A Canadian blogger is under attack, accused of defamation by an Ontario based consulting firm. Mark Silverthorn is currently being sued by New Beginnings Debt Consulting for $100,000. Along with monetary compensation, the lawsuit also demands he remove his blog posts about the company. The blog post in question is regarding an impromptu review after a meeting with the Plaintiff's key executive regarding debt settlement services. You can read the full blog here . Mark Silverthorn has worked as a collection attorney in Canada for the last 12 years, as well as being an avid blogger and published author.
This lawsuit is a very slippery slope for all of us bloggers. Although it is not the first lawsuit of its kind, it is a lawsuit that could potentially change the way people are allowed to assert their first amendment right of freedom of speech. Many of these lawsuits are thrown out or settled prior to trial, but with $100,000 or more in damages on the line, lawsuits of these nature are certainly the type to not let slip through the cracks.
Mr. Silverthorn has put out a call for other bloggers to unite and help him with his fight against this lawsuit. He currently has a crowdfunding campaign running through FundedJustice.com, a Chicago based platform for crowdfunding that only hosts campaigns for those who need help raising money for legal fees. In a follow up blog, Mr. Silverthorn is requesting fellow bloggers to do the following:
"If you blog then I am going to suggest that you have a stake in the outcome of my $100K defamation lawsuit. It would seem that in Canada today if you have write a blog post which is critical of a corporation then you can be sued for $100K for defamation. Wouldn't it be nice if I obtained the best legal defense possible and the plaintiff corporation got a drubbing when this case goes to court sometime in 2016?
I would ask any bloggers out there-in both Canada and the United States-who are concerned about bloggers being sued for exercising their constitutional right to free speech to offer some assistance to me. This might involve one or more of the following:
• making a financial donation to my crowdfunding campaign
• writing a blog promoting my crowdfunding campaign
• promoting my crowdfunding campaign across social media
• inviting me to write a guest post on your blog in the next few days
• placing a link on your blog to my crowdfunding campaign"
After reading what Mr. Silverthorn has posted in his original blog post, watching the videos and reviewing all of the "evidence" he collected prior to posting his review of the company in question, I have to scratch my head and ask why. Why is he being sued? How is this different from a negative Yelp review? Is it because of what he does specifically? Is it because of his background and knowledge in the collections industry? Or is it simply because the company who is suing got called out in a public forum and is now using their weight in a legal action in an attempt to silence a "whistle blower"?
Whatever their motivation is, as a blogger myself, this is a scary situation. Personally I always try to follow the rules of don't put anything out there that I wouldn't be proud if my kids read, and always keep in mind once it's out there you can't take it back. But considering that a lot of my blogs are about my personal life; dating and divorce, friendships, etc. Does this lawsuit open the door for people who may read my blog to sue me? I couldn't imagine if a former lover decided that they wanted to get even with me and launched a lawsuit. Reading through all of Mr. Silverthorn's information both on his website and on his crowdfunding campaign has made me seriously pause and think about how to proceed with my own writing.
Freedom of Speech; where do the boundaries come in? Why do the lines always have to be so blurry? Journalism vs. Blogging has always been a heated debate. Some say blogging is journalism with opinion added in. It's my opinion if you have factual information and you write an article or blog about those facts based on actual evidence that you have collected yourself, why not be able to publish those facts on your own personal blog?