Not to be overly sensational about this – but a California judge has thrown out the Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter’s Motion to Strike under Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) in its legal battles with Loan Center of California. The suit arose after ML-Implode posted a submitted email detailing troubles at the lender.
ML-Implode filed the motion under Anti-SLAPP statutes which are designed to protect the public (generally considered to have limited resources to afford counsel in the face of litigation) against entities (such as corporations and government) who are seen to have resources and access to counsel to pursue litigation. The idea is that the “haves” sue the “have nots” simply because the “haves” know that the “have nots” can’t afford to defend themselves. Regardless of the merits of the case the lawsuit effectively shuts down the “have nots” and stymies them from expressing their viewpoint.
California has some of the strongest Anti-SLAPP laws in the country and so it is distressing to learn of ML-Implode’s failure to earn a favorable ruling on the Motion to Strike. ML-Implode is run by Aaron Krowne and is an independent site, not run or financed by major news corporations or entities. If this case goes to trial it will cost Aaron and his team near $50,000 in legal fees to defend their right to free speech. If this runs its course the implications are clear and chilling.
Bloggers Aren’t Protected
Blogging has become the new pulpit of free speech. Blogs are simple, powerful platforms that let anyone share their thoughts, views and opinions on any and all topics. The millions of blogs out there are a testament to the desire of Americans to have their voice heard. But what protections do bloggers have? If ML-Implode is unsuccessful in its attempt to strike the case filed by LCC it appears that any blogger taking a courageous stance on any subject can be the target of a SLAPP lawsuit. Corporations can silence whistle blowers and dissenters with a simple legal motion; sending bloggers running in fear of litigation and excessive legal fees. A dangerous precedent.
The Fatal Flaw
The ability of well-funded corporations to silence individuals whose thoughts, actions and commentary do not align with their own through the threat of litigation is frighteningly effective. If the legal system refuses to protect bloggers who challenge corporate spin the blogging “revolution” will slowly die through irrelevance. Individuals who have found a powerful voice will be quickly silenced forever. Only the well-funded corporations will be able to support the legal costs necessary to promote a viewpoint to the public. You and I as individuals are screwed, and doubly-so. We lose the right to our own voice and opinion; and we lose as consumers of information – relegated to accepting corporate spin as fact. We lose the freedom of personal speech and as a bonus take a major step back from corporate responsibility and transparency.
If you shrug your shoulders at ML-Implode’s plight then you fail to grasp the gravity that this precedent sets. By sitting idly with out an opinion on this matter you are renouncing your personal right to your own freedom of speech on whatever issue gets you charged up enough to express that opinion in a public forum. Maybe its not mortgages; but this isn’t a mortgage issue – this is a public vs. corporation issue – this is a freedom of speech issue. A time will come when an issue you feel strongly about boils over; whether its politics, animal cruelty, the environment, racial equality, religion or any other of a million subjects and you will see a corporation sue a blogger for a post or comment about their practices or products and then it will hit home. The question is will it be too late then? Will precedents have been set, will the chance for the public voice to prevail be eliminated?
Losing this case will be a large step back in the progress of the public’s right to freedom of speech. It will also be a large step back in corporate responsibility and transparency.
A Whistle Blower’s Plight
The whistle blower has always had the tough road. Few people believe them at first; then come threats, lawsuits, illegal discrimination and pressure brought to bear on friends and family. It is no different with blogs. ML-Implode has chosen to shine a bright light on the mortgage industry and it makes those in the light uncomfortable. They react to this unwanted attention by attempting to shut down the light – to shut down the whistle blower through any and all means. The law and precedents set have ensured that whistle blowers are protected. It is vital to the progress of public discourse that bloggers are afforded the same protection.
What Can Be Done
First ML-Implode must prevail; for a loss would be of devastating consequence to all of those that cover any subject outside of the mainstream media’s accepted view. Think of the ramifications. A blogger talking about abuse of terror suspects in prisons, illegal kickbacks in police departments, corporate wrong doings in big pharma, or an other important issues could be shuttered before they even got started through lawsuits of dubious nature. Lawsuits that were filed strictly to silence those that question the practices of others (well funded others).
In order for ML-Implode to prevail they need help. Please make a donation, or at least subscribe to their premium service to help them in their quest to keep important mortgage news and coverage flowing. Second, your support of bloggers needs to be known. Write a post on your own blog, leave a comment with other bloggers out there – let them know that you support them and their efforts to deliver alternative sides to corporate spin and mainstream media.
Killing a blogger’s web site and right to share opinions and views that may not be in line with mainstream or corporate opinion is a dangerous transgression against the most basic of our freedoms – freedom of speech. It stands to make blogs irrelevant and blogging a too-dangerous a past time to engage in on any issue that is of true import. I urge everyone who finds blogs and blogging an important social development to rally around ML-Implode and other blogs (regardless of subject) who are under attack simply because they disagree with corporate or government spin and that appear to be easy targets.
A Selfish Motive
Blown Mortgage faces the possibility of similar actions by those who don’t appreciate our honest take on the mortgage industry. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I worry that Blown Mortgage will be decimated by similar actions simply because I choose to voice an opinion contrary to the one shared by larger players in my industry.Click to See the Latest Mortgage Rates»