Reform English Libel Law

i-9ef68053d189b224e898ad86ff1e75c9-libel reform.jpgIn mid-2008, UK science writer Simon Singh fell afoul of the weird and archaic English libel law. After he wrote in The Guardian that chiropractic lacks scientific support and that such treatments are bogus, the British Chiropractic Association sued him for libel. And in England, a libel case is always a major pain for the defendant regardless of whether he wins or not. He has to prove that he’s innocent (!), the damages are 140 times as high as in other European countries, and even if you win it costs you huge sums of money, loads of time and loads of stress. (Also, the law promotes international libel tourism, where people in other countries can bring cases against each other to English courts.)

But Singh didn’t settle. He fought back, and has expanded his motivation to include the reform av English libel law. I’ve had his campaign’s sticker, “Keep Libel Laws Out of Science”, in the left side-bar for months. And yesterday, Singh wrote to his supporters to ask us to sign a petition not specifically about his case, but about English libel law in general. English PEN, Index of Censorship and Sense About Science are jointly behind it. I signed up immediately. Check it out!

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  1. #1 Geoff Carter
    December 11, 2009

    Thanks for drawing attention to this.

    I signed up, I live here, and I am worried I may get sued militant theoretical archaeologists, for suggesting that structuralism has created a structurally illiterate academic culture.

  2. #2 Seth S.
    December 12, 2009

    Im not sure I would sign it at this point…
    If it is just to get Singh off the hook and open the door for irrational scientific discussion on a platform where any person can say whatever they want without consequence…I’m not interested. Then it would simply turn into a situation where whoever has the biggest pockets could get their opinion on the most public platform without accountability to the truth and that is a problem.
    In this case, Simon simply did not do his due diligence and look at the literature before spouting off. In this instance some sort of penalty should be pursued. It is unfortunate that his right to have an opinion is not protected in some way but when you are commenting on a topic of this magnitude you need to act with a degree of responsibility and actually….open a journal….
    I have found the literature to be riddled with support for chiropractic. All you have to do is look.

  3. #3 Martin R
    December 12, 2009

    irrational scientific discussion on a platform where any person can say whatever they want without consequence

    I believe it’s called free speech. I rather like it. It’s how I can spout off here on Aard for everyone to see, every day.

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