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