Yelp is encouraging its users around the country, but particularly in Nevada, to let members of the Nevada State Assembly and Governor Brian Sandoval's office know that they oppose a bill sponsored by casino Mogul Steve Wynn, which the company says would roll back the state's anti-SLAPP law.
If you're unfamiliar with the term SLAPP, it stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and refers to sits that are intended to censor or intimidate critics with legal fees. These are suits that plaintiffs don't typically expect to win, but are intended to favor them by wearing down the defendant. Read this for a more in-depth explanation.
Such lawsuits are bad for Yelp because they silence users and make them afraid to leave honest reviews. Yelp has spoken out about SLAPP suits many times in the past, and lobbies for legislation to prevent them.
"On March 3, 2015, Steve Wynn lost a defamation lawsuit in California based off of an anti-SLAPP motion. Who is Steve Wynn and why the heck should I care, you ask? Well, he’s got money and isn’t afraid to sue his critics," explains Yelp's Laurent Crenshaw. "Less than three weeks after Wynn lost the defamation lawsuit, the State Senate, with Wynn’s support, introduced bill SB 444 gutting the new and robust anti-SLAPP law in Nevada, Wynn’s home state."
Nevada's current law, NRS 41.660, states a defendant must file a motion to dismiss the case within 60 days after service; the plaintiff must provide complete evidence the state they made was true; the court must rule within seven judicial days; and "the court shall award reasonable costs and attorney's fees to the person against whom the action was brought."
Senate Bill 444, sponsored by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and casino mogul Steve Wynn, changes those rules in significant ways. First, it changes the filing day of motions to dismiss from 60 to 20 days; plaintiffs must "establish prima facie evident of each and every element of the claim, except such elements that require proof of the subjective intent or knowledge of the defendant" ; and repeals the current law's guidelines regarding who should bear the financial burden of the trial.
"It’s understandable that Wynn may not like Nevada’s robust anti-SLAPP laws since he recently lost under a similar statute in California, but it would be a tragedy if the state of Nevada allowed the interests of one man to gut a law that is meant to protect the freedom of speech for all Nevadans," says Crenshaw. "Nevadans deserve to be able to share their experiences and opinions, positive or negative, without having to worry about people like Steve Wynn intimidating or censoring their speech."
Here's a look at the defamation suit Wynn lost in California.
Image via Yelp (Flickr)