Activists use the political arena to expand the debate, enrol other citizens on their side and spread the conflict. The firms and developers that utilise SLAPPs are trying to subvert and circumvent that political process “by enlisting judicial power against their opponents.” In the courts the merit of the opponents criticisms is not the relevant deciding factor, rather it is legal technicalities.
SLAPPs “are an attempt to ‘privatise’ public debate—a unilateral effort by one side to transform a public, political dispute into a private, legal adjudication, shifting both forum and issues to the disadvantage of the other side.”
SLAPPs can also shift the balance of power giving the firm filing the SLAPP suit the upper hand when they are losing in the political arena. Action tends to be taken against citizens who are successfully opposing them because those taking the action are afraid that they will not win in the public, political forum.
In the courts, the wealth of the disputants, and their ability to hire the best lawyers can influence the outcome. “Whereas in the political realm the filer is typically on the defensive, in the legal realm the filer can go on the offensive, putting the target’s actions under scrutiny. Prolonged litigation can even achieve community compliance through delay and loss of sustained interest in the broader public.