Short for strategic lawsuits against public participation, SLAPPs have become an all-too-common tool for intimidating and silencing criticism through expensive, baseless legal proceedings.
Anti-SLAPP laws are meant to provide a remedy to SLAPP suits. Anti-SLAPP laws are intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights. In terms of reporting, news organizations and individual journalists can use anti-SLAPP statutes to protect themselves from the financial threat of a groundless defamation case brought by a subject of an enterprise or investigative story.
Under most anti-SLAPP statutes, the person sued makes a motion to strike the case because it involves speech on a matter of public concern. The plaintiff then has the burden of showing a probability that they will prevail in the suit — meaning they must show that they have evidence that could result in a favorable verdict. If the plaintiff cannot meet this burden and the suit is dismissed through anti-SLAPP proceedings, many statutes allow defendants to collect attorney’s fees from the plaintiff. —The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
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