The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Injunction against critical sock puppetry
From New Directions for Young Adults, Inc. v. Davis, a Broward County, Fla., trial court case (by Judge Carlos Rodriguez) that was decided in late 2014 but that I only came across recently:
Plaintiffs, New Directions For Young Adults, Inc. and Dr. Andrew S Rubin[,] … [sued for] Defamation … [and] Tortious Interference with a Business Relationship. The Plaintiffs allege, in pertinent part, that Defendants, Kathy and Brian Davis, tortiously interfered with current and prospective clients of the Plaintiffs when they published on the world-wide-web certain derogatory statements concerning the Plaintiffs' business and reputation….
1. Pursuant to the evidence presented, the Court finds that Defendants created a false impression of a group of negative reviewers about the Plaintiffs when in fact, there is no such group of negative reviewers-only the Defendants.
2. The Court finds that the act of falsifying multiple identities is the conduct to be enjoined.
3. Based on the above-referenced conduct of creating a false impression of a multitude of negative reviews, this Court finds there is a likelihood of irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs….
5. Based upon the factual findings and evidence presented by the Parties, the Court finds that there is a there is a likelihood of irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs and a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, not because the statements are false or true, but because the conduct of making up names of person[s] who do not exist to post fake comments by fake people to support Defendants' position tortiously interferes with Plaintiffs' business….
Defendants shall, at their own expense, remove or cause to be removed all postings creating the false impression that more person are commenting on the program the actually exist. Posting under false names as persons who participated in the program, or are connected to the program or are patients who in fact did not exist is the conduct which is enjoined….
[T]he comments of Kathy Davis or Brian Davis which do not create a false impression of fake patients or fake employees or fake persons connected to program (those posted under their respective names) are protected by [the federal and state constitutions].
Kathy Davis had admitted in discovery to using four separate names in her posts, Cheyanna, Kayla, Kathy D., and William P. (plus an email address); one post, for instance, written under the name Kathy D., began with "I agree totally with William P's review." Very interesting result, and creative lawyering by Alan Feldman and Alex Tirado-Luciano of Lydecker | Diaz.