The right hand did not appear to know what the left was doing this week at PRWeb-Vocus as news media struggled to get confirmation from the press release distribution company that it had been served a “cease and desist” order in respect of Internet gambling press material by the Washington State Gambling Commission.
After repeated requests over a four day period were ignored, PRWeb’s parent, the Vocus group based in Maryland finally issued a “no comment” through spokesperson Robin Lane. It was a strange response to such a contentious order, about which little is yet known by way of background.
However, group sales reps and editorial management were subsequently more forthcoming, with Cari Lyle, PRWeb’s East Coast Manager of Editorial Services advising clients:
“I apologize for the abrupt notice. This was not a decision that PRWeb willingly made. We received a Cease and Desist letter from the Washington State Online Gambling Commission requiring that we immediately halt the distribution of press releases promoting online gambling sites and content. As PRWeb is located in Washington State, we are required to be in compliance with Washington State laws.”
Vocus salesman Rod Harris was quoted as saying that the company has no plans to accept online gambling press releases in the future, and that the company’s sister site in the U.K. is also following the company’s new policy.
It also appeared from comments by other company employees that the ban would be extended beyond the Washington state jurisdiction.
Editorial staff at PRWeb have been advised by management that “….PRWeb will no longer be publishing releases that promote or link to online gambling or related websites. This shift in editorial has been prompted by legal considerations and brings us in line with the stance that other notable organizations such as Google and Yahoo are currently taking with regard to promotion of online gambling in the U.S.”
Thus far the company has not advised on what grounds the cease and desist order was given, whether it enjoys the sanction of a Washington court and what, if any, action the Vocus-PRWeb group plans in response, assuming that what appears to be an attempt to stifle the privilege of free speech is to be challenged at all.