"The freedom to speak one's mind is not only an aspect of individual liberty - and thus a good unto itself - but also is essential to the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole."

Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union, 466 U.S. 485, 503-04 (1984)

Ed Responds To Critics

Critics of Ed Magedson and the Ripoff Report® don’t hold back much.  Here are some actual quotes from a few of Ed’s anonymous critics:

Ed Magedson is a wanted CRIMINAL

The Ripoff Report is involved in RACKETEERING

The Corporate Advocacy Program is EXTORTION

These are harsh words.   If true, these would be very serious allegations.

Sadly, these statements are NOT true.  They are lies that the REAL crooks spread in an effort to discredit the Ripoff Report.   Think about it – if you repeat a lie often enough, some people may start to believe it no matter how groundless it might be.  That’s what Ed’s critics are counting on.

Let’s cut through the nonsense and give you some facts instead of the lies Ed’s critics love to use.  If you hear Ed’s side of the story and still want to criticize him, that’s your prerogative.

The bottom line is this – most people who are upset with Ed Magedson feel that way because they think Ed is legally (or morally) responsible for the accuracy of complaints posted on the Ripoff Report.  A lot of people who have had allegedly false complaints posted about them or their business feel a need to blame Ed for not “investigating” the report first, or for not removing it when asked.

Anyone who has spent even five minutes researching Ripoff Report’s legal background knows the standard response – despite many lawsuits against it, Ripoff Report has never lost a case.  It has never lost because courts have consistently determined that Ed and the Ripoff Report are not legally responsible for the accuracy of statements posted by users of the site.  Sorry, but that’s the law.

Okay, but just because a court ruled one way in the past doesn’t mean that a different court can’t reach a different conclusion in the future, right?  Laws can always be changed to address new media and new situations.  Has the time come to consider changing the law to make Ripoff Report responsible for everything that’s posted on the site?

As you might expect, Ed’s answer is pretty simple – no, of course the law shouldn’t be changed.  But do you know WHY Ed feels that way?  Have you ever stopped to consider what would happen if the law was changed?

Consider this – anyone who has seen the movie “The Social Network” knows the story of Facebook – the site was founded by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg who became the youngest billionaire in history as his site grew to more than 500 million users.   Not everyone uses Facebook on a daily basis, but most people who try the site realize what a useful tool it can be for sharing ideas, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

Of course, with 500 million users, Facebook cannot and does not screen every posting on the site for accuracy.  In fact, anyone can anonymously create a free Facebook account in a matter of minutes and using that account they can say anything they want, 24 hours a day, visible to anyone with a computer anywhere on Earth.

Does that mean Mark Zuckerberg (or Facebook staff) should be required to personally review and investigate every statement posted on Facebook by every one of its 500 million users?  How could Facebook even begin to do that, and what if you disagreed with Facebook’s conclusions?  What then?

Here’s the problem — if the law was changed to make website operators legally responsible for the speech of their users, the result would be this – Facebook would no longer exist as we know it.   Anyone who was offended by someone else’s post on Facebook could simply contact the site, say the post was false, and it would be immediately removed.  As a matter of simple economics, even a successful site like Facebook could never afford to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees defending lawsuits over material posted by users.   Rather than facing “death by 10,000 duck bites” fighting case after case, Facebook would have no choice but to remove material regardless of its truth or accuracy.

Just think how this would affect the amount and type of speech online.   Republicans could hire people to watch Democratic blogs and then submit cease-and-desist letters to the blog host demanding the removal of anything remotely questionable.  Because the host could face liability if it failed to remove something on request, the result would be rampant censorship of important ideas and opinions which people have a right to express.

This is what Ed’s critics don’t seem to realize – if you changed the law for Ripoff Report, you’d also be changing it for Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and even Google.  All of these sites have content provided by users, and a lot of that content would vanish if the website host could be held responsible for something created by a user.

If you have been falsely criticized in an online post, changing the law may seem like a no-brainer.  But do we really want to live in a world where free speech is no longer free?

Ed Magedson believes the First Amendment is more important than that.  So, when other sites run and hide, removing content rather than dealing with a lawsuit, Ed doesn’t hide.  He puts his money where his mouth is – spending millions of his own money defending the right of every American to speak freely.

Now that you’ve heard Ed’s side of the story, if you still want to criticize him, that’s your right.  Just don’t forget to thank Ed for fighting to protect the First Amendment rights we all enjoy!

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