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Jan. 28 - Boca Raton Media Company Tries to Muffle Free Speech, Goes After Public Citizen Attorney

Vision Media Attacks Online Message Board Provider, Then Its Lawyer

A media company trying to stifle its online critics is now going one step further - it is trying to muzzle a Public Citizen attorney involved in the case.

Vision Media is a Boca Raton, Fla.,-based company that makes TV spots for nonprofit groups and gets new business by cold-calling prospective customers. Not only is it going after 800notes.com, an Internet message board that allows consumers to critique telemarketers, for allegedly defamatory comments posted about Vision Media, but it is now pursuing Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy, one of the lawyers representing Web site operator Julia Forte. Local counsel Judith M. Mercier of Holland & Knight in Orlando is also representing 800notes.com.

In its request for a gag order, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Vision Media said that Levy "seeks to embarrass, defame and disparage the plaintiffs through trying their case through the Internet media outlet and without affording the plaintiffs with an opportunity to address substantive arguments."

A gag order is impermissible prior restraint, Levy said. Plus, it flies in the face of basic First Amendment principles.

"Vision Media continues to ignore the principle of Internet free speech as it again tries to muzzle anyone who speaks out against the company," Levy said. "If the plaintiffs learned their lesson, they could instead respond to the postings on the message boards and blogs, and voice their same First Amendment right, rather than trying to squelch that of others."

To read more about this case, visit http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=3032.

To read Levy's blog post about the gag order, visit http://pubcit.typepad.com/clpblog/2010/01/vision-media-tv-tries-to-evade-section-230-immunity-to-squelch-criticism.html.

To read Public Citizen's briefs, go to http://www.citizen.org/litigation/forms/cases/CaseDetails.cfm?cID=591

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