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Court says it's ok to call a lousy company a lousy company

That’s the gist of today’s court victory for “Stillworldly,” an anonymous poster on Yahoo! Finance message boards. Public Citizen and the Electronic Frontier Foundation attorneys represented the anonymous poster.

The company in question is IA Global, which operates telemarketing operations overseas in addition to other activities (it touts itself as “a growing Business Process Outsourcing (“BPO”) and Financial Services corporation” on its Web site — yuck).

IA Global’s stock performance hasn’t exactly been stellar. In mid-2000, it’s stock was about $5 a share; since then, it’s tanked to around $0.05 a share.

Stillworldly observed this lousy performance on a public forum, and IA Global seemed to think this was grounds for a defamation suit.

But the band of merry outsourcers dropped the defamation lawsuit filed against the anonymous posters after Public Citizen and EFF’ showed how wrong they were.

In the settlement brought on by IA Global, the company agreed to pay the filing and attorney’s fees and posted on Yahoo!’s message board that it would respect posters’ First Amendment rights.

Stillworldly posted an apology too, asserting that he or she did not intend to insinuate that IA Globall’s CEO had broken any securities laws. In his posting he, wrote this well-said bit:

Anyway, free speech is a precious gift. It protects all of us when those with more money to pay lawyers than we have, try to intimidate us for speech they just don’t like.

But remember, the response to free speech you don’t like isn’t a lawsuit. It’s more free speech. Speak out against what you don’t like, and point out what you think a bad poster is saying wrong. Don’t try to intimidate people with threats and lawsuits – it’s not what our country is about, and there are strong laws to protect us little people.

Corporations may try to bully the public into silence to protect their bottom lines, but they can’t take away the public’s right to free speech (or at least not as long as they’ve got watchdogs like us to deal with).