Pro Tip: Even If Someone Has Faked A Damaging Memo About Your Organization, Don't Threaten To Sue Anyone Who 'Comments' On It
from the this-first-amendment-thing... dept
Heartland is insisting that at least one document -- the one that's received the most attention and supposedly outlines the organization's dastardly plans -- is faked. Some observers have made compelling arguments that the document in question is, in fact, faked (and that's from someone who disagrees with Heartland Institute on the key issue of climate change).
I'm not going to comment on the leak or what's in the documents (either real or fake) because that's really not the kind of thing I care about that much. But, I will comment about one key thing Heartland said in its press release about the whole situation... where it effectively threatens to take legal action against anyone who comments on what's in the documents:
The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation. We ask them in particular to immediately remove these documents and all statements about them from the blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.Now, I don't care what you think of Heartland, climate change or anything along those lines. Whether you think it's a wonderful organization or an evil organization... one thing I would hope we could agree on is that threatening people for "commenting" on documents with legal action, even if the documents later turn out to be fake, is not a good idea. I can certainly understand the temptation to try to get people not to comment, but the threat is pretty clearly bogus. The documents -- and the leak of the documents -- even if faked or altered, are still a public interest issue, and it's hard to see how there's any law broken in commenting about what's in the documents. There may be legal issues for whoever leaked the documents, but those who are commenting on them? Sorry, that's just silly.