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Archive for July 7th, 2016


Anti-SLAPP Legislation Proposed in Congress

US Capitol Building From consumer reviews, to speaking out on other matters of public concern, social media makes it easy for anyone to share their opinion on just about anything. But sharing critical opinions may cause some commentators to become the targets of lawsuits called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP).  SLAPP suits are often filed by businesses against online reviewers in reaction to the reviewers’ negative comments about the business or its products. These types of suits are also filed in relation to other matters of public concern, and have a chilling effect on free speech in many forms of media. Several states have passed anti-SLAPP legislation that helps protect consumers and others from being silenced. However, this patchwork of legislation has led to forum shopping by plaintiffs and costly litigation for defendants.

Congress is now stepping in to the fray with HR 2304. Known as the SPEAK FREE Act of 2015, the bill is a bipartisan effort that would amend the federal judicial code to allow the defendant in a SLAPP suit to file a special motion to dismiss the claims. The suit in question must arise from statements, other expression or conduct by the defendant in connection with an official proceeding or matter of public concern. The bill defines “matter of public concern” as an “issue related to: (1) health or safety; (2) environmental, economic, or community well-being; (3) the government; (4) a public official or public figure; or (5) a good, product, or service in the marketplace.” The full text of the bill is available on Congress.gov, where you can also find related information and set up tracking alerts.

Fair warning: Ohio does not have anti-SLAPP laws, so think twice before you eviscerate your local pizza parlor on Yelp.