CEA, Yelp, Zenefits and R Street Institute Brief Congressional Staff on Negative Impacts of SLAPPs

ARLINGTON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On Monday, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® along with CEA
members Yelp, Zenefits, and R Street Institute briefed Congressional
staff, businesses and advocacy organizations on the chilling impacts of
lawsuits filed to censor or intimidate critics, called strategic
lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).

Panelists shared how SLAPPs were used to stifle free speech in many
areas including online reviews and business negotiations. In the case of
online review sites – from the 75 million user reviews on TripAdvisor to
the 57 million local reviews on Yelp and a myriad of other sites –
honest user-generated reviews help consumers make informed decisions
about where to spend their time and money. In states without anti-SLAPP
statutes, these users can face prolonged lawsuits simply for expressing
their opinion. The panel discussed the need for a federal anti-SLAPP
statute, such as the SPEAK FREE Act proposed by Representatives Blake
Farenthold (R-TX) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

“Seventy percent of people online use a review site before making a
purchasing decision,” said Laurent Crenshaw, director of policy, Yelp.
“These platforms allow users to make better purchasing decisions and
make businesses more responsive to consumers. For this virtuous cycle to
continue, we can’t have chilled speech.”

While 28 states have laws designed to protect consumers from legal
intimidation, millions of American consumers remain unprotected and
federal legislation is needed.

“We live in an age where public comment forums are getting a lot of
feedback,” said Mike Godwin, innovation policy director and general
counsel, R Street Institute. “How do we keep those channels open? States
are the laboratories of democracy and 28 states have already put in
place protection from SLAPPs.”

“If we didn’t have the CA legislation in place, it could have tied us
for years,” said Chris Massey, vice president of public policy,
Zenefits. His company recently fought and defeated a frivolous lawsuit
in California thanks in part to the state’s strong anti-SLAPP statute.
“It would have tied-up our ability to grow our company. We support
federal legislation because you never know when this is going to happen
– whether you’re an individual or a business.”

“We thank Representatives Farenthold, Eshoo, and others for advancing
federal anti-SLAPP legislation,” said Michael Hayes, manager of
government relations, CEA. “Whether you express your opinion online or
offline, you shouldn’t have to worry about the threat, and cost, of a
SLAPP. We need a federal fix to ensure that these bogus lawsuits no
longer undermine Americans’ free speech.”

About CEA:

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the technology trade
association representing the $285 billion U.S. consumer electronics
industry. More than 2,000 companies enjoy the benefits of CEA
membership, including legislative and regulatory advocacy, market
research, technical training and education, industry promotion,
standards development and the fostering of business and strategic
relationships. CEA also owns and produces CES – The Global Stage for
Innovation. All profits from CES are reinvested into CEA’s industry
services. Find CEA online at CE.org,
and on social.


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