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Located in the US. Can I make a website which is specifically aimed at boycotting a certain company?

There is no lawsuit between myself and the company.

There would be no defamation on the website and no editorials or subjective content. There might be links to editorials hosted on other websites. This website content would simply be information about alternatives.

However, I would want the name of the website, including the domain name itself, to have the name of the company this is in reference to. For example, boycott-company.com

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Feb 25 at 0:22
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Yes you can, and you can even include "editorials or subjective content". However, if you include factual statements, or words that imply factual statements, the company could claim that they are false, and therefore defamatory. Indeed they might claim that in any case. If you make no false statements of fact, they should not be able to win a defamation suit, but you might need to spend time and money defending yourself if they choose to sue.

The detailed rules on defamation vary by jurisdiction, in the US by state. But in no US state can defamation be found against a person who neither made nor implied a false statement of fact.

Use of the name of the company, along with "boycott" as in "BoycottXYXCorp.com" would not infringe any trademark XYZ might have. It is clearly Nominative use, as no one could reasonably believe that such a site was run by, sponsored, or endorsed by XYZ. Again, XYZ could always sue, even if they are highly likely to lose quickly.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Feb 25 at 0:26
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Using their name in a domain name to criticize them is reasonably well protected. However, the rest of it is a minefield.

You cannot lie, or link to lies.

Which means you better be very good at distinguishing the provable truth from your mind's definition of the truth. "Alternative facts" are not enough; you will need to be able to back up any claim in a court-of-law.

Courts have ruled that when a website owner links to other pages which are defamatory, the website owner is being defamatory by doing so.

Even if you are a scrupulous Fair Witness, you also run the risk of the company coming after you claiming you lied, simply as a "Strategic lawsuit against public participation".

Be in California or other SLAPP state

Fortunately, certain jurisdictions have laws discouraging harassment-to-silence-you lawsuits. In California, you can quickly get such a case dismissed, and even get legal fees back in some cases. You'll want to make sure to set up a corporate entity so that the "person"=entity they would be suing is a citizen of such a state, and if you personally are not a citizen of such a state, you'll need to take extreme measures to assure they don't do an end-run around the corporate structure and sue you personally. How to do this is beyond the scope of this answer.

Make the most out of Section 230

230 lays out a principle of law which has held the test of time: that a service provider shouldn't be held liable for the actions of its users or there will be a chilling effect which would make any social media impossible. If Joe defames Jodi on Facebook, we can't have Jodi suing Facebook, or there won't be any Facebooks.

So you want to understand how Section 230 works (and how it does not work; pay close attention to BadBusinessiBureau's experiences)... and architect your site around it. For instance, it applies to user-generated content, so architect your site so it is mainly a clearinghouse for complaints from other people. Then, when someone says something horrible and the company threatens you, you can shrug and say "Gosh, we (the proprietor of the website) had no idea that was there". If you promptly delete it, it would be difficult for the company to persuade a judge that you should be liable for the content. Don't push this too far, see case law for what works and what does not.

This adds a layer of obfuscation to what the company must do to obtain a productive lawsuit out of you.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Feb 25 at 0:28
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Note that in the USA it is currently against Federal law (the Export Administration Act), in some cases with criminal penalties, to participate or arrange to boycott certain companies. Mostly these deal with targets of anti-Israel economic boycotts, so if that isn't your goal, you are probably OK. However, its also illegal (according to the Office of Antiboycott Compliance) if it the rationale is "discrimination against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality."

So it should be mentioned that this doesn't apply to most companies, but depending on the company and/or why you are doing it, it can be against the law.

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    Note that if the suggested boycott is because of alleged poor quality, or poor service, or poor value the above laws in no way apply. Also, I suspect that they might not survive a well-mounted first amendment challenge. – David Siegel Feb 22 at 0:40
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    See aclu.org/blog/free-speech/rights-protesters/… for more on the free speech issue here. – David Siegel Feb 22 at 0:49
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    See also knightcolumbia.org/content/… – David Siegel Feb 22 at 0:54
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    @DavidSiegel - I also suspect you might find some recourse in the commerce clause if you are a private citizen, not part of an organization involved in interstate commerce. However, the implication I get from this question is that the author wants to avoid legal trouble, not do a cannonball into it. – T.E.D. Feb 22 at 14:51
  • I am not sure what you mean by "recourse" -- the commerce clause can be used to pass laws that regulate individuals, just as much as organizations. – David Siegel Feb 22 at 17:21

protected by feetwet Feb 25 at 0:21

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