The JAWA story continues. Yesterday, we posted about accusations from Verizon Wireless that JAWA was effectively "cramming" premium SMS charges onto users' bills, which came about following an investigation (and eventual lawsuit) by Texas regulators. The blog AZDisruptors.com has been highlighting some of the accusations against JAWA while most of the press had kept quiet on it. However, it appears the folks at JAWA don't like that. They sent a cease-and-desist to the operator of the blog
(embedded below), Hamid Shojaee, that makes all sorts of accusations against him; claiming defamation, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with business relations and criminal harassment.
The letter also, oddly, accuses Shojaee of being a cyebersquatter, despite that having nothing whatsoever to do with what's being disputed here, and Shojaee clearly explains why he has the various domains he has. As for the specific legal threats against Shojaee, it's hard to see how the latter claims have any merit. The defamation claim is the key one, but considering that both the Texas attorney general and Verizon Wireless's lawsuits against JAWA seem to make similar claims, it's difficult to see the defamation claim standing. On top of that, since JAWA's CEO Jason Hope is clearly a public figure, the standard for defamation is much higher and, almost certainly, was not met by Shojaee. I'm guessing that JAWA wouldn't even want to get into the discovery phase of any such lawsuit -- meaning this threat letter feels a lot like a SLAPP. Arizona has an anti-SLAPP law... but it is very limited and almost certainly doesn't apply here, unfortunately (all the more reason for a federal anti-SLAPP law).
Separately, JAWA's lawyers contacted AZDisruptors.com's host, SquareSpace, and registrar, GoDaddy, demanding the site be taken down for these reasons. Ridiculously, SquareSpace complied -- without even contacting Shojaee first. This is problematic for a variety of reasons. First of all, SquareSpace has no legal requirement to takedown a site upon accusations of defamation. Section 230 protects it against liability in those circumstances. But, even more to the point, the fact that it would take down the site without first even hearing from Shojaee is really problematic and suggests that SquareSpace should not be trusted as a hosting provider.
Either way, Shojaee is fighting back. He got SquareSpace to put the site back up and has responded to JAWA's accusations against him with a lawyer, who seems well equipped to respond to such bullying. I've embedded the response letter below, but just a snippet:
Your letter, its accusations, and its
conclusions are shocking. And you are wrong in every respect...
I can't close a letter without pointing out the obvious: your letter, instead of addressing Mr. Shojaee's accurate claims about Mr. Hope's business activities, maligns his character and accuses Mr. Shojaee of "fail[ing] to disclose your true motives to your readers." You then go on to list a number of web domains that Mr. Shojaee legally owns in connection with a legitimate business purpose.
The idea that Mr. Shojaee has done anything to apologize for is laughable. It is Mr. Hope who has built a company based on deception; it is Mr. Hope who has illegally used technology to bilk consumers out of millions; it is Mr. Hope who has chosen to interfere with my client's business...
Sounds like the attempt at intimidation isn't likely to work... Oh, and in the meantime, the press is starting to pick up on the story as well