Add me to that list. Last year I wrote about a dubious email I received from a Matthew T. Keener of CMO Summits. You can read the blog post in full here – Marketing Directors Targeted in Scam|Spam. I wrote about how when I tried to learn more about this potential professional development opportunity I hit one road block after another which made me curious about this organization. In the end, I wrote that others had branded this a scam, the IP addresses and emails were marked as spam and though they may be legitimate businesses, their practices made them appear to be scams.
Last week I received this email.
From: Michael Price
Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2013 2:58 AM
Cc: MY BOSS
Subject: Talia, immediate request.
Talia, I am one of the principals at BizSummits and just became aware of your libelous blog about us and our CMO Summit which you refer to as a “scam” and “scammers”. We are certainly not, I am shocked by what you wrote, and I would ask that you immediately take down that libelous post in its entirety or we will have no choice but to take legal action against you personally and YOUR WORKPLACE in the Superior Court of Denver.
We have many members, monthly speakers, and if you need any proof of some nature you are welcome to pick out any speaker(s) at the cmo-summit.org and Kristin on our staff (firstname.lastname@example.org) would be glad to send you the meeting recordings which we obviously could not do if the organization were a scam as you have written. I would also suggest you not refer to the cmosummit.org in any future libelous posts. While we are not related to the CMO Council which owns that site, I assure you they are a wonderful organization with thousands of members worldwide and would also protect their reputation.
Talia, I am truly shocked at what you wrote and when you wrote it which appears to be on company time with YOUR WORKPLACE. Shameful.
Tel. 770-998-9999 x.9
I was shocked at his tone and the way he tried to bully me by copying the CEO of my organization. He makes some pretty harsh claims here. My husband and I decided to take some time to think about this threat and consult some lawyer friends. That combined with the Jewish holiday Shavuot kept me from replying right away… After the chag (holiday) I opened my email to find another threat from Michael Price.
Talia/BOSS, it has been almost a week and I have received no response to your libelous pages which are still online. If this continues we will have no choice but to take legal action for the defamation done by one of your staff during business hours below.
Wow. He makes some interesting claims. Libeling me to the head of my company and potentially causing some serious harm to my reputation… things he accused me of. I have responded to him now, letting him know that I will not be bullied and any correspondence would be published here. So bloggers beware. If you mention this guy, he may come after you. I see several dead links from people who took blogs down but several other bloggers who refused to kowtow to his threats. This is my response to him.
A week ago you wrote to threaten me, and my employer, with a lawsuit. In another email Wednesday, you wrote to express surprise that you haven’t heard back yet. Since I don’t often need to defend against baseless accusations and legal threats, it would seem natural that I needed some time to formulate an appropriate response. I think I understand your eagerness much better now; you are much more experienced than I in discussing frivolous legal claims. You have a rather dubious history of threatening others with lawsuits: here, here, and here. Since you weren’t successful at removing their postings, what makes you think it will work this time? As it is your tactic to shame (your word) others, I will share, publicly, my responses to your allegations and review some of your business practices. I will share the facts only, which have earned you an F rating with the Better Business Bureau (link). Shameful Michael, just shameful.
To begin with, my blog posting contains no libelous or defamatory statements. I wrote about my experiences with your company through the email I was sent and about your publicly known business practices. My blog posting was comprised of the facts only. It is not my fault that they make BizSummits look bad. The posting takes the reader through my experiences trying to research your organization. You see Michael, when I first received your email I was genuinely interested in participating in one of your events. My experience trying to contact anyone with your organization was fruitless. I searched for your website and included screen shots of the results. They weren’t impressive, I will admit. Having hit a cul-de-sac trying to learn literally anything about your organization, I posted widely available information including the IP addresses and the email address from which I received the invitation. It is all known spam (link and link). These are the facts; it is my opinion that they paint your organization in a poor light. This is not libel; it is the publicly known truth.
I closed my blog post by linking to others who came to the conclusion that your “summits” were not in fact reliable nor were our email addresses acquired in a reasonable and legal manner according to the CAN-SPAM act (violation of Sec. 6(b)(1)(A)(i)as you did not have prior affirmative consent and it appears that my email address was harvested by automated means). Finally, I placed a large disclaimer in “H2” font stating that these are my personal opinions posted. It says –
PLEASE NOTE: I am presenting information here. Information that I feel is pertinent to my fellow marketers. Some of these may be legit businesses but there are practices that I feel are spammy or scammy and make them suspect to me. These are my own opinions.
I never said that it was a fact that your organization is a scam; I said your organization seems like a scam. Get the difference? As I told you before, I contacted your employee, Matt T. Keener, letting him know that your links didn’t work and that I was interested in more information. I received no response and your links sent me to dead ends. Naturally I was curious and did a simple Google search. What I found about BizSummits and about you, Michael, was your dubious history dealing with other bloggers. More on that in a moment.
In reference to the comments posted to the blog, Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230) states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” The federal law preempts any state laws to the contrary: “[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.” Therefore, I cannot be held liable for these comments as I cannot be treated as a publisher.
So now we have established that there are no defamatory or libelous statements in my blog posting. Excellent. However, I do not think the same can be said about your email to my boss. You, Michael, have in fact libeled me.
There is a burden in cases of defamation to provide four claims to a court:
- First, the plaintiff must show that the DEFENDANT communicated a defamatory statement.
You falsely claimed I wrote defamatory statements during company time.
- Second, the plaintiff must show that the statement was published or communicated to at least one other person besides the plaintiff.
This was communicated to not only me, but to my CEO, MY BOSS.
- Third, the plaintiff must show that the communication was about the plaintiff and that another party receiving the communication could identify the plaintiff as the subject of the defamatory message.
You clearly state my name twice in the email and once in the subject line including in the statement in question.
- Fourth, the plaintiff must show that the communication injured the plaintiff’s reputation.
This has injured my reputation at my job by telling my CEO that I was using work time for personal projects and to spread libelous claims.
Now that we’ve explored my legal basis for a libel suit against you, let’s talk about your false claim that I wrote my blog during work time. This is especially amusing coming from you, since you made it literally impossible to avoid talking about work. After all, BizSummits sent me what seems like spam to my work email account. Why is this confusing Michael? Your claim is as poorly thought out as it is wrong.
A reasonable person would think you would be better at intimidating bloggers by now. You’ve had three years, as far as I can tell, to hone the skill. The earliest example I found was from 2010, but the tactics haven’t aged a year. What I find “shameful” is the bullying and intimidation of bloggers who don’t agree with your questionable practices. I applaud the others for not bending to your threats and I will not be taking my posting down either. Rather, you should be aware that all previous and future contacts or actions on your part will be shared with the public.
Talia Davis Haykin
Where you see capitals (MY BOSS, MY WORKPLACE), I have removed information to protect my boss and my workplace. So readers… what would you do?