SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) are used by big companies to intimidate public protests against their proposals, usually involving environmental issues. It’s nice to stand up against a big company at a public meeting and shout “this company sucks”, but it’s possibly defamation. On the other hand, Joe Blow can’t stand against a big company’s $20 million law suit and backs down in the face of ruinous legal costs. The very fact that it has a name and acronym means that companies are quite prepared to use the threat to quell public dissent. Balancing the right of fair comment against the right of an organization to protect its good name is now an issue for the province of Ontario, which is setting up a panel to investigate it, and hopefully give some guidelines for community, advocates and business to have a full and fair debate on public issues.
Report on Business, July 7 2010