Rand McNally claims ONE20 committed defamation through fake Twitter accounts

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 7/27/2017

Rand McNally claims that ONE20, a Minnesota-based company that makes products geared toward truck drivers, committed defamation against them by orchestrating “fake” Twitter accounts to make customers believe they were going out of business.

The allegations were detailed in a filing to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Wednesday, July 26. The filing was in response to ONE20’s previous motion to dismiss. Rand McNally’s original lawsuit was filed in February.

Rand McNally, which is a provider of navigational and fleet management products and services for the trucking and commercial transportation industry, specifically named ONE20 President and CEO Christian Schenk in the lawsuit.

“In an effort to destroy (Rand McNally’s) reputation, Defendants ONE20 and Christian Schenk launched an online advertising campaign directed at maligning Rand McNally and its products,” the lawsuit stated. “Specifically, Defendants published detailed webpages and advertisements that clearly and falsely state or imply that Rand McNally’s ‘Wall Street’ owners have ‘gutted’ Rand McNally and left it in such a precarious financial position that it is on the verge of going bankrupt, meaning it will go out of business and not be able to honor any of the warranties for its ‘old, outdated, and ratty devices.’

“Defendants then used or, at a minimum, directed others to use ‘fake’ Twitter accounts that they created by misappropriating the photos from real Twitter users to circulate further their defamatory statements about Rand McNally.”

Rand McNally claims that ONE20, which launched competing products in 2016, started an online advertising campaign in January 2017 that aimed to destroy the longtime company’s professional reputation within the commercial trucking industry.

The lawsuit references ONE20’s “Trade-Up Program.” Rand McNally said ONE20 published at least four different versions of that webpage and said that all four versions “denigrated” Rand McNally and its business.

According to the lawsuit, ONE20 published “either directly or by implication” the following false and defamatory statements about Rand McNally:

  • Rand McNally is going bankrupt
  • Rand McNally does not provide its customers with warranties for its products and/or any warranties Rand McNally has provided for its products are or will be worthless
  • Rand McNally does not adequately service its customers because it is “focusing more on pending lawsuits” or distracted by the “Distressed Diva”
  • Rand McNally’s products are “outdated,” “old,” and “ratty.”

The lawsuit also claims that ONE20 caused further damage to Rand McNally through advertisements on various social media accounts.

“Causing further injury, beginning at least as early as Jan. 13, 2017, Defendants cause four separate Twitter ‘handles’ (@TruckersFirst, @truckers_rights, @robslands, and @richjohnson29) to publish and republish false, defamatory, and offensive tweets about Rand McNally,” the lawsuit said.

The referenced tweets included:

Why is @randmcnally keeping quiet over #Patriarch? Something is wrong.

  • Fellow #Truckers: Return those @randmcnally tablets before it’s too late. Bankruptcy is now so close.
  • #Truckers are about to get screwed by #RandMcNally. They’re shutting down and they don’t want you to know! Return your tablets!
  • #Truckers: Remember to return your Rand McNally tablets soon or you’ll be stuck with junk when the company folds!

Rand McNally said two of the Twitter accounts that published these posts were fake. The lawsuit said @robslands purports to be that of a truck driver named Rob Sands, who lives in Arkansas City, Kan., and that @richjohnson29 claims to be that of an ex-trucker named Rich Johnson who is “deeply involved in making truckers’ lives better.”

“However, the individual whose photo is being used for (@robslands) is actually a man who works in digital strategy for IBM in Pennsylvania,” the lawsuit said. “The man neither created the Twitter account nor posted any tweets about Rand McNally.

“The man in the profile photo (for @richjohnson29) is not ex-trucker Rich Johnson. To the contrary, the man practices law in San Jose, Calif., and has no association with the trucking industry.”

The lawsuit claims that many of the tweets were “retweeted” by @ohtruckthat, a Twitter handle owned and operated by ONE20.

“Given the similarity between the tweets by these fake Twitter accounts and ONE20’s online marketing strategy described above and the fact that ONE20 has publicized these tweets further through its own Twitter account, the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that ONE20 created these accounts and is publishing these false and defamatory statements or caused the creation of these accounts and the publication of these false and defamatory statements.”

Rand McNally said ONE20 has refused to cease and desist.

As of July 27, Twitter accounts for @richjohnson29 and @robslands still existed, and the referenced tweets remained.

In May, ONE20 filed a motion to dismiss the case.

“Rand McNally relies not on Defendants’ actual statements, but on Rand McNally’s own, self-serving characterization of Defendants’ statements,” the motion said. “Even then, Rand McNally’s constructions of the statements still do not fit the definition of defamation.”

In March, ONE20 issued a news release about the lawsuit.

“We expect to see a lot of so-called competitors get upset with the disruption we are producing,” Schenk said.

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