Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

John Oliver Takes On SLAPP Suits and Anti-SLAPP Laws

Mike Masnick, Techdirt:

Ever since coal boss Bob Murray threatened and then sued John Oliver and HBO over their story mocking his supposed concern for coal miners, I’ve been publicly (and possibly privately*) bugging Oliver and his team at HBO to do an episode specifically about SLAPP lawsuits and anti-SLAPP laws. And I’m happy to say that they listened! This past Sunday, Oliver’s big story was all about SLAPP suits and anti-SLAPP laws, and focused again on Bob Murray, who finally dropped his case against Oliver and HBO earlier this year. It is well worth watching all the way up until the end.

I had no idea where this episode was going when I sat down to watch it Sunday, but it exceeded every possible expectation I had. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it; Masnick embedded a U.S.-only clip of the entire segment, and it is absolutely worth twenty-five minutes of your day.

Anti-SLAPP laws are hugely important. A couple of years ago, a guy who invented an application called “Email” back in the late 1970s sued Techdirt and Gawker separately for pointing out that he cannot really claim to be the “inventor of email”. I wrote about this a few times here because it so beguiled me. Every time I hit “publish”, though, there was a small twinge of worry about whether I, too, could face a lawsuit for simply pointing out the facts. As Oliver points out, the plaintiff does not need to win the suit for it to effectively silence the defendant. And, obviously, I’m not big-headed enough to think that I would actually be a target.

But that momentary worry was effective in making me doubt whether I could publish factual, well-cited information that countered a hyperlitigant’s misleading narrative. Even if I was completely okay from a legal perspective, it could cost me a fortune.

See Also: Libby Hill in IndieWire.