SLAPP suits might affect anyone who writes or reports on corporate or public policy. Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to avoid these frivolous lawsuits. SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation, and companies use them to discourage negative press or silence someone’s opinion.
California has solid anti-SLAPP laws. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a court will dismiss any suit interfering with someone’s constitutionally protected right to free speech on public issues. However, even if a judge throws out your case, the SLAPP might accomplish what your accuser wanted. That is, waste your time and drain your resources. Continue reading for tips on protecting yourself from a frivolous lawsuit.
Never speculate if you want to report on public issues or policies. Always use fact-based statements. Even if you have strong evidence about a potential public hazard, wait until you have confirmation before reporting on it.
Use good sources
Legitimate sources also protect you from SLAPPs. Do not base your actions on rumors or someone’s opinion on the internet. Find official documentation and do not rely on hearsay.
Check your insurance coverage
Your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance might cover defamation costs. Before you act on a public issue, check your insurance to see what it covers. If you make your living from reporting on public policy, this might affect if you can receive coverage, so speak with your insurance adjuster.
Corporate interests and public figures have more capital to throw at you than you can afford. However, you have legal protections against SLAPPs that might prevent you from exposing a problem or doing your job.