Money Talks: When Free Speech Gets Expensive

Americans are proud of their ability to speak's one they use often.

And it's one guaranteed by the first amendment of our constitution.

But as it turns out, while your speech may not get you thrown in jail, it can also be far from free.

Because some companies try to silence online criticism by filing a SLAPP suit: A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

Cristina Pierson says, " They could hire an attorney...they probably have one on staff...file a lawsuit claiming you're defaming them, and intimidate you into stopping the negative publicity campaign against them.

In other words, file a meritless lawsuit simply to get you to either pay thousands to defend yourself...or shut up.

Congress is now considering a law that would require a company losing a SLAPP suit to pay the legal bills of the winner.

If it passes, that might reduce these types of suits. In the meantime, though, be careful what you say, especially on the web.

Cristina says, "Make sure your facts are accurate and correct. Be careful in what you say. Pick your words carefully and understand that are people that are going to potentially take action against you if it's worth it to them. And third of all, be aware of the consequences."

Bottom line? You have to right to express your opinion, but others have the right to sue you into silence.