Ben Goldacre targetted by MMR conspiracy theorists

Ben Goldacre, Guardian journalist, blogger and science commentator, has a habit of getting on the wrong side of certain people. His Bad Science column and website counter a variety of pseudoscientific and inaccurate claims. He has now become target of target of MMR vaccine conspiracy theorists:

LBC have instructed their lawyers to contact me.

Two days ago I posted about a broadcast in which their presenter Jeni Barnett exemplified some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves. This is important because it can cost lives, and you can read about the media’s MMR hoax here.

To illustrate my grave concerns, I posted the relevant segment about MMR from her show, 44 minutes, which a reader kindly excerpted for me from the rest of the three hour programme. It is my view that Jeni Barnett torpedoes her reputation in that audio excerpt so effectively that little explanation is needed.

LBC’s lawyers say that the clip I posted is a clear infringement of their copyright, that I must take it down immediately, that I must inform them when I have done so, and that they “reserve their rights”.

To me this raises several problemsThe segment in question can be heard on wikileaks – other sources are given in the article. Their actions, far from having the desired effect of damagte control, have resulted in the story being spread far more widely.

Will they never learn?

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3 comments so far

  1. brainduck on

    Ah-ha, found your latest blog 🙂

    There’s been a few ‘science bloggers’ come under this sort of hassle in the last few months. Interestingly, the most successful tactic used by the legal-chill people seems to be to go for the hosting companies, not the bloggers themselves – most hosts have folded immediately, I know Ben’s had to move a lot, though current ones are v good.
    In every case the result has been that so many other blogs jump in that the lawyer-grabbers wind up with the first few pages of Google being covered in the criticism they tried to suppress. Not a good tactic. (see ‘Joseph Chikelue Obi’, ‘Dr Ann Walker’ or ‘Society of Homeopaths’ for a few recent examples).

    I know sooner or later I’m going to get sued, and I’ve already had a few death threats from an angry American homeopath (seriously, what’re they going to do? Feed me nearly no arsenic and wait for me to catch a cold?). It’s one of the good things about being broke & unemployed, I don’t care if I get sued, they can’t take anything off me. Fantastic, & a good reason not to wish for the accumulation of too much ‘stuff’.

  2. Junius on

    Duckie! 🙂

    The host issue makes some kind of sense from an economic point of view (they stand to lose money in legal fees etc. even if the lawsuit is unsuccessful, and less personal investment in standing their ground.)

    The Streisand Effect (a term I dislike but which seems to be rising in popularity) does seem to be in full force. My heart bleeds.

    I now, however, have the uncontrollable urge to write a novel entitled “Death Threats From A Homeopath.”

    (None of the deathness please. The world needs ducks.)

  3. brainduck on

    The web host thing is really bloody frustrating. From their POV, it’s not even worth looking into a complaint. For several people it’s been a case of one grumpy letter and you are down.

    Prof Colquhoun at UCL is perhaps the worst example of this, his blog http://dcscience.net/ was taken off UCL’s own servers after a homeopath complained. Seriously, UCL would rather fold to the hint of a grumble of a homeopath than back their own FRS prof of pharmacology?!

    Of course, for commercial hosts it’s worse. Netcetera will disappear everything at one complaint.

    Interesting – people go on a lot about ‘freedom of speech’ on the Internet, and how blogs are ‘the new media’ and give a ‘right of reply’ and so on & so forth.
    In practice, Ben can only say what he does openly because he’s got the whole old-media Guardian legal team behind him (who have been awesome, see eg Matthias Rath).

    The rest of us are as secure as some combination of our own anonymity and exactly how lazy / chicken hosts are.
    A lot of the ‘freedom of speech’ the Internet appears to offer turns out to be illusory and meaningless, since often the ‘printing presses’ are even more in the hands or under the thumb of big business and expensive law-for-the-rich than they’ve ever been.

    Hope to be down your end of the country again soon for another Grumpy Geeks meet-up. Pub?
    brainquack at gmail dot com


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