SLAPPing accountability out of the public sphere
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the disruption to civic accountability by strategic corporate action in the form of SLAPP suits.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper provides empirical evidence of the discursive processes underpinning participatory and emancipatory accountability regimes through the lens of deliberative democracy and the Habermasian ideal of the public sphere.
Findings: Within this paper, it is argued that the strategic use of SLAPPs by corporations presents a danger to both mechanistic and virtuous forms of accountability regardless of what deliberative democratic theory is adopted. Habermas' theory of communicative action and notion of the "public sphere" is utilised to demonstrate how SLAPPs can result in the colonisation of public discursive arenas to prevent others providing alternative (in form) and counter (in view) accounts of corporate behaviour and thus act to limit opportunities for corporate accountability.
Social implications: This paper throws light on a practice being utilised by corporations to limit public participation in democratic and participatory accountability processes. Strategic use of SLAPPs limit the "ability" for citizens to provide an alternative "account" of corporate behaviour.
Originality/value: This paper is original in that it analyses the impact on accountability of strategic corporate practice of issuing SLAPP suits to "chill" public political discussion and limit protest about issues of social and civic importance. The paper extends the critical accounting literature into improving dialogic and participatory accountability regimes.