Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Please Sign This Parliamentary Petition to Reform U.K.'s Libel Laws

"Free speech is not for sale."
This is a very important matter that I've been involved in for some time.  Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame, puts it briefly:
"If you’re a regular reader, you know that the libel laws in the UK are truly awful. Instead of the burden of proof being on the accuser, as it should be, in the UK the burden is on the accused. So if I decide to sue you for something you wrote about me, it’s up to you to prove there was no malicious intent on your part. And it can cost you literally millions of dollars to defend yourself.
That, to be blunt, sucks. And it’s bad for freedom of expression, because it means that criticism of a claim can be substantially suppressed; who would want to speak out against, say, quacks, if they can sue you and cost you time and money?...   These laws affect everyone on the planet (if you write something on the Internet, it’s entirely possible to be sued in the UK for it; this is called libel tourism and is a serious issue), so it doesn’t matter if you’re a UK citizen or not."
Please sign the petition, to be taken to MP Jack Straw tomorrow.  (Unless you are content to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life.)  Here is the comment I added to the petition: "Stop libel tourism.  The U.K.'s libel laws shelter and protect those who perpetrate scams upon the public.  Truth is the ultimate defense.  Freedom of speech should be the first principle of any democratic government."

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