Roca Labs Sues Anonymous Commenters In Convoluted Plot To Get Negative Comments De-Indexed From Google

from the try-that-one-again dept

As we’ve noted in the past, every time we think the Roca Labs story can’t get any more bizarre, it does. Roca’s lawyers have an amazing talent to come up with totally wacky legal theories that appear to have little basis in reality. However, all of it seems pretty focused on one thing: stopping anyone from saying anything negative about the company’s goop that it claims will help you lose weight. The original lawsuit that got our attention was an attempt to get PissedConsumer to delete negative reviews, followed by a bogus DMCA notice to Google, in an effort to get the negative reviews removed from Google’s search results.

The latest move is equally creative and wacky. Adam Steinbaugh has the details, in which Roca Labs is now suing 11 anonymous commenters [pdf] who posted comments to PissedConsumer.com. The filing is in a Florida state court. Now, upon hearing such a thing, my first thought was that, like many defamation claims against anonymous commenters, the goal here was to try to unmask them. However, as Steinbaugh notes, that sort of legal trickery is nothing compared to what Roca Labs appears to have up its sleeve. Instead, it doesn’t seem all that interested in who wrote the comments, it just wants to get a court order that it can use to pressure Google and others into no longer linking to those reviews. How it’s intending to do so is complicated (and legally questionable).

First, Roca builds on its classic misunderstanding of what “defamation per se” means, asking for a variety of comments to be declared as such. You can see the statements in the complaint itself, or on Steinbaugh’s site, where he helpfully transcribed them, along with notations about why most of the comments are not, in fact, defamatory (most are either opinion or basic hyperbole):


Now, given this, how does Roca Labs hope to get these comments off the internet? Here’s Steinbaugh’s summary:

Roca is seeking an order requiring that, at Roca?s request, any ?search engines, Web Hosts? which are provided with a copy of the injunction be required to ?cease facilitating access to any or all websites through which Defendants post defamatory content.? While vaguely worded, if such an order were indeed entered, Roca could require a search engine to remove sites like PissedConsumer from their index. This will never happen.

While that request is vague, Roca?s declaratory relief cause of action expands upon it. Roca alleges that the internet comments are a ?res.? That?s a term of art for real property (e.g., land and buildings) used in the context of determining whether a court has jurisdiction:

The Digital Defamation is digital property and should be considered a res which has been continuously located since the date of its publication in Broward County, Florida, as a result of its continuous publication or republication in Broward County, Florida through various internet search engines such as Google.

This would turn jurisdictional questions ? whether the defendant can be hauled into a court in Florida for something they said elsewhere ? on their head. This is insane.

Okay, now take the wacky legal theories up yet another notch. Roca Labs not only isn’t really interested in identifying those anonymous commenters, it actively doesn’t want to identify them, because it believes that if it “publishes” a “legal notice” about this and those commenters don’t respond, it will then be able to get a default judgment against those commenters, requiring Google to delete its search results:

Google has adopted a voluntary policy that it will de-index (remove from its search algorithm and its search pages) defamatory postings from other internet service providers such as PissedConsumer.com so long as Google is presented with a judgment that the anonymous posting is in fact defamatory. If this Court enters an order finding the Statements posted by Defendants are defamatory, the Statements will only be removed by the search engine pursuant to its voluntary policy but will remain posted on PissedConsumer.com. […] In essence, this claim for Declaratory Judgment is merely requesting that pages containing the Digital Defamation be removed from the search engines, i.e., de-indexed. [The order] will not remove the commercially defamatory statements from PissedConsumer.com[. …] This scenario creates a defacto balancing test between the rights of the Plaintiff not to be defamed and the First Amendment rights of Defendants to be heard.

In other words, the company isn’t trying to uncover anyone actually doing anything defamatory — and probably doesn’t really want those statements reviewed by a court to see if they’re actually defamatory. It just wants to get a court to issue a default ruling — based on the anonymous commenters not showing up (and possibly not even knowing about it) — so it can present Google with an order saying it needs to delete links to those comments (most of which are not actually defamatory, but rather people’s opinions).

Once again, we’re amazed at the lengths that Roca Labs appears to want to go to stop anyone from finding any negative comments about the company and its products online.

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Companies: consumer opinion corp., google, pissedconsumer, roca labs

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Comments on “Roca Labs Sues Anonymous Commenters In Convoluted Plot To Get Negative Comments De-Indexed From Google”

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29 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

The company doth protest too much

I have to say, the most damning evidence against their company and product has got to be the insane lengths they are going through to get rid of any critical reviews and comments about them.

If the product they were selling really worked, then a few negative reviews would be easy to brush off, as they would be overwhelmed by the positive reviews. Going so crazy over the negative reviews just indicates that they know the only way they’d get positive reviews is if people were forbidden from posting critical ones.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: lets think this through logically

Even if it does work, they’ll still have to sue Steinbaugh, TD, and all the other news & blog sites that published copies of their complaint. Does it make me a sadist to hope they’d go after Popehat? Or maybe they’re just masochists playing out the deepest, most convoluted act of Legal S&M Performance Art ever devised…

Anonymous Coward says:

The only reason Roca Labs would go to these lengths is it is well aware it is selling snake oil. Notice that it is selling it under food additives and not as medicine. Good reason for that. Were it medicine it would be controlled by the FDA and in order to be licensed to sell it they would have to prove it works.

Under food additive it has to pass almost no tests.

That they are willing to go to these lengths to try and remove bad publicity tells you more about the product than actually trying it would be.

It looks to be about as slimy a company as they get.

Well that is all Then says:

Hopeless

I just want to thank you for all your good reporting, but it’s clear that when I hoped to die of an OD in the 80’s I was right, I am sorry to have lived this long, it’s not just this story but so much else( I remember actually being a bit sorry for the NSA in the early 90’s) people betrayed us, people we trusted, people that should have done better, I don’t know that I really feel angry anymore, more disappointment, in my parents, my friends, and my entire society.

I’m just really really sad, we have failed totally as a people, as a species.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF813vmbcQY

Kate bush and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ezgAQ4oToY

Sinéad O´Connor

and lastly this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhq-gQzXKXw

Crass

Benjamin Wade (profile) says:

This company represents a valuable resource...

This company could be used to attack various anti-democratic attempts to control the internet, such as the Right To Be Forgotten meme (Yes, I know it’s not an American law). The FFTF, FreePress, ACLU, etc. should be helping this company (to some degree, of course) to shoot other, similar corporate attempts to stifle free speech, in the foot.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

When are the cretins of Roca going to realise that THEY are the ones causing the downfall of their scam business?
That would be never, since it’s much easier to blame someone else for your poor sales (such as critics, angry customers, file-sharers, pirates, etc) than it is to take a hard look at your business and realize your product isn’t that good.

Anonymous Coward says:

See here (in the webpage’s title) – they insinuate that 100,000 ‘users’ have given a positive review. (this claim is only in the title, the rest of the page backs of the claim).

https://rocalabs.com/roca-labs-reviews

but, does anyone have access to their financial statements? I don’t think their financial statements would even come close to 100,000 sales – well maybe, but it seems far fetched.

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