Jonathan Mendel

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October 11, 2007

Blog post taken down by homeopathic complaint: a chill wind is blowing

I've previously blogged about attempts to censor a UK blogger, and the problems that this caused to the would-be censor. It seems like chill winds are blowing, again: the Quackometer blog has just been forced to take down a post, while Prof Colquhoun has recently had to fend off legal threats.

Andy Lewis' Quackometer blog has just posted that:

My web hosting company Netcetera have received a complaint from the legal representation of the Society of Homeopaths about this posting. On the request of my hosting company, I have taken down this post while I try to understand the concerns of the Society of Homeopaths.

This is rather worrying: it sounds like Andy doesn't even know why his post has had to go, and the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) have complained to his hosting company instead of to Andy himself. This seems like rather an unfortunate way to go about things: clearly, most hosting companies are keen to avoid law suits; this could, therefore, provide a worryingly easy way to censor any dissent.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been concerned about the abuse of takedown notices in the US - and these being used to silence critical sites about certain organisations. Hopefully, we are not now seeing a similar phenomenon spread to the UK.

It wasn't long ago that Prof Colquhoun at UCL was threatened with legal action as a result of some of his blogging about nutritionism. The same nutritionist also went so far as to try to contact some of those who posted comments on Colquhoun's blog, leading one blogger to express his surprise that

it seems that Patrick Holford thinks it worth hassling people posting comments on a blog. Why, I don't know, but there it is...As for me, I'm flattered that Holford thinks me important enough to bother with.

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. This could work as a chill wind to silence dissenting speech. However, the Internet is unpredictable - and often rather productive - in this type of situation: there's always the possibility that the SoH's attempts to silence Andy Lewis will backfire, and only lead to more widespread criticism of the organisation.

[b]UPDATE[/b] It looks like mirrors of the 'offending' page, along with more commentary on it, is spreading across the Internet at a good rate (faster than I can keep up with it). See David Colquhoun's blog for an updated list of relevant posts.

Posted by jon_mendel at October 11, 2007 12:41 PM

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Wondering what the fuss was about, I found the original article in Google's cache. It strikes me as a broadly reasonable criticism of the Society of Homeopaths and of homeopathic approaches to serious diseases. So I've mirrored the article.

Posted by: Rob at October 11, 2007 08:50 PM

Thanks for the comment - this does seem to be spreading across the net rather rapidly now...

Posted by: Jon at October 11, 2007 10:35 PM