Litigation Arising from Allegedly Unfair Use of Social Media to Disseminate Information Regarding an
Global growth in the litigation industry seems assured by increasing use of “social media” to publish information regarding participants in a particular industry, and the broad spread of the information. Thus, litigation may arise when disseminated information is allegedly misleading or false. Claims also may arise when information is being disseminated by a source that is crafted to appear independent, but in fact is sponsored or controlled by another industry participant.
This AmLaw article by Charlie Mead provides a concise example of both types of claims. The story sets out the basic facts alleged in this recent complaint which initiated litigation between participants in the cranberry industry. The opening paragraphs of the complaint illustrate the issues, and are pasted below:
"SUMMARY OF CLAIMS
1. This complaint is based upon an unlawful and malicious campaign orchestrated
by Decas Cranberry, the John Doe Handlers and the John Doe Growers against Ocean Spray.
This campaign falsely accuses Ocean Spray of harming the cranberry industry that Ocean Spray has been an integral part of for more than 80 years. The campaign is designed to damage Ocean Spray’s reputation, to frustrate Ocean Spray’s relationships with its customers, and to undermine Ocean Spray’s dealings with its grower-owners and with other cranberry growers across the industry.
2. Decas Cranberry launched this campaign against Ocean Spray, its direct
competitor, in or about 2009, and has used a variety of tactics and media for its campaign,
including widely distributed letters and emails, internet blogs and websites, Facebook accounts, YouTube videos and Twitter postings.
3. Recently, as part of this campaign, Decas Cranberry, the John Doe Handlers and
the John Doe Growers have solicited cranberry growers (including Ocean Spray’s growerowners) not to work with Ocean Spray, and to join a lawsuit against Ocean Spray by falsely claiming that Ocean Spray is violating the law, including the federal antitrust laws. This conduct violates the Agricultural Fair Practices Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2301 et seq., which is designed to protect growers from precisely this type of conduct.
4. Decas Cranberry also recently attacked Ocean Spray in a marketing campaign
called Scamberry.org that Decas Cranberry misleadingly suggested emanated from an
independent consumer advocacy group, instead of from Decas Cranberry itself.
5. Each false and deceptive act of the campaign has been designed for the same
purpose, to smear Ocean Spray and to harm its relationships with growers, customers, and
consumers, all with the hope of increasing Decas Cranberry’s profits at Ocean Spray’s expense. These activities therefore also violate the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), and the
Massachusetts Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A."