The following definition of a "gripe site" is from comments authored by a notable American lawyer, Mr Paul Levy, and published online by Public Citizen, a Washington D.C. based organization founded in 1971 by consumer champion Ralph Nader: "A 'gripe site' is a web site established to criticize an institution such as a corporation, union, government body, or political figure. Not surprisingly, powerful institutions often do not take kindly to being criticized, and they have invented a variety of ways to try to suppress the speech of their adversaries." Mr Levy is also a lawyer within the associated Public Citizen Litigation Group, another non-profit making organisation. He is the founder of the groups “Public Internet Free Speech Project”, cited below under the heading of "Defenders of Free Speech Gripe Sites".
In an attempt to shut down a gripe site, companies have sued the gripe site owner alleging defamation, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, libel and copyright infringement. Public Citizen, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have defended gripe site owners in court on the grounds that free speech gripe sites are protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
An "Accountability in Action" newsletter published by One World Trust in July 2007 said: "As The Royal Dutch Shell plc website shows, a gripe site can have a profound impact on global organisations". The newsletter went on to say: "The site has not only cost Shell billions of dollars in Russia... "even Shell insiders unhappy with the company use it". The article concluded: "Royaldutchshellplc.com is just one of many examples of how the Internet makes it possible for concerned individuals to initiate discussion about global organisations, post and share information about organisational actions and their impact, and provide a common forum for affected stakeholders. At the very least, ‘gripe sites’ such as this have a valuable watchdog function and remind global companies of the power of public opinion – thus forcing them to confront weaknesses in their own accountability".