involving types of online speech. The internet is a common battleground for SLAPPs because individuals and companies are often sensitive about their online search results and may resort to litigation to silence critics but often end up making the cases more notable and costing them millions of dollars more in legal fees for trying to silence their truthful critics.

Here are a few notable cases involving online speech:

Yelp Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc. (2014)

A Virginia carpet cleaning business sued Yelp to unmask anonymous users who had left negative reviews, alleging the reviews were fake and defamatory. Yelp resisted the subpoena to identify the users, and the case drew significant attention regarding the rights of online speakers to remain anonymous. The Virginia Supreme Court ultimately decided the case on procedural grounds, without addressing the First Amendment issues at stake.

Sandals Resorts International Ltd v. Google, Inc. (2008)

Sandals sought to uncover the identity of an anonymous Gmail user who was allegedly spreading information the company considered defamatory. Google resisted the subpoena, and a New York court applied anti-SLAPP principles to protect the identity of the anonymous Gmail user, concluding that Sandals hadn’t shown the email to be defamatory.

ZL Technologies, Inc. v. Does 1-7 (2009)

This case involved anonymous posters on an online message board who were critical of ZL Technologies, a software company. ZL Technologies sued the anonymous posters for defamation and subpoenaed the website to reveal the identities of the anonymous users. The court held that ZL Technologies could not compel the identification of the anonymous posters without first making a substantive case for defamation, thereby protecting the anonymity of the online speakers.

Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox (2011)

This case was notable because it involved a blogger, Crystal Cox, who wrote critical posts about a bankruptcy trustee and his company. They sued her for defamation. The trial court found in favor of the plaintiffs, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision, finding that even though the blogger wasn’t a traditional journalist, she still had First Amendment protections. The case was notable for the intersection of anti-SLAPP, online speech, and the evolving definition of “journalist.”