The Citizen Media Law Project has yet another story of bogus lawsuits being used to silence something someone doesn't want written about them
. In this case, it involved Jim Dolan, known (but not particularly liked) to New Yorkers as the owner of Cablevision, the Knicks and Madison Square Garden. More recently, Cablevision bought the newspaper Newsday -- so you might think that Dolan would be a little more aware of why it's bad to sue a news publication claiming defamation over a clearly speculative piece. And, yet, sue he did. Dolan sued the blog Cityfile for posting a piece about rumors that Dolan was considering getting rid of the famous "Christmas Spectacular" involving the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in New York. As Arthur Bright points out, the original post doesn't seem all that different than speculative articles published all the time in pretty much every media outlet.
Unfortunately, facing a protracted legal fight, Cityfile agreed to settle and "retract" the story. Bright notes that this is silly, and any decent lawyer should have been able to get the lawsuit tossed on First Amendment grounds. The problem is the time and resources needed to fight such a thing.
Bright then points out how this highlights the need for stronger anti-SLAPP laws in New York. Anti-SLAPP laws let people fight back against such bogus lawsuits, whose purpose is only to silence speech (SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). The problem, however, is that right now anti-SLAPP laws are at the state level, and only a few states have really strong ones. New York is not one of them. While Bright says this is evidence of why NY should strengthen its anti-SLAPP laws, a better solution might be a strong federal
anti-SLAPP law, that shows a strong support for freedom of speech, and helps prevent bogus lawsuits whose only purpose is to allow those with more money to silence speech they dislike.