The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



From Simon Singh PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

All: Here’s a note from Simon Singh. Please read, and please do sign the petition at Libelreform.org. Grazie. – BKT

Dear Friends, Rationalists, Bloggers, Journalists, Medics, Skeptics & Scientists:

As you may know, I am currently being sued for libel. My own case is largely irrelevant, because the bigger issue is libel reform so that scientists can discuss ideas openly, fairly and robustly, without fear that they might end up in court. There are currently three ongoing cases involving libel and science/medicine.

This is a very English problem, but it has a chilling effect on debate around the world because English law can have a global jurisdiction. Hence, I am asking for support from around the world.

One way to help achieve libel reform is for 100,000 people to sign the petition for libel reform before the political parties write their manifestos for the upcoming General Election. We already have 29,000 signatures, but we really need 100,000, and we need your help to get there.

If you have not yet signed, then please click here.

To find out why we need to reform English libel law, then please read on.

 

First, however, if you have already signed the petition, then you could still make a huge difference: If everyone who has already signed up persuades just one more person each week to sign the petition, then we will reach our goal within a month!

One person per week is all we need, but please spread the word as much as you can. In fact, if you persuade 10 people to sign up then email me (simon-at-simonsingh-dot-net) and I promise to thank you by printing your name in my next book… which I will start writing as soon as I have put my own libel case behind me. I cannot say when this will be, but it is a very real promise. My only caveat is that I will limit this to the first thousand people who recruit ten supporters.

When persuading your friends, remember to tell them:

(a) English libel laws have been condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee.

(b) These laws gag scientists, bloggers and journalists who want to discuss matters of genuine public interest (and public health!).

(c) Our laws give rise to libel tourism, whereby the rich and the powerful (Saudi billionaires, Russian oligarchs and overseas corporations) come to London to sue writers because English libel laws are so hostile to responsible journalism. (In fact, it is exactly because English libel laws have this global impact that we welcome signatories to the petition from around the world.)

(d) Vested interests can use their resources to bully and intimidate those who seek to question them. The cost of a libel trial in England is 100 times more expensive than the European average and typically runs to over £1 million.

(e) Three separate ongoing libel cases involve myself and two medical researchers raising concerns about three medical treatments. We face losing £1 million each. In future, why would anyone else raise similar concerns? If these health matters are not reported, then the public is put at risk.

My experience has been sobering. I've had to spend £100,000 to defend my writing and have put my life on hold for almost two years. However, the prospect of reforming our libel laws keeps me cheerful.

Thanks so much for your support. We've only got one shot at this – so I hope you can persuade 1 (or maybe 10) friends, family and colleagues to sign.

Massive thanks,
Simon

Trackback(0)
Comments (25)Add Comment
...
written by MrIncredible, February 22, 2010
I tried to post a single-word comment: "Done!" - but the blog software told me it was too short. Hopefully this is long enough.

So I say unto you again......

Done!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by Everett Spair, February 22, 2010
Of course I'll sign the petition. I'll try to get a few of my friends to sign it as well.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
More information, please
written by Zoroaster, February 22, 2010
This sounds like something I would support but the article is so sketchy it's hard to be sure. Whom, besides yourself, is being sued by who for what exactly? What are the basic flaws in the laws and how should they be reformed? A couple of examples of how the law has been applied in the past could be helpful. Perhaps a brief explanation of how UK libel laws differ from those in other countries. Thanks.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +11
English Libel Laws for Zoroaster
written by StarTrekLivz, February 22, 2010
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E...mation_law

What Mr. Singh is protesting is that the English libel laws are so vaguely written and whimsically enforced that the burden of proof is on the defendant, not the plaintiff, that harm has been done, and, incredibly, truth is not a defense. If a person in the UK advised people not to invest in Bernard Madoff's investments because he was convicted of running a Ponzie scheme, Madoff could conceiveably sue the adviser making that warning on the grounds that s/he was hurting Madoff's business, even though the accusation was true.

I oversimplify, but not by much -- you can imagine the effect this has on discrediting psychics, dowsers, purveyors of mystic or metallic cure-all charms & bracelets, etc.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
Should non-UK citizens sign?
written by garyg, February 22, 2010
While, as skeptics, we are intensely interested in how this all turns out, should foreigners be inserting themselves into a UK controversy?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -6
...
written by MadScientist, February 22, 2010
@garyg: Absolutely. If the rest of the world tells them they've got stupid laws, they might consider reforming the laws so that they don't look like the World Class Dunce. I'm not too keen on the censorship either; a few years ago a short cartoon depicting Tony Blair as Dubbyah's obedient little lapdog (which he was) was taken out of circulation.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
...
written by Rustylizard, February 22, 2010
@garyg: "should foreigners be inserting themselves into a UK controversy?"

I think, indeed, we should. Paragraph (c) above, tells why. But read also, for example, how the discredited Wakefield data published in a UK journal spread hysteria and led to a decrease in vaccinations both in the UK and the US (see the blog article “Lancet Retracts Wakefield MMR Study,” written by Steve Novella on Feb 2, 2010). When unfair libel laws make people hesitant to challenge potentially harmful and suspect data, it affects people beyond the political boundaries in which those laws govern. We have every right, and perhaps a duty, to voice our objections. smilies/smiley.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
@StarTrekLivz
written by Zoroaster, February 22, 2010
Thanks for that. I always assumed libel laws were to protect honest people from those who would lie about them instead of protecting liars from those who would expose them. Should Simon Singh ever read this I would respectfully suggest that he add a little more information to his appeal for those of us who are unfamiliar with his story and its context. I know that if I ask my friends to sign the petition they will have the same set of questions I did.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by gr8white, February 22, 2010
I signed the petition, having read the previous posts regarding Mr. Singh's case. Based on some of the other comments perhaps it would have been useful to include a link to those previous posts.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by Bruno, February 22, 2010
The perennial issue with free speech is: how to prevent people from venting obvious falsehoods. Free speech is generally taken to mean "being allowed to say whatever you like". This is missing the point, which is about accepting that reality is oblivious to law. You can't issue laws determining what is true or not. Any law enshrining factual claims limits our ability to understand reality. We then jump to conclusions and invent "free speech" as the only alternative. We even take it in our stride to extend this right to obvious falsehoods because "anything is better than censorship". We know it's broken, because otherwise we wouldn't need laws against libel, "historic revisionism" etc. Humans are uncannily capable of thinking that something is a universal truth, except in such and such circumstances.

Strangely enough, precisely the people who are studying reality for a job are the ones that have quite successful methods of preventing people from spewing nonsense while maximizing the freedom of expression as far as plausible claims are concerned. Free speech in science has quite a different meaning: "you are free to share our platform if you can back up your claims so's we know you ain't talking gibberish or lies". In science, there is no absolute right to make claims. There's only the right to make founded claims.
I would like to see that enshrined in law: "no statement shall be presented as fact unless evidence is provided".

If tabloids had to provide pointers to credible evidence for whatever they wrote, people wouldn't have to fear being called baby eaters. Conversely if the alt med industry wanted to attack Singh for slander, they would have to show not that it hurts their business interest, but that it hurts truth. Creationists would have to provide positive evidence before claiming a right to teach their stuff. Nobody would be limited in their right to find out things that are true and to present their findings. You can throw out the bath-water and keep the baby.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by embiearts, February 22, 2010
Signed, and I'll do what I can to spread the word smilies/smiley.gif I only recently heard about this case but from what I know of it the situation over there is outrageous and something should be done to change things. I'm glad I can help, even if it's just in a small way.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
More on today's hearing
written by batarista, February 23, 2010
I hope you have time to read a little more about Simon Singh's Appeal Court hearing today in London and to consider signing the Libel Reform petition.

The Singh case and others illustrate why English libel reform is vital. There are international repercussions, with some US states passing legislation to protect their own residents from the judgements of English courts. There are also consequences for the ability of scientists, doctors and others to freely discuss their research, or to speak out against pseudoscience.

Many thanks for your time and help :>)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by batarista, February 23, 2010
D'oh! Sorry. The links were stripped from my previous comment. Here they are again, with subtitles.

Simon Singh's Appeal Court hearing today in London...

http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2010/02/simon-singh-and-court-of-appeal.html

The Libel Reform petition...

http://www.libelreform.org/
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by batarista, February 23, 2010
A little more background...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/7294539/Simon-Singh-it-is-too-late-for-me-but-libel-laws-must-change-for-the-public-good.html

You can also keep up with the case at...

http://twitter.com/#search?q=#singhbca

I'll shut up now.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by CasaRojo, February 23, 2010
Signed and shared on Facebook. The best of luck to you.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
A link to the developing story
written by RobbieD, February 23, 2010
This just posted in the UK re the Singh case.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/appeal-judges-ponder-chiropractors-libel-claim-1907992.html
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Be careful what you wish for...
written by Stephen, February 23, 2010
You know... everybody is so hung up on poor Simon Singh (who actually/perhaps/maybe could have chosen better language in what he wrote about the chiros - we've still to find out) that they're missing the bigger picture here.

Without strict libel and slander laws then it is the most libelous and slanderous people in society who will benifit the most- and there are a lot of very empassioned fruit loops out there.

There will always be groups that are anti-something - not just anti-alt-med. There's the anti-porn lobby, anti-guns, anti-gun control, anti conventional-medicine (think of the anti-vax people) anti-violent computer games, feminists, anti-feminists, vegans, anti-vegans, etc., etc., etc.,.

The majority of people in these types of groups are probably very sensible in what they say 99% of the time but there will always be that minority who are extremists and just let rip in what they say and write.

Making libel laws less effective is a double edged sword.

I am absolutely stunned that anyone can look at some of the 10 ideas on www.libelreform.org/our-report and actually support them.

Consider...

Point 1 "We recommend: Require the claimant to demonstrate damage and falsity."

In short, the laws should be changed so that the plaintif has to prove a negative...

Now, come on! Does anyone seriously believe this is a good idea?? How could you prove you've never sexually molested a farm animal? Or that you're not eyeing-up all the other school girls when you drop off and pick up your own kids at the school gate? The list of possible false accusations is absolutely endless - and how do you prove emotional damage?

Point 9 "We recommend: Exempt interactive online services and interactive chat from liability."

Is this a joke? Anything that anyone or any group says in an online forum should be immune to prosecution for libel or slander?

Why? Seriously... Why?

Why should activity in one area of social activity be immune from libel and slander laws?

Supporting this idea means that anyone or any group can say whatever they like about *you* and those you care about with complete impunity - so long as they do it online.

The folks at www.libelreform.org/our-report do seem to have a few good ideas but people really need to think about the consequences of pretty much letting anyone say anything unless you can prove their accusations false.

Steve
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -4
@Stephen
written by Nonchev, February 23, 2010
Everything is a double-edged sword, however the current situation is more than absurd. I can hardly imagine more libel-friendly laws than those in UK.

Point 1 "We recommend: Require the claimant to demonstrate damage and falsity."
In short, the laws should be changed so that the plaintif has to prove a negative...

Well, it isn't exactly proving a negative - in civil cases it's just giving evidence that the claim it likely to be false. Only then should the defendant have to prove it's actually true, and then truth will be sufficient defence.

Point 9 "We recommend: Exempt interactive online services and interactive chat from liability."

Is this a joke? Anything that anyone or any group says in an online forum should be immune to prosecution for libel or slander?

It is a side poing, and IMHO it's already inconceivable that anyone can sue successfully any forum participant or 95% of the bloggers. Moreover, every statement on a person's blog or forum is clearly the person's opinion, not facts. Why shouldn't someone have an opinion that you're a crack whore? Well, truth be told, people are stupid, and the actual harm comes from people believing such obvious bullshit - but the problem is not the statement.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Double edged sword
written by Stephen, February 23, 2010
Libel laws should be unfriendly to those who would make false and damaging accusations about someone else.

How hard can it really be to have a brain that works by actually recognising whether or not one really has evidence for a damaging accusation. Is that somehow too much for the law to demand of citizens in a civilised country? I don't think so.

If someone doesn't have any evidence that you have a history of sodomising cattle and sh@gging sheep or that you are a risk to the children in your area why on earth should they be able to accuse you of such in an online forum, on usenet or a blog?

What if you can't give evidence for some accusation that the claim is likely to be false? Let's say there was a mugging in your area recently and you have no witnesses that you were home alone that night watching the football. Would you really think it okay for someone to start writing in a local community forum online that it was you?

What's to stop everybody to accuse everybody else of just about anything if everthing written on an online forum was immune from libel laws?

And who's to say that everything written on a blog is just the authors opinion? I would say that depends upon the language they use.

What if some anti-vax alt-medder decided to write in a online forum that their doctor (who, let's say, was a well-known stauch supporter of vaccination) had been touching them up during an examination?

Would you feel the same about loosening the libel laws when it turns round and bites you in the ass?

As I've said, loosening the law is a double edged sword.

The first people to benefit from loosening up the libel laws will be extremists - including several amongst those who are anti-conventional medicine - and some of the anti-chemo and anti-vax people in society really spring to mind as being a bit emotional and illogical in their thinking from time to time, don't you think?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Puddinhead, February 23, 2010
From a quick look at the petition link, it looks as if this is primarily a push by members of the press. While freedom of the press is surely a necessary function of a free society, the notion seems to be taken to extremes by a sizable chunk of the press corps. The desire to be able to go anywhere they want and write anything they want in an effort to stir up controversy where there may be none and to ultimately sell more media goes beyond the public's right to know.

Everyone in the U.S. knows the name Columbine High School. Most of us can readily name the two idiots who were responsible for the attack. How many can name even one victim? What was learned from all the media coverage beyond the fact that if you kill a lot of your peers, you will be famous? Where is the responsibility of the press? Sure, we gladly eat the crap they serve, but that doesn't mean they should not be held responsible for what they churn out. OK, so clearly not a case of libel, but do you really want a machine which specializes in selling sensationalized drama under the guise of pertinent information to have carte blanch when it comes to leveling accusations?

I am surprised this is such a concern in England, as most of the papers I have seen from London are little more than tabloids; I would have guessed that there are no libel laws in England at all, had I been asked. What more value would be brought to the news if they could write whatever they want about a given person?

On the other hand, the press should be able (maybe even required) to call a man like Jim McCormick a liar and a fraud for leading directly to the deaths of anyone who was duped by his hand-held "bomb detectors".

Bottom line is, the English legislature apparently needs to dive into this and make some sensible changes. On-line petitions like this one tend to go overboard in the opposite direction however, relying on reactionary outrage at a single tale of injustice, and then corralling that outrage as an instrument for forwarding their own carefully crafted agenda. I have to think that if you take the time to write out a single, well articulated letter to the pertinent members of parliament, your impact will strike deeper. Or maybe it's just a good idea to go ahead and sign it. Dunno.

No one should be held accountable for anything written in a blog? Sounds a little knee-jerky to me. Quoth Moe Szyslak:

"Let's burn down the observatory so this never happens again!"

(and I realize that I have used this blog to bad mouth Jim McCormick and the Columbine killers, but I have not accused them of doing anything that they have not already been publicly accused of by the powers that be. A bit of a difference, I think)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
Double edged sword is better than a sabre on our collective throats!
written by Nonchev, February 23, 2010
How hard can it really be to have a brain that works by actually recognising whether or not one really has evidence for a damaging accusation. Is that somehow too much for the law to demand of citizens in a civilised country?

Yes, it is too much do demand that you only speak of what you have evidence. Including speculations who's sh@gging sheep.

What's to stop everybody to accuse everybody else of just about anything if everthing written on an online forum was immune from libel laws?

Who says it should be the aim of the law?

After all, most of the whistle-blowers are anonymous, and the law should protect their anonymity so that they can blow as much as they want. Reasonable people take those speculations and either confirm or reject them with further evidence.

What if some anti-vax alt-medder decided to write in a online forum that their doctor (who, let's say, was a well-known staunch supporter of vaccination) had been touching them up during an examination?

How exactly do you balance the rights of the patient with the rights of the doctors in such a situation? Right now, the patient is screwed AND in no position to raise awareness. In the future both will be at some disadvantage, but with the possibility to have their claims examined.

Would you feel the same about loosening the libel laws when it turns round and bites you in the ass?

Yes.

I don't necessarily stand behind the changes you outlined, just that they have some merit. I'd prefer to have the plaintiff provide SOME evidence of the falseness of the claims before going to court, when it is feasible to do so.

Yes, the changes will have unintended consequences, but one can hardly imagine it being worse than today.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Write to your MP
written by Gaius Cornelius, February 23, 2010
I have been exchanging e-mails with my Member of Parliament (MP) on this topic. My personal experience has been that my MP wishes to be all things to all men on this topic. While not being completely against reform he shows little real enthusiasm for change – I guess he does not think it is an election winning issue.

I suggest that British sceptics can make a difference by writing a personal message to their MP. Personally, I was careful to make my e-mails personal, respectful and reasonable; I tried to avoid stereotyped “activist” language and strident demands. I disagree with a lot of what my MP stands for, but at least he has had the decency to discuss the matter with me via several e-mails. If more people will take the trouble to do this, perhaps we can raise the profile of this issue which currently has little political support.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
McLibel
written by monstrmac1, February 24, 2010
There is a documentary called McLibel that follows a group of health advocates who were sued by McDonalds for handing out pamphlets saying that McD's food was unhealthy. In the pamphlet they also talked about the environmental effects of the McDonald's corporation.

McDonald's sued this small group of advocates for loads of money. The problem is that they couldn't afford the defense to match this major corporations legal team. They basically had a couple of local lawyers giving advice while they represented themselves. In this instance, the advocacy group won because they were able to fly witnesses in from around the world thanks to the donations of supporters.

Basically, a large corporation in England can throw around money and silence any critics, no matter how valid their criticisms. Until the libel law is reformed that won't change. I highly recommend McLibel by the way.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by CasaRojo, February 25, 2010
@Stephen

Much of U.S. law is based on what a "reasonable" person might think in a given situation and of course the definition of reasonable is left up to the judge in many cases. And then we have appeals courts in case you don't accept the judges rulings.

"Consider...
Point 1 "We recommend: Require the claimant to demonstrate damage and falsity."
In short, the laws should be changed so that the plaintif has to prove a negative... "

Probably not but maybe, depending. Proving damage and the degree of damage is not unusual nor unwarranted in civil cases IMHO however, I tend to agree with you on the wording that one may have to prove that an accusation is false in general if we're talking about criminal cases. But keep in mind that we are talking within the context of libel law specifically I am presuming.

In Singh's case, he's claiming that the chiropractors can't do what they claim that they can do. For them to demonstrate that they can do as they claim is NOT proving a negative but clearly demonstrating a positive. And if they could prove that they could do what they claim (as opposed to proving that they didn't do something that they were accused of) then Singh's claim would clearly be a false claim and they would have proved falsity by demonstrating a positive.

In the U.S there are different requirements for evidence based on a number of factors i.e. in a murder case it must be proved 'beyond the shadow of a doubt' or 'beyond a reasonable doubt'
but a simple civil suit can be won merely by the 'preponderance of the evidence'.

Obviously I am not a lawyer, I am simply reasoning through this as best as I can and if I've made incorrect statements I hope someone will correct me and provide credible links.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by PhillyBill, March 06, 2010
Libel laws always exist in tension with the freedom of speech and press, here in the U.S. Reform was accomplished largely when the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in the famous NY Times case, that where the libel plaintiff was a public figure, they had to show actual malice, or reckless disregard on the part of the defendant. Merely being false wasn't enough. The reasoning is that free and robust debate about matters of public interest would be chilled by the threat of libel suits if innocent or even negligent mistakes could impose liability. Sounds like that's exactly what's been happening in England.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy