Kochs Attempt to Unmask Climate Pranksters


A few weeks ago, I reported that Koch Industries didn’t take too kindly to the anonymous pranksters who spoofed their position on climate change last month with a fake website and press release. The Kochs argued that the fake site that claimed the company had changed its tune on global warming was bad for the bottom line of Koch Industries. Koch has filed suit, accusing the spoofers of “trademark infringement, cybersquatting, and unfair competition.” And, in order to do so, Koch wants the names of the folks behind the prank revealed.

But the anonymous defendants in the case—who are calling themselves “Youth for Climate Truth”—now have representation from an attorney, Deepak Gupta of the public interest group Public Citizen. This week, Gupta asked the judge in the US federal district court in Utah to dismiss the case outright. Public Citizen is also asking the court to quash the subpoena issued to the web hosting company that sought to force it to cough up the names of the pranksters and issue a directive to Koch’s lawyers barring them from releasing any information about the defendants that they may have already obtained.

The Koch suit also seeks to purse the pranksters for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal offense that is intended to deal with hacking. This one, the defendants’ lawyer says, should be a real stretch of the law, since there was no hacking involved in the spoof; it was only a parody of the Koch website and a fake press release.

Revealing the identities of the anonymous people behind the prank and punishing them for it would have a “chilling effect on free speech,” Public Citizen argues. “The First Amendment protects anonymous speech and speech on the internet,” Gupta tells Mother Jones. Moreover, there is no evidence that the spoof site caused any financial harm to Koch, nor did anyone take the prank seriously, Gupta argues. (See the defendants’ filing here.)

This case is pretty similar to the one that the US Chamber of Commerce filed against the Yes Men in 2009 after the pair of notorious pranksters made a mockery of their climate stance as well. There hasn’t been any resolution in that case so far.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate