In a discussion forum post today, the President of the Internet Merchants Association has threatened to bring suit against several blogs and websites reporting on the actions of the Board of Directors and himself while acting as head of the IMA.
Steve Grossberg President of the IMA is quoted from a direct text posted in the IMA discussion board as saying...
I appreciate your input here but most of what is posted to these sites is far from the truth to put it mildly. We will not be going after the professional type of media outlets like auctionbytes etc, but the aswas blogs, sportinggoodsusa, agenius etc. Our attorney today strongly advised that this was the #1 priority for us to accomplish and he stated this over and over that swift and decisive action is needed.
We will also have the zero tolerance policy on this going forward as you suggested but I am certain after soon people will understand that this stuff is a criminal offense
By "going after" we are to assume he means bring suit against... This is an outright threat meant to intimidate and coerce private citizens and members of the media from exercising their right to freedom of speech.
The Trading Assistant Journal has not been mentioned in this statement but we will stand by the other blogs mentioned in this epoch and give our journalistic brethren every ounce of support we can muster.
If our support is not enough, possibly the ACLU or the Society of Professional Journalists will come to their aid. The Society of Professional Journalists collects and distributes contributions for aiding journalists in defending the freedom of speech and press guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This is a national organization who has gone toe to toe with District Attorneys, Judges, State Departments, the FBI and the CIA since 1909. I really do not think the war chest at the IMA is large enough to give this organization pause.
It is not a criminal offence to post commentary about any non-profit organization or its board of directors. It is certainly not against any rule of law to share an experience as a member of such an organization with other members or the public at large and it is never illegal to state an opinion about anyone at any time unless that opinion has no basis in fact or is intended to damage the other person's reputation or livelihood. As Journalists we have the protection of the US Constitution, freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
Veiled threats were initiated days ago on this blog and others by commenters who were seeking the "real" names of people who simply posted opinions concerning this story as comments. These comments are also protected by freedom of speech and several other laws which also protect the owners of websites who allows these comments to be posted. By asking comment authors for real names, so they could be reported back to the organization, at that point the hand was essentially tipped.
Mr. Grossberg, I implore you to read my first Article ever about the IMA.
Take the article in the spirit it was intended. In it I asked, "What About The Members?".
Don't you think your energy and time could, should, would be better spent in trying to repair the reputation of the Internet Merchants Association and regaining the trust of the membership. Rather than start a new battle for which you do not have the legal means or financial wherewithal to possibly prevail?
I can tell you from our perspective this threat against the aforementioned blogs will not be a quieting influence. We will support the right to publish any sort of journalistic coverage of any event, as will many other blogs, websites and traditional news media outlets around the country if not the World. If you believe the IMA has experienced a "media frenzy" in the last few days, I dare say you will be astounded at the coverage which could be brought upon yourself and your organization if this open threat is carried out.
Please seek the advise and council of a media specialist, a social media expert and a 1st amendment attorney before proceeding any further. I would really hate to see the financial coffers of the IMA wasted on such battles. Think of your membership, is this attempt at retribution really worth the membership's money, potentially wasted without the input or consent of the members at large?