back to article FYI – There's a legal storm brewing in Cali that threatens to destroy online free speech

Tech giants and rights groups have flooded the California Supreme Court with a dozen friend-of-the court briefs pleading for the reversal of a defamation ruling that threatens online speech protections. First, rewind to 2013, when a woman by the name of Ava Bird allegedly posted a negative review of San Francisco attorney Dawn …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What on earth has section 230 got to do with a european citizen's right to protect their personal information? Seems an odd conflation.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yelp me out here

    "There is a large and growing community of [shitty] businesses and [questionable, unlicensed, and unmonitored] consultants looking for legal tools to shut down online [complaints that only two people see]"

    FTFY. Normal businesses, involved mainly with running their business, usually do not give two craps about Yelp reviews; 1) because they are usually positive, and more importantly 2) they are meaningless tributes/gripes where a real review could be, 3) only assholes Yelp, 4) see South Park if you think you want to become a Yelp reviewer, especially if you are unfortunate enough to be a (saggy ass, sad) food critic.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Yelp me out here

      The 'reputation management' frauds fail to understand the Streisand Effect and human behavior. Suing over an honest opinion runs the risk of a Streisand Effect. The other part is anyone with any sense is always wary of the a new store/provider. People tend to use the same places/providers because they are comfortable. Online reviews are one tool to help make decision but not the only tool. Many use experience, advise of others, 'the smell test', as well as online reviews before making a choice.

      'Smell test' is when something does not seem right.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Yelp me out here

        Except there is no Streisand effect because nobody ever finds out.

        Yelp/Amazon/Ebay just get a million automated emails telling them to remove any negative reviews, which they do rather than be taken to court

        You just never see any rating less than 5* on the web anymore

  3. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Strange how eBay seems to be missing from the list of friends. Or is that because users can't delete 'reviews' of the stuff they buy?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fair review?

    These mostly read like the sort of review you'd pay for, if you were that desperate. Or a no-win, no-fee ambulance chasing shyster.

  5. GrumpyKiwi

    Thanks California...

    ...for yet another attempt at imposing your lowest common denominator level of legal stupidity on the rest of us.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Thanks California...

      not MY fault - the DemoRats are running rampant and Republicans are outnumbered. They're taxing and spending and regulating us to death, while simultaneously making it easy for their trial l[aw]yer friends and contributors to do all this crap to us...

      The Cali-fornicate-you legislature is ONE! OF! THE! MOST! CORRUPT! INSTITUTIONS! ON! THE! PLANET!!! It's like a tin-horn dictatorship these days. And the lyers just throw sueballs around to increase their own income.

      1. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: Thanks California...

        I might have agreed with that diagnosis except that even back in the days of Ronald Reagan republican California there were still legally-retarded laws being passed. I'd suggest that it's in the DNA of California to imagine you can legislate your way to happiness.

        1. Charles 9

          Re: Thanks California...

          "...except that even back in the days of Ronald Reagan republican California there were still legally-retarded laws being passed."

          Two words: California Emissions.

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Re: Thanks California...

            "Two words: California Emissions."

            I complain about CARB rules a lot when I get my car checked, but I have to admit they worked; LA's air quality is visibly better than when I was a kid. So I can only be so critical. Without them LA would probably have Beijing's Blade Runner-esque opaque brown air by now.

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Re: Thanks California...

        You do realize that this was a court ruling, not something passed by the legislature, right?

        Likely the whole unfortunate legal precedent would have been avoided if the original client had shown up for court. If they don't show, the court really has little choice but to rule against them.

        1. Jeffrey Nonken

          Re: Thanks California...

          "Likely the whole unfortunate legal precedent would have been avoided if the original client had shown up for court. If they don't show, the court really has little choice but to rule against them."

          Yeah. How selfish of her not to have been informed of the suit!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Thanks California...

            Allowing a default judgment of half-a-million dollars against an uninformed party would seem to violate due process in a very severe manner.

        2. Warm Braw

          Re: Thanks California...

          If they don't show, the court really has little choice but to rule against them

          Allegedly, the complaint was notified by "substituted service" - process was supposedly served on a third party who claims not to have seen the target of the lawsuit for several months. The California Courts website says:

          “Substituted service” is not a very reliable type of service because the court does not know for sure that the person that had to be served actually received the paperwork.

          Perhaps anyone dealing with the Hassell Law Group should be conscious of the possibility of nominative determinism.

          1. PC Paul

            Re: Thanks California...

            Sounds like "substituted service" is in no way fit for purpose.

            If I'm sentence to go to prison can I substitute someone else to go in my place? It's not actually that different.

            1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

              Re: Thanks California...

              "If I'm sentence to go to prison can I substitute someone else to go in my place?"

              Yes. Not legally, mind you, but it's being done.

        3. ps2os2

          Re: Thanks California...

          This smells like a Grosuch decision.

          1. wayward4now

            Re: Thanks California...

            "This smells like a Grosuch decision."

            That smells like a California Democrat.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    (one star)

    1. Trilkhai

      Re: Lawyers

      Only if they're incompetent or don't do their job of representing their client to the best of their ability. Personally, if someone with power & money decided to make my life a nightmare in a way that the judicial system could handle, I'd want a decent lawyer to take my case, not try to argue it myself...

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "Proper notification of court proceedings is central to our concept of adverse legal process"

    As it should be in any country that wants to be thought to have a (reasonably) honest legal system.*

    *UK "Super Injunctions" where the defendants did not realize it was happening and had no right to tell their side of the case (often that they had proof the lying scumbag was in fact a lying scumbag).

    1. ps2os2

      Re: "Proper notification of court proceedings is central to our concept of adverse legal process"

      This ruling is likened to our FISA Court. Where proceedings are so secret no one but the filing person knows what is going on. While I admit there is a need for the court, I hope it never expands to anyhthing but espionage.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        This ruling is likened to our FISA Court..I hope it never expands to anyhthing but espionage."

        Most of us wished it had never even got that far.

  8. flayman Bronze badge

    "Right to be forgotten" is hardly anything

    People quoted in the article massively overstate the implications of the EU so-called "right to be forgotten". It is really very mild. No content is removed as a result of the Google Spain ruling. Only links to content are removed from search results, and then only when the person's name is in the search terms. It's much less invasive than DMCA takedown requests, and Google complies with millions of these and hardly breaks a sweat.

  9. Velv

    Default judgements should rarely if ever be used as the basis of a precedent.

    Clearly the merits of the case haven't been reviewed by the court so how can they be relied on in the future.

    1. Steve the Cynic

      Indeed. They can, of course, be used as precedent for the treatment of future default judgements, but there's so much of that already, and the established rules are so clear on how they work, that any one new case will have next to zero weight.

      (Caveat lector: I'm speaking here as the winner of a default judgement, although later events made it a hollow victory at best.)

  10. Steve B

    Summed up the real problem with "thousands of dollars"

    If the process was cheap and affordable or free for the masses then these judgements would be fought, but while it requires "thousands of dollars" it is limited to the rich, who can therefore get away with anything and also rewrite history. After all they must be right because they are rich.

    Obviously there is scope for an internet judge judy or whatever whereby an independent panel of internet users review supposed libel actions and decide whether the "review" goes to far. That would open processes up to the masses who cannot afford litigation in any country,

  11. Bucky 2

    This reminds me of a time I had to sit on a jury.

    During the selection process, the prosecuting attorney made a big deal about how even despicable people could be harmed by others, and entitled to legal remedies.

    While this is of course true in theory, we found it wasn't true in reality.

  12. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    so isn't this the "fallout" of the Facebook Defense

    where an online opinion outlet claims "it's a private organization and can choose to block or promote what it wants" and free speech protections are explicitly denied to individuals when that Corporation decides they don't fit Corporate goals?

    If free speech rights "don't exist" on their platforms, then they can't really claim that being told to remove content is a violation of free speech laws, can they?

    I'm sure there are other legal arguments that would be more appropriate and effective, but as these particular companies can and do modify, edit, and delete user generated content for their own agendas and deliberately tell users to essentially "f**k off we're a private organization and can do what we want" it seems they've already set precedent and denied themselves first amendment protection.

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