Tag: defamation

Thiel tries censoring press from mentioning Trump’s hair

trumpuckerOverjoyed at his victory over Gawker Media over the Hulk Hogan sex tape, Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel is taking court action to stop the press making jokes about Donald Trump’s hair.

Gawker reporter Ashley Feinberg published a lengthy investigation that sought to solve the enduring mystery of Donald Trump’s infamous mane, which she described as a “cotton candy hairspray labyrinth.”

Feinberg’s article claimed there was a link between Trump and the work of a $60,000-a-pop hair-extension company called Ivari International.  All good stuff however, Thiel is not impressed. After all if you can make fun of political figures what is to stop you if a President is involved in a burglary and a cover-up of political rivals.

Thiel’s lawyer, Charles J. Harder, sent Gawker a letter on behalf of Ivari International’s owner and namesake, Edward Ivari, in which Harder claims that Feinberg’s story was “false and defamatory,” invaded Ivari’s privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and committed “tortious interference” with Ivari’s business relations.

It claims there were 19 different purportedly defamatory statements—almost all of which were drawn from several publicly available lawsuits filed against Ivari.

He demanded Gawker remove the story, say sorry and preservation of “all physical and electronic documents, materials and data in your possession” related to the story. It also insisted that Gawker reveal its sources on the story.

Harder goes on to threaten legal action over the story: “Your actions expose you to substantial monetary damages and punitive damages.”

One of the “defamatory” statements Gawker published, according to Harder, is this: “What’s more, Ivari’s New York location is inside Trump Tower—on the private floor reserved for Donald Trump’s own office.”

The source was  Ivari’s own brochure, an archived version of his web site, and multiple advertisements Ivari placed in New York Magazine, all of which specified his New York address as being on the 25th floor of the Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Another “defamatory” statement, Harder claims, were “taken from a lawsuit filed against Ivari by Alicia Roach.” In other words it is an official judicial proceeding which is protected by New York State’s fair report privilege.

Gawker said  that Harder’s threats, seem to be a wider move to intimidate Gawker and its reporters from publishing true things about public figures – specifically Peter Thiel’s billionaire mates.  It looks like the Hulk Hogan case, which has put Gawker into Chapter 11 has strengthened Thiel’s belief that he can censor the media.

Wikipedia editors sued for defamation

Four Wackypedia editors have been sued for defamation by a Canadian businessman over changes they made to his page.

The case, filed in Ventura County’s Superior Court on June 11, said the four editors conspired to tarnish the name of entrepreneur, musician, and philanthropist Yank Barry.

Named were Richard Fife, Nate Gertler, Ethan Urbanik, and John Nagle.

The case focuses on VitaPro foods which Barry founded in the late 1980s. The company creates textured vegetable protein aimed at cutting down on worldwide meat consumption.

All was going well until the mid-1990s, Barry and former Texas Department of Criminal Justice head James Collins were convicted of a kickback scheme involving VitaPro and Texas prisons.

A jury convicted Collins of taking at least $20,000 from VitaPro Foods in exchange for pushing through a five-year, $33.7 million contract to distribute a soy-based granular substance to Texas inmates to cut food costs.

At the time Associated Press said that Barry was convicted of the same charges—bribery, money laundering and conspiracy—for allegedly paying the bribes.

However Collins and Barry were acquitted in 2005.

The Wikipedia editors made 31 different entries made on Barry’s Wikipedia page which could be libellous, Barry claimed.

To make matters worse the talk section for Barry’s Wikipedia page, one editor “Ganbarreh” states that Fife “made a clear statement about his agenda to maintain defamatory material on the subject’s page in order to cause financial harm and threaten the subjects’ livelihood”.

Fife admits that it wasn’t his “finest wikipedia moment” and that his edit was intended to “prepare for large amounts of edits biased towards the positive to the article”.

Barry said that he tried to resolve many of the issues with his page diplomatically but was ultimately forced to take legal action.

He told PR NewsChannel  that his page was so ridiculously false and made me sound like a terrible person and people believed it causing deals to fall through.

At least Wackpedia editors did not do what they did to the Everywhere Girl and Mike Magee and attempt to make them disappear completely. 

Vodafone shouts at journalist for Facebook post

Vodafone Essar has chickened out of defamation claims against one of its customers.

The Indian arm of the monstrous mobile company had gone on the warpath against one Dhaval Valia, a business journalist, after he took to Facebook to moan about the company’s service. In particular, lousy 3G.

Mr Valia’s status did more than spark debate, attracting the unwanted attention of Vodafone’s legal teams. Vodafone slapped him with a notice claiming he had made false and defamatory statements against it on the social network. It allegedly ordered him to show up to court and remove all of the critical posts within 48 hours. 

It also made claims that the journalist had sent out text messages to Vodafone’s top management – as well as arguing with a member of its staff and posting her contact details on the web.

Those who agreed with Valia and offered supporting comments about the company also became the subject of Vodafone’s wrath. As a result it also threw a legal notice at them

However, according to the Economic Times, it seems to have retreated with its tail dangling somewhere behind its legs. The notices have been retracted in “good faith.” It’s kind of like the school bully not beating someone up for a day.

Vodafone says it had always “welcomed critical feedback” and suggestions from customers over social media as it helped it to improve its services. It could be argued this is a corporate way of trying to nip a PR disaster in the bud.

Despite Valia saying he’s pleased the charges have been dropped, he says he may follow up with a court case against the company where he’ll demand compensation for damages.

What goes around comes around.

Malaysian tweets 100 apologies for libel

A Malaysian man has promisted to apologise 100 times on Twitter for making a defamatory tweet.

Fahmi Fadzil, who describes himself as a performer and writer, whinged on the microblogging site that a pregnant friend had been poorly treated by her employer, a magazine by the inspiring name of Female Magazine owned by Blulnc Media.

He thought better of the tweet a few hours later and apologised to the company in another tweet – but, Asia One News reports, Blulnc wasn’t in a forgiving mood. It slapped him with a lawyer’s letter claiming damages.

Happily, though, the two managed to come to an agreement and settle things out of court. Now, Fadzil’s 4,200 followers are being treated to a series of tweets even more repetitive than those of most Twitter users. Starting today, he’s agreed to tweet his contrition 100 times over the next three days.

“I’ve DEFAMED Blu Inc Media and Female Magazine. My tweets on their HR policies are untrue. I retract those words and hereby apologise,” he says.

The decision might just get the British legal authorities out of a sticky situation if they care to take it as a precedent. With everybody tying themselves in legal knots over the legality of breaching super injunctions on Twitter, perhaps public apologies could be the answer.  Of course tweeting the entire country if a gagging order is broken might be a marathon.

"Defamatory" tweeting befuddles newspaper

The Australian newspaper is umming and ahhing over whether it should sue someone over some tweets about its beloved Editor-in-Chief, Chris Mitchell.

Mitchell, said that he would sue journalism academic Julie Posetti over tweets where she quoted a former reporter for The Australian.

The former hack Asa Wahlquist was quoted as saying that Mitchell ordered topics like climate change to be covered in a particular way in the lead up to the election.

Posetti quoted Wahlquist who was speaking at a journalism conference in Sydney as saying that “in the lead up to the election the Ed in Chief was increasingly telling me what to write”.

Last week Mitchell fumed that the tweets were a lie and Wahlquist had denied saying the words in the tweets. It looked like Australia’s first tweet defamation case was all set to run.

However over the weekend it looks like the story is changing Wahlquist is now saying that the comments were been taken out of context.

In an article published on the Australian’s website on Tuesday, the paper admits that Posetti’s tweets were “a fair summary of what Wahlquist said”.

It still claims that the tweets were defamatory. A newspaper spokesman said that and Mitchell says that Posetti did not contact him to get his side of the story. Although if she was covering a public meeting we would not have thought she would have needed to do so, although it would have been polite.

Writing on her bog Posetti said her University has not received any communication from Mitchell and she has been asked not to comment further. 

Lib Dem peer proposes new libel law

A Liberal Democrat peer has proposed  a law that would aim to clarify how quickly ISPs and publishers have to act when told of a defamatory post or article.

If the new law, proposed by Lord Lester,  became practice it would mean that defamatory material would not have to be taken down for 14 days, unlike the current laws which state that companies not directly responsible for a message can escape liability for it but only if they take it down straight away once they have been informed of it.

It will also help reduce the burden on ISPs giving them a 14-day window to respond to claims of libel as well as seek a response or a challenge from the creator of the content before taking it down as well as a defence for “responsible publication on matters of public interest”.

Hanna Basha, a partner at Carter Ruck, said the new law would “seek to codify rights and iron out issues.”

She told TechEye: “In essence it has been long established that a publisher which innocently publishes defamatory words has no liability to pay damages until it is put on notice.  This is an important defence for websites which often carry information published by other users without checking this information first.  

“So long as the website acts quickly to remove the words after it has been told they are defamatory, then it does not have to pay damages.  The historical issues with this defence is that no-one is really sure what a publisher needs to be told to have been given effective notice and no-one is really sure how long a website has to remove allegations after it is put on notice.  The new bill seeks to codify these rights and iron out some of the issues.”

However publishers think differently. We spoke to a publisher of a large website, who told us: “Generally speaking, an attempt to codify these rules is an improvement on the situation we’ve had before. Unfortunately, I’ve been involved in cases where companies have approached ISPs without my knowledge and attempted to down my site.”

He also said involving the ISPs had drawbacks.

“Experienced journalists have a knowledge of libellous material which ISPs can’t be expected to have, and this  could lead to a situation where a story is non-defamatory, journalists would like to protect it to the hilt but find themselves unable to because of ISP’s ignorance of hard news.

“Practically every attempt by legislators to regulate the internet has ended up a mess, with companies with vested interests unduly influencing the way the laws are drafted. The Digital Economy Act is just one example of this,” he added.

However, it seems as though we don’t have to get our knickers in a twist just yet as this law may not even be passed.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We welcome the detailed consideration that Lord Lester has given to these important issues. His proposals cover a wide range of issues, and we want to give them careful consideration before reaching a view on the Government’s position.”

While a spokesperson at The Internet Service Providers Association told TechEye: “UK ISPs use a system of notice and takedown which means that when an ISP is notified of illegal content hosted on its network or server this content is removed expeditiously.

“Regarding Lord Lester’s proposed Libel Bill, ISPs will continue to act by the law and, following investigation, will remove illegal content from their servers. Also, ISPs have acceptable use policies and terms of service, which all users agree to adhere to. If a user is found to be in breach of these terms and conditions by acting abusively, ISPs may choose to take action by removing the content. Furthermore, lots of individual sites and chatrooms may choose to monitor content or have report abuse functions to remove abusive material.”

There's no legal way to reveal anonymous comments

Israel’s top judges have decided that it is legally impossible find out the names of people who slag you off anonymously online.

Justice Eliezer Rivlin dismissed a petition and the procedure to reveal anonymous posters saying that it was all a cunning plan to force the justice system and a third party to conduct an inquiry for a civil suit.

He said that using the court in this way was not trivial and involves policy consideration and requires legislative regulation.

Basically his ruling means that until a procedure will be legislated, petitions to reveal anonymous users may not be granted.

It means that Israel’s politicians will have to draw up a law pretty sharpish, but Rivlin warned that they should be careful.

He said that shattering the ‘illusion of anonymity’ will raise associations of a “big brother”.

Other countries do not seem to have engaged in such navel gazing. Most places you can ask your ISP who has been slagging you off and get an answer. But at least in Israel, the court has thought deeply about the implications of doing that.

English law firm threatens Americans

A UK law firm which has attracted some measure of controversy for sending out shedloads of legal letters to people it claimed illegally file shared its clients’ entertainment is trying to get litigious across the pond.

ACS:Law,  which represents some leading clients in the entertainment industry,  has been sending out lots of letters to people it claims are file sharing its clients’ content. It is suggesting that they settle out of court before things get out of hand.

US magazine, Slyck.com was covering the firm’s antics and was running a bulletin board. Apparently the law firm did not like what some of the great unwashed were saying on Slyck’s bulletin board and have threatened the outfit with a defamation case.

In a letter to Slyck, the law form said it had evidence to believe that the forums “contained serious, untrue and defamatory comments towards our law firm, the principal of our firm, employees and clients of our firm”. In doing so, defamatory comments were being communicated to thousands of people throughout the world, posing a serious threat to the reputation of our firm, various individuals in our firm and its clients.  

Its clients, from what we understand are some fine upstanding members of the  entertainment business who treasure their reputations.

Claiming it is “are not against freedom of speech”, ACS: Law demanded Slyck acts quickly on this defamation complaint by removing from publication in its entirety the defamatory threads to prevent further harm to its clients’ business.

Given that it is an American magazine there is a lot of use of a word beginning with the letter “w” in reference to m’learned friends from ACS Law and its clients. 

US defamation laws are not the same as the UK. Even if ACS Law won a case in the UK against Slyck it would not be enforceable as New York law prohibits foreign courts from enforcing defamation charges unless that country has the same level of free speech protection as the United States.

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has taken an interest and told ACS Law to sling its hook.

“After reviewing your letter and the cited content on slyck.com, it is clear that you have not articulated a cognizable claim… the statements in question do not appear to be defamatory in nature and therefore are protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” it told ACS.

Apparently Slyck has not heard back, yet…