On July 15, 2015, lawyers working on behalf of Ben Radford sent me a cease and desist letter, demanding that I remove some unspecified portions of some blog posts of which he does not approve, including but not limited to the reports on the fact that Karen Stollznow had accused Radford of sexual harassment.
While a document apparently signed recently by Stollznow states “it would be wrong” for people to have believed her earlier accusations, the fact that she made those accusations remains true and a matter of public record, in dozens if not hundreds of places.
As many skeptics understand, the use of libel threats to censor criticism is a well-worn tactic of pseudoscientists and bullies. Radford may not have paid attention at the time, but here at Skepchick we staunchly advocated both publicly and behind the scenes for UK libel laws to be changed so that scientists and journalists threatened with libel wouldn’t be facing bankruptcy for even successfully defending themselves.
Unfortunately, even here in the US, a libel threat is a serious concern due to the exorbitant cost of simply retaining an attorney.
Faced with Radford’s demands and his threats of a lawsuit, I established an indiegogo campaign to start raising the initial costs of hiring a lawyer and defending my freedom of speech.
In response, Ben Radford wrote on Twitter the following:
@Tigzy_J No, I'm not. She was merely asked to remove 3 posts with false info about me. I wish she'd de-escalate & talk.
— Benjamin Radford (@BTRadford) August 19, 2015
The idea that I was “merely asked” to remove blog posts is astonishing. Radford at no point attempted to communicate with me to ask me to remove or edit any blog posts. Instead, I received the cease and desist demand from his lawyer, threatening a lawsuit. Here are a few choice quotes from that letter (bolding mine):
…if you continue to publish with knowledge of the accusations’ falsity, or in reckless disregard of whether the accusations are false, you can be held liable for defamation. I urge you to discuss this with another lawyer knowledgeable in the area of defamation.
Accordingly, please remove from websites and other social media accounts controlled by you all of Stollznow’s accusations…Mr. Radford will not sue you for defamation if you take these steps. Accordingly, taking these steps will…protect you from legal liability to Mr. Radford.
There is no grey area, here. This is quite clearly a threat, telling me that if I don’t remove unspecified portions of posts, I will be sued for defamation. Requests over the past few weeks to clarify exactly which portions he believes constitutes defamation and any legal basis for the claim of defamation remain unanswered.
It is not “escalation” to respond to a libel threat by taking Radford’s attorney’s actual advice and hiring a lawyer, nor is it “escalation” to attempt to pay for the legal fees. “Escalation” is attempting to rewrite history by using legal threats.
Radford’s supporters have grabbed a hold of his response claiming he has not threatened a defamation lawsuit, using it to spam anyone who posted a positive link to my legal defense fund:
Thank you to everyone who has provided support thus far, whether that be through a donation, helping to spread the word, or just offering me kind words. As the misogynist trolls get riled up in support of Radford on Twitter and elsewhere, I greatly appreciate any and all support.