Ripoff Report & Ed Magedson: Karma In Iowa?
In 2015 Ripoff Report sued Iowa county attorney Ben Smith in a civil action in a desperate attempt to stop a criminal investigation into witness tampering, extortion and other crimes committed by Magedson and Darren Meade. The civil lawsuit stalled the criminal investigation but in April 2017 it was dismissed.
The court documents from the criminal investigation contain unequivocal evidence that Ed Magedson paid Darren Meade to post false and defamatory content about the State’s witnesses in an Iowa murder case on Ripoff Report and other websites.
This campaign of vengeance was not about freeing a wrongly accused murderer. Magedson simply wanted to ‘punish’ someone who stood up to him – Michael Roberts, the former husband of Richter. The full interviews for the Australian 60 Minutes segment can be viewed on this link but in this excerpt Ben Smith describes the torment inflicted by Ed Magedson and Darren Meade:
A prime example of Magedson’s untrammelled drive to hurt people is the case of his one time neighbour, John Unger. The background to this is a lawsuit against Pizza Hut in which Ed Magedson was involved. Magedson and Unger created posts on Ripoff Report about Pizza Hut. Magedson’s motivation was the 50% commission from a ‘shakedown’ of the business. Unger was harassed by Magedson to the point of applying for a restraining order. As it evident on this tape of Unger, he was still traumatised years later.
But Magedson’s penchant for causing pain and distress will be his undoing! He and Ripoff Report have been sued for USD$60,000,000 by the surgeon that he tormented and attempted to extort, Dr John Pitman. The trial is due to commence on 5 December 2017 in the US state of Virginia.
Ripoff Report: Perverting the First Amendment?
Ed Magedson and Ripoff Report have been represented for years by Maria Crimi-Speth, and Adam Kunz from the law firm Jaburg Wilk. While using the First Amendment to justify the Ripoff Report ‘business model’, they have have a history of using aggressive legal tactics that border on the unethical.
Ripoff Report sought a take down order in Arizona against my fellow Australian activist Michael Roberts over the 2013 Advertising Boycott (which I designed and implemented). Kunz says he was reduced to ‘begging’ advertisers to stay with Ripoff Report.
Although the Judge ruled that the advertising boycott was protected speech, Michael has had to default on the lawsuit due to financial and personal constraints caused by a serious family illness.
In early 2014, and after pressure from major clients, Google removed all of its advertising from Ripoff Report. However, unbeknownst to their clients, Google advertising was reinstated in April 2015. Communications from the advertising clients indicated that they were absolutely horrified that they corporations and companies were associated with such abusive content. I doubt whether the corporations on this list know their brand is posted on webpages containing extreme racist, homophobic and misogynistic content.
Ripoff Report Section 230 Immunity is Doomed
Recently the US Courts have began to recognise that the Ripoff Report ‘business model’ is an extortion racket that has leveraged its high Google page rank for commercial gain. In Vision Security v Xcentric Ventures (the ROR controlling company) the Judge stated:
Xcentric argues that drawing all inferences in favour of Vision Security, it must be found to have been a neutral publisher. The facts as alleged, however, support a contrary conclusion. Applying the Iqbal standard, the court must give weight to the following allegations: Xcentric maintains the “Ripoff Report” website with a tag line, “By Consumers, for consumers” and “Don’t let them get away with it. Let the truth be known.” Contrary to the stated tag line, the Ripoff Report allows competitors, not just consumers, to post comments. The Ripoff Report home page states: “Complaints Reviews Scams Lawsuits Frauds Reported, File your review. Consumers educating consumers.” These allegations allow a reasonable inference that the Ripoff Report encourages negative content.
The Judge further noted:
These specifically pleaded facts support a reasonable inference that Xcentric was not a neutral publisher. It had an interest in, and encouraged, negative content. It refused to remove the content, even when told by the author that it was false and he wanted it removed. What interest would a neutral publisher have in maintaining false and harmful content against the wishes of the author unless it advanced its own commercial interests? The alleged facts allow a reasonable inference that Xcentric refused to remove the offensive content to promote its own corporate advocacy program. Indeed, it is reasonable to infer that the very raison d’etre for the website was to commercialize on its ability to sell its program to counter the offensive content the Ripoff Report encouraged. See Accusearch, 570 F.3d at 1200.
Ripoff Report’s section 230 immunity is in serious danger. Although it relies on this law in the Pitman lawsuit, as noted by a US law professor, section 230 protects intermediaries from liability for the actions of others, not individuals from liability for their own illegal conduct.