Ripoff Report ignores restraining order
Those wanting to have a derogatory or defamatory post removed from the Ripoff Report website may find not even the courts can help.
A Texas couple has filed a lawsuit against Ripoff Report and its owner Ed Magedson alleging Magedson failed to remove negative postings from his website. Danny and Kristin Cobb brought the action late last year.
According to court documents, the defendants have been notified of a lawsuit pending in Harris County, Texas, which included a restraining order specifically stating that Michael Hourihan is restraining from posting anything negative about plaintiffs, having been provided a copy of the restraining order. Defendants were properly notified to remove the negative posting, but have refused to do the same and after being notified have allowed subsequent negative posts by Hourihan. The case is ongoing with defendant, who has been served via posting on his known address. He has not responded to the lawsuit.
The Decision states:
Ez Exit Now, et. al. v. Michael Hourihan,
125th District Court, Harris County, Texas.
The application of Plaintiffs, EZ EXIT NOW, LLC., DANNY L. COBB AND KRISTIN J. COBB, for Emergency Exparte Temporary Injunction and Restraining Order was presented to the Court on this 29th day of September, 2017. Defendant is MICHAEL HOURIHAN. The Court examined the pleadings and affidavits of Plaintiffs EZ EXIT NOW, LLC., DANNY L. COBB AND KRISTIN J. COBB, and finds that Plaintiffs are entitled to a Temporary Injunction and Restraining Order forbidding the Defendant from entering onto the business property of the Plaintiffs and from posting negative or derogartory information on the internet whatsoever, as the facts set forth in the Plaintiff’s Original Petition and Injunction. The Court having read the pleadings along with the exhibits and sworn affidavit attached thereto, found that there was cause to issue a restraining order on September 29, 2017 and extended the restraining order on October 13, 2017.
JUST WHAT IS RIPOFF REPORT
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Ripoff Report, owned by Tempe, Arizona-based Xcentric Ventures LLC, has been online since 1998 and bills itself as a consumer champion under the tagline “Don’t let them get away with it!® Let the truth be known!™” It’s also a powerhouse in court: The website has built an extraordinary record of wins in defending online free speech under Section 230, a key provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
“A dozen years ago, if you were to ask me, who’s going to be the best spokesperson for Section 230, I would have said Google or Yahoo or EBay,” said Eric Goldman, a Section 230 expert who helps direct the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. “It turns out, instead, that Ripoff Report has done all the hard work for the rest of the community.”
Once a complaint is posted, true or false, it’s up for good: Ripoff has a policy of never removing reports entirely. And that policy drives Ripoff’s fee-based services for businesses desperate to fix the damage done by having “Ripoff Report” associated with their name. Ripoff calls this its “Corporate Advocacy Business Remediation & Customer Satisfaction Program.”
Bloomberg explains, “After signing up, companies submit to an on-site inspection, fill out a questionnaire, and pledge to “make things right” with customers, according to the website. Ripoff uses the information to create a positive review; crucially, reassuring language replaces negative headlines in search results, and any new complaint gets put on hold, giving the business a chance to resolve it first. (While Ripoff doesn’t post its rates, founder and editor Ed Magedson sent one potential customer the following in 2013: a base fee of $7,500 plus $600 per report up to 20 reports, plus a minimum of three years of monitoring at a minimum of $100 a month, or $3,600.)
For those with just one or two reports, Ripoff suggests its arbitration option, starting at $2,000. The website says it will hire an independent arbitrator to weigh evidence of factual inaccuracies, and will redact details found to be untrue. There’s even an option for companies that have never experienced a Ripoff complaint to get “verified,” ensuring that they will have a chance to resolve any gripes before anyone can post about them.”
Sometimes it’s possible to determine the author of an inflammatory post. Ripoff Report will provide information in response to a subpoena issued out of an Arizona court, and if a plaintiff gets a finding of defamation, the website will consider redacting information—but it doesn’t always do so. It also won’t act on default judgments, which courts issue when a defendant hasn’t shown up to defend himself.
RIPOFF REPORT STRIKES BACK
In 2011, after Los Angeles lawyer Lisa Borodkin represented plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Ripoff Report,which Borodin lost. Ripoff Report in turn sued her and the clients for malicious litigation. Though Ripoff lost that case, its appeal dragged on for four years. A federal appeals court eventually affirmed that Borodkin’s clients had probable cause to sue for extortion and racketeering. The clients urged the court, successfully, to publish the decision: “Xcentric has been successful in shaping an appearance of unanimous victory in the courts and twisting the law to their own ends,” the plaintiffs wrote. “Ambushing the courts and the victims with voluminous filings is one tactic. Suing the victims’ lawyers for baseless claims is another. Criminals use these tactics to send a message: ‘Don’t come forward.’
To date, there has been no recourse in the failure to obey the order submitted in the Ez Exit Now case.