Sanding our assholes with 150 grit.

Fuck the legal system - UK edition

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/12/simon-singh-goodbye-libel-reform

Long story short - reporter (Simon Singh) wrote an article about bogus claims made by chiropractors & the chiropractic association sued him for libel. The case is costly & takes over his life, and could set the dangerous precedent that the press (in the Britain) isn't free to report on claims made by alternative medicine practitioners.

The far reaching consequences of this could lead to the papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times ceasing to sell their papers in Britain because the risk of being sued far outweighs the profit they could make by doing so.

http://www.libelreform.org/ <-- petition for libel reform in Britain.
Permalink A. A. Hatt 
March 12th, 2010 4:23pm
Wiki link that couldn't make it in to the OP:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Singh#Chiropractic_lawsuit_and_backlash
Permalink A. A. Hatt 
March 12th, 2010 4:24pm
This case has already international interest for some time.

My newspaper wrote about it a month or so ago, but they speculated that this time some reform could be triggered.

There could come pressure from Europe and it's Court of Justice.
Permalink Attila 
March 12th, 2010 4:32pm
signed it and emailed my MP...
Permalink Colm 
March 12th, 2010 4:32pm
I would think you just want to be careful how far you reform it.

If some journalist starts criticizing someone for saying the world is round, there should be recourse.

I want to be sure Fox News' eventual thrashing isn't prevented.
Permalink JoC 
March 12th, 2010 5:08pm
>If some journalist starts criticizing someone for saying the
>world is round, there should be recourse.

The recourse ought to be another journalist trashing them, and them being unable to get a job not a court order to pay money.

>I want to be sure Fox News' eventual thrashing isn't prevented.

So the wrong way to do it.
Permalink Colm 
March 12th, 2010 5:31pm
I disagree. I setup a bad strawman with the world thing.

Let's say some guy writes an article all about how listerine does not fight gingivitis. As a result, people stop using it.

I think that guy is liable for the lost sales as well as the gingivitis. Why shouldn't he be?
Permalink JoC 
March 12th, 2010 5:33pm
The problem is that the author is put in the defensive position, but instead of the prosecutor having to prove his guilt, he has to prove he is innocent.

That can be very hard against an expensive team of lawyers.
Permalink Attila 
March 12th, 2010 5:37pm
Totally agree there.

The burden should be on them to show that what he said was a lie. In this case, by proving their treatments do what they say.
Permalink JoC 
March 12th, 2010 5:40pm
>Let's say some guy writes an article all about how listerine
>does not fight gingivitis. As a result, people stop using it.

Those people shouldn't believe everything they read.

>I think that guy is liable for the lost sales as well as the
>gingivitis. Why shouldn't he be?

Because:

A) People are responsible for THEIR OWN actions. The onus is on you to check that the article is true, not on the article reader to be absolutely 100% correct beyond a shadow of a doubt.

B) Litigating this kind of lawsuit is prohibitively expensive.

C) If it is said in good faith, is there really a problem? Nobody could ever say anything if they had to prove 100% that it was true. If you're going to introduce degrees of acceptability in lying the lawsuit just got even more prohibitively expensive.
Permalink Colm 
March 12th, 2010 5:40pm
Reading that other page about it, I did find it peculiar about the [happily selling snake oil] comment.

He says he didn't mean it that way.

How else could you mean it?

Your baby looks like that bat boy in the nat'l enquirer.

I meant he is cute!

Huh?
Permalink JoC 
March 12th, 2010 5:44pm
In a world where everyone was as smart as you, sure.

In reality, I'll borrow from STH... The truth matters.

There is no reason that people should be allowed to publish fiction as though it were fact, especially when that fiction maligns the reputation of a company or person.

If it is otherwise, the biggest loudspeaker wins.

When people are constantly inundated with the same lies they will start believing them.
Permalink JoC 
March 12th, 2010 5:50pm
>In a world where everyone was as smart as you, sure. In
>reality, I'll borrow from STH... The truth matters.

Of course it matters. The question is not and never was about whether the truth matters, but on whom the liability for spreading false information should fall and why.

If that's the nexus of your argument, you should rethink.

>There is no reason that people should be allowed to publish
>fiction as though it were fact, especially when that fiction
>maligns the reputation of a company or person.

There is, and that reason is freedom of speech. In a world where the courts were both perfect and cheap arbiters of justice I could possibly see your point. Where they are both expensive and very flawed, I'm afraid the case for free speech is all too strong.

>If it is otherwise, the biggest loudspeaker wins.

If the courts decide, the person with the most cash wins. I have a friend who tried to sue a newspaper for libeling her. She was a schoolteacher accused of abuse (unsubstantiated and totally untrue) by a daily newspaper. She got nowhere because the newspaper used weasel wording and had excellent lawyers.

It was a Rupert Murdoch newspaper, incidentally.


>When people are constantly inundated with the same lies they
>will start believing them.

It is not up to the courts to decide, it is up to YOU.
Permalink Colm 
March 12th, 2010 5:56pm
Link to the banned article:

http://svetlana14s.narod.ru/Simon_Singhs_silenced_paper.html
Permalink Dr. Horrorwitz 
March 12th, 2010 5:57pm
I can see how that attracted a libel suit. If he'd used more weasel wording (e.g. "vanishingly sparse" instead of "not a jot") his case would have been a great deal easier.
Permalink Colm 
March 12th, 2010 6:03pm
It would also help if he knew something about medicine.

Of course dislocated vertebrae can cause heart rythm disturbances.

He clearly hasn't heard about the Nervus Vagus, for example.

The guy is arguing from authority:

"I can confidently label these treatments as bogus because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst."

Sure, Chiropractic is baloney, but he makes a mess out of exposing it, opening himself up for a world of pain.
Permalink Dr. Horrorwitz 
March 12th, 2010 6:05pm
Right.

I guess I equate what much of modern "journalism" is doing these days to yelling fire in a theatre. The damage just isn't as obvious, although it is more widespread and hurtful.
Permalink JoC 
March 12th, 2010 6:14pm
Everyone should be able to write and publish articles saying anything they like, even if it is false, insulting, outrageous, or otherwise offensive.

No one should be allowed to sue over such publications.

Spend the money you would have spent on attorneys writing your own article about why the other party is wrong.
Permalink CC, cannibal pedophile 
March 12th, 2010 6:59pm
"If it is said in good faith, is there really a problem?"

If he said it in bad faith there is not a problem either.

Listerine makes claims about gingivitis.

Where are the third party studies? Where is the methodology? Where is the original data?

This is the internet era, it would cost them nothing to publish those results. Why don't they?

And if they do, anyone concerned about MY claims that Listerine not only doesn't cure gingivitis, but it is an alien poison that contains brain-melting microbes, can simply look up their proof. After all, given that they offer no proof it cures gingivitis, and I offer no proof it contains brain-melting microbes, why should anyone believe either of us?
Permalink CC, cannibal pedophile 
March 12th, 2010 7:07pm
BTW, regarding chiropractic, if there is no evidence that it works, shouldn't the UK stop licensing them as if they are doctors?
Permalink CC, cannibal pedophile 
March 12th, 2010 7:09pm
And my personal experience has been that chiropractors are all liars and the are scam artists, but it is also possible that it does work for some ailments, and a lot of people tend to think it helped them, so why not allow it? They allow cancer treatments like radiation which have almost no efficacy and cost a fortune, why not allow chiropractic which costs far less and never promises to save you from dying.
Permalink CC, cannibal pedophile 
March 12th, 2010 7:11pm
> If it is said in good faith, is there really a problem? Nobody could ever say anything if they had to prove 100% that it was true.

In the US, truth is a legal defence in a libel suit.
In the UK, truth has no relevance in libel suits and whether something is true or not, no longer matters.

> If some journalist starts criticizing someone for saying the world is round, there should be recourse.

I'm currently reading Shirky's book: Here Comes Everybody. One of the early chapters describes a problem with the "journalist shield" laws. First, not every state has such a law - because the feds sure don't. Second, how do you define a "journalist." The proposed federal shield law defines journalists as someone who is employed by a narrow category of companies. Bloggers are not journalists under the proposed bills. So those bills would be "buggy whip protection statutes" as they would protect members of obsolete and declining industries while leaving the replacements out in the rain. 

That chapter on journalists has a very poingnant reminder of the Trent Lott issue where he reminisced about Strom Thurmond and wished that that unrepentant segregationist had gotten elected President. The regular "journalism" industry blew it off. It took the "blogosphere" to keep it alive to the point where Lott had to apologize and then it became news enough for the fucking lazy ass newspapers and tv networks to get off their collective asses and do their jobs.
Permalink Peter 
March 12th, 2010 11:57pm
>Right.

Wrong.

>I guess I equate what much of modern "journalism" is doing
>these days to yelling fire in a theatre.

Please could you point out the people who have been killed.

>The damage just isn't as obvious, although it is more
>widespread and hurtful.

Where is the damage caused by Simon Singh? He has arguably damaged the livelihoods of quacks, but that is no bad thing.
Permalink Colm 
March 13th, 2010 7:27am
------"In the UK, truth has no relevance in libel suits and whether something is true or not, no longer matters. "------

Sorry, Peter, but you have no idea what you're talking about.
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
March 13th, 2010 12:24pm
> In the UK, truth has no relevance in libel suits

"Allowable defenses are justification (the truth of the statement), ..."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation#United_Kingdom

"In the UK, if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is either defamatory or damaging, the onus will be entirely on you to prove that your comments are true in court."
http://www.urban75.org/info/libel.html
Permalink Billy the Fish 
March 13th, 2010 12:41pm
Private Eye has been warning about these laws for years.

A lot of people used to sue in the UK for libel in books published elsewhere, because it is just so much easier to do it there than anywhere else.

What happened to "Pistols at dawn?"
Permalink Send private email Tapiwa 
March 15th, 2010 12:38am
The wrong person died too many times.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
March 15th, 2010 8:33am
-----"A lot of people used to sue in the UK for libel in books published elsewhere, because it is just so much easier to do it there than anywhere else."------

There are very few cases of libel tourism. It's the odd one, such as the Ehrenberg case, that hits the news (and as a scurrilous scandal monger masquerading as a serious researcher Ehrenberg deserved suing).
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
March 17th, 2010 6:26pm
----"In the UK, if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is either defamatory or damaging"-----

Not quite; the onus is on the plaintiff to prove that the comments were defamatory or damaging.

Once that has been established the onus of proof shifts to the defendant to prove the statements were justified.
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
March 17th, 2010 6:28pm
Justice Eady, who made the bizarre interpretation of 'bogus' in the Singh case, has, as th elink in the post above states, made a highly intelligent judgement regarding web forums and bulletin boards, saying that defamation on them should be considered slander rather than libel:

"The High Court has ruled that defamation on internet bulletin boards is akin to slander rather than libel.

Mr Justice Eady hearing a case regarding posts on an investors bulletin board (or forum) has said that such comments are not to be taken in the same context as a formal newspaper (etc) article and are more like slander due to the casual or conversational nature of them.

Mr Justice Eady stated that posts on bulletin boards "are rather like contributions to a casual conversation (the analogy sometimes being drawn with people chatting in a bar) which people simply note before moving on; they are often uninhibited, casual and ill thought out...Those who participate know this and expect a certain amount of repartee or 'give and take'."

As such "When considered in the context of defamation law, therefore, communications of this kind are much more akin to slanders (this cause of action being nowadays relatively rare) than to the usual, more permanent kind of communications found in libel actions...People do not often take a 'thread' and go through it as a whole like a newspaper article. They tend to read the remarks, make their own contributions if they feel inclined, and think no more about it.""

http://www.lawdit.co.uk/reading_room/room/view_article.asp?name=../articles/5176-Bulletin-Boards-Slander-Or-Libel.htm
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
March 17th, 2010 6:46pm

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