Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lawsuit threatens Free Speech on the Internet



A couple of days ago, someone commented on my previous article, that one of the people mentioned in that article, Eric Pepin, was suing the owners of an alternative news site. So the last couple of days I have been looking at what this suit was about and to my horror I discovered that it was in regards to a public forum and what people had commented on.

It caught my attention as this could have wide ramifications for the freedom of speech and the ability to discuss things on forums on the internet. It also could place severe restrictions on alternative news sites and bloggers such as yours truly, to question and bring to light the behaviours, policies or actions of organisations, corporations and our "elected" officials.

The suit is aimed at the owners of Sott.net for discussing publicly available articles that are available in newspapers and on the internet. Yes, for discussing publicly available articles! The implications are staggering as it could put thousands of bloggers and alternative news sites out of business. Bloggers and sites, some of whom do a great job at investigative journalism, which is pretty much a thing of the past in the bought corporate media.

Without these bloggers, alternative news sites and forums where will you go to find out about what is happening? Where will you go to find like minded people and others to discuss things that matters or are of concern to you?

The thing that Eric Pepin is suing Sott for is for damage to his reputation! Yes, a man who confesses to have sex with most of his staff of 11 young males and whom the judge of the court case called manipulative and controlling, is suing for damage to his reputation. The question naturally arises what reputation is this man talking about? The reputation of being manipulative and controlling, in which case he should sue the judge or is he concerned about the reputation of having sex with most of his male staff? In the latter case he should sue himself. If he feels that damage is done to his own institute, which he calls "Higher Balance Institute", then his own behaviour would be the key source for this damage.

It has made me wonder why he is suing Sott and not the newspapers or the internet search engines, where everything can be found out about this man, if you care to search. And it is not as though he has hired a backyard lawyer keen on trying his or her luck. No, he has hired one of the biggest law firms on the West Coast: Bullivant, Houser, Bailey PC. Now the question that comes to my inquisitive mind is, whether he is acting alone or whether some other force representing the ‘matrix control system’, is supporting this from behind the scenes.

In looking further at the site in question, Sott I discovered that they are also being heavily censored by Google. What is it about Sott that causes the system to try and close them down? I don't know, but from what I have seen and read there over the last few days, it is a site that sincerely tries to get to the truth of things and does a lot of research on a wide range of topics.

Asking questions is what should be encouraged and any attempt to clamper down on the freedom of speech should be vehemently fought by all who cherish it. We have seen quite a bit of noise from the powers that be, that they wish to control the flow of information. Of course under the excuse of national security. I could easily say about this case that it doesn’t concern me, as I am not the one being sued, but if that is the attitude we as bloggers and internet sleuths have, then there will be no one to stand up for us when they try to close us down.

As pastor Martin Niemoeller said in 1943:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.


So I close this post with the press release of the law suit that came out yesterday, and a rallying cry for every blogger and person who loves free speech to spread this news release and to support the accused in this case. This is one case where we need to stand together, shoulder to shoulder with those who are being targeted, sott.net and make our voices heard!


Free Speech On Internet Under Threat
International lawsuit filed in Oregon threatens Internet forums and bloggers.
SOTT.net - March 11, 2008



(PRNewsChannel) / Toulouse, France - First Amendment rights and free speech on the Internet are under threat as Internet news web site Signs of the Times (SOTT.net) today announced that its founder, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, a resident of France, is being sued in an Oregon court by 'Higher Balance Institute' (HBI), owned by Eric Pepin and based in Oregon.

HBI markets metaphysical products and claims to sell "the world's most advanced sixth sense meditation" program and a dietary supplement, "Magneurol6-S," that is guaranteed to make the consumer an "instant telepath." Pepin claims that users of his "psychic pill" find that "extended wireless phone use can cause discomfort." Consequently, they suggest "limiting the use of cell phones."

SOTT.net is an international, user driven alternative news site with volunteer editorial staffing around the globe. Quantum Future Group, Inc.(QFG), a California non-profit created by mathematician-physicist, Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk to fund independent researchers engaged in collecting social and historical data for mathematical systems analysis, is also named in the suit as defendant despite the fact that QFG does not own SOTT.net, nor does it have any controlling interest in the site.

HBI alleges in the suit filed by Bullivant Houser Bailey, PC, Portland, that the operators of SOTT.net "published false and defamatory statements" regarding HBI and Eric Pepin on the SOTT Web site forum. Pepin is seeking approximately $4.5 million in damages.

The suit stems from information posted on the SOTT.net forums [1] where globally based forum participants uncovered and reposted public-domain information and newspaper records showing that Pepin had recently faced numerous sexual abuse charges in an Oregon court involving a child and former employee of HBI. A grand jury found enough evidence to indict Pepin who admitted in court to having sexual relations with his employees. According to The Oregonian newspaper[2] Judge Steven L. Price, who presided over the case, stated that it was "probable that the conduct alleged in all counts occurred," but that the absence of a date stamp on a video proving that the events occurred while the complainant was still a minor meant that the allegations could not be proven 'beyond a reasonable doubt'. Judge Price was therefore obligated to acquit.

In response to the HBI suit, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, founder of SOTT.net and named as a defendant, said "This is an attack on freedom of speech, plain and simple. The issues SOTT.net are concerned with - the pathology of power and conspiracies among those in power - are specifically targeted in the suit. A victory for Pepin, considering the international nature of this suit, would therefore set a dangerous precedent in US courts and carry serious implications for Internet freedom of speech and ultimately civil liberties everywhere."

SOTT.net is requesting that all those with an interest in safeguarding Internet freedom of speech make an effort to ensure that this information reaches the widest audience possible.

For more information visit SOTT.net:

[1] http://www.sott.net/signs/forum/viewtopic.php?id=1360&p=1

[2] http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2007/05/leader_of_washington_county_in.html

About SOTT.net: Founded in 2002, Signs of The Times (SOTT.net) is an alternative news research resource and news analysis site.

Media contact: sott@sott.net http://www.sott.net

This press release was issued by PRNewsChannel.com. For more information, please visit http://www.prnewschannel.com

Source: SOTT.net

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bravo! What an excellent blog.

And, as you have said, this is not just an attack on the sott site, it is an attack on freedom of speech for all who use the internet.

This is a horrendous thing being done to the sott folks, but what is truly horrendous is how it is going to affect each and every one of us.

Thanks for a great blog.

John S said...

This Eric Pepin character sounds like a serious danger to society. What a world we live in when a web forum can become the subject of a law suit for discussing this sort of individual.

The BIg problem, in my opinion, is that he may well drain these sott people dry just standing up to him.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the good guys win:

http://www.prnewschannel.com/absolutenm/templates/?a=1086&z=4

Oregon Judge Ancer Haggerty SLAPPS Self-proclaimed Guru in Landmark Victory for Internet Free Speech

Chief Judge Ancer L. Haggerty hands down major decision in defamation suit disputed by Oregon's anti-SLAPP statutes.

SOTT.net - December 23, 2008

(PRNewsChannel) / Portland, Ore. / New age guru Eric Pepin's attempt to silence online critics was defeated Thursday as Portland-based federal Judge Ancer Haggerty dismissed a defamation suit brought by Pepin's organization, Higher Balance Institute, against an Internet forum that had published critical comments.

Web site SOTT.net, operated by a team of international researchers, initially published pointed criticisms of Pepin's spiritual discovery techniques. After forum participants learned that Pepin had been charged, but acquitted, of having sex with a minor, the site's forum posted opinions that it was “beginning to look like” Higher Balance Institute was a "front for pedophilia" and that Pepin was a "psychopathic deviant" who was "conning the public" into "falling into confluence with psychopathic reality."

Higher Balance Institute sued for defamation, but Judge Haggerty dismissed the case under Oregon's SLAPP ("Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation") statute, which requires plaintiffs complaining of speech on public issues to establish that their case has a reasonable probability of success. The Court ruled that the statements about Pepin and his organization may have been somewhat hyperbolic, but they were opinion on a matter of public interest and protected as free speech.

Pepin, a self-proclaimed psychic and meditation guru, was charged in 2006 with sexual abuse related to an alleged encounter with an underage male employee of Higher Balance Institute. After a trial without a jury in 2007, a Washington County judge acquitted Pepin based on reasonable doubt, although the judge said he believed the acts had probably occurred.

After newspaper articles from the Oregonian about Pepin's arrest and trial were posted and commented on in the SOTT.net forum, Higher Balance sued Laura Knight-Jadczyk and several research and publishing groups she works with, including Signs of the Times (aka SOTT.net), and the Quantum Future Group. Ms. Knight-Jadczyk posted the critical comments that were at the center of the litigation.

SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation. SLAPP statutes, which exist in several states, are intended to prevent wealthy individuals and organizations from silencing critics through expensive but meritless lawsuits. "This is just how the SLAPP law is supposed to operate," said Stephen Kaus of San Francisco's Cooper, White & Cooper LLP, who represented the defendants. "It prevented this wealthy and relatively powerful man and his company from intimidating our clients from saying what they think."

To briefly recap the core of the case, we quote from Judge Haggerty's opinion which can be read in its entirety here:

http://quantumfuturegroup.org/HBI_Case_Documents/Sott_opinion_revised.pdf:

On November 4, 2007, Knight-Jadczyk re-posted portions of The Oregonian newspaper articles concerning Pepin's arrest and acquittal and posted her own commentary which included, in part, the following: "It's really starting to look like this Eric Pepin and his Higher Balance Institute is merely a COINTELPRO and a front for pedophilia."

The court notes that plaintiff focuses its argument upon the "front for pedophilia" posting, and does not advance specific arguments regarding Knight-Jadczyk's other posting. The court has conducted an independent review of Knight-Jadcyzk's other comments and concludes that the following analysis is applicable to all of her postings.

On that same date, Knight-Jadczyk also responded to a post from another forum user who asserted that HBI serves a valid purpose to those seeking answers. Knight-Jadczyk posted, in part, the following:

Horse hockey. There is nothing there except a pathological deviant and his deviant followers conning the public. There's nothing at all about "waking up" there. For example, most meditation will do little but put you back to sleep. It's an act of self-calming and falling into confluence with the psychopathic reality.

Plaintiff's claims against Knight-Jadczyk, therefore, rely upon her assertions that "HBI is a 'front for pedophilia;' HBI is a "cointelpro" organization; HBI markets nothing more than an act of "falling into confluence with a psychopathic reality;" and HBI is "conning" the public. [...]

This court concludes that the postings by Knight-Jadczyk constitute information provided by "another content provider" under Section 230 of the CDA. Therefore, defendants SOTT, QFG, and QFS are immunized against those postings by the CDA. Because plaintiff cannot show a probability of prevailing on its claims against QFG, QFS, and SOTT, involving either the moderators' postings or Knight-Jadczyk's postings, the applicable anti-SLAPP statutes compel that the claims against these defendants are stricken. [...]

Defendant Knight-Jadczyk concedes that the CDA does not prohibit claims against her based on her own postings. Nevertheless, plaintiff cannot show a probability of succeeding on its claims against Knight-Jadczyk individually. [...]

Plaintiff maintains that Knight-Jadczyk's statements are false and defamatory. A defamatory statement is a factual assertion that subjects another to "hatred, contempt or ridicule" or tends "to diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill or confidence in which [the other] is held or to excite adverse, derogatory or unpleasant feelings or opinions against [the other]." [...]

Whether a statement is capable of a defamatory meaning is a question for the court. [...]

This court concludes that Knight-Jadczyk's statements constitute protected opinion.[...]

Finally, the court examined whether the postings were sufficiently factual to be susceptible of being proven. This examination also supports concluding that the postings constitute protected opinion. [...]

For the reasons provided, QFG's Special Motion to Strike Complaint, Knight-Jadczyk's Special Motion to Strike Complaint [28], and QFS and SOTT's Special Motion to Strike Complaint are granted. [U.S. District Court in Oregon, Case 3:08-cv-00233.)

Before ultimately ruling that the statements were Constitutionally protected opinion, and not assertions of fact, Judge Haggerty found that the organizations had immunity under the federal Communications Decency Act, which immunizes "interactive computer service" and "information content" providers from liability for statements made by third-party users. The judge dismissed plaintiff's assertion that moderators who posted allegedly defamatory statements were agents of the defendants, stating that the "moderators are unpaid volunteers who do not represent the opinions of defendants."

For the same reason that the court dismissed plaintiff's defamation claims, it also dismissed Higher Balance's false light, intentional interference with business relationships, and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage claims.

The defendants were represented by Cooper, White & Cooper LLP attorneys Stephen Kaus, Walter Hansell, Merrit Jones, and Leila Knox (www.cwclaw.com). The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon, Case 3:08-cv-00233.

About Signs of The Times: SOTT.net is an independent alternative news and analysis outlet that seeks to shine a spotlight on significant events and trends that affect the entire world. SOTT.net helps bring clarity out of a sea of media spin. The site is funded entirely by donations from individuals and groups that seek to support its work. For more information visit http://www.sott.net

About Quantum Future Group: Quantum Future Group (QFG) supports activities that bring together people to engage in and to promote the study of scientific ideas and research in all scientific and socio-cultural fields that further the deepest understanding of our world and our place within it without regard to nationality or ethnicity. QFG seeks to increase the understanding of humankind by humankind, as a whole, by sponsoring research into all the parts to see how they fit together. QFG supports documented research that is made freely and widely available to all humanity. For more information visit:http://quantumfuturegroup.org

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the war in Iraq is recorded and online to watch? So your son, daughter, nephew, dad is being displayed online getting shot and killed for everyone to see. You say you want freedom of speech, at what cost? Where does the line get drawn?