Ripoff Report Wins Against Extortion Claim
from the for-now... dept
As Eric Goldman notes, this particular attack appears to have failed miserably, in large part due to the fact that Ripoff Report secretly recorded all of its phone calls. AEI fought against revealing the content of the phone calls, noting that it did not know its staff were being recorded -- and, in the end, the judge actually does deem the evidence inadmissible. But just the fact that Ripoff Reports presented the recordings made the two principles from AEI suddenly have their memories jogged, and admit that they might have been "confused" about what was actually said in the calls. From there, the judge found little evidence that the CAP program actually represented any kind of extortion.
AEI claimed that Ripoff Report's promise to defend itself against any lawsuit represented a legal threat. However, the judge points out that such an interpretation makes little sense. Claiming you will strongly defend yourself against any lawsuit is hardly a threat. On top of that, the judge notes that a "a threat to take legal action cannot constitute extortion unless the threat was made with knowledge that the threatened claim was false and without merit." Furthermore, the judge notes that the threat to defend itself from any legal action was entirely separate from the CAP program. Thus, the supposed (but non-existent) "threat" was entirely independent from any request for money.
As for the CAP program, the judge doesn't see that as a threat either, specifically noting that Ripoff Reports makes it clear that no reports on the site will be removed, so there's no demand for payment to remove a negative report.
AEI was a content publisher from 2000-2009 (it's now out of business), and during those 9 years, it had zero revenues. This could make it hard for AEI to garner much judicial sympathy over any harm to its business.