Author Topic: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats  (Read 11978 times)

MMM

  • Administrator
  • Stubble
  • *****
  • Posts: 177
    • Mr. Money Mustache
This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« on: March 18, 2014, 07:43:23 AM »
In light of some recent legal threats against the Mr. Money Mustache blog because of content that has appeared on this forum, I figured it is worth developing an official policy toward them. These will probably not be the last we receive.

Our primary goal here is upholding the rights of our users to all possible free speech within the bounds of the law. This does not mean anybody can safely say anything, because it is possible to cross the line and commit illegal acts of defamation, even online. Usually this involves false assertions of fact with malicious intent that create harm to others.

For example, "The XYZ Health Insurance company has systematically been sterilizing mothers so they cannot have any more babies, in order to reduce their claim costs", or "Jim J. Smith stole my wallet" could both be found libelous.

On the other hand, a verifiable statement of fact or an obvious opinion that does not assert provable or disprovable facts are always permitted and not the ground for legal requests. "The Arizona Star ran this story about the XYZ company allegedly sterilizing mothers", "Kiss Trust has sent a legal threat to this blog", or "Jim is an asshole" are all safe.

You can read more about the laws here: https://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/liability/defamation

If you are an individual or company hoping to remove defamatory statements made on this forum, you should take the following steps.

1: Chill Out. Realize that this is just one tiny forum and the Internet is a big place. You have walked into a bar and overheard a conversation you don't like between strangers. Would you really pick a fight? If the answer is still yes, move on to the next step.

2. Consider the Consequences. attempts to suppress speech, no matter how carefully done, always results in that speech being amplified around the Internet. The reason? Because people don't like to be silenced, and most Internet users consider any form of suppression to be immoral. It doesn't matter if you're right or wrong, this is just human nature. They call it the Streisand Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect.

3. If you are still convinced a forum user is making defamatory statements against you, consider taking it up with the forum user. Contradict their malicious facts with your own peaceful and intelligent counter-response. If you do this reasonably, they will change their mind, or at least be made to look like an idiot, while your new position will be considered the correct one. Mission accomplished.

4. If you still insist that certain information must be removed from the Internet, flag the post, and provide information on who you are and why this information harms you. The moderators will consider it for removal or editing. If it is obviously problematic, they may at their discretion take one of these actions. But the offending text will be replaced with a note that said you requested it and your identity may be revealed. There are no secret deletions here - we keep all actions open.

5. If you decide you need to take legal action against a forum participant, flag a post and inform the moderator. All forum participants will be notified of your action. File the appropriate lawsuit and get a judge to order this site to disclose the IP address of the participant. Although we will probably defend against the suit with our own law firm, we will comply willingly with the law. To keep things open and in the public eye, all action of this type will be described on the main blog.

Be warned that this will not be a clandestine affair, as legal actions against blogs and forums tend to get a lot of publicity. Here's one about this very blog in Techdirt at the time of writing: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140313/07405826562/company-fires-off-legal-threats-to-site-owner-over-third-party-forum-post-self-inflicted-damage-ensues.shtml

I cannot urge you strongly enough to look to collaboration and open discussion to solve your problems - trust me, this is far better public relations and it is what all successful companies do these days.

That's all there is to it!

Notes on threatening the blog owner (aka Mr. Money Mustache) for comments in this forum:
Website owners are never responsible for defamatory content posted by others - each user has their own responsibility. So there is no point threatening me, unless you just want me to write about your threat. See this description of the "Section 230" provisions protecting website owners: https://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/liability/230

Notes on threatening me for things that I actually wrote:
I will review your request with a team of first amendment lawyers to make sure we aren't breaking any defamation laws. If we are, I will gladly change it and offer you my apologies (in public if you like) - I do not want to break the law. Either way, I will probably need to make your request public as part of my policy of keeping information free.

If a lawsuit is submitted and my team determines is without merit, they have been instructed not to settle, and to proceed through discovery and trial if necessary. I will keep the public well-documented on the progress of any legal actions.

While this approach is more expensive, it allows cases like this to be brought into the public eye. I have chosen to take this path because this is one of the few blogs which has become large enough to afford to defend itself rather than settling out of fear. Part of this is made possible by over 20 attorneys on the new MMM legal team who have been generous enough to provide research, advice, and litigation either for free or at discounted rates, and I am eternally grateful for these folks for joining the cause of free speech.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2014, 09:04:11 AM by MMM »

jordanread

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6317
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Live Long, Live Free, Drop Dead
    • Frugal FIRE Show
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2014, 06:53:44 PM »
Thanks MMM! These all seem to make perfect logical sense.
Also, I can't tell you how awesome it makes me feel that the blog has a legal team. Not a lawyer, a whole friggin' team!!
All that being said, thought I would let you know that Amul from the EFF is watching this case, and was pretty blown away by the community reaction. I think it says something when an organization like that offer to help out, only to find that the rest of the world beat them to it.

I understand that you are taking the steps below:
If a lawsuit is submitted and my team determines is without merit, they have been instructed not to settle, and to proceed through discovery and trial if necessary. I will keep the public well-documented on the progress of any legal actions.

My question is whether your team plans to counter-sue for invalid claims?
Join the cycling challenge!
Get in shape in 2017!
Frugal FIRE - Episode 2

"Mustachians rarely sit back and let things happen to them. Mustachians go out and happen to things."

CM*TO - Ticket Lottery

seattlecyclone

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3908
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Seattle, WA
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2014, 09:30:04 PM »
I love it. If I were in your shoes (retired with a bunch of blog income that I didn't need to live a happy life), I would like to think I would do the same thing. People with the desire, means, and opportunity to fight for the freedoms we often take for granted are all too rare these days. I salute you.
I made a blog! https://seattlecyclone.com/

The Roth IRA was named after William Roth, who represented Delaware in the US senate from 1971-2001. "Roth" is a name, not an acronym. There's no need to capitalize the final three letters.

arebelspy

  • Administrator
  • Senior Mustachian
  • *****
  • Posts: 26873
  • Age: -999
  • Location: Traveling the World
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2014, 06:59:53 AM »
I understand that you are taking the steps below:
If a lawsuit is submitted and my team determines is without merit, they have been instructed not to settle, and to proceed through discovery and trial if necessary. I will keep the public well-documented on the progress of any legal actions.

My question is whether your team plans to counter-sue for invalid claims?

That's a great question.  Companies that abuse the legal system to silence critics can continue to get away with it because they can just drop suit against anyone who stands up to them (like MMM) and silence anyone who doesn't, and then they can keep doing it indefinitely.

Instead there needs to be someone to hold them accountable.

Here's a great example recently of a company abusing the DMCA, being counter-sued for it:
http://yro.slashdot.org/story/14/02/28/0245224/lawrence-lessig-wins-fair-use-case

Now they have to pay a settlement (which is getting donated to the EFF) and work with Mr. Lessig:
Quote
In winning this tussle, Lessig was also able to score a larger victory for his cause. Liberation Music agreed to adopt new policies around issuing takedown notices. The label has promised to work with Lessig to improve its YouTube and copyright policies to make sure this doesn't happen again.

How great would it be for a company to have to work with MMM to become better, due to the fact that they tried to bully him and he stood up to them?
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with a kid.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (occasionally) blog at AdventuringAlong.com.
You can also read my forum "Journal."

Spork

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5759
    • Spork In The Eye
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2014, 07:47:35 AM »
Regarding counter-suits...  Not exactly the same thing, but maybe worth a read anyway:  Drew Curtis of Fark.com talks about beating a patent troll.  His take was that counter-suits were too expensive.  (I think he has a TED talk about this too.)
Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight

jordanread

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6317
  • Age: 32
  • Location: Colorado Springs
  • Live Long, Live Free, Drop Dead
    • Frugal FIRE Show
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2014, 09:26:22 AM »
That's a great question.  Companies that abuse the legal system to silence critics can continue to get away with it because they can just drop suit against anyone who stands up to them (like MMM) and silence anyone who doesn't, and then they can keep doing it indefinitely.

Instead there needs to be someone to hold them accountable.

How great would it be for a company to have to work with MMM to become better, due to the fact that they tried to bully him and he stood up to them?

On a Badassity Scale of 1 to 10...I'd give it about a 12. That's how we change the world.

His take was that counter-suits were too expensive.  (I think he has a TED talk about this too.)

I am watching that TED talk right now. I can see that it would be expensive to do, and if one was focused on running a business at a profit, I could see it. I'd like to think that someone who has already caught FIRE would be doing it for a more philosophical reason...like it's wrong and crappy business practices. Although $2,000,000 is a bit pricey.
Join the cycling challenge!
Get in shape in 2017!
Frugal FIRE - Episode 2

"Mustachians rarely sit back and let things happen to them. Mustachians go out and happen to things."

CM*TO - Ticket Lottery

Mori

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 130
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2014, 10:59:22 AM »
Regarding counter-suits...  Not exactly the same thing, but maybe worth a read anyway:  Drew Curtis of Fark.com talks about beating a patent troll.  His take was that counter-suits were too expensive.  (I think he has a TED talk about this too.)

Not to derail excessively, but there are actually a couple of cases in front of the US supreme court now (to be decided in July) regarding patent trolls and recovering attorney's fees defending them. Should be interesting to see what happens.

Nords

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3008
  • Age: 57
  • Location: Oahu
    • Military Retirement & Financial Independence blog
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2014, 04:28:17 PM »
How great would it be for a company to have to work with MMM to become better, due to the fact that they tried to bully him and he stood up to them?
Well, sure, but I'm still stuck on the image of 20 pro bono lawyers going all badass on a bullying corporate suit and getting their insurance company pissed off at the corporation as well...
Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement".   All royalties (and writing revenue) donated to military charities.
I don't read every post, so please PM or e-mail me to get my attention...

dragoncar

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7362
  • Registered member
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2014, 02:10:27 PM »
How great would it be for a company to have to work with MMM to become better, due to the fact that they tried to bully him and he stood up to them?
Well, sure, but I'm still stuck on the image of 20 pro bono lawyers going all badass on a bullying corporate suit and getting their insurance company pissed off at the corporation as well...

Quote
And that is why I'll file petition on petition.
You're gonna wake up in the morning to paperwork.
You're gonna go to bed at night to paperwork.
So how about this, gentlemen? You pay the $20,000 settlement to your client yourself, and you'll never see our faces again.
What do you call a lunatic who's only got one case and no hobbies? Your worst nightmare.
- Nick Miller

Hunter

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • Location: Seattle, WA Area
  • FI.
Re: This Forum's Policy on Takedown Requests and Legal Threats
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2015, 02:42:17 PM »
This policy is reasonable, simplifying, empowering, and clear.  Why do I almost never come across such things?  There are a lot of smart people out there, so it is not for lack of intelligence.  I think it's a matter of perspective, of knowing what matters, what makes sense, and trusting your ability to  think for yourself.  A policy post of this nature should be the most boring thing to read, but it is interesting, real, different, empowering.  If you can right a legal policy document with those characteristics, you're truly badass.
FI