More companies go after critical bloggers with heavy-handed tactics

This is becoming a popular trend. Wonder when they will get the hint that it DOESN’T work.

Tim Farley posts on two critical bloggers that are facing legal threats instead of fair debate.

Morning Toolbox – October 11, 2012 – Legal Threats and Fair Use | Skeptical Software Tools.

Seems to be one of those days for news of legal action affecting skeptic bloggers. First, a South African company named Solal is suing blogger Kevin Charleston for R350,000 ($40,000 US) over an article in which he reveals that “Health Intelligence Magazine” is a thinly disguised piece of marketing material for the company. And that’s not the only lawsuit today, read on…

In another legal action breaking today Zenyth Pharmaceuticals, makers of a quack colon cleansing product called ColonHelp, have threatened a Romanian blogger who criticized it.

Coincidentally this is happening at the same time that UK skeptic bloggers are in a public battle with the publisher of a magazine called “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” and the new libel reform bill just got a reading in Parliament.

Josephine Jones blog has a rundown of the all the sites posting on Solal – a company that has made misleading claims that their products help treat AIDS, cancer, heart disease and depression.
Yet another quack company litigates against its critics

And Quackdown has more on this case.

Solal has advertised on the front page of at least one major daily newspaper that “vitamin D is as effective as a vaccine”.

Solal’s website states that their product, I3Complex contains:

herbal and vegetable extracts, scientifically proven to provide protection from the risks that promote cancer-cell formation and growth. All people with a family history of breast cancer, high risk individuals and women on hormone replacement therapy should also be taking I3Complex as a cancer-preventative measure.

And here is the site of the anonymous author who is taking a stand agains ColonHelp:
Colon cleaning company sues WordPress to try and deny reality

The producers of the colon cleansing product mentioned in the posts contacted me a while ago (in the comments) claiming that I have damaged their reputation and should pay 100.000 euro for that damage. This was followed by me writing another post in which I explained why it’s generally a bad idea to sue people criticizing your company as it can only bring negative visibility.

Some friends were supportive and posted articles further detailing how the product is deceitful woo. They were also attacked with lawyer tactics and changed their original posts to exclude the brand name.

WordPress notified me that the company has taken legal action against them (Automatic Inc) and provided the documents that were submitted to the courts.

He/she has agreed to discuss the issue for agreement to drop the lawsuit. But no response.

Regardless of the details of the case, there have been many situations where heavy-handed action has taken the place of discussion. This is counterproductive and WRONG, no matter WHO is doing it. It’s the cowards way out. If you make a claim, put up the evidence for it.

Tip: Brian, Tim and others via Twitter

  8 comments for “More companies go after critical bloggers with heavy-handed tactics

  1. October 12, 2012 at 2:31 AM
  2. Neels Conradie
    October 12, 2012 at 3:45 AM

    About two years ago, here in South Africa, we had a company selling Holiday Club memberships also taking on a blogger about a very critical blog post regarding them.

    As soon as the legal action came to light, it caused a backlash with hundreds of other South African bloggers posting in support of the blogger and criticizing the company.

    So in stead of having one blog post putting them in a negative light, which would have probably have gone unnoticed and faded into obscurity, the company actually caused major negative publicity for months thereafter.

  3. October 12, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    Nathan Geffen of Quackdown contacted me on Twitter to clarify that what Solal is suing about specifically is the phrase “actively promotes pseudoscience“.

  4. October 12, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    It does seem, at least to my untrained self, that part of the issue is the wording itself. I wonder if as little as using words like “in my opinion” or “I think” might mitigate some of these suits.

    I’ve not seen many articles about how to word stuff with a mind to avoiding litigation, but I seem to remember coming across some. Also, one can easily read current libel laws and get a feel for triggers that might precipitate legal action.

    I don’t know if saying something like:
    “XYZW company claims such and such, but my extensive research failed to turn up any evidence or studies to support their claim. Until they provide some, I plan to be skeptical and err on the side of caution rather than to use their product and risking growing another pair of testicles.”

    as opposed to:
    “XYZW are lying bastards taking advantage of idiots. They do this by making false claims designed to snare the feeble minded in XYZW’s callous web of deceit fueled by greed.”

    would lessen the chance of a lawsuit, but it seems more prudent. Sure, the second one is more fun to write, but, you know, it’s not always about the fun.

  5. Skeptical Reporter
    October 12, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    Thank you for taking interest in a story from my very own country. What is happening with the Colon Help product is shameful and one should never try and silence one’s critics. Trying to bully a blogger into shutting up is never a good idea. Offering some evidence for the claims one makes would have been much easier. Anyway, good job Doubtful News and keep up your fantastic work!

  6. October 19, 2012 at 5:56 PM

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