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BleepingComputer under free speech attack as SpyHunter makers sue over bad review

Feb 03, 20165 mins
Data and Information SecuritySecurity

Enigma Software is suing BleepingComputer over a negative review of its flagship anti-malware SpyHunter.

BleepingComputer is a valuable asset to the Internet, in my opinion, as it is often one of the first sites to warn of newly reported ransomware; volunteer security professionals also regularly provide answers to any number of other computer questions. Yet BleepingComputer is seriously under fire for daring to engage in free speech as Enigma Software is suing the site over a negative review of Enigma’s flagship anti-malware program SpyHunter.

But hey, “freedom isn’t free” and being sued implies needing money for a defense, as BleepingComputer’s owner Lawrence Abrams said, “If BleepingComputer does not get the help we need and we lose this battle, it will only embolden Enigma Software to try to silence other bloggers, IT technicians, or computer security enthusiasts.”

I don’t know about you, but I hate people attacking free speech and lawsuits like this – SLAPP lawsuits; Decrypted Tech described SLAPP lawsuits since many people may not be aware of them.

To put it bluntly SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) lawsuits are ones that attempt to censor information or public discourse on a particular topic. The most common ones are from corporate entities that are trying to stop negative information about their products or other areas from getting out. The negative information is not slanderous or libelous in nature and in most cases can be backed up with documentation. Still the corporate minds try the threat of litigation to remove the information.

Since Enigma Software chose to sue BleepingComputer to have the review removed and potentially to collect damages, “this type of suit fits the definition of SLAPP to a T,” the editorial states. “There is nothing in the post, or thread that is inflammatory, libelous or not documented from multiple sources. Enigma software simple wants to remove the information from a well-known and widely visited website so that they can continue to sell their product that clearly has deficiencies.”

Enigma Software claims in its lawsuit (pdf) that BleepingComputer has the negative SpyHunter review because it takes part in an affiliate advertising program which grants BleepingComputer a commission for redirecting users to Malwarebyte’s site. The Enigma Software Group claims, “Bleeping not only has unlawfully benefited from its smear campaign to the detriment of ESG, it has damaged the reputation of ESG by refusing to take down its false and misleading statements which have been reposted numerous times on other anti-spyware related forums and websites.”

Well maybe Enigma should do a little more Googling as there are indeed numerous negative reviews that are not simply regurgitated versions of BleepingComputer’s. Those results, however, are not top search result hits as is Bleeping’s.

Furthermore, Engima claims “Bleeping holds itself out as an expert in computer security matters.” Instead, Enigma claims Bleeping and its members “are not computer security experts, but rather they are software resellers purporting to give consumer advice.”

The lawsuit goes on to attack BleepingComputer and its moderators, particularly “Quietman 7” who wrote the negative SpyHunter review in 2014. The company has a long litany of complaints it calls false statements, especially in regard to the advice to uninstall SpyHunter and install Malwarebytes instead. The review, it should be noted, is properly sourced with references from various sites as in it wasn’t pulled out of thin air.

Yet Enigma’s lawsuit said, “Bleeping knew, or should have known, that the statements were false when made. The statements rely upon third-hand information that is between 7-10 years old and that was generated by a group of individuals who began an anticompetitive campaign against ESG in 2004.”

One thing to note, the review claims AV-Tests has not tested SpyHunter; even if that information is “old,” I still didn’t pull up any search results showing AV-Test Labs tested SpyHunter for home Windows users. Why not try that route first?

And even if Malwarebytes is not exactly impartial to BleepingComputer, the well-respected anti-malware folks pointed out, “The content is provided by the volunteer efforts of security professionals and the more than 700,000 registered users who ask and answer all questions presented on the site. To summarize, Bleeping Computer is a valuable resource in the efforts to help users live in a malware-free world.”

“Bleeping Computer was created and is devoted to helping consumers fix their computers and remove viruses for free,” Abrams told Softpedia. “Whenever we help people we always recommend free reputable programs that are both free-to-scan and free-to-clean so that our visitors do not have to spend any money.”

He added:

“It is incredibly frustrating that a company comes along and slaps us with a lawsuit because a volunteer moderator expressed his honest opinion about a product to protect consumers. Our moderator, Quietman7, earns nothing from helping on the site and yet has posted over 40,000 posts in the forums. If you think about the amount of time he has devoted to helping others for free it is staggering!”

BleepingComputer is asking for help to fight the “frivolous lawsuit and defend its right to free speech!” It needs an astounding $100,000 to handle legal defense costs. If you can help, please do.

Enigma will likely contact me to add a statement, but you can read all their statements in their lawsuit (pdf) if you are so inclined. I’ll warn you before you send it, I’m ticked and this is America where I’m entitled to my opinion; I’ve never tried SpyHunter as I personally like Malwarebytes … and now after attacking free speech, I never will try SpyHunter.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.