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Smelly City Sued for Violating Right to Complain Online

By George Khoury, Esq. on March 13, 2018 6:58 AM

An Iowa man, from the city of Sibley, has just sued Sibley over their efforts to silence him on the internet.

Although the city may be understandably upset over what its own resident was saying, using governmental authority to restrict speech on the internet, even if that speech claims that you're a smelly city, just isn't right. The First Amendment lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Iowa and has all the hallmarks of a fishy story.

There's No Product Like Byproduct

According to reports on the lawsuit, the plaintiff, Joshua Harms, claims that the city of Sibley threatened him with legal action if he did not remove criticism of the city's smell from his website "Should You Move to Sibley IA?" Harms alleges that his website is political commentary, protected by the First Amendment. He also directly links the stench to a meat byproduct processing plant that makes an animal food supplement out of pig blood.

Harms says the stench smells putrid, like "stale beer" and "rotten blood." He says it is so bad that it makes a person question whether they should seek medical attention after getting a whiff. He further claims the smell is near constant, at least 3 to 4 days a week, and blankets the entire town.

The Right to Complain Online

Harms' website sought to hold the city accountable for allowing this type of nuisance to carry on unabated. And though the city may not like what he had to say, or the way that he said it, the city has acted. It has fined the plant, and there has been legal action back and forth between the processor and city. However, when Harms received the threat of legal action, he rephrased many things on his website, and also felt compelled to reverse his entire position and claim the smell was no longer a problem.

Curiously, in the lawsuit, Harms seems to be claiming that he was planning on buying the domain name "SibleyStinks.com" but decided not to as a result of the city's threat.

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