Pro Tip: Even If Someone Has Faked A Damaging Memo About Your Organization, Don't Threaten To Sue Anyone Who 'Comments' On It

from the this-first-amendment-thing... dept

You may have heard that the Heartland Institute had some internal documents leaked recently, and noted the irony of the situation. If you don't know, Heartland is well-known in certain circles for its efforts to disprove that smoking causes any harm, as well as its efforts to deny climate change. The "think tank" also has done some telco policy issues, more or less supporting anything that involves not regulating telcos. The irony bit comes from the fact that a couple of years back, when there were some leaks of emails between scientists involved in climate change research, Heartland was one of the leading cheerleaders to push for misreading what was said in those emails to condemn climate change science.

Heartland is insisting that at least one document -- the one that's received the most attention and supposedly outlines the organization's dastardly plans -- is faked. Some observers have made compelling arguments that the document in question is, in fact, faked (and that's from someone who disagrees with Heartland Institute on the key issue of climate change).

I'm not going to comment on the leak or what's in the documents (either real or fake) because that's really not the kind of thing I care about that much. But, I will comment about one key thing Heartland said in its press release about the whole situation... where it effectively threatens to take legal action against anyone who comments on what's in the documents:
The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation. We ask them in particular to immediately remove these documents and all statements about them from the blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.
Now, I don't care what you think of Heartland, climate change or anything along those lines. Whether you think it's a wonderful organization or an evil organization... one thing I would hope we could agree on is that threatening people for "commenting" on documents with legal action, even if the documents later turn out to be fake, is not a good idea. I can certainly understand the temptation to try to get people not to comment, but the threat is pretty clearly bogus. The documents -- and the leak of the documents -- even if faked or altered, are still a public interest issue, and it's hard to see how there's any law broken in commenting about what's in the documents. There may be legal issues for whoever leaked the documents, but those who are commenting on them? Sorry, that's just silly.

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  1. identicon
    Mother Nature, 17 Feb 2012 @ 6:33pm

    efforts to deny climate change

    Ha ha ha silly humans.

    Pro tip:
    Any moron that has watched a How The Earth Was Made marathon knows the earth goes through heating and cooling cycles.

    Any moron that thinks we could stop this cycle is just plain nuts.

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