WordPress buckles under legal pressure
Emily Butselaar: Wordpress buckles under legal threat
22 Feb 10

Interesting story developing in the US. We’re trying to get confirmation from WordPress but it looks like the bloggers platform has again buckled under the threat of legal action, its taken down a science student’s blog after receiving complaints from an American quack.

Until recently, Michael Hawkins a University of Maine student ran a blog called For the sake of science. Hawkins tone could be at best described as intemperate, that said his opposition would raise anyone’s ire.

Hawkins wrote a series of blogs about Andreas Moritz, a new-age guru who describes himself as a “medical intuitive; a practitioner of Ayurveda, iridology, shiatsu, and vibrational medicine; a writer; and an artist”. Moritz’s 11 books include one entitled “Cancer is not a Disease – It’s a Survival Mechanism”, just the kind of publication likely to bring you to the attention of an angry young scientist.

Now part of me thinks anyone foolish enough to heed Chemotherapy advice (apparently it kills you) from a man who not only resembles Jocelyn Wildenstein but who also peddles Magic Dust Facial Rejuvenator really deserves what they get but Hawkins set out to save them in an unrestrained manner with posts with titles such as “Andreas Moritz is a stupid, dangerous man”.

Moritz reminds me of Matthias Rath, the vitamin campaigner who attempted to sue the Ben Goldacre and the Guardian after they claimed Rath “aggressively sells his message to Aids victims in South Africa that Rath vitamin pills are better than medication” but lets face it, using the law to silence scientist critical of your work is a well-trodden path in the quackosphere (Simon Singh’s appeal against the British Chiropractic Association comes up tomorrow).

Richard Dawkins was fantastic on this issue at a Lib Dem conference last year. Dawkins argued that UK libel laws damage science. He contended

Of course there must be redress if you are maliciously attacked in a way that damages you. But if such a law is cast too wide it has disastrous consequences on the public interest, not least in the area of science and medicine where the stakes are high, profits and reputations are guarded jealously, and the vulnerable need to be protected from unproven or fraudulent claims for cures, whether by “alternative” therapists or big pharmaceuticals.

It seems unlikely that WordPress will reverse their decision, so we can only hope that Moritz feels the full wrath of the Streisand effect.

I leave you with Moritz’s entertainingly bizarre defence on his actions, courtesy of Science blog.

Michael Hawkins,

You may blame me for having your blog pulled. WorldPress had to remove your blog because otherwise it would have faced a hefty lawsuit, given the nature of the defamation campaign you had launched against me, and having positioned your blog link second place on the search engines.

I have not yet decided whether to sue you for defamation. I have asked my attorneys to assess the damages your defamation campaign has done to my work, business, and reputation since your blog has been up. I know that they are significant, but if they turn out to be an excessive loss of revenue and reputation and/or if I see any more defaming publications by you or your blog friends against me or Dr. Makoney, I will not hesitate to launch an expensive lawsuit against you that you will not forget for a long time. I have collected all the data of your blogs and publications involving me. Your last email to Dr. Makoney clearly shows that you are instigating a new defamation campaign, at least against him.

My investigations show me where you live and where you study (Augusta, Amine), and if I hear or see any further activities that involve me or Dr. Makoney you will need to hire a good attorney to defend your slanderous actions and campaigns.

My close friend, Dr Deepak Chopra, who in addition to Dr Makoney and myself have been viciously attacked by your friend, the fish zoologist, PZ Myers, are considering a lawsuit against him. Slander is slander, whether it is done online or offline. If your friend is wise, he will immediately remove those blogs from his site.

Just in case you are not aware of it, below are stated the laws that protect people like me against people like you.

Andreas Moritz

READ WordPress removes blog after libel

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