Electronic Frontier Foundation Joins FoodSpeak Coalition Opposing "Veggie-Libel" Laws

Electronic Frontier Foundation
1550 Bryant Street
(415) 436-9333 (v)
(415) 436-9993 (f)
San Francisco, CA 94103

For Immediate Release: April 29, 1998
For Further Information Contact: Barry Steinhardt
(203) 226 4897 or
(415) 436 9333 ext. 102

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has joined the FoodSpeak Coalition -- a diverse group of civil liberties, consumer and environmental organizations, which has been formed to contest "Food Disparagement" laws that restrict free speech rights to discuss food related issues. The formation of FoodSpeak Coalition was announced today at a Washington DC press conference.

Thirteen states have passed such laws, which are also popularly known as "veggie-libel laws." Many of these laws establish an extremely low legal standard for agribusiness to meet when it brings defamation actions against those critical of its products. In a highly publicized case, Texas cattlemen unsuccessfully sought to apply the Texas Food Disparagement law to talk show host Oprah Winfrey. Now the cattlemen are appealing and also suing Oprah in another action, this one in a state court.

"EFF welcomes the opportunity to join as a founding member of the FoodSpeak Coalition," said its President Barry Steinhardt. "EFF is an organization dedicated to preserving the Free Speech rights on the Internet and the food defamation laws pose a direct threat to those rights on and off-line," Steinhardt continued.

Steinhardt noted that it was especially important for Internet free speech activists to join the FoodSpeak campaign. "The Internet has become a primary forum for the debate over important public issues, including food and food safety," Steinhardt said. "Individuals and organizations, with more limited resources than an Oprah Winfrey can turn to the Net to express their views on controversial topics such as food safety. The veggie-libel laws are so broad and powerful that they can effectively silence those lesser know speakers," Steinhardt asserted.

EFF, which has its principal office in San Francisco was the first organization formed to protect the rights of free speech, privacy and open access in the electronic age. Its Blue Ribbon Campaign for Free Speech on the Internet is linked to by over 170,000 other sites on the World Wide Web.

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