HOWTO punish bloggers, a tutorial for businesses from Forbes

Won't someone please think of the corporations? The teaser copy for Daniel Lyons' hyper-inflammatory, breathlessly trollbaitin' Forbes cover story "Attack of the Blogs" reads:

They destroy brands and wreck lives. Is there any way to fight back?

This piece of trash begins:

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.

It's a global blogspiracy! Further on:

Some companies now use blogs as a weapon, unleashing swarms of critics on their rivals. "I'd say 50% to 60% of attacks are sponsored by competitors," says Bruce Fischman, a lawyer in Miami for targets of online abuse.

50-60%? That estimate is based on what factual data? None provided here. Here's another possibility: maybe most of your critics on blogs are your customers, and they think your product sucks.

A sidebar offers revenge tips for businesses "done wrong" by bloggers:

BUILD A BLOG SWARM. Reach out to key bloggers and get them on your side. Lavish them with attention. Or cash.Earlier this year Marqui, a tiny Portland, Ore. software shop, began paying 21 bloggers $800 per month to post items about Marqui, while requiring them to disclose the payments. Marqui's listings soared on Google from 2,000 to 250,000 results. Never mind that one blogger took the money and bashed a Marqui marketing strategy anyway.

BASH BACK. If you get attacked, dig up dirt on your assailant and feed it to sympathetic bloggers. Discredit him.

ATTACK THE HOST. Find some copyrighted text that a blogger has lifted from your Web site and threaten to sue his Internet service provider under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That may prompt the ISP to shut him down.

Oooh, copyrighted text! Like the excerpts I've pasted here… that's fair use.

Or threaten to drag the host into a defamation suit against the blogger. The host isn't liable but may skip the hassle and cut off the blogger's access anyway. Also:Subpoena the host company, demanding the blogger's name or Internet address.

SUE THE BLOGGER. If all else fails, you can sue your attacker for defamation, at the risk of getting mocked. You will have to chase him for years to collect damages. Settle for a court order forcing him to take down his material.

Why they omitted "gouge their eyes out with forks," "clamp electrodes to testicles," or "ship them to Gitmo by the crateload," I don't know. C'mon, take the gloves off, you pussies!

Link, you'll need to register or use bugmenot.

Dan Gillmor has posted an analysis of the many flaws in Mr. Lyons' article here.

Reader comment: Justin J. Clark says,

Both your article on Boing Boing and Dan Gilmore's article on Bayosphere argue against the suggestion to "(f)ind some copyrighted text that a blogger has lifted from your Web site and threaten to sue his Internet service provider under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act." You both cry out, "Fair Use!" as if it matters. Need I remind you that under the DMCA, the mere threat or claim of copyright infringement is enough to have a site taken down by an ISP. The DMCA requires an ISP to immediately respond to any and all copyright infringement claims or be held liable for the infringement themselves. However, since there is no punishment for responding incorrectly, the standard policy has quickly evolved into one of taking down any page or site that receives any complaint without regard to fair use or any other legal defense. Thus, making a copyright infringement claim against a blogger's ISP is an immediately satisfying punishment.

I know this point has been made time and time again since the DMCA was enacted, but it bears repeating time and time again until this travesty of law is overturned or corrected.

Reader comment: Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Jason M. Schultz says,

While I couldn't agree more with Justin J. Clark that the DMCA needs to be corrected to provide a better balance in online copyright enforcement, I wanted to point out that there is, in fact, a punishment for sending misleading and abusive DMCA take-down notices. Under Title 17, Section 512(f), a poster of non-infringing/fair use material or her ISP can sue anyone for knowingly misrepresenting claims in a DMCA take-down notice. This is exactly the provision we used in the OPG v.
case to go after Diebold for attempting the squelch the free speech activities of voting rights advocates who tried to publicize the flaws in Diebold's electronic voting machines. As a result, Diebold ended up being penalized to the tune of $125,000. So while the DMCA can be abused, we should keep in mind that there are ways to fight back. People should feel free to contact us at EFF for more information or if someone has misused the DMCA against them in such a manner.

Doc Searls' take is up — Link to The Blogosmear. One pull-quote:

Thus sensationalism, which attracts readers and sells magazines, wins a small victory over publisher Steve Forbes' own free-market politics.


Meanwhile, I'd like to ask Dan [Lyons, the author of the Forbes story] – and others who damn all bloggers for the sins of the few – how they'd like to read a report that calls supermarket tabloids "the newspapers" or hate sheets "the magazines." Because that's what happened to bloggers in this piece.