A new report, Global Anti-SLAPP Ratings: Assessing the strength of anti-SLAPP laws, compares and ranks the strength of anti-SLAPP laws in the world’s 37 jurisdictions that offer legal protection against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) – legal actions launched to shut down discussion and critical commentary on issues of public interest.
Published by the Centre for Free Expression (CFE) at Toronto Metropolitan University, the report evaluates the laws on criteria which include the scope of the law, the various procedural elements required to bring a motion to dismiss a SLAPP, the tests required to have the SLAPP dismissed, and the provision for costs of bringing such motions.
The strongest anti-SLAPP laws are in Ontario, British Columbia, New York, Texas, and California respectively. The weakest are those in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Australia, and Maryland.
“SLAPPs are often effective because even a baseless claim can take years and many thousands of dollars to defend,” said James L. Turk, Director of the CFE and a co-author of the report. “Faced with such a prospect, targeted individuals often give in to demands to stay quiet and stop sharing information on matters of public interest.”
Turk added that anti-SLAPP laws provide a remedy to SLAPP suits. They are designed to allow individuals facing SLAPPs related to a matter of public interest to have the legal actions dismissed without having to go through a trial and substantial legal costs.
The report provides valuable information for legislators, policy-makers, and regulators to design and develop laws that effectively protect the public interest by limiting the impact of lawsuits designed to interfere with public discourse.
The Centre for Free Expression is a leading advocate in Canada for anti-SLAPP protection and assists governments in developing effective legislation. CFE is committed to advancing freedom of expression and the public's right to know as essential for social justice and genuine democracy.