What's the ROI on a SLAPP Lawsuit Against Your Users?

Awhile back, Ian Linkletter shared links to videos that Proctorio published to their corporate YouTube account. Proctorio apparently wasn’t aware of how the internet works, nor about what YouTube is for, nor how to manage confidential resources (which may be an interesting tell regarding internet security awareness and infosec practices in the company?). It’s a platform for sharing videos. If you have confidential videos, don’t publish them to YouTube.

Anyway. Proctorio could have said “oops. holy crap. we didn’t realize those were public. sorry! hey - would you mind deleting those tweets?” and delete the videos from their YouTube account. They didn’t do that. Or, maybe they did - after they had a public freakout and sued Ian for sharing links to the videos that they had published on the internet for people to see.

So. Ian is a learning technologist at UBC. He’s part of the group of people that work with instructors to integrate technologies in their courses. He has some valid questions about Proctorio, which were illustrated by these videos. Now facing a potentially expensive lawsuit (I’m hoping UBC Legal is handling this for him, but maybe not? If not, why not?), there’s been a crowdfunding effort to raise funds to cover his legal costs so he’s not bankrupted by a multimillion dollar corporation for the crime of using the internet.

And Proctorio, being worth a few bajillion bucks, has money to throw around on Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. They have the resources to play all-in bluff poker, forcing everyone else to either avoid playing at the table, or risking bankruptcy to do so.

The GoFundMe campaign hit $20,000 within a few days. It’s now sitting at $25,697, with 387 donors so far. 387 people who are donating their own money to help Ian stand up against this SLAPP lawsuit.

Cory Doctorow shared an epic twitter thread about this, and followed up with a post.

Which got me thinking - what’s the ROI on this? They’ve blown a moon-sized hole in any goodwill their community (and potential new community) may have had for them. Any new contracts are going to be hardfought after this. Back in the olden days, Blackboard’s lawsuit against Desire2Learn was a major part of the shift in sentiment toward the company (on top of a bunch of other factors, but it definitely played a strong role).

I conducted a poll on Twitter to try to see the impact of this lawsuit might be on new deployments. I didn’t vote in the poll, but it’s likely largely represented by folks who are in similar roles at post-secondary institutions, who administer and support campus platforms for online and blended learning.

I mean. Not a rigorous, scientific survey. But that’s a whole lot of mostly-edtech-folks who aren’t huge fans of the company as a result of this…

I’m guessing the ROI is roughly negative-infinity? There were better ways to handle accidentally publishing some videos on the internet.

update: of course, Brian provides a more thoughtful perspective on the company’s real ROI. Projecting power and instilling fear. Mission accomplished.

(but check out the full thread)1

  1. I remember when Brian used to blog. I mean, vaguely… ↩︎


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