Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cease and Desist, y'all

Hmm. Last night an email appeared in my box with a lengthy "cease and desist" letter from a law company in Florida informing me (and my university employers, which is rather strange, as this blog does not mention their name and this blog is not connected to the university in any way) that I was to remove every single mention of a particular conference and a particular person from this blog within 24 hours and to never, ever again think, speak, write, or publish either of this names. Well, "think" was maybe not on the list. I am also not to accept comments from anyone who uses these names on any blog that I might run in the future. This includes reference to the conferences "representatives". And in "any manner". Oh, and I'm not even allowed to draft a post, so I guess that is thinking. And they have filed suit in Georgia. And and and.

Since I honestly do not know who is behind the conference - that was one of the many questions raised here - I have no idea how I can comply with that, even should I want to.

So this is what scientific discussion in the USA has come to? Since education and science has turned into a business proposition, people who "interfere" with the smooth sailing of earning money, we just turn lawyers loose on them.

Let's review what happened: I posted a short notice (48 words and a link) to a documentation page about the conference. There were about 30 comments that sprang up, many came by email. I posted a few of these to get a discussion going.

I ended up with people calling me (and others) names, and received threatening telephone calls. I've had death theats in comments. I turned off the commenting function for these entries. There was also an email to my employer trying to make it out as if I was stealing university time and computers to write this blog. I'm a German professor - my time is my own. I must teach a certain number of hours, serve on committees, but no one tells me when to be where and what to think. I like that.

So is there no free speech in the USofA? No more free thinking permitted? Or is this just something that certain people wish would happen there, too, because there are parts of the world in which this is standard operating procedure. I'll spend today checking the legality of a cease & desist sent in this manner. Be warned that I may have to comply by 20.00 German time.

Comments would be much appreciated, although I do still have moderation turned on for anonymous comments.


  1. I think the gentlemen who sent you this Cease and Desist letter pretty much reveal their true nature by sending it.

    Either the accusations you linked to are wrong, then they could have at least attempted to demonstrate that they are wrong .. or they are pretty close to the truth, and then they decide to threaten and bully the messenger. That they involve your employer is clearly a sign that they want to intimidate you as much as possible.

    Clearly this is scary, and you need to protect yourself, but I have to say that I would be more than delighted if your checking today led to the conclusion that you can keep the post.

  2. As one of the people who commented on this, I hope you will not yield to these intimidation attempts. You have primarily presented factual information which cannot be construed defamation or libel. They would have trouble proving anything on this in any court (let alone in a US Court, which probably has no jurisdiction over you).

    Note that the "Oxford Roundtable Conferences" tried using a similar approach against a British researcher, who publicly questioned their value/legitimacy.
    As you can see, the court promptly dismissed it.
    More on ORT:,30869.0.html

  3. Debora, I would not worry as long as you know you have not gone beyond certain boundaries. It is almost impossible to nail anyone in the US for libel and slander. Bit easier in Germany ...
    Climate Scientists get such stuff all the time, including the occasional death threat etc. etc. Even from politicians ... all goes under "freedom of speech" ...
    They would have to show that you caused them monetary harm by willfully and knowingly speaking the untrue ... hardly


Please note that I moderate comments. Any comments that I consider unscientific will not be published.