Sept. 17, 2009
Blogger Who Criticized FreeScore.com Has Right to Remain Anonymous, Public Citizen Argues
Writing About the Company’s Bait-and-Switch Tactics Is Protected Under First Amendment
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Adaptive Marketing, a company that has drawn a bevy of consumer complaints and negative media coverage for its FreeScore.com services, should not be able use the courts to unmask an anonymous blogger in retaliation for articles that questioned the company’s bait-and-switch business tactics, Public Citizen said today in a motion filed !!! in superior court in Stamford, Conn.
The company, which uses TV personality and commentator Ben Stein to hawk its offer of “free credit scores” to consumers, has filed a motion with the court asking that Yahoo! be ordered to identify the blogger behind the “flaneur de fraude” blog. Yahoo! was the target of the discovery because “flaneur” has a Yahoo! email address. The blogger, along with media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, wrote about how Adaptive and its parent company Vertrue, Inc., mislead consumers through schemes such as offering “free” credit scores and then adding recurring charges to their monthly credit card bills for other services. Under federal law, consumers are entitled to obtain their entire credit reports free of charge from a government-mandated Web site, https://www.annualcreditreport.com/.
Although Adaptive says the blogger’s posts were defamatory, it has provided no evidence to back its claims or shown that the posts caused the company damage, said Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy, who is representing the blogger, along with local counsel Kathryn Emmett, of the law firm Emmett & Glander.
“The right to criticize anonymously on the Internet is a fundamental free speech right,” Levy said. “The attempt to identify the flaneur de fraude blogger is nothing short of intimidation and is a violation of the blogger’s First Amendment rights. Corporations with deep pockets should not be allowed to silence their critics with baseless claims.”
Public Citizen’s motion asks the court to deny Adaptive’s request for discovery.
READ the motion.