Saturday, February 7, 2015

"A serious case of defamation"

Sou | 10:45 AM Go to the first of 31 comments. Add a comment

Good to see that Dr Andrew Weaver has won his court case against the National Post (h/t Anonymous). As Carol Linnett at DeSmogCanada writes:
The ruling names Terence Corcoran, editor of the Financial Post, Peter Foster, a columnist at the National Post, Kevin Libin, a journalist that contributes to the Financial Post and National Post publisher Gordon Fisher.

Sad to see that the National Post has not yet complied with the judgement (at the time of writing this article).

Surprisingly, given the attention the paper gave to Dr Weaver, the court did not find malice, so did not award punitive damages.  General damages were awarded against all parties. So far only (almost) mainstream media has been sued - by climate scientists -  for defamation (to my knowledge). Once the rest of these cases have run their course, there may be sufficient weight of findings (precedence) to take on bloggers who claim readership in the millions. In any case, it will give people something to chew on the next time they want to attack the integrity of a climate scientist.

Message to anti-scientist bloggers: don't make up stuff

The message from all this to bloggers is "don't make up stuff". The message to internet readers is "don't believe everything you read on the internet" (or anywhere). Check your facts.

The ruling makes interesting reading. The punch lines are the findings of the Supreme Court:
[289] As in Leenen, the defamation in this case was serious. It offended Dr. Weaver’s character and the defendants refused to publish a retraction. The libel was widely published by at least one high profile journalist and two others. In addition, the libel effectively ran through a serious of articles in a national newspaper published over a short and continuous time period. Re-publication of the libel occurred as established by the plaintiff.
[290] I am of the view a significant award is appropriate. The inferential meaning of the words implies a serious defect in character that impacts Dr. Weaver’s academic and professional world. The evidence establishes Dr. Weaver was deeply affected by what he perceived as a barrage of articles impugning his integrity and academic reputation. These gave rise to the “Wall of Hate” that he maintained outside his office; comments, he noted, which arose after the publication of those articles.
[291] I consider an award of $50,000 in general damages against all defendants jointly and severally to be appropriate in this case. I decline to award aggravated or punitive damages. I have not found malice to be present in this case.
[292] Dr. Weaver sought an injunction and assignment of copyright. I direct the defendants to remove the offending articles from any electronic database, where they are accessible under the control of the National Post Internet sites and electronic databases. In addition, the defendants are required to expressly withdraw any consent given to third parties to re-publish the defamatory expression and to require these third parties to cease re-publication.
[293] Further, the defendants will publish a complete retraction of the defamatory expression in the hardcopy National Post Internet sites and electronic databases in a form agreed to by the plaintiff. Failing agreement, the parties are at liberty to apply to this Court for directions concerning the form and content of such retraction. As to the Weaver v. Corcoran Page 82 question of ordering an assignment of copyright, without more foundation, I am unable to accede to that as requested by the plaintiff in this matter.

Readers' comments on the internet

This part of the ruling may be of interest to bloggers. It refers to readers' comments and the responsibilities of publishers of those comments:
Once the offensive comments were brought to the attention of the defendants, however, if immediate action is not taken to deal with these comments, the defendants would be considered publishers as at that date. 

So - if you find comments on blogs to be defamatory or otherwise offensive and want them removed, then it appears it may be up to you to request they be removed.  That is, if in Canada. A request to remove and retract false claims made in an article, is generally a precursor to legal action for defamation. So a request to remove comments is something you'd probably be doing in any case.

You can do your bit to help

Taking a defamer to court comes at great personal sacrifice, even if the person wins. Cases will be more likely to succeed if the best advice and help is provided. Donate to the climate science legal defense fund - or maybe donate again, if you've already done so :)

Click here to donate.


  1. It's much harder for a plaitiff to receive a defamation in his/her favour in US courts than in those of Canada and Australia. State Supreme courts, and The US Supreme Court have parleyed the First Amendment protections into a defamatory free-for-all.
    This makes Michael Mann's action against the NRO and Mark Steyn all the more gutsy.
    It is our duty to support him and those who may come after him. Please contribute

    1. Correction "A defamation decision in his/her favour"

    2. Thanks for the reminder, PG. I keep meaning to put the climate science defense fund in the sidebar. I thought I did at one stage, but I can't see it there. I probably won't get to it for another couple of days - am about to head out.

      I'll do the next best thing and add it to the article.

  2. We can only hope that Michael Mann's suit against Steyn et. al. comes to a similar conclusion.

    1. I've posted the story to slashdot. Vote it up if you think it's worth having on the front page: http://slashdot.org/submission/4184505/climate-scientist-wins-defamation-suit-against-national-post

    2. Saw it after it made the front page, made some replies.

  3. Since Michael Mann took Mark Steyn and co to court, there has been much less targeting of individuals at WUWT. So some good has already come out of it.

    There are also the Tim Ball cases to come. They are in Canada, so may well succeed.

  4. A lot less, then again maybe they're just going after smaller targets.

    Perhaps Mr. Steele will take a hint and clean up his game.

    1. I won't hold my breath, CC.

    2. Hope springs eternal - PS in light of this news and my reposting of the DeSmogCanada article - I've slapped up a note I wrote last week but had been sitting on. A attempt to put the "conflict" in perspective
      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      "Jim Steele watt's up with your venomous self-indignation?"
      Dear Jim Steele,

      With time to reflect, I'm confused by your display of moral outrage in that January 7th WUWT broadside? Come on, lighten up, you should recognized the Shakespearian overtones and appreciate we were made for each other.

      Besides, it was you who jumped into my lil climate change sparing camp over at SkepticForum back last spring.... you were the big shot daring anyone to dispute your nonsense. Did you really think I was going to allow your Republican/libertarian "hey no worries, it's all a hoax" challenge to go unanswered? Then in your IEEE 'climate science horror' series and LandscapesAndCycle you're the one that told folks to check original sources. Well, I have and I've received responses including many full texts of published studies from:
      Dr. Ainley,
      Dr. Breckner,
      Dr. Fretwell,
      Dr. Guillaume,
      Dr. Jenouvrier,
      Dr. Kaiser,
      Dr. Kato,
      Dr. La Rue,
      Dr. Tate,
      with a couple still in the pipeline.

      Be happy! Here we are, "CitizensChallenge" vs. "LandscapesAndCycles"

      You the defending champ of "NoWorries - it's a hoax"
      Me the advocate for "Learning about our Global Heat Distribution Engine"

      We've even achieved an audience. All we need is a good cartoonist to document it. ;- )

      For the record, I hold no animosity towards you the person Jim Steele, (a fellow child and lover of the Sierra Nevada Mtns), and I don't understand why any needs to be fabricated.

      My issue is with the words and memes and nonstop derision poured onto scientists who don't deserve it. My target is the misrepresentation of the scientific process and published papers and the ignoring of inconvenient facts and observations. My goal is educational, both my own and anyone else who might be interested.

      Please, never forget it's the dishonest claims... those false Republican/libertarian memes you parrot, who are my enemies, not you personally! I'm simply striving to convince you, and onlookers, of the errors in your words.


  5. Maybe off-topic but the Wattmeters are looking really insightful at the moment.
    Long term: 'left/government/control/money/power', which like most conspiracy ideation is the opposite of the reality. And...
    Short term: 'science/paper/flawed/climate/nature' -- well, ditto.

  6. Given the comments I've tossed out of this thread, a reminder is probably in order. It's also in keeping with the main article.

    As most HotWhopperites know, the comment policy is very liberal here. More so than most blogs - both pro and anti-science. Unlike other blogs (like WUWT), I don't ban people for writing about science :D

    Just the same, any comments from the four or so banned people are deleted without trace (and usually without me bothering to read them). They won't even make it to the HotWhoppery.

    People only get banned for extreme behaviour (we've had nasty racism and extreme sexism, crude and vulgar abuse, threats, thread-bombing and silly little lies - as well as some of the banned making defamatory/abusive remarks about me elsewhere).

    Otherwise everyone is free to comment, but I ask that they adhere to the comment policy.

    When a comment is deleted completely, replies go with it. (In rare cases, I'll repost replies eg if they have good substance.)

  7. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Weaver at a talk in Victoria (BC) a while ago. A genuinely pleasant individual with a great deal of curiosity about things (that last part describes pretty much every scientist I've worked or met with though). Having a judgement in favour of such a person as Dr. Weaver just makes hearing about the ruling all the better. Sorry he had to go through all that idiocy in the first place, but now "Congratulations!" for persevering and winning.

  8. I was surprised the judge did not find malice, if they did then the damages awarded (aggravated or punitive damages) would probably have been a lot higher.

    Malice appears to have a high level of proof.

    1. It would have been particularly satisfying to see Corcoran get to wear a finding of malice. I would write more about him and his long-term war against all that is good and decent, but Sou has said above that she doesn't want crude and vulgar abuse here.

  9. The other thought I had was this successful defamation case exposes a flaw in the "Serengeti Strategy" of opinion writers picking on a particular climate scientist or politician - my guess is an individual is more likely to sue for defamation than, say, an agency or a group of scientists (can NOAA or the BOM sue for defamation?).

  10. The people who inhabit this site are just sad individuals who need constant reassurance from their peers. For science, you have to go elsewhere.

    1. @John Benton

      Is that it? Try saying something on topic. Or is that the limit of your abilities?

    2. @John Benton

      What would you suggest? Where "elsewhere" do you go for your science?

    3. Oh, please do tell us where one should go for proper science, John.

    4. To the best science blog in the whole world ever, bill.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. And which blog would that be Cugel? :)

      (typing fails ...)

    8. Cugel, John Benton's fav science blog ever, spells ever EVAAH.
      Have you not been there lately?

    9. John Benton indulging in some comment and run trolling.

    10. Honestly, how could us 'sad individuals' ever hope to break out of our confirmation-bias cul-de-sac if the enlightened indulge in an intellectual tease and then refuse to share their bona-fide scientific resources with us? I'm afraid I really must insist on some linkies...

    11. Exactly Bill.

      Come on Benton. Tell us where you get your pure distilled science from. We are yearning for enlightenment and more re-assurance. Like those scientists and their peer review?

  11. Money sent. Thanks for the reminder and thanks to PEER

  12. See Brian Schmidt over st:

    See especially the comments on malice. Note that Brian is a lawyer and a sharp guy.

    1. "And one more thing: unless they work it out quietly, there could be an interesting catfight among defendants on who pays the damages."

      Oh yes please. So many opportunities for defamation and lawsuits.


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