March 31, 2009 – For Immediate Release
LAS VEGAS – A New Hampshire Superior Court Judge has ordered Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc., the owner of the popular mortgage industry crash site Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter (ml-implode.com) to give up the identities of persons who provided information to the site about The Mortgage Specialists, Inc. of Plaistow New Hampshire.
Rockingham County Judge Kenneth R. McHugh also ordered that the allegedly “secret” and “defamatory” content about The Mortgage Specialists would have to stay down permanently.
The information consists of an anonymous posting on the ML-Implode forum about The Mortgage Specialists and the publishing of the company’s 2007 “Loan Chart” sent in by an informant and placed online by the Implode-O-Meter staff.
The Mortgage Specialists alleged in their complaint the forum posts were defamatory, and the 2007 Loan Chart detailing financial statistics was secret. ML-Implode immediately and voluntarily removed the information to assuage MoSpec’s concerns, despite its continuing assertion that it still had the right to post them. However The Mortgage Specialists persisted in demanding the submitters’ identities and a promise to permanently keep the information offline. ML-implode refused. The Mortgage Specialists filed suit on November 12, 2008, signed by company President Michael Gill.
Judge McHugh stated in his order that since the Mortgage Specialists did not hold the Implode-O-Meter culpable or ask for monetary damages, their request to divulge the identities of the persons in question was “reasonable.” The Judge further stated:
The maintenance of a free press does not give a publisher the right to protect the identity of someone who has provided it with unauthorized or defamatory information.”
Judge McHugh’s order was issued without a full hearing on the merits of The Mortgage Specialists’ claims. Specifically, plaintiffs had not yet established that any of the postings were defamatory or that the Loan Chart information posted was in fact confidential, as ML-Implode’s challenges were limited to whether the New Hampshire court had jurisdiction over ML-Implode and whether the plaintiff’s requested relief would violate the First Amendment.
Note from Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter :
(The order was made regardless of the fact that the underlying allegations (defamation, breach of secrecy) were never proven:
In other words, operators of forums or other online publications may be compelled to take down posts and give up identities before it is even shown defamation occurred or “secrecy” was breached.
We are appealing to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
This is quite a bad precedent for bloggers or those who run forums. It is very easy to come up with wrong-minded and unfounded allegations like the above. The mainstream media should be concerned too, though they are less likely to be picked on, for obvious reasons (still, they could end up in court a lot longer for user posts to their online articles that might “upset” someone).
Feel free to cover this or spread the news around.)
IMPLODE O METER
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