June 20, 2017

Laurent Crenshaw : SLAPP Suits and Freedom of Speech

What is a SLAPP Suit? Let's say you own a small business called "Policy Town Fajitas". You think your business is second-to-none. You've invested in it--time, sweat, money and otherwise ... But then, all of a sudden, one of your customers doesn't...

What is a SLAPP Suit?

Let's say you own a small business called "Policy Town Fajitas". You think your business is second-to-none. You've invested in it--time, sweat, money and otherwise ... But then, all of a sudden, one of your customers doesn't fancy your business as much as you do. So they post a negative review about your business on a site like Yelp. They say your "chicken fajitas taste like pigeon and that's how I know it's not authentic Mexican food."

If you're like most businesses, you try to improve (such as by switching to chicken meat). But some businesses try to turn the tables by putting the reviewer on the defensive.

Let's call the reviewer Mrs. Davis. So you file a lawsuit against Mrs. Davis that is simply designed to drive her absolutely nuts. Eventually, you hope, Mrs. Johnson will decide to delete her review.

That lawsuit is called a "strategic lawsuit against public participation", but we just call them SLAPP suits. 

Batman and Robin_YELP_SLAPP_Suits


Now, we know you would NEVER serve up pigeon fajitas. But what are the policy implications of SLAPP suits, particularly as they relate to online freedom of speech?

Here to discuss SLAPP suits is Laurent Crenshaw (@LCrenshaw), Yelp's head of Federal Public Policy in Washington DC. At Yelp Laurent has championed the company’s federal efforts to protect consumer freedom of speech on the Internet, and worked to implement Yelp as a tool for the federal government.

Prior to joining Yelp in 2013, Laurent worked in the House of Representatives for over 11 years. During his tenure he served as the Legislative Director for Representative Darrell Issa focusing on technology policy issues, particularly in the areas of intellectual property, telecommunications and Internet law; and also worked in the offices of the House Majority Whip and House Republican Conference. Laurent successfully worked on numerous legislative efforts including the passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act in 2011 and the fight to defeat SOPA and PIPA in Congress. Additionally, Laurent also serves on the board of directors for Public Knowledge and as a member of the American Library Association’s Public Policy Advisory Council.

Laurent obtained his undergraduate degree in International Relations from Stanford University in 2002 and his Juris Doctor degree from American University’s Washington College of Law in 2010.


Yelp's Public Policy Blog

SPEAK FREE Act (Congressional Anti-SLAPP Suits legislation)

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

News Roundup

Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods for $13.7 billion.  Experts see the move as a direct hit on big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, whose shares tumbled sharply on news of the announcement. Analysts see it as a significant step by Amazon to substantially expand its warehouse and local supply chain operations. Laura Stevens has more at the Wall Street Journal. One interesting thing to note is that on May 30th, Amazon filed a patent for technology that allows it to block customers from using their phones to "window shop", or check the prices of other stores, while they're on site at an Amazon property. Brian Fung reports on that in the Washington Post.

President Trump has officially nominated former Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to return to the agency.  Rosenworcel has strong Democratic support. Her previous four-year term ended last year when the Senate failed to reconfirm her term before it expired. Still open at the FCC is the third Republican seat. Brendan Carr--a current advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai -- is considered the front-runner for that seat although, as of Monday evening, the White House has not yet made the official nomination.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a joint announcement saying North Korea has been executing cyberattacks against institutions  worldwide since 2009. North Korean government actors calling themselves "Hidden Cobra" are the culprits, according to the statement, and they have been attacking aerospace, financial and other institutions in the U.S. and around the world. Deb Reichmann reports for the Associated Press.

Verizon has completed its $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo. Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer resigned with a $23 million package. Alina Selyukh has the story at NPR.

The Federal Trade Commission will be opposing the proposed merger of DraftKing and FanDuel--the two largest fantasy sports  sites. In a statement released Monday, the FTC wrote that the combined company would control more than 90% of the market.

The families of prison inmates could see their phone charges for calling incarcerated loved ones shoot back up to as much as $14 per minute. The Obama-era FCC had placed caps on those calls that ranged to between 14 and 49 cents per minute. But the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate those rates. The Court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate those rates because they pertained to intrastate calls, and not interstate calls, and thus they fall outside the FCC's federal jurisdiction. Zoe Tillman covers this for BuzzFeed.

The Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India is suing the company in the U.S. for violating her privacy and for defamation of character. The plaintiff, a Texas resident, has filed as a Jane Doe. Apparently, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had said publicly that the company would do everything it could to ensure the rapist would be brought to justice. However, behind the scenes, the victim alleges that Uber obtained her medical records in India and then worked to use the information to claim the rape was all a ruse that was orchestrated by Uber's main competitor in India.  Julia Carrie Wong summarized this story in the Guardian. Uber has been embroiled in numerous controversies of late. These culminated last week  in Kalanick being placed on an indefinite leave of absence and top ranking executives being let go. These latest developments were in response to a report spearheaded by former Attorney General Eric Holder that recommended these and other changes at Uber.

Facebook has outlined a strategy for weeding out terrorist content on its platform. The company released a blog post last week saying that it has about 150 people on staff nationwide whose job it is to remove all content posted by or in support of terrorists. The company also uses artificial intelligence and other technology to take down content that promotes terrorism on Facebook and its other properties, according to the post.

Finally, remember President Trump's Twitter typo a few weeks ago, when he tweeted the word "covfefe" instead of "coverage"? Well, The Hill's Harper Neidig noticed last week that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had more than 30 trademark requests containing the word "covefefe" since the flub.