Shooting The Messenger

Well, sort of I suppose. Here’s a post from that calls out Roca Labs for its efforts to get negative comments about Roca products off the Internet. Without going into a lot of detail Roca is apparently suing 11 anonymous commenters for defamation based on comments the anonymous posters put up a various Web sites complaining about a Roca Labs product that supposedly gives the drastic weight loss benefits of a gastric bypass procedure without the operation.   

Typically, in a case like this, the first thing the defendant tries to do is unmask the anonymous poster. But Roca may not be bothering with that step. According to the post, Roca’s plan is to get default judgments against the anonymous posters, and then use those judgments to force search engines such as Google to remove the posts.  Some search engines will remove content that has been deemed defamatory, but that is a voluntary policy, not a legal requirement.

In fact, the law is contrary to such an argument. The federal Communications Decency Act provides that a provider of interactive computer services is not deemed the publisher of content generated by third parties. And courts have held (most recently an appellate court in Florida) that the CDA effectively provides immunity to search engines for claims arising from third party content. And that includes “equitable claims” like an injunction. 

All of that means, it may be tough for Roca to shut down the critical voices out there. No matter how much it throws its weight around.