Companies Increasingly Turning To Questionable Legal Tactics To Silence Criticism

With the rise of hidden non-disparagement clauses in contracts, more and more people are finding themselves at the other end of lawsuits by entities trying to protect their image. While it is illegal to defame already, contracts are done such that any and all negative comments, even true ones, can land people in trouble.

By hiding these clauses in agreements, companies aim to make sure that any public discussion is in their favor. The introduction of End User License Agreements, which automatically take effect without ever being signed just for the use of product of service, has rendered even informed consent meaningless. Terms and conditions can be stored off-site, without acknowledgement even known by the person.

Imagine the chilling effect this can have on public discourse. Imagine if on every movie ticket stub included an automatic acknowledgment of terms and conditions that you would give nothing less than a rave review of the latest summer cinematic bomb. If on every cleaning product a notice that you could never discuss any side effects it may have. Your car’s engine could detonate during rush hour due to the synthetic motor oil including thorium salt, and you could never say anything negative about it.

Laws have been proposed to eliminate this issue, but to date none have passed. Until such time, companies have no incentive to stop, to restrict, this new approach to controlling the narrative.

Libertarians are quick to claim that regulations are not needed because contracts and reviews will be sufficient. But these contracts, combined with review manipulation means that the information needed for honest and accurate assessment is deliberately suppressed. Much as how lead in gasoline had its effects hidden by caused a generation of crime to be born, the effects of this suppression will not be known for a generation to come.

Without a strong regulatory system in place, the only means of protection for people from corporate interests are these reviews. And with the ability to silence criticism now growing, it needs to be said that the very idea of de-regulation is nonsense. To make a non-regulatory protection system, you need strong regulations in other areas. As a result, the only way not to regulate, is to regulate. Best if that was skipped, and we just put the strong, first tier regulations in place to begin with.

After all, it’s not as if we can expect the corporate devil to not have some loophole in that deal of your soul now, or can we?

Featured image CC by Nathaniel Downes