Defamation as Censorship (in Australia)
- A review of Brian Walters' Slapping on the Writs: Defamation, Developers and Community Activism.
- NSW has reformed its defamation law (January 2003).
While defamation law sometimes serves its intended goal, of protecting reputations, all too often it serves as a tool for silencing criticism. The situation is particularly bad in Australia (and the United Kingdom).
As well as direct attacks aimed at preventing particular criticisms being publicised, defamation suits are often used as a kind of "legal battery", where the mere threat of legal action can silence opponents (or induce their ISPs to stop hosting their web sites). These are sometimes known as SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.
Scientology is one organisation well-known for using defamation suits (and claims of copyright infringement) to silence its critics.
I was peripherally involved with one of Australia's first online defamation cases - Rindos versus Hardwick. I corresponded quite extensively with David Rindos and think he was very badly treated by the University of Western Australia, but I don't think Rindos v Hardwick set a good precedent for online defamation.
- Roger Clarke has an excellent writeup of the Gutnick/Dow Jones case
- Senator Herron tries to silence critics (EFA PR)
- Brian Martin's Suppression of dissent
- SLAPP attacks on opponents of the Hindmarsh bridge