We will not remove Alerts even when they are claimed to contain defamatory statements. We will not remove Alerts even if the original author asks us to do so. Also, contrary to what our critics would like to believe, we will NOT remove Alerts for money.
Some people have criticized this policy as being unfair, but we strongly feel this policy is essential, fair, and far better than the alternative – rampant censorship. It is ultimately up to the user/author to do the right thing and police their own behavior; and/or face the legal consequences as per the law.
We have many reasons for our policy, but here are three of the most important ones:
- Who are we to say what is true or not? We are not in a position to judge the credibility and truthfulness of these Alerts and related comments posted on our site. Except for statements clearly marked as “Editor’s Comments” (or otherwise indicated as being from us), all material posted on HolySmoke.org is created entirely by third party users of our site, not by us (this includes reports AND their titles). Because the Alerts and subsequent postings come from users, we are not in a position to know what is accurate and what isn’t. Of course, when people contact us to dispute the accuracy of something on our site, we have no way of knowing who they are or whether they are telling the truth. For that reason, we cannot simply remove Alerts and subsequent postings because one side claims that something in the Alerts or posting is inaccurate. Taking sides is not our role. We are not a judge and jury. We are not professional arbitrators.
- We strive to preserve information. We do not remove Alerts and subsequent postings because we believe this site is most effective when all complaints are maintained and preserved so that over time patterns of truly bad people and/or business practices are exposed. If we removed Alerts and subsequent postings upon request or after a certain period of time, this would provide consumers with less information to use when evaluating a company. Unlike other platforms and websites out there that remove posting after a certain period of time or charge businesses money to remove postings, many of which have BIG names and consumers think they are on their side, we maintain a permanent record of all complaints. This ensures that our viewers have more information rather than less.
- We don’t want consumers being bullied into taking an Alert or subsequent posting down. If we simply removed complaints upon request this would give companies an incentive to pressure authors to remove true and accurate Alerts and subsequent postings in exchange for money or simply to avoid a costly lawsuit. It’s a well-known fact that most people aren’t willing or able to spend $100,000 in legal fees defending a defamation lawsuit, so even when a person has written a 100% true report, there is a huge amount of pressure for them to just remove it when threatened with legal action.
For all of these reasons, and more, we will not agree to remove Alerts and subsequent postings upon request; even if someone can show that an Alert or subsequent posting is probably inaccurate. By having this policy, we take leverage away from companies who threaten or pressure a customer hoping to get them to retract a valid complaint.
If this seems unfair or unreasonable, consider this — if someone sues you in court and makes outlandish claims that are completely false, you can fight the case and win and at the end a judgment will be entered in your favor proving that you were right and your accuser was wrong. However, the court clerk will NOT destroy the file or seal the records of the case simply because you won. Even when a lawsuit is shown to be 100% baseless, the documents remain part of a public record that is maintained for years or perhaps forever (trust us — we KNOW about this from first-hand experience). In this situation, the remedy you are entitled to is a court order or judgment proving that you were right, not the destruction of public records about the case.