Crowdfunding The Push For A Federal Anti-SLAPP Law To Protect Free Speech

from the get-to-it dept

For years, we've talked about the importance of anti-SLAPP laws, and the shame that so far, they're on a state-by-state basis -- such that many states have no anti-SLAPP laws, and many others have incredibly weak anti-SLAPP laws. If you're unfamiliar with anti-SLAPP laws, they are laws that protect free speech in a very important way. In our overly litigious society, it's quite easy for someone to file a lawsuit against you just to bully you because they don't like something you said. It's so expensive to defend yourself that many people will often back down, and hide or take down things that they said, just to get the lawsuit dropped. These are considered Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation -- or SLAPPs. What a good anti-SLAPP law does is allow those hit with SLAPP suits to get them dismissed quickly, easily and cheaply -- and often allow them to recoup any legal fees as well. It's a very powerful tool in states like California and Texas to stop lawsuits that are more about censorship than any legitimate purpose.

This isn't just an issue that impacts bloggers/reporters either. We've seen people get hit with SLAPP suits for posting a negative review of their church or their dentist online. In an era where we can all speak out, we're all at risk of getting hit with a SLAPP suit.

We've supported the push for a strong federal anti-SLAPP law for years, and despite two attempts to introduce one, it hasn't gotten all that far. The Public Participation Project is an organization that has really led the fight for a federal anti-SLAPP law for years. Unfortunately, even as interest has grown in a federal anti-SLAPP law, the organization recently ran out of its private funding, so it's trying an IndieGoGo campaign to raise some funds, specifically for the purpose of hiring a DC-based legislative director to lead the charge.
I will admit that I am not convinced that crowdfunding is the best way to build an advocacy organization, but it would be nice to be proven wrong on that, especially for an issue as important and pressing as this one. If you believe this is an important issue as well, please consider supporting the campaign.


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    shanen (profile), Feb 20th, 2013 @ 4:29pm

    Project management is also important, not just money

    Crowdsourced funding needs to be incorporated with project management. I don't have time to say much this morning, but look at "reverse auction charity shares" for one approach. It would basically provide detailed planning WITH a managed budget and evaluation criteria, and the projects would commit after enough donors joined in.

     

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      Corwin (profile), Feb 20th, 2013 @ 7:54pm

      Re: Project management is also important, not just money

      That is, transparency. Distributed, open project management is necessary. There will be enough swarm projects in the future to measure how efficient their models are, and which are the most resilient (mainly, to capture), efficient (fast and responsive), and open (everyone has the same rights).

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2013 @ 5:32pm

    Even though this is an important issue, were is the legislation they talk about?
    No vagues talk about introduction of some law that was later changed or anything, but the actual draft they want to make it law?

    You see some people may not have the money, but they may have the time to right their representatives asking why is this bill not supported by them, or at election time actually go somewhere and demand something.

    People need to see the draft, not the talk about the importance, yes it is very important, but how it will be executed?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2013 @ 5:34pm

    Also as mentioned, what is the plan?

    Ask people in congress to do something?
    Where are the benchmarks, where are the things people can see and can follow to see if the money actually is being used to do something?

    Should people just trust the nice fellow there and throw hard earned cash to anybody who ask nicely and says is for an important cause?

     

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      shanen (profile), Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 12:20am

      Re: Accountability for charity

      Well, that's exactly why I visit it as a kind of charity brokerage. You wouldn't invest in expectation of any profit, though you could choose to be listed on the page of sponsors, or maybe earn a gold star. However, just as a stock brokerage assesses the companies that want to be listed so they can sell shares, the charity brokerage would assess the people who want to do projects.

      Actually, at first they should be pretty cautious before they give out the money. Before they get experience in recognizing the trouble signs they should make sure the projects have lots of relatively small milestones and give the funds periodically. However, if someone has a solid track record for past projects, then they can be more flexible.

      The essential idea is to give small donors something like the power of large donors. The problem with a large donor project is that it only works until the large donor starts making mistakes. Look at Unbuntu, eh?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2013 @ 5:59pm

    It is sad that one needs to purchase their rights, without money you have none.

    Apparently, the first amendment rights of corporations are more important than those of regular people, otherwise we would've seen some sort of legislation from our esteemed congress critters.

    A recent poll shows that Nickelback has a higher approval rating than congress, which is barely above single digits.

     

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      Zakida Paul (profile), Feb 21st, 2013 @ 1:31am

      Re:

      This just shows how corrupt a society we live in. Rights should be a given but because of corrupt elitist governments we have to fight for what we should have automatically. The whole system needs to be torn down and rebuilt.

      "A recent poll shows that Nickelback has a higher approval rating than congress"

      Wow, and Nickelback suck balls.

       

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    Ninja (profile), Feb 21st, 2013 @ 3:03am

    Hmm crowdsourcing lobbying. We need more of that in Washington. And everywhere else if u think about it...

     

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      Corwin (profile), Feb 21st, 2013 @ 4:53am

      Re:

      Direct democracy: it's the direction of history, the all-crushing unstoppable wall of ice.

      Current governments have been completely isolated by walls made of money from the opinions of 99% of the people. But that means that we only need about 1,02% of the people to manage making their opinions known to their so-called representatives about every one issue. This would force the politicians to spend half their attention on what the people who don't own lobbyists actually think.
      There is still the issue of the walls made of money. Each public issue would probably need more than 1,02% of the people to agree on what they tell their politicians, but drowning the voices of the lobbies under that of public participation is still the basic idea.

      History will tell which system will have been able to crush the ridiculous idea that a popularity contest can designate leaders who will ensure a good life to the people they represent.
      Representative democracy has been completely captured for a long, long time, and we're only now realizing how pervasively. It's time for humans to take reality back from fictitious social constructs such as "states" and "companies".

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2013 @ 5:44am

        Re: Re:

        I think that most representatives have at least a vague notion of their constituents' concerns, however they simply do not care. Come election cycle, they fire up the PR machine and blab all the magic words in order to get re-elected only to quickly forget their "promises". What is needed is a very public means of tracking those promises and displaying updates so that the public does not so easily forget. Hold their feet to the fire so to speak.

         

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    Ima Fish (profile), Feb 21st, 2013 @ 7:21am

    A federal anti-SLAPP law would be the WORST idea ever. When was the last time the feds ever passed pro-citizen/consumer legislation that was not watered down and written by large corporate special interests?!

    Here's what would happen, the feds would enact an anti-SLAPP law that would offer no real protections. It would also eliminate all state anti-SLAPP laws (much in the same way states cannot enact their own legislation to get around mandatory arbitration clauses). Accordingly, we'd end up with LESS protection than we have now.

     

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      Evan Mascagni, Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 6:36pm

      Re:

      Your concerns are reasonable. However, the federal anti-SLAPP legislation that the Public Participation Project is seeking to get introduced in Congress addresses those concerns by including a non-preemption provision that says that it will not preempt or supersede any federal or state laws that provide equal or greater protection for persons engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.

       

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    special interesting, Feb 21st, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    Its a great idea and deserves support.

    One can hardly argue about the need to reclaim basic individual rights because they have been legislated away by careless voters. (please note I did not say politicians) I think its wonderful that voters are at least starting to become constitutionally aware.

    Copyright is really a war on culture. Please read my incredibly long post on this topic.
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130212/17065121955/dirty-deeds-french-national-library-pr ivatizes-public-domain-part-2.shtml#c162

    Which basically says: Copyright (and all the ridiculous new laws surrounding it specifically the instant take-down rule without judicial review) regulates culture. It removes, prohibits, denies and destroys culture because it stops or slows by many years the SHARING of such cultural items such as books, comics, songs, movies, research papers, etc. etc. etc.

    Its tragic that the public in general are not able to understand the importance of basic freedoms or rights that they have been swindled out of. I think that crowd-funding is a great way to grow and measure public support/awareness of an vital topic.

    An anti-SLAPP law would be nice but throwing out the take-down rule would be better. Ideally a judge would take one look at the Copyright Millennium Act and with one BANG of his gavel... Unconstitutional.

    It was a dream when I grew up that judges and juries would act to control bad legislation. {blink blink} It was just a dream? (cries like baby) “whaaaaaannngh”

    -_-!

     

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    special interesting, Feb 21st, 2013 @ 1:41pm

    Your right we need to see the legislation itself. Proof in the pudding so to speak as the exact wording is important and not to many words either because complexity breeds misunderstanding both by voters and judges and juries. (all I could find was a summery of the legislation at the SLAPP site) Which is related this next comment...

    Ima Fish: you are sooooo right about the current batch of voter elected politicians and the influence they have with all legislation. (you forgot to mention all the pork-barrel spending that is sneaked into and hidden in all legislation)

    But what we have here is a chicken and egg problem. Public awareness of relatively (at the moment) obscure copyright laws is nill, nonexistant and even unpopular. Just mention any specific copyright issue at a party and kill all the conversation. (opps, I used the word “kill” does that mean I'm a bad person?) So in respect to that this is a good step although a small one.

    What is important is that we are talking about it and hopefully, eventually we will be able to talk about them at informal social occasions. What we really need are copyright jokes to popularize and condense the subject and have fun with it also. (hehehe)

     

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    anonymous, Feb 21st, 2013 @ 11:48pm

    EFF

    Have you tried asking for support from the EFF? I'm sure they'd happily take up something like this.

     

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