Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmx DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Thing I have never understood about defamation and the Streisand effect

I generally only hear about defamation cases or libel threats when it appears that 'a bad guy' is going after 'a good guy'. Clearly it can't be that simple and I'm sure the 'bad' guys have mothers that love them and friends that think they or their name has been maligned unfairly.

There's a recent case in which a company got cross after the person they'd been slow in sending payment to expressed their annoyance about it on Twitter. I'd never heard of the company before or the writer who'd done some work for them. It seems that the company eventually paid up and the writer tweeted about that as well (ie they didn't just complain when the company got it wrong and then stay silent when the company rectified it, they acknowledged that things had improved).

Now the company seems to suing the writer for defaming their good name.

To me this ensures that they no longer have a good name to me as the only reason I've heard of them is because of this action they've taken. Not surprisingly there are quite a few tweets and blog posts popping up that are cautiously negative about the company, and in support of the writer (money has been raised by the public to support court fees).

This is also known as the Streisand effect where someone's efforts to stop one thing happening end up magnifying it far beyond its original reach. Barbra Streisand apparently wanted a photograph of her property removed from the internet but by drawing attention to its existence several thousand people saw it whereas previously it had passed largely unnoticed.

If a company draws attention to something mildly bad that it's done (not paid on time) and something mildly bad that someone else has done (complain publicly about the lack of prompt payment) by doing something much worse (suing someone, which seems to be a bit of a disproportionate response) surely they've defamed themselves and have disqualified themselves from pursuing any claim.

It may be fairly obvious at this point that I am not a lawyer... ;)


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