Phil Cannella Lawsuit, Phil Cannella Reviews, Phil Cannella Complaints
Phil Cannella points out that one of the great things about the United States is that the Bill of Rights grants us all the right to free speech. This freedom that we so often take for granted doesn’t exist in many parts of the world. There are countries where speech that doesn’t fit the beliefs of a ruling party or religious group can lead to the death sentence.
Another factor that sets the United States apart from many countries is that freedom of speech also has sensible limitations and courts have ruled that certain types of speech should not be afforded the protection of the First Amendment. Child pornography is a good example of that; hate speech intended to arouse people to violence is another; defamation, libel and slander is yet another. That we have recourse in the justice system to receive a fair trial in the context of freedom of speech is a luxury many nations just do not possess. There are many countries on Earth where such an independent judicial system just does not exist.
Phil Cannella has become quite familiar with the limitations of freedom of speech and what is considered a violation and what isn’t. He became so after an internet defamation campaign was launched against him. Using the forum of the World Wide Web, a gang of competitors used cyberspace to post all manner of defamatory material about him. The purpose was to dissuade potential clients from doing business with him. As the content was published under the guise of freedom of speech, it was done anonymously and Phil Cannella did not even know who the instigators were.
To overcome this, Phil Cannella filed a lawsuit in federal court in order to conduct discovery and find out who was behind the attack. To cut a long story short, through the lawsuit Phil Cannella not only discovered who the primary author of the content was, but he also received a permanent injunction in his favor with the court ruling that the perpetrators cease posting such defamatory material and ordered it be removed from the Web.
However, an interesting twist developed and it concerns the Communications Decency Act. By way of definition: “The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), also known by some legislators as the ‘Great Cyberporn Panic of 1995’, was the first notable attempt by the United States Congress to regulate pornographic material on the Internet.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Decency_Act
Of note in this article is section 230 of this act which deals with the responsibility of internet service providers and other third parties that provide a platform for the transmission or presentation of online information. “Tucked inside the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 is one of the most valuable tools for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet: Section 230”
“Section 230 says that ‘No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider’ (47 U.S.C. § 230). In other words, online intermediaries that host or republish speech are protected against a range of laws that might otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do. The protected intermediaries include not only regular Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but also a range of “interactive computer service providers,” including basically any online service that publishes third-party content. Though there are important exceptions for certain criminal and intellectual property-based claims, CDA 230 creates a broad protection that has allowed innovation and free speech online to flourish.” https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230
As Phil Cannella explains, what this essentially means is that websites such as http://www.ripoffreport.com/ can contain all manner of lies about a company or individual and are not responsible for it and cannot be held accountable for what users publish on their site. This makes sense on the one hand otherwise you could have companies like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, YouTube and others getting sued at every level by one person or another who feels the content they host is against the law. On the other hand, websites such as ripoffreport.com take it to a new level whereby they will not even retract a statement made on their website by one of their users even when the user wants to retract it.
As Phil Cannella explains, this comes back to the Communications Decency Act: “CDA 230 also offers its legal shield to bloggers who act as intermediaries by hosting comments on their blogs. Under the law, bloggers are not liable for comments left by readers, the work of guest bloggers, tips sent via email, or information received through RSS feeds. This legal protection can still hold even if a blogger is aware of the objectionable content or makes editorial judgments.” https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230
The legal protections afforded by the CDA are unique to the United States and are not recognized in many other Western countries. “The legal protections provided by CDA 230 are unique to U.S. law; European nations, Canada, Japan, and the vast majority of other countries do not have similar statutes on the books. While these countries have high levels of Internet access, most prominent online services are based in the United States. This is in part because CDA 230 makes the U.S. a safe haven for websites that want to provide a platform for controversial or political speech and a legal environment favorable to free expression.” https://www.eff.org/issues/cda230
At the end of the day what this means is that certain blogs that are geared around providing a platform for people to post nasty reviews without a fraction of evidence or truth to support the statements are completely protected. Unfortunately this has hurt a lot of good businesses out there whose reputations have been damaged by lies and untruths.
Freedom of speech has two sides. We must enjoy that freedom but not abuse it.