Technically speaking, we do not have freedom of speech at all, and that is the sad truth.
I recently posted an article with a legitimate concern and warning about someone I believe (and others) to be a scam artist, who will unfortunately have to remain nameless.
I detailed my personal experience with them and other details I discovered, mostly their own quotes that were red flags and others came forward with their horror stories.
Not to my surprise, I received a bizarre and threatening letter to remove the post or I would be sued and ruined as this person bragged they’d done to others. I decided to at least take it down while I discussed with lawyers that specialize in freedom of speech to see what my rights were and my options.
Here is what I discovered:
- I, in fact, was completely in my right to post as everything I said was 100% true. For something to be defamatory, it has to be knowingly false or malicious in a personal nature.
- I was told that if it was taken to court I would win because almost everything is verifiable.
- But here is the real kicker: it doesn’t matter if I would win because it would still cost me several thousands of dollars just to protect my word.
- What I also learned, is that anyone can sue anyone for anything. There is almost no safeguard in place to filter out absurd lawsuits.
- There is a fine line of fairness and importance to the laws. My rights to freedom of speech are in fact not “free” and that is a shame. However, on the flip-side, what if someone accused me of being a murderer publicly? I should have the right to have it taken down, of course. Although, to be honest, I would never threaten to sue in such matters. I would publicly defend myself if it were untrue, and if there were any truth to anything, I would explain, apologize, or correct the problem.
- What I’ve ultimately learned is that morality and law have nothing in common.
If someone has wronged you, my advice would not be to publish anything publicly, but there is still something you can do about it. Use the tools and resources that are there to protect you. The first step to take is to report the scam concern. Just Google: “report scam” and you’ll have many official and authoritative options. This is the correct place to start.
Use official channels. Don’t post on community scam report sites where they will publicly post the info, or you will again be in the same situation.
If it is much worse than a simple scam report can assist you with, you need to seek legal help. There are resources to get free “off the record” legal advice and many great lawyers that will consult and help you before you’ve ever spent a dime. If you have a monetary claim you can seek out a pro-bono lawyer that will review the case and evidence and decide how likely you are to win. If you’re likely to win, they might take the case on the basis that they’ll take a cut of the settlement or “winnings” only if you win the case.
More info from the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). This part is the key problem bloggers are faced with:
“Is truth a defense to defamation claims?
Yes. Truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim. But keep in mind that the truth may be difficult and expensive to prove.”
Most defamation law is specific to private individuals. For the most part we are protected to say whatever we like about companies, celebrities, and politicians. But, by all means you should always try to be as honest and polite as possible anyway. Just because you can do something legally, doesn’t mean you should, morally.
Unfortunately, truth has no place in a courtroom. Law has nothing to do with actual truth, only what can and cannot be “proven”. Proof is not fact or truth, it is a best guess judgement. It simply means there is no reasonable doubt to the contrary of the verdict.
As always, be safe, happy, and I wish you success in your business endeavors.