From hell, er, Britain

Ars Technica reports that Simon Singh has left The Guardian to concentrate on the libel suit filed against him by the British Chiropractic Association because he wrote this-

This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

His parting words

[M]ajor US newspapers, such as the Boston Globe and The New York Times, sent a memo last year to the House of Commons select committee on media, libel and privacy. They warned that they are considering stopping the sale of their publications in Britain due to the threat of libel. The benefits of selling newspapers here in terms of profit are outweighed by the potential losses in libel cases.

If publishers stopped selling hard copies in Britain, they would almost certainly also block their online content, because otherwise the threat of libel would remain.

Thereafter, it would be sensible for everything from academic journals to blogs to follow suit. Very quickly Britain could become an isolated society. In terms of free speech and access to information, our nation would become the European equivalent of China.

That’s just one of the reasons you need to sign the petition for libel reform.

This “libel”/ “defamation” stupidity is not restricted to Britain though. Britain exported its disease to one of its former colonies, us. Last week, the managing editor of a major business news channel was sued by one of its competitors, in his personal capacity, for a sum of, hold your breath, 500 crores.

Technica writes-

The UK’s libel laws, which place the burden of proof onto those who have published inflammatory statements, have had a chilling effect on journalism in that nation, and have led to a closet industry in “libel tourism.”

Your silence, or your life. Libel tourism. I call it legal terrorism.

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Comments

  • blr_p  On March 15, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    This is a tricky one, where does libel begin ? How does one gauge the amount of damage inflicted ?

    Right now its being exploited but if its loosened then will it protect enough ?Presumably this is why laws would tend to err on the side of caution, excessive so it may seem.

    What is the right level of protection here ?

    Of course the onus has to be on the one making the claim how else does one assess the damage here and the merits (or not) thereof.

    In the case of the UTV saga, it appears to be frivolous but we’re not the ones making the complaint.

    Your silence, or your life. Libel tourism. I call it legal terrorism.
    Nice spin here but i think this is just your usual par for the course competitive tactics between corps.

    Yeah, i wish other companies could slag off their opponents or at least highlight where they are fooling the public but more indirect methods might be the way to go with that. In the end the only effective policing is via their rivals, that too so long as it does not become a cartel.

    [ATG: Will reply in due course. FYI, some, not all, of your comments get categorized as spam. Some WP quirk that I can’t figure out. I dropped the moderation queue for regular commentators a long long time ago.]

  • Aristotle The Geek  On March 16, 2010 at 1:48 am

    # “where does libel begin ? How does one gauge the amount of damage inflicted ?”
    Nowhere. And what damages? I have covered the subject on numerous occasions in the past-
    * rumors
    * libel etc

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