"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

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 (now more than 1+ billion).  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 over a billion 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 billion plus 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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This blog is about issues that are important to ME and that I want to share with my friends, colleagues and the public. If you want to comment on the issue at hand, please do. Please keep in mind that THIS IS NOT THE PLACE to bring up specific ripoffreport.com reports. If you have a specific issue please email [email protected].

7 Responses to Ed Responds To Critics

  1. Aaron says:

    You completely fail to address that in situations when even both the original poster AND the business owner both ask for a post to be removed, you refuse to do so without sending them through hurdles of links that get no where, or you attempt to charge the business owners, many of whom run small LLCs, exorbitant amounts of money on what should be an easy task on your part. Facebook, for instance, removes posts that are proven to be fraudulent or harmful for free. Perhaps consider that when you attempt to draw parallels between your site and theirs. And maybe consider your intentional extortion as reasonable grounds for criticism.

    Aaron,

    WOW — I’m sorry but you REALLY have no idea what you are talking about. We don’t “completely fail” to address this situation; it is discussed at length on our FAQ page.

    Furthermore, let me offer these additional comments. First of all, you make it sound like it’s easy to get Facebook to take down anything you want. No honest person would say this. Facebook is CONSTANTLY being criticized (and rightly so) for refusing to remove all sorts of horrible content including videos of mass shootings, suicides, self-harm, etc. Yes, it’s true that Facebook will sometimes take things down, but in our experience that’s extremely rare. If you don’t believe me, just pick a page on Facebook that you don’t like, and then ask Facebook to take it down.

    Also, keep in mind – Facebook does absolutely nothing to pre-screen content before it’s posted. Yes, they do have some algorithms that block some nudity, but beyond that, you can post absolutely anything on Facebook and it goes live immediately without any screening.

    Unlike Facebook, Ripoff Report employs a staff of people to pre-screen content. NO, our screeners do not fact-check reports (how could they?), but they do follow a set of written guidelines that requires them to block certain types of illegal content like child porn, bank account numbers, social security numbers, and so forth. Yes, I am sure that’s not good enough for you (nothing is), but the fact is that Ripoff Report DOES spend a lot of money trying to reduce the amount of illegal content on our site, while many larger sites like Facebook do little or nothing at all to pre-screen content.

    As for your suggestion that Ripoff Report should remove content just because “the original poster AND the business owner both ask for a post to be removed”, why would that make any sense? Based on more than 20 years of experience, I can tell you that in the vast majority of cases, what happens is this:

    — Author submits a completely true report explaining how they were ripped off;
    — Unscrupulous company threatens to sue the author for millions of dollars unless the report is removed;
    — Author cannot afford to spend money defending a frivolous lawsuit, so they ask us to remove their report solely to avoid the cost of a lawsuit, even though the report is 100% true.

    As we always explain — if an author wants to RETRACT their report for legitimate reasons, that’s 100% fine. They can simply update their report and explain that the issue has been resolved (or whatever the case may be). Can they remove their original report? NO, because even when a report is resolved (and even if the report originally contained mistakes), the public still has a right to know about it. This is why courts don’t remove/destroy their records when a claim is dismissed or a defendant is found not guilty. Ripoff Report’s policy is exactly the same as the one most courts use — you can always UPDATE the record to show how a case was resolved, but you don’t hide the docket completely.

    –ED

  2. Kevin says:

    I agree with the First Amendment argument that free speech (even fraudulent) is protected under the Constitution (within certain limitations in the most extreme instances) but in the interests of fairness and accuracy perhaps the site could reach out to the businesses which have been criticized in the reports and allow them to post a rebuttal following the consumer complaint. This would allow users to see both sides of the complaint and reach their own conclusions. Just my two cents!

    Kevin,

    Thanks for the comment and you raise a good point…BUT just one thing — Ripoff Report has already been doing this for 20+ years.

    Since Ripoff Report began in 1998 (technically, our previous site began in 1997), any company that has a report can ALWAYS post a 100% FREE response. We have never charged a penny for this. Believe me — we WANT people to hear both sides of the story!

    To be completely accurate, we do NOT currently reach out to companies and inform them that someone has left a complaint on our site that the company may wish to respond to. However, these days it’s really not necessary for us to provide that sort of notice. If you are a smart business owner and you want to monitor the Web for comments/complaints about your business, all you have to do is set up a “Google Alert” for your company’s name (if you’re not familiar with this, just go to: google.com/alerts). Google Alerts are free and when used correctly, Google will immediately email you anytime it finds new content about your company online.

    Thanks again for your comment,
    –ED

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