Gripe Sites - Public Citizen Representation

Public Citizen "Gripe Site" Representation

A "gripe site" is a web site established to criticize an institution such as a corporation, union, government body, or political figure. Not surprisingly, powerful institutions often do not take kindly to being criticized, and they have invented a variety of ways to try to suppress the speech of their adversaries.

Public Citizen has been in the forefront of the legal defense of the First Amendment right to maintain a gripe site, defending against claims that challenge the domain names of gripe sites, the use of meta tags or other devices to call the public's attention to the sites, and baseless claims of libel or other torts that are invoked as a basis for shutting down critics.

Briefs and other materials on these cases available here.

Public Citizen has advocated the free speech rights of the operators of the following "gripe sites":

  • Web site about telephone numbers used for marketing purposes contains several pages of postings about the firm Vision Media which allegedly offers to include non-profit organizations in a series for "public television," as a come-on for selling video production services

  • Alitalia "repeatedly fails to resolve lost baggage claim as promised"

  • Kentucky governor barred state employees from viewing a Kentucky political blog after it criticized him; after governor was defeated, the state gave up its case, but the blog no longer exists

  • Sites report on findings by law enforcement investigators and others about a notorious chain of "hair restoration" clinics.
  • The case was eventually settled with one of the two domain names being released to the target of the criticism

  • Seller of print-on-demand Tshirts and other goods faced trademark claim from the Republican National Committee over the use of the GOP elephant design in pro-Republican and anti-Republican political gear

  • Consumer Alert * Beware of Circuit City's Ads!
  • This website was taken down pursuant to a settlement.

  • Journalist’s site about Charlottesville events got a subpoena to identify posters who commented about a defamation suit filed by Thomas Lightfoot Garrett

  • Web site arguing that "Dozier Internet Law Sucks"

  • Ben Stein steals your money: a discussion of Adaptive Marketing’s misleading commercials promising free credit scores

  • Web site providing a patient’s perspective on her experiences with Dr. Richard Kaplan & Dr. Leonard Tolley and the inadequate response of the Florida Dental Board to her complaints

  • Subpoena from Judy Gatelli, President of the Scranton City Council, sought to identify more than 100 constituents who vilified her on a message board attached to this web site

  • Artist faced trademark claims from Volkswagen over drawings that made a visual pun by incorporated many different kinds of insects into a drawing in the shape of a VW Bug

  • Artist faced trademark claims from Volkswagen over drawings that made a visual pun by incorporated many different kinds of insects into a drawing in the shape of a VW Bug

  • A web site criticizing the views of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell about gays and lesbians

  • Public Affairs in the Borough of Emerson, New Jersey 

  • Protest site against the Hamilton County Republican Party 

  • Our amicus brief defended this forum host against the contention that it could be enjoined from including an allegedly defamatory posting about the president of Mortgage Specialists, and against a subpoena to identify the anonymous poster who did not receive notice of the subpoena 

  • Pages on this web site carried postings about infomercial purveyors criticized Video Professor, Lifestyle Lift, and other products. After Public Citizen defended the sites owner against several lawsuits seeking to hold him responsible for anonymous postings, and seeking to identify successful several anonymous posters, the owner of the site sold the site. The new owners apparently misused the site to try to get criticized companies to pay to have the criticisms removed; the new owners settled a lawsuit by Video Professor by, among other things, shutting down the site.

  • Anonymous blogs discussing allegations of sexual impropriety by Rabbi Mordechai Tendler faced subpoenas to identify their authors

  • Web site recounts the bad experiences of a Lasik patient with surgery performed at Nevyas Eye Associates

  • Web site discussing the Memphis Police Department and Police Chief Larry Godwin

  • Web site about the theft of art work. Public Citizen filed amicus briefs about the effort of a person criticized on a discussion list to hold the blogger and list-host responsible for the content of the critical email


  • "United Underground Railroad's Message Board," a web site devoted to BNSF Railway and its unions

  • Web site created by Uzi Nissan of Nissan Computer to depict Nissan Motor’s attempt to take away his right to use his own name for his business and for a site about Nissan’s lawsuit against him. Public Citizen filed amicus briefs.

  • Web site about autism and related diagnoses; owner received a vastly overbroad subpoena from one of th targets of the blogger’s criticism

  • A web site addressing issues of interest to the Orthodox Jewish community, expecially in the Five Towns area of Long Island, New York, which criticized Lawrence School Board member Pamela Greenbaum for one of her votes

  • Local blogger faced DMCA takedown notice from Fox News

  • Blog about New York politics received a grand jury subpoena from the Bronk District Attorney seeking to identify bloggers who criticized Bronx Republican officials and their too-cozy arrangements with local Democratic party leaders including the DA himself

  • Consumer Warning Page About Ricart Automotive (Note that this site was moved temporarily to under a settlement agreement.)

  • Web site about the rantings of Talk Radio Network’s Michael Savage. Plaintiff dropped his lawsuit against Public Citizen’s clients, who eventually dropped the site

  • Patient whose medical claims were rejected at the behest of the Sedgwick Claims Management Service speaks out

  • Web site that allowed users to combine tax maps obtained under the West Virginia FOIA with other data faced a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent use of these public records

  • Web operator posts sites to protest wasteful and frivolous lawsuit

  • Discussion of the career of Tiananmen Square student leader Chai Ling and Jenzabar, the software company that she founded, after the events portrayed in the documentary "The gate of Heavenly Peace" that is the main focus of the Tquare web site

  • Northwest Airlines Flight Attendant Web Site

  • RNN Sucks! (This site has been taken down pursuant to a settlement agreement.)

  • Raintree Homes Parody Site

  • Terminix — Consumer Alert

  • Wal-Mart Parody Site

  • Web site about telephone numbers used for marketing purposes contains some postings about the firm Mistral Telecom, which allegedly offers "free upgrades" for mobile phones

  • Site devoted to released leaked documents about corporate and government wrongdoing

  • "A performance art work that promotes critical analyses of the nature of art, knowledge and Wikipedia"