When SLAPP meets Streisand

A SLAPP lawsuit is one that is meant to discourage or intimidate critics.  From Wikipedia:

A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.[1] Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.

The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs, or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism.

SLAPP lawsuits are particularly egregious because the intention is to harass an individual who is exercising free speech.  In many cases, a corporation with deep pockets will file SLAPP lawsuits against activists for the sole purpose of harassment.  (I was once threatened with a SLAPP lawsuit because of e-mails I sent encouraging others to contact a corporation for unethical business practice.)

But every once in a while, a SLAPP lawsuit doesn’t have the intended result.  Instead, it draws negative attention to the plaintiff’s actions.  This is sometimes referred to as the Streisand Effect.

The Streisand Effect was named after Barbara Streisand, who tried unsuccessfully to remove photographs of her residence from the internet.  Unfortunately for Streisand, her lawsuit had the opposite effect:

Before Streisand filed her lawsuit, “Image 3850” had been downloaded from Adelman’s website only six times; two of those downloads were by Streisand’s attorneys.[11] As a result of the case, public knowledge of the picture increased exponentially; more than 420,000 people visited the site over the following month.  

One such case is a psychiatrist practicing in Japan who was attempting to sue Reddit (a social news website) to disclose the names and identities of people who had written negative reviews of his practice.  Some examples include the following:

Avoid Dr. Douglas Berger for Therapy

PSA: Stay away from “psychiatrist” Doug Berger

Doug Berger is … someone we try to steer people away from 

Counseling in Tokyo (avoid avoid avoid)

Avoid Douglas Berger

From the Miami Herald:  Psychiatrist sues Reddit to unmask anonymous critics online 

Techdirt:  Psychiatrist Sues a Bunch of Redditors for Criticizing His Therapy Services 

Gizmodo:  American Psychiatrist in Japan Sues Redditors for Talking Shit Online

Among the allegations are that Dr. Berger of the Meguro Counseling Center is a “fucking maniac” and that he is not licensed as a psychiatrist in Japan.

Here are some of the “defamatory” statements he claims in his lawsuit:

He claims that “[t]he false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff Berger include but are not limited to the following: that he is a ‘fucking maniac’; he is a ‘piece of shit’; ‘gives patients the creeps’; that ‘he is not a medical professional’; ‘he was disinterested in patients’; ‘incompetent in actually giving therapy’; that he overprescribes drugs; that he ‘was always distracted on the computer while with a patient’; that he said sexist comments to a patient’ that he told a female patient she will ‘be basically worthless after [she] lost her looks’; he misdiagnoses patients; harasses patients online; takes advantage of patients; scams patients; that he is a ‘scam artist with a doctorate’; that he is ‘incompetent or negligent in both’ (referring to [Dr. Douglas Berger’s] mental health services); that he is unstable; he bilks clients out of their money for services that do not meet even the most basic professional standards; he uses Paypal to avoid paying taxes; he is ‘deeply unprofessional, insulting and derogatory’; he is a ‘cast-iron racist’; that he is a charlatan; that another mental health service provider gets a lot of his angry ex-clients; that he is pushy; that he is manipulative; and that he disrespects clients and makes them feel like it is their fault they are depressed or stressed.”

Turning to complaints about Meguro Counseling Center, the lawsuit claims that “defamatory statements include, but are not limited to: that it scams clients out of money; takes advantage of patients; provides incompetent services; is ‘incompetent in actually giving therapy’; among other false and defamatory things.”




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Work to be done


Last night I watched the news with a sinking heart.  Because the signs were there.  The GOP chose its candidate, and the candidate they chose represents their values.  They tried to disclaim him,  but their actions spoke louder than words.

“This does not represent who I am as a person.”  How many times do we hear this response when an individual has committed a racist act?  When people show you who they are, you should believe them.  Because the best predictor of future action is past action.

So they claimed not to support his words, but they supported his bid for the presidency.  Like John McCain, they supported him because he is a Republican.  McCain said he would support him because he believed in the GOP and its values.  We’ve seen those values.

Black people shoved and pushed out of political gatherings.  A boy in a wheelchair being booed while adults kick his wheelchair on the way out.  Throw them out.  Because they aren’t a part of the United States the president-elect envisions.

I had hoped beyond hope that the election would not go this way.  Because I am a fucking optimist.    But deep down I have been holding a knot of fear that started when the candidates were elected.

Those of us who are rational and reasonable people have been too complacent.   Continue reading