Woman Sues Google Because SEO Guy Wrote A Mean Blog About Her Company

from the that's-not-how-this-works dept

I'm still baffled about how there are lawyers out there who seem oblivious to Section 230 of the CDA and how you can't just sue a platform because of something a user did. Apparently lawyer Harry J. Jordan from Washington DC is either unaware of the law, or simply decided to ignore it, in filing a silly lawsuit against Google asking for $8 million on behalf of Dawn Bennett and the "sports apparel" firm she runs called DJ Bennett. The story is a fairly familiar one. A guy named Scott Pierson claimed to be a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert, and convinced Bennett to pay a large sum of money to improve the performance of DJ Bennett's website. Things didn't work out, there was an exchange of words, some threats to negatively harm the website and an agreement on final payment (and also something about a lost check that was eventually rectified). Bennett claims that after all of this Pierson set up a blog on Google's blogging platform that made a bunch of negative remarks about DJ Bennett, some of which may very well be defamatory.

But, do me a favor, and look at the caption on the lawsuit, and tell me where Scott Pierson is as a party to the lawsuit?
Hmm. No Scott Pierson? Instead, there's just a giant corporation that didn't do anything here? Yup. This has all the hallmarks of a Steve Dallas lawsuit where a marginally connected big company is sued because "Hey, they've got the money." The rationale for Google being the defendant is just as ridiculous as you'd expect:
Google continued to carry Pierson’s blog after plaintiffs’ counsel repeatedly alerted it of the factual distortions and malicious intent of Pierson’s blog and his abuse of the internet process to distort public interest in his blog. Google therefore shares in the responsibility with Pierson in plaintiffs’ financial damages.

Plaintiffs will show at trial that they have lost more than $3 million in actual and potential business revenue because of Google’s publication of Pierson’s blog, and separately, Dawn Bennett has suffered several times that amount in damages to her business and professional reputation.
Right, see, that's not how this works. Just because Google hosts a blog, it doesn't make it liable for anything posted on it. And that's true even if you alert Google to not liking content. Hell, it's even true if the content has been proven defamatory in court (though Google tends to take things down upon receipt of such a ruling).

I can understand why Bennett is upset. But if the content is truly defamatory, then sue Pierson, who is responsible for it. And the lawyer -- Harry Jordan -- should let her know that Pierson is the only one she can sue over this, and should know that any attempt to sue Google will get tossed out of court super fast. But instead, he pushes forward with this lawsuit -- and doesn't even make the slightest attempt to get around Section 230, suggesting he may not even be aware of it.

Hell, it's not even clear that Jordan understands defamation law. Unlike most lawsuits of this nature, it doesn't cite the law in question. Instead, it makes claims about what is defamatory that are simply not accurate. Here's what the lawsuit says:
A defamatory statement is one which tends to expose a person to public scorn, hatred, contempt or ridicule, thereby encouraging others in the community from having a good opinion of, or from associating or dealing with that person. To determine whether Pierson’s blog meets this standard, consideration must be given to what was stated, what was intended by the statement, and how it was likely to have been understood by those to whom it was communicated.
That's uh... not what defamation is. Notice that critically missing here is any question of whether the statements are false. A mere statement that exposes someone to public scorn, hatred, contempt or ridicule (assuming it doesn't reach the actual tests for defamation) is clearly protected speech. Just for reference, Washington DC's actual defamation law requires a very different standard, including (as it must) that the statements be false and defamatory. Furthermore, corporations are considered public figures, meaning that the test also must include the "actual malice" standard (which, for all we know, could be shown), but it would still need to be shown against the right defendant. And that's not Google.

The lawsuit makes similar and equally problematic claims about "tortious interference" and "intentional infliction of emotional distress." Those are also clearly inappropriate under Section 230. And again, the link to Google is exceptionally tenuous.
As Google was aware of plaintiffs’ complaints that Pierson’s blog was factually false and a malicious vendetta against them and meant to cause crippling financial damages, it is therefore equally responsible and liable for the damages plaintiffs’ have suffered.
Nah, that's not how it works.

Filed Under: cda 230, dawn bennett, harry j. jordan, harry jordan, lawsuits, scott pierson, section 230, seo
Companies: dj bennett, google


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2016 @ 5:23pm

    I don't know how Dawn Bennett isn't in prison

    She treats her employees like garbage, and doesn't pay what she has agreed to despite services clearly being rendered. She doesn't understand or value the services provided to her because she is deeply entitled and yet seems to believe she is some kind of objectivist. (protip: the protagonists of Rand's works always honored their agreements Dawn, you cretin)

    I heard a story from an American Asian (e.g.; NO ACCENT) employee that Dawn while in one of her typical maniacally abusive managerial rants asked this poor girl if English was her first language. I let her know it was possible that she might have a very good case for a civil lawsuit under title VII. Unfortunately, it was never pursued.

    I also never pursued it when I was ripped off for thousands of dollars.

    I just watched the karma flow in as Dawn was first sued by the Dallas Cowboys for $20 Million and then a bevy of other suits followed in which she loses her license with FINRA, destroying her financial investment business, and is also barred from continuing her financial advice show (in which she occasionally consulted things like the ICHING and TAROT cards... It might as well have been VOODOO)

    This idiot dropped a ton of money into gold as she was starting her business... Right before gold TANKED.

    She has a victim complex and thinks everyone is out to get her and her money. She doesn't seem to understand how she is going around creating all her own enemies.

    My position was even outsourced at one point which left me laughing because I knew my replacement was incompetent because Dawn has no ability to gauge competency in her workforce because all of her employees hate her because she is so nasty to them. I knew I would be rehired and surely enough I was - but it was short lived as the company continued to struggle and didn't even have me working in the same capacity. It finally ended with me choosing to part ways and them deciding to not pay a sizeable amount of the outstanding money that was owed (for VERY clear cut and measurable work that had been demonstrably completed: Think marketing email deliverables going out)

    Well, I didn't go after her for the thousands she ripped me off for - I just take sweet pleasure in watching the rest of the wolves tear her apart. I hope she ends up destitute or in prison. If Dawn fancies herself a character from one of Rand's novels - I'd says its Peter Keating, James Taggart, and Lillian Rearden all rolled into one.

    Signed,
    A FORMER CTO of DJBENNETT

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