Has anyone ever been sued unjustifiably for a post on Metafilter? August 10, 2005 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever been sued unjustifiably for a post on Metafilter?
posted by R. Mutt to MetaFilter-Related at 8:36 AM (71 comments total)

I've never been sued unjustifiably for a post on any MetaSite. What about the rest of you guys?
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:41 AM on August 10, 2005


Although the potential exists, I doubt that anyone has been sued for a post on Metafilter.

Why do you ask?
And what's with the modifier "unjustifiably?" Are you not interested in an action if it was justifiable?
posted by dios at 8:42 AM on August 10, 2005


If anyone, I'd imagine Matt has been contacted with threats to remove posts or face legal consequences, as he's the only one (minus Jessamyn) who can do so.
posted by jonson at 8:56 AM on August 10, 2005


Uh... why do you ask?
posted by cedar at 8:56 AM on August 10, 2005


R. Mutt, I take it you haven't checked your mail yet today.
posted by Plutor at 9:00 AM on August 10, 2005


I have been considering a post that involves an aggressive, lawsuit happy person. Even though the information is known publicly, I would worry about engaging someone like this publicly. I was wondering if Mefi had run into the harrasment lawsiut issue.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:02 AM on August 10, 2005


We already know that Tom Cruise is gay.
posted by crunchland at 9:04 AM on August 10, 2005


I say go for it.
posted by Necker at 9:09 AM on August 10, 2005


I'll post it for you. I don't really give a crap and they can get in line if they want to sue.
posted by cedar at 9:09 AM on August 10, 2005


R. Mutt, if you e-mail me (in my profile), I can help you look at the considerations at play.
posted by dios at 9:12 AM on August 10, 2005


I have been seriously threatened by someone that didn't like a post about his company. I think he was more worried about a google search for the name leading to the mefi post showing how they scammed people.

He was relentless and I showed a lawyer all the correspondence and he said even though I was in the right, it would be loads easier to just wipe the post from the site completely. So I did that instead of start some prolonged fight.

R. mutt, can you email me your post? I'd like to see how it's worded before I potentially take the brunt of his wrath.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:26 AM on August 10, 2005


It's probably not dios, then....
posted by Floydd at 9:26 AM on August 10, 2005


He was relentless and I showed a lawyer all the correspondence and he said even though I was in the right, it would be loads easier to just wipe the post from the site completely. So I did that instead of start some prolonged fight.

It's your site and your call, but I have to say that it's incredibly disappointing that the truth can be so easily erased because someone is a bully. The bad guys win again; hooray.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:02 AM on August 10, 2005


Mathowie, while I understand the path of least resistance its kind of sad that its easier to just wipe a post that some persistent bugger has a problem with.

I wonder what a site like epinions does when that happens?
posted by fenriq at 10:07 AM on August 10, 2005


Thanks for commenting about this, but the more I think about it, the less I want to post it. So I am not going to. It is of fairly narrow interest, and I don't think its worth the potential mess. Sorry.

Please feel free to call me names. -R Mutt
posted by R. Mutt at 10:15 AM on August 10, 2005


Bologne-face.
posted by Necker at 10:25 AM on August 10, 2005


Snickerdoodle!
posted by yhbc at 10:32 AM on August 10, 2005


So to those who'd criticize matthowie for wiping a post that would be an expensive pain to defend against, if he did decide to fight it out could he count on us to chip in for a Metafilter Legal Defense Fund?
posted by davy at 10:40 AM on August 10, 2005


sure he could, davy. (or he could just use the Iceland money we collected that he never used for the trip)
posted by amberglow at 10:44 AM on August 10, 2005


if he did decide to fight it out could he count on us to chip in for a Metafilter Legal Defense Fund?

From me, at least. I'm sure there are plenty of others here who don't want to see a bad person get his or her way just because they did the THIS IS SLANDER AND MY ATTORNEY WILL BE WRITING YOU A HARSH NOTE FOR THIS SERIOUS INTERNET LIBEL thing that no one should ever take seriously.

Incidentally, I think I know the thread Matt is talking about. I could have sworn it was in an AskMe, but going through my history, it seems like it has disappeared. Ugh.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:02 AM on August 10, 2005


It sounds lame when I described it, like I just rolled over and died for them but seriously, when you're in the position of having someone call you and send threatening letters from lawyers, and you have your own lawyers tell you it will cost thousands, take months, and in the end you might win a fight of principles (ie, not one that you will be financially rewarded), and you are trying to keep a server together while juggling a mortgage and family, it's a lot less stressful to just take down some lame post on MetaFilter.

This took place almost three years ago, and I didn't have any savings, I didn't have the red phone to the EFF like I do now, and I wasn't in the process of setting up an LLC like I am now, so things might be different today. A legitimate freedom of speech claim I'd fight, a post or comment where someone says company x does y and company x removes all references to y and then threatens me with hosting speech that their lawyer considers slander and libel in a country where the laws don't protect speech in the way they do here... then not so much.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:10 AM on August 10, 2005 [1 favorite]


I've never understood the notion of "it'll cost you way too much to defend yourself" in cases like this. I mean, remember the kid who tried to resell an unopened copy of Office, then Microsoft tried to sue him for piracy? It cost him a little, but that was because he mounted a full defense against every single claim Microsoft made. Why would Matt have to do -anything- in this case?

Don't you just pretty much show up in court one day, and the judge decides the matter? What is there for Matt to "defend," since he just runs the site, the comments aren't his, etc.

I'm probably grossly oversimplifying... sorry.
posted by odinsdream at 11:12 AM on August 10, 2005


Metafilter vigilante fund.
posted by buzzman at 11:17 AM on August 10, 2005


odinsdream: That's how it might work if lawyers weren't involved.
posted by baphomet at 11:25 AM on August 10, 2005


R. Mutt: "Please feel free to call me names. -R Mutt"

Ugh, you signed your post. That's just.. just.. inflammatory!
posted by Plutor at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2005


I know the position you were put in, mathowie, I've had clients of my company pressure us into changing our press releases, rewriting them and the like. I'm not coming down on you for doing so, I'm coming down on the nature of the system that makes it more simplistic to delete the offending material rather than fight it.

I'd have done the same thing you did but probably a lot earlier.

davy, yes, if it became necessary, I would gladly donate to the MeFi Defense Fund.
posted by fenriq at 11:31 AM on August 10, 2005


fenriq : "davy, yes, if it became necessary, I would gladly donate to the MeFi Defense Fund."

As would I, and, just like fenriq, I'm not coming down on matt for not having fought it, and I would have done the same but probably not earlier.
posted by Bugbread at 11:36 AM on August 10, 2005


*spills contents of MetaFilter on self*

AAARGGH!!! IT BURNS!!! I'LL SEE YOU BITCHES IN COURT!!!
posted by gigawhat? at 11:43 AM on August 10, 2005


Don't you just pretty much show up in court one day, and the judge decides the matter? What is there for Matt to "defend," since he just runs the site, the comments aren't his, etc.

I'm probably grossly oversimplifying... sorry.


You are definitely oversimplifying the matter. First the lawyers will charge you to review the limited facts first available, then to research the fine points of law, and then the costs really mount as you start deposing witnesses and gathering documents from each other, all at rates in the $200 to $400 per hour range. You pay for the negotiation time, the time to prepare pre-trial motions, the time to prep witnesses, and often the trial time itself is billed at an even higher rate. I've left a lot of stuff out which you also have to pay for. In the end, if you win, the other side does not have to pay for your attorney fees (usually). These are large costs to individuals and small companies, but a pittance to a large company. The advantage in such things definitely goes to the big company.
posted by caddis at 11:50 AM on August 10, 2005


R. Mutt: You bootlicking butter-thief! You scratchless itch! You mewling puke of a kitten-stomping, dirt-kissing cactus-humper! You scabby, crusty butt-pox! POXY BUTTOCKS! You festering, inconveniently located toe-boil! You twisted, filthy wreck of a contraceptive accident!

How's that? Did that help?
posted by loquacious at 11:53 AM on August 10, 2005 [1 favorite]


Boy you folks is wordy. Lets get back to name-callin'

R. Mutt is a Poopy Butt!
R. Mutt is a Poopy Butt!
R. Mutt is a Poopy Butt!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:58 AM on August 10, 2005


and in the end you might win a fight of principles (ie, not one that you will be financially rewarded)

Change that parenthetical bit to (ie, not one for which and attorney will be financially rewarded) and I bet you'd hit a lot closer to home for issues of this type.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:23 PM on August 10, 2005


er, an.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:23 PM on August 10, 2005


Nah, your attorney would be financially awarded: you'd pay him/her. The person who wouldn't be financially awarded is you. It was correct as it was initially written.
posted by Bugbread at 12:27 PM on August 10, 2005


Can't you get legal insurance, like medical insurance? I'm pretty sure you can. It might be a good idea to look into the rates, and whatnot.
posted by delmoi at 1:03 PM on August 10, 2005


Legal insurance for MeFi.... I can imagine what some would think of the liability risk would be. perhaps R. Mutt could sue because people called him poopy butt.

The horror, the horror.

oh and I'd contribute to a LDF
posted by edgeways at 1:21 PM on August 10, 2005


R. Mutt could sue because people called him poopy butt.

I would, but if its true , I think its not libel.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:27 PM on August 10, 2005


"Yeah, I'd like to buy some legal insurance"

"Ok. Let's see here, your application says you run a website and some - err - 'blogs'." *clicky* "PVR? What's that? What do you mean you record TV shows to your computer, and tell people how to do it?!" *coughs* "Erm. So, this 'MetaFilter' thing? People can write and practically anything they want, yes?" *clicky* "What the... is that guy comparing Microsoft to the anal sex harem of Satan himself? And why did he post a picture of himself making out with a penguin at the zoo?!" *sweats* *clicky* "And this one? There's a link here on how to circumvent copy protection on CDs and DVDs! Jesus Christ in a corset, these people swear like drunken sailors!" *clicky* "And one about transgendered transhumanist drug-swilling weirdos! What's this shit about sex with dolphins? OH MY FUCKING GOD! THAT MAN HAS A KNIFE IN HIS BUTT!" *clicky* "And... and that... that girl... Please, please I hope that's chocolate pudding!" *closes window, looks panicked*

"Yeah. Heh. We can insure you." *Doctor Evil voice and pinky gesture* "Your first payment will be ONE BILLION DOLLARS. No credit cards or goats. Cash only."
posted by loquacious at 1:29 PM on August 10, 2005


...so what was the post going to be about, R. Mutt?
posted by cmonkey at 1:56 PM on August 10, 2005


Well - there are Cyber Liability Insurance policies available to those who host websites.
posted by ericb at 1:57 PM on August 10, 2005


"By disseminating information to the public via a website, commercial businesses now have some of the same exposures as publishers. These include conventional publishing exposures such as copyright infringement, defamation and invasion of privacy, as well as emerging exposures related to operating on the Web.

The universe of potential plaintiffs is staggering, given the number of people and organizations that are currently surfing the Net. A potential legal action from just one of them could be costly. In a 1999 case, a company improperly used a sports celebrity’s name and photograph on its web site, and the celebrity sued for the 'fair market value' of his name, plus additional damages of $750,000. Clearly, the potential liability associated with web site content is already great, still growing, and rapidly evolving."
posted by ericb at 1:59 PM on August 10, 2005


If an LDF is created don't advertise the fact because it may just encourage some numb nuts to sue.
posted by Carbolic at 2:03 PM on August 10, 2005


Since MetaFilter is not a registered 501c3 non-profit ... and has income and expenses, I encourage Matt to set-up an LLC as fast as he can to shelter himself from personal liability.

If he is concerned about legal exposure on this site, he should seriously consider Cyber Liability -- and possibly even Errors & Omissions -- insurance coverage.
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on August 10, 2005


So you rolled over one time, eh Matt? Too bad. It makes it easier for the next guy now.
posted by Dean Keaton at 2:12 PM on August 10, 2005


Internet libel: lol
posted by Dean Keaton at 2:18 PM on August 10, 2005


My first post must seem pretty harsh, I don't mean it that harsh. Harsh enough that I think it's silly but not mean.
posted by Dean Keaton at 2:23 PM on August 10, 2005




... I didn't have the red phone to the EFF like I do now...

Man, I always wanted a red phone.
posted by me3dia at 2:30 PM on August 10, 2005


monju_bosatsu : "For me3dia."

Nonono, a proper red phone has no need of a dial. You just pick it up, and talk to the person at the other end. At most, it has a single big button in the center, no more.
posted by Bugbread at 2:59 PM on August 10, 2005


Related double bladed sword question: Let's say you see one of your original MeFi quips on a T-shirt that's selling like hotcakes. OK--pancakes. Can you sue?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:03 PM on August 10, 2005


You can. Whether you win or not comes down to lawyers, proof, uniqueness, and the like, but legally, yeah, you have a leg to stand on.
posted by Bugbread at 3:16 PM on August 10, 2005


In my legal understanding, that is. IANAL
posted by Bugbread at 3:34 PM on August 10, 2005


I've been threatened with SLAPP suits a couple of times. In every case, my reply was "Thank you for the opportunity to get you under deposition and discovery, you ^$%&*#^*& and I look forward to having your fool of an attorney disbarred." But then again, they were always threatening me over things that I wrote which were true, the lawyers had already been over it with a fine tooth comb (and never came up with anything I had to change from my submitted copy) and which were usually only the tip of a very unsavory iceberg. I have had editors wimp out, but that's their business. YMMV.
posted by warbaby at 3:50 PM on August 10, 2005


On, SLAPP = Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (also known as barratry.)
posted by warbaby at 3:51 PM on August 10, 2005


If you have a LLC and you don't have any assets what is insurance going to do for you? Not like they can get anything from you anyway.

Insurance premiums always seem to do this thing... They go up and up every time you make a claim, to the point that you pay for the value of your claim in increased rates later.

Some might argue that the archive is an asset I suppose. I don't think that would be true unless Matt insists that posters are transferring copyright to him.
posted by Chuckles at 3:54 PM on August 10, 2005


it's incredibly disappointing that the truth can be so easily erased because someone is a bully. The bad guys win again; hooray.
Different day, same shit.
posted by dg at 3:59 PM on August 10, 2005


That should read: If you have an LLC and it doesn't have any assets.
posted by Chuckles at 4:18 PM on August 10, 2005


R. Mutt: ...

How's that? Did that help?
posted by loquacious


I howled with laughter when I read that and I have no idea why. Do you do weddings and bar mitzvahs, too, loquacious?
posted by leftcoastbob at 5:25 PM on August 10, 2005


Matt better not be claiming copyright for my posts. I make my meager living selling my recycled half-assed bon mots in shady back alleys in third world countries around the globe. I'm pretty sure they're using them as some kind of hyper-fertilizer to grow killer mutant tactical attack vegetables.
posted by loquacious at 5:25 PM on August 10, 2005


Heh! See? Is there an open bar, leftcoastbob? Email and webpage is in the profile. I also do balloon animals.
posted by loquacious at 5:26 PM on August 10, 2005


You do balloon animals? That's gotta be some fierce static electricity. That might be sicker than being a furry.
posted by sciurus at 5:37 PM on August 10, 2005


* vaguely recalls seeing something about a bona fide fetish involving, I shit you not, balloon sex *

* decides not to go looking for it *
posted by yhbc at 5:41 PM on August 10, 2005


o_O

Yeah man, serious static. It's really difficult, too, it really takes a lot of skill and control. It's so anticlimactic when you're almost there and the damn thing pops and suddenly isn't there any more. Also, just imagine the whiplash. Ow.
posted by loquacious at 5:55 PM on August 10, 2005


I was sued for some of my allegations, but got rid of them on a motion for summary judgment in the EDNY....
posted by ParisParamus at 6:29 PM on August 10, 2005


I knew I shouldn't have looked. (Probably NSFW, even though it's just a page of links. Very - ah - descriptive links, and a whoooole lot of them).
posted by yhbc at 6:40 PM on August 10, 2005


"the Furry Inflation page"

ARRRGH! I'm seriously approaching my threshold for weird today. I think I need to go watch some Mr. Rogers, but I should probably put some pants on first.
posted by loquacious at 6:53 PM on August 10, 2005


omg you can drop nukes on EFF?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:38 PM on August 10, 2005


* vaguely recalls seeing something about a bona fide fetish involving, I shit you not, balloon sex *

Ok, how the HELL did you figure out that the original post involved man on balloon sex???
posted by R. Mutt at 8:16 PM on August 10, 2005


Um, let me retract that... it had nothing to do with "balloons".
posted by R. Mutt at 8:33 PM on August 10, 2005


Ha! Wouldn't it be GREAT if it was? I could totally support mathowie's decision to drop it in that case -

"There's likely to be a great deal of discovery involved, Mr. Haughey - here's the first set of interrogatories now."

"On second thought, I think I'll just wipe the server of everything referring to the post, m'kay?"
posted by yhbc at 8:34 PM on August 10, 2005


Metafilter: "On second thought, I think I'll just wipe the server of everything referring to the post"
posted by Dean Keaton at 11:30 PM on August 11, 2005


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