Microsoft Made Them Do It

Muir Russell said that it wasn’t the scientists weren’t to blame for defamatory language in emails, e.g. calling people “frauds”, “fraudit”, “bozos”, “morons” and so on. It was Microsoft’s fault.

They asked:

Indeed, some submissions have characterised them as ‗unprofessional‘, or as evidence of CRU‘s contribution to a ‗poisoned atmosphere‘ in climate science.

Muir Russell blamed email itself for the language:

14. Finding: The extreme modes of expression used in many e-mails are characteristic of the medium. Crucially, the e-mails cannot always be relied upon as evidence of what actually occurred, nor indicative of actual behaviour that is extreme, exceptional or unprofessional.

They observe:

Extreme forms of language are frequently applied to quite normal situations by people who would never use it in other communication channels.

But defamatory language by CRU scientists in emails is still defamatory language. That the scientists wouldn’t use such language face-to-face with the targets of their abuse is no justification. Ask Tiger Woods about email.

74 Comments

  1. Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 9:14 AM | Permalink

    There’s a grammatical error needs correcting in the first line of the post.

  2. DaveR
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 9:19 AM | Permalink

    Hang on Steve, the posters on CA are often extremely abusive about people working in climate science. I don’t see why it’s OK for your gang to be abusive but not the opposition – and the comments in CA are public whereas the CRU people at least thought their emails were private.

    Steve; I have a long-standing policy prohibiting terms like “fraud”

    • Steve Milesworthy
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

      …but you did imply that Muir Russell might have been on the look-out for a peerage.

      • Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 11:06 PM | Permalink

        Yes, because a mild sarcastic comment and blatant viscous and hateful outright name calling are the same thing. If you’re going to keep lowering the bar on what constitutes an personal attack, pretty soon ANY criticism at all, regardless of language, of the alarmists work and methods will be deemed abusive.

        Plus, Mr. Russel is not a scientist (skeptic or alarmist) but a politician working within the realm of a political body. So criticism of him (even harsh) has no equalization in calling someone a ‘fraud.’

        When did E-Mail become an “extreme” form of communication? E-mail is more widely used than snail mail these days for crying out loud, and most people I know don’t consider the basic human standards of politeness suspended in e-mail communications.

    • Jeremy
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:24 AM | Permalink

      It’s true, message boards can be abusive. What you’re implying is that IPCC scientists who claim a culture of openness, due diligence and scientific freedom are not held to a different standard than, say, boards.4chan.com/b/ (dont go there, dont do it).

      If that’s the way things are supposed to be, well, fine. I’ll see you all in the afterlife as with no standards imposed on any profession, society is certainly doomed.

    • Harold
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

      I’d like to see the post that you consider to have abusive language. Having written some posts that I consider agressive, but not abusive, and then seeing them scrubbed, my initial thought is that you have a very, very low hurdle on what language is abusive.

  3. Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 9:46 AM | Permalink

    What did you expect Steve?

    Real science is something you do not find when you trade government grants for the answers government wants.

    Posters are not necessarily scientists, ones who were supposed to be doing HIGH PAID real science the world could depend on. Instead they were just simply lying. As anyone who read a few of the emails could plainly see. And the best sign of a liar is the language they use.

  4. David
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

    Scientists should not be activists. They need to be as unbiased as possible. They should study the data and report their findings, then let others argue over what it means.

  5. Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    DaveR – “the posters on CA are often extremely abusive about people working in climate science”

    that DaveR, is because they deserve most of what they get!

    Much like the bankers who got us into the credit crisis could never be pinned down on their recklessness until the inevitable happened, so the climate “scientists” appear to be bomb proof against criticism regarding their speculation on the climate, but sooner or later the cold reality of the climate will show them to be what most people now know them to be.

  6. Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 9:52 AM | Permalink

    @DaveR,

    Where did Steve say it was “ok” for (your words) “your gang” to be abusive.

    I’ve not met Steve, but my hunch is that he believes, as I do, that using abusive language verbally or in writing–implied or direct–is *never* ok.

    Frankly, I think Russell’s panel’s finding “The extreme modes of expression used in many e-mails are characteristic of the medium” is odd. Sounds out of scope to research and draw conclusions about the state of email in the world.

  7. Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

    “Climategate’ professor gets his job back” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7876999/Climategate-professor-gets-his-job-back.html)

    The climategate home guard have their corporal Jones back again! Captain Mann-warming will be delighted!

    • Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

      It seems those climategaters were working under orders from somewhere above; it could explain why they are not being fired from their jobs, or have been reinstalled in their old jobs, or their unscientific behavior was and is ignored. Now they are seen like victims, not like victimizers.

  8. Xenophon
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

    It’s important to be fair to the report writers on this one. The references they cite on the subject of the ‘tone’ found in online communications are quite solid research. (Note: I know the primary authors quite well, which may bias my opinion.) That said, the studies were done in the early days of email — specifically from a time when few people used email as their primary means of professional communication. I sometimes wonder whether similar studies conducted today would produce the same results. I certainly find that my current emails and postings are far less heated (contain fewer flames?) than those I wrote 15 or 20 years ago. Some of this could be due to improvements in maturity (what? me? grow up? NEVER!), but some may be due to societal changes in the role of email in our day-to-day lives.

    • anonym
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

      societal changes in the role of email in our day-to-day lives

      Such as, for instance, a dawning awareness that institutional emails are routinely all archived …

    • toby
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

      As someone who has gotten into serious trouble when an e-mail to a single colleague was forwarded to a large distribution, this point is true.

      Companies and institutions now have strict e-mail policies. Using company e-mail for bullying, defamation or abuse can get a person dismissed. However, this was not true when I began to use e-mail about teenty-five years ago.

      Instant messaging and texts have now taken the place of the early e-mails.

  9. Sean
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:28 AM | Permalink

    I have a long-standing policy prohibiting terms like “fraud”

    This website contains the word “fraud” 264 times!
    http://www.google.com/search?as_q=fraud&as_sitesearch=http://climateaudit.org returns 264 results
    fraudit returns 31 results
    bozos returns 10 results
    morons returns 53 results

    To note microsoft didn’t invent email, the invention of email is not 100% clear, but to be accurate you should have written “MIT Made Them Do It”.

    Hostile chat on the web has existed for a long time, it’s called FLAMING.

    [ed: not all uses of the F word are accusations of fraud... it's silly to use google counts as an argument.]

  10. Paul Daniel Ash
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:36 AM | Permalink

    I’ve not met Steve, but my hunch is that he believes, as I do, that using abusive language verbally or in writing–implied or direct–is *never* ok.

    I’ve never met him either, so my hunches have roughly equivalent probative value to yours. However, I’ve not seen him object to the frequent use of loaded terms like “scam” or “groupthink” here.

    Personally, I’m one who believes people are entitled to their biases, but it does make taking some sort of moral high road a bit more perilous…

    Steve: actually I do. I don;t use words myself, have objected to such language and have deleted many comments using such language. Doubtless a few have slipped by and in such cases I ask people to draw such breaches of blog policy to my attention.

    • Dave
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was unaware that ‘groupthink’ was anything other than a descriptive name (and commonly accepted term) for a process that people can very easily fall into. Suggesting that a set of results may be due to groupthink is like warning someone to watch out for a pile of dog poo on the pavement.

  11. TerryS
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

    Extreme forms of language are frequently applied to quite normal situations by people who would never use it in other communication channels.

    This is the exact opposite of what my experience is. I’ve had face to face confrontations with colleagues where things have been said that would never be put in writing. Even when discussing a 3rd party’s shortcomings things are said that simply would not be put into email. Email (at work) has always been considered a formal form of communication and as such the language in it is moderated.

  12. Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:42 AM | Permalink

    “Crucially, the e-mails cannot always be relied upon as evidence of what actually occurred, nor indicative of actual behaviour that is extreme, exceptional or unprofessional.”

    So, analogizing to a criminal court (just an anology, not meant to be taken as an accusation), what was done was to throw out all the evidence being considered in the case, and then declare an acquittal. Not dismiss the case, but actually acquit the defendant. On the basis of the fact that the evidence is decided to be meaningless. Does this make sense to any lawyers out there, or is this as ridiculous as it seems to me?

  13. Andy
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:05 AM | Permalink

    Worse, they had access to the full email archive, so they could have determined whether the actual conduct took place, but 7 months just wasn’t enough time for them to do that.

  14. MrPete
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

    This is within my arena of professional expertise.

    Extreme forms of language are frequently applied to quite normal situations by people who would never use it in other communication channels.

    This is extremely misleading.
    It is true that screen-to-screen communication lacks the normal social barriers present in face-to-face communication, which can lead to inappropriate expressions of anger (flame wars) or intimacy (breakdown of marriages, etc.)
    And it is true that some people who would “never use it in other communication channels” will spout off freely online.
    What is NOT true is that this applies to just anybody.
    Any mature professional who values their reputation, integrity, etc learns to have a certain level of self-discipline, whether face-to-face or screen-to-screen.
    And since we’ve now had more than 25 years of experience with the fact that in today’s world, anything you say can (and likely will) show up in a recording at some point… they Really Should Have Known Better.
    Strong words are strong words. People need to own their words. If apologies are needed, then apologize.
    It is not helpful to suggest such things are excusable.

    • Harold
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

      I might agree with the conclusion if we were discussing something like the WOW messages, but not in this context.

      If anything, people who use email in professional settings learn to take extra care in their writings, since lack of context and non-verbal cues frequently results in misunderstandings.

    • Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 12:55 PM | Permalink

      Hang about people!!

      Until 2005 there was no COMPLETE FOI act in the UK. So until then emails would have been though private. These are glorified students at a university not IT controlled and stifled company men.

      Defamation requires actual publication of the text. The person publishing (or republishing) the defamatory language is guilty of defamation (see DEMON vs Godfrey – cost Demon Internet a few £10ks).

      The authors of the emails did not publish the text – they expected (wrongly) that emails are private between the individuals concerned. Publication occurred on many sites that carried the text of the emails.

      You cannot defame a pseudonym although someone like Tamino whose name is known, is tricky.

      In a recent ruling in the UK – smith v advfn (worth a look)- Justice Eady likened BBs defamation to slander (voiced) rather than libel (written). In slander you have to prove a loss to win In libel it is enough just to claim “hurt”.

      It would be easy for Jones to prove defamation, It would be more difficult for McIntyre to prove defamation. Loss of job, loss of reputation, loss of health are obvious reasons.

      Abusive language is not necessarily defamation.

      • QBeamus
        Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 1:08 PM | Permalink

        The same is true under U.S. defamation law. Of course, as a practical matter, the rule in the U.S. is something very close to “there is no such thing as actionable defamation, because the 1st Amendment forbids it.”

        But let’s not conflate “actionable,” or a legal cause of action for, defamation with “defamatory language.” The word “defame” existed before Lord Cook.

      • jim edwards
        Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

        Sorry, FordPrefect:

        1. “publication” is a legal term of art that does not have the meaning you appear to be ascribing to it.

        Publication does not require, e.g., printing leaflets or shouting comments in a crowded theatre.

        Publication merely requires relaying the injurious comment to another, in written or spoken form. It is sufficient to whisper a defamatory comment to a single member of the public, or send a single ‘private’ e-mail.

        2. Your statement that “Abusive language is not necessarily defamation” is spot on, however.

        “Idiot, moron, ugly, blowhard, rude, confused, misleading” are probably fine, legally speaking.

        “Fraud, dishonest, liar, steal, in-the-pay-of-Exxon, conspiracy-to-misrepresent-current-scientific-understanding” are almost certainly actionable, in this context.

        3. I’ve been reading this blog for ~6 years, now. Steve M. has often complained about defamatory comments made about him by “Team” members. The point has been made numerous times over the years that he could sue for defamation.

        The benefits to Steve could have been:
        a. Causing Team members to take care to make fewer ‘defamatory’ claims / remarks to the press and in blogs.
        b. Opening Michael Mann, et Al. to the legal discovery process, in order to ascertain the truth of competing claims.

        Steve could likely have accessed prized data long ago, if he had chosen this route. Many posters have urged him to do so, over the years, for the reasons listed. [Blog-readers have also urged him to file legal appeals to denied FOI requests - which he has generally failed to do.]

        Steve has opted NOT to enter the legal morass of litigation. He has often complained that posters should stop hectoring him about filing lawsuits.

        I can’t criticize his reluctance to live a life consumed with litigation.

        I note, however, that our Anglo-American [...& Canadian...] system assumes people will defend their own reputation from sufficiently objectionable comments. Mann and Jones have Gavin to fight their battles. Steve is the outsider. His recourse is the court system.

        I don’t know that it’s fair to expect these panels to get upset about defamatory language in these e-mails, when Steve has, apparently, acquiesced to living with the Team’s [mis]characterizations of him.

        4. Jones would probably have a hard time winning a defamation suit. You’re correct; many statements have been made about him, calling his honesty into question. Some true, some partly-true, some untrue. For the purposes of matters related to IPCC, he’s probably a public figure. If so, Jones would have to show the commenter had ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE his comments were untrue, or showed RECKLESS DISREGARD for the truth [the standard is "actual malice"].

        5. Look here: http://www.cyber-rights.org/reports/demon.htm for what looks to be a good analysis of the Godfrey case. In order for the Godfrey facts to apply:
        a. A person would have to post on Climate Audit, assuming the false identity of Phil Jones [or Steve M. on Real Climate...]
        b. “Phil Jones” would post a comment, ‘admitting’ that he had committed fraud, etc.
        c. The real Phil Jones would have to contact Steve M., and notify him that the comment was false, and request that it be removed.
        d. Steve M. would have to allow the comment to remain posted on Climate Audit.
        e. Steve M. would then be guilty of publishing the defamatory comment, even though he hadn’t written it. [Godfrey is a special case, assigning liability to a person who never made a statement - this is quite different from the facts of the CRU e-mails.]

        • steven Mosher
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 4:03 PM | Permalink

          ford isn’t the sharpest legal tool in the box. He even misses the fact that Mann writes to other potential reviewers of McIntyre and says that steve is a fraud. On one occasion without reading the paper in question it would appear.

        • jim edwards
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 4:41 PM | Permalink

          I’ve made the point in the past that Steve actually has claims that appear to meet the difficult “actual malice” standard.

          So while Jones would find it difficult to win a defamation suit he filed, Steve would not – even if he is a limited public figure.

          Your example is a pretty good one. A better one would be perpetual claims of Steve’s dishonesty/incompetence in describing Mann and his work, after Steve “requested data in a spreadsheet format.”

          Since Mann has ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE of the relevant facts, he can’t later claim the defense of “making a mistake” about what Steve actually requested.

          Every time Mann makes the claim, he revives the expired statute of limitations. The fact that Mann’s claim is repeated almost word-for-word at regular intervals also undercuts any claim he might make that he’s been misquoted.

        • Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 6:29 PM | Permalink

          http://www.out-law.com/page-5624

          Confidentiality
          Though one thinks of email as a direct means of communication, a message is often relayed through several servers before reaching its intended recipient. At each stage, a third party may have an opportunity to read its contents.

          Does this constitute publication?
          Publication, for the purposes of defamation, requires communication to a third person. That third person must actually become aware of the defamatory material. So, transmission from server to server probably does not amount to publication if the words are not read by anybody. However, if someone who is not the intended recipient were to intercept and read the email, it is likely that the Courts would consider this to be a publication. It is common for people to give access to their e-mail system to others. In such cases, where another has access, there is publication for the purposes of defamation.

          Your point 5 is just wrong!

          Mr Mosher
          I can find
          Mr. fraudit: Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 08:54:44 +0100
          ClimateFraudit 17:07 29/07/2009
          If *others* want to say that their actions represent scientific fraud, Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 05:37:03 -0500
          this fraud Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 09:22:02 -0500
          paper is pure scientific fraud Fri, 04 Feb 2005 15:52:53 -0500

          2 valid fraud statements to others on emails not seen by non named recipients.

          on the other hand I posted this:
          Wow good going McIntyre The whole blog sanitized of fraud claims.
          Just searched and found none – I though perhaps I had misjudged/misread this blog
          all the palinizations removed!

          but then…

          Google – fraud site:http://climateaudit.org/ gets 464 hits

          464 hits for the F word remained published in this site for many months (I think I saved the pages somewhere!!)

          [ed: not all uses of the F word are accusations of fraud... it's silly to use google counts as an argument.]

        • Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 9:52 PM | Permalink

          As another comment is held up in moderation I will post this additional info:

          Responsibility for publication
          (1)In defamation proceedings a person has a defence if he shows that—
          (a) he was not the author, editor or publisher of the statement complained of,
          (b) he took reasonable care in relation to its publication, and
          (c) he did not know, and had no reason to believe, that what he did caused or contributed to the publication of a defamatory statement.
          (2) For this purpose “author”, “editor” and “publisher” have the following meanings, which are further explained in subsection (3)—
          “author” means the originator of the statement, but does not include a person who did not intend that his statement be published at all;
          “editor” means a person having editorial or equivalent responsibility for the content of the statement or the decision to publish it; and
          “publisher” means a commercial publisher, that is, a person whose business is issuing material to the public, or a section of the public, who issues material containing the statement in the course of that business.

          {http://www] .opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1996/ukpga_19960031_en_1#pb1-l1g1

        • jim edwards
          Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 2:00 AM | Permalink

          If I send a defamatory e-mail to you marked “Confidential”, I have published my defamatory remarks [to you].

          If I write “Al Gore eats black babies” in my personal diary, I haven’t published my defamatory remarks – even though my diary is subsequently stolen and my remarks printed in the NY Times.

          While I wrote both defamatory remarks, I am deemed not to have “authored” the second statement under the language of the UK defamation statute you’ve quoted. I did not intend that my statement be published at all, when I wrote it in my personal diary.

          I am an author in the first case, because I intended my statement to be read by the person I published it to [you...].

          You seem to be stuck on the public / private e-mail distinction. A defamatory comment is defamatory, whether it is read by one person or a thousand.

          The size of the audience can be a factor in determining damages – but this is merely a question of EXTENT of liability. Liability exists for BOTH “private” and “public” communications.

          In a case like “Climategate”, damages might be very high – even though the audience is very small – if the audience is a select group of gatekeepers with the power to negatively impact the defamed party’s life.

        • MrPete
          Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 8:06 AM | Permalink

          Re: jim edwards (Jul 9 02:00),
          I learned something this morning. Thanks, Jim! :)

        • Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

          I agree with your comment re publishing to the email recipient. You could defame me in private emails between only us and I would have no recourse.
          [www.] law.unimelb.edu.au/cmcl/publications/def3.pdf
          There is no doubt that to give rise to a cause of action there must be a publication by the defendant. That is the foundation of the action….If the statement is sent straight to the person of whom it is written, there
          is no publication of it; for you cannot publish a libel of a man to himself… each communication of defamatory material is a separate publication, and therefore a separate cause of action;…but a defendant is not liable for a letter that has been wrongfully intercepted by another …everyone who “takes part” in publishing defamatory material is a publisher, and is therefore liable for defamation…

          [www.] lawdit.co.uk/reading_room/room/view_article.asp?name=../articles/7116-WJ-Defamation-Common%20Defences.htm

          [www.]website-law.co.uk/resources/website-libel.html
          Interesting stuff esp. No7

          (www.] ashford.gov.uk/council_democracy/council/constitution/part_5_-_codes_and_protocols/appendix_5_-__defamation_and.aspx
          (b) Qualified Privilege – exists where
          the person who makes a communication has an interest or duty (whether legal, social or moral) to make it to the person to whom it is made; and
          the person to whom it is made has a corresponding interest or duty to receive it; and
          the person who makes the communication is not motivated by malice.

          So publishing in UK law happens on every repeat – you copy the email defaming McIntyre from eaemails and post it on a blog which someone else copies to their Blog – McIntyre to claim defamation from Jones would also have to claim from eaemails, you, and the copier of your blog.

          However Jones corresponding to Mann comes under the last quote above – privilege; they both have similar views on the subject – and so it is unlikely to be actionable.

          Publishing texts on blogs with high readership (millions for wuwt) that suggest impropriety (or even fraud) on the Team’s part, or even questioning their competence, would open a real drum of worms should those defamed turn nasty. In the UK there is a statute of limitation of 1 year for any claim – but that is timed from the last publication.

          It should be noted from one of the references that editing a blog is bad. You should only react to complaints. Editing implies that you approve of the posts that remain.
          “In order to have the best chance of taking advantage of these defences, a host should not as a matter of course monitor/edit the content of websites that it hosts; however as soon as the host becomes aware of potentially defamatory content, that content should be quickly removed. “

        • jim edwards
          Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

          Mr. Pete:

          Thanks

          FordPrefect:

          You have some good points, but I think there are a couple of errors.

          Going back to your original argument, in an hypothetical pre-FOI defamatory CRU e-mail, the extent of liability should be limited to the small group of scientists in the loop. Given that the CRU e-mails evidence a pattern of forwarding confidential information absent authorization, I think some of the authors could be liable for the e-mails’ eventual unauthorized spread beyond the explicitly intended recipients – especially if the “leak” was accomplished by somebody in the CRU group.

          Once FOI was implemented and Jones sent out his ‘don’t tell anybody about FOI’ warning, the scientists are on notice that their communications may be broadcast to the world. If they didn’t want their statements to propogate into the public realm at that point, they shouldn’t have made them.

          I’m not sure how you find a privilege for Mann / Jones.

          The “interest or duty” you write about doesn’t mean an interest in sharing nasty comments about a common ‘foe’. If I hate ‘Charlie’ and tell you [falsely] that he has syphilis, and you hate ‘Charlie’ and tell me [falsely] that he is a child molester – then we’re BOTH liable for defamation.

          “Duty” would encompass relaying comments between IPCC reviewers and authors, in compliance with IPCC procedures. Communications between paper reviewers and journal editors would also be applicable.

          It’s not a free pass, however. “Qualified” privilege means just that. Reviewer doesn’t get to single out a paper for unfair criticism to an editor.

          It’s fairly clear that the Team members have exhibited “malice” toward Steve. It would be speculative to assume that motivation against some of the other skeptical scientists.

          “Editing implies that you approve of the posts that remain.”
          – This is a real problem for Gavin and co. at Realclimate, which is heavily ‘moderated’ [censored].

        • Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

          As you can see from the posts I made above – they are moderated.
          WUWT heavily moderates posters
          CA – just count the “snips”

          In a war of defamations the real winners would be the lawyers. But to post around replys with attached emails to a few like minded individuals would not get the compensation that publishing the same posts on the net would get.

          McIntyre has possibly repeated the same defamation about himsel on this site this would prevent him claiming defamation.

          I seem to remember reading that the enquiry did not read the emails because the police had not released them. Either they do not want to handle illegal material or they do not want to get involved in defamation actions!

        • bender
          Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 3:57 PM | Permalink

          Steve snips comments. Realclimate refuses comments.
          Steve’s snip policy is clear. RC’s refusal policy: a black box.

          Big difference. Why pretend otherwise, ford?

          Steve: I welcome scientific opposition. 99% of my snips are over-zealous “supporters”.

        • jim edwards
          Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:20 PM | Permalink

          “In a war of defamations the real winners would be the lawyers. But to post around replys with attached emails to a few like minded individuals would not get the compensation…”

          Don’t confuse the size of the possible judgment with actual, in-hand, money damages. It’s unlikely that any plaintiff would see a windfall – no matter who they sued. Few defendants have the assets to make this sort of suit worthwhile.

          The benefits to the plaintiff are: seeing the defendant squirm, making your ‘foes’ choose their future words with a little more discretion, and the moral satisfaction of an actual judge telling the world that you’re right and your ‘foe’ has lied about you. It ends the ping pong match of spin back and forth.

          Again, I can’t fault Steve for having chosen NOT to go down this path – even though there are cases that look like relatively easy wins.

        • Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 8:43 PM | Permalink

          bender Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 3:57 PM | Permalink | Reply
          Steve snips comments.

          There is no difference!

          Those comments McIntyre leaves have therefore been editorially approved. He has allowed comments with the F word on line for months (he cleaned the blog of 400 or so comments when I pointed this out)

          RealClimate or any other that edits comments has the same problem – remaining statements have been approved editorially.

          jim edwards Posted Jul 9,

          Most people have houses and other goods. These are at risk in the UK. Also note that in defamation in the UK the defendant has to prove innocence (guilty until proven innocent). It is very easy to raise a defamation writ in the UK and this simple action will force the defendant to defend himself or face charges.

          I do not see an the emails being an easy source of defamation against McIntyre – it will entail taking too many of his supporters to court just to get jones!

        • Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 5:50 AM | Permalink

          another moderation holdup!!!!
          thefordprefect Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 8:43 PM | Permalink | Reply
          Your comment is awaiting moderation.

          bender Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 3:57 PM | Permalink | Reply
          Steve snips comments.

          There is no difference!

          Those comments McIntyre leaves have therefore been editorially approved. He has allowed comments with the F word on line for months (he cleaned the blog of 400 or so comments when I pointed this out)

          RealClimate or any other that edits comments has the same problem – remaining statements have been approved editorially.

          jim edwards Posted Jul 9,

          Most people have houses and other goods. These are at risk in the UK. Also note that in defamation in the UK the defendant has to prove innocence (guilty until proven innocent). It is very easy to raise a defamation writ in the UK and this simple action will force the defendant to defend himself or face charges.

          I do not see an the emails being an easy source of defamation against McIntyre – it will entail taking too many of his supporters to court just to get jones!

          Steve: As I’ve said on other occasions, I have blog policies that do not allow accusations of fraud. I do not make such accusations myself. Blog comments here are not moderated in advance. I remove comments that breach blog policies when I notice them and I ask others to notify me if they see such comments that I’ve missed, as sometimes the volume of comments in the past has been overwhelming to keep up with. Some uses of the word “fraud” are not accusatory. All of this you know as you’ve raised the same point dozens of time. I don’t want to have a situation where you say that I failed to rebut your allegation. YOu’ve had your say on this point over and over. And I can’t keep responding to the same point. So please don’t keep bringing up the same issue in multiple threads.

        • MrPete
          Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 6:48 AM | Permalink

          Re: thefordprefect (Jul 10 05:50),
          Two minor corrections:

          a) “Blog comments here are not moderated in advance” — not HUMANLY moderated. As TFP is apparently surprised to discover :), the WordPress system is perfectly capable, on its own, of deciding to hold up comments for human intervention.

          b) As has been noted many times before, management of this blog is a volunteer enterprise. If a hundred comments get auto-moderated in a busy time, and nobody’s looking, it is quite easy for some of them to never be released from moderation. (Although the software today makes it much easier to manage than in the past!) Nobody would claim that the moderation policies are perfectly applied to all messages, simply because there are not enough (human) resources to accomplish that task.

        • Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

          In future I will point people at the responses I have made in the past. Although links are one of the things that pour the response into the spam bucket.

          As this thread is just about dead I will bring this up here

          An important point as McIntyre and MrPete are here. Please look at the thread

          The Botched Examination of the Back-Up Server

          an then put yourself in the shoes of a potential client of Peter Sommer.

          Are you certain the Somner is incompetant as is suggested by comments you have approved and made?

          The botched “efforts” to examine the balance of the emails in the back-up server is another sorry episode. McIntyre

          The forensic computer analyst appears to have been well aware who was paying his fee – or quite unimpressive technically. ZT

          etc….

        • Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 8:57 AM | Permalink

          PS Peter Somner wrote the Hackers Handbook!!!

  15. Carl C
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:18 AM | Permalink

    >>Ask Tiger Woods about email.

    ahh, so snarkily replying to a ridiculous & abusive number of FOI “requests” is just like replying to porn stars. Thanks for clearing that up! Because in the end all you have shown is that if you steal scientists’ emails, they can sound like jerks (as would happen if you stole anyone’s email, including I’m sure your own correspondence with Ross). I anxiously await your next “smoking gun du jour!”

  16. coniston
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:30 AM | Permalink

    Carl C

    Define “a ridiculous and abusive number of FOI requests”. Dealing with FOI(A) requests goes hand in hand with taking money from the government. Can’t deal with it? Don’t take the money.

    I have an inkling that your emails would make you sound like a jerk. That is not the case with Steve McIntyre whose FOI requests were neither numerous nor abusive. Indeed I am quite certain that SM’s/RM’s correspondence would reveal them to be the considered and professional people that they are.

    Next?

    • PhilJourdan
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 1:02 PM | Permalink

      “Define “a ridiculous and abusive number of FOI requests”. ”

      To CRU, One.

  17. hunter
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:39 AM | Permalink

    ‘False but true’ is the established standard in climate science and government reviews, apparently.
    How many other areas of life is ‘false bbut true’ the standard now prevailing?

  18. Carl C
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:39 AM | Permalink

    c’mon, you know that the old climateaudit scam of “pick 5 countries from 200 and mail an FOI req” and such ilk, originating from this site, was meant to overwhelm the scientists with bogus, numerous requests. Then you act all outraged when scientists call you dicks in their emails. Wow what a shocking revelation. And of course you’ll spin yet another exoneration as ‘whitewash.’ You wasted a hell of a lot of time & money with this BS; of course your fearful leaders get plenty from the right-wing think tanks. And yet you’ll hypocritically screech about scientists getting money for a grant….

    • Varco
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

      Carl C,
      please read the Muir report. It entirely justifies the frustrations regarding FOIA that lead this board to take extraordinary action. Muir Russell makes no attempt to exonerate CRU on this point which from someone with whitewash to spare speaks volumes.

      • Carl C
        Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 11:57 AM | Permalink

        look, I can understand that it’s frustrating to make requests to civil servants for FOI and gets ignored. but blatantly sending ridiculous amounts of requests, and then acting shocked & outraged when you steal emails and find out they were calling you jerks, is pretty disingenous. Basically all one can conclude from “climategate” is “scientists can personally be assholes.” Any PhD student/postdoc could have told you that and saved governments millions of dollars! :-)

        • DaveJR
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

          “look, I can understand that it’s frustrating to make requests to civil servants for FOI and gets ignored”

          Ignoring FOI requests is breaking the law. They weren’t ignored they were stonewalled. CRU made the claim that it couldn’t provide any data because *some* of it was covered by confidentiality agreements. An obvious next step was to ask for the confidentiality agreements to determine what countries were and were not covered to determine what data was and was not apparently available. Unsurprisingly, CRU only managed to scrape together a handful of actual agreements, all of which had either already been broken by CRU when they sent their data to team players or didn’t apply at all.

          Besides which, you seem a little confused as to the timeline. All this happened long after “The Team” started using “extreme forms of language” in their email communications about people they disagreed with.

        • Carl C
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

          Again – it’s laughable to whine about “extreme forms of language” in private emails. I’m sure everyone from you to McI has written horrible emails that they would be shocked & embarrassed to have made public. You guys concocted this entire straw-man of “FOI requests”, were lucky enough to have someone on the inside to get a bunch (but not complete) set of emails, and all you are left with is “scientists are jerks because they used profanity & belittled our bloggers.”

        • QBeamus
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

          Actually, I think you have a reasonably good point. Believe me, speaking as a litigator, we’re in something of a golden age right now, because the major disputes in court today (at least in my field) involve events from about this period. Which means it’s uncanny how often the bad guy has left a smoking gun among emails that people had no idea would be saved and later scoured for evidence. In ten years, I expect the supply of these smoking guns to have largely dried up.

          However, I think you’re obscuring the more important issue with an unreasonable focus on the nature of the language in these emails. Even had they been written with a truly British combination of reserve and biting wit, they would be equally damning. Because regardless of how polite the language, the content of the emails show that these individuals were not pursuing science, but, rather, were emotionally invested in a particular outcome, and engaged in a political campaign to prevent the truth from coming out.

        • Carl C
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

          And the “legality” of obtaining this odd collection of emails? Any court would have thrown this out as the emails were obtained illegally, and immediately trumpeted as a “smoking gun.” I admittedly fell for the hype at first a la Monbiot. But the reality, as the real audits have shown, was this whole thing was a farce, more akin to the bogus little right-wing boys who “framed ACORN”; and nothing like the Ellsberg break-in whistleblowing.

        • GrantB
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 8:48 PM | Permalink

          1. “acting shocked & outraged when you steal emails”
          2. “someone on the inside to get a bunch (but not complete) set of emails”
          3. “the emails were obtained illegally”

          Fair enough, 1 implies 3 if you are equating stealing with hacking. 2 (a whistleblower) doesn’t. Since you appear comfortable with 1, 2 and 3 logic is possibly not your strongest suit.

        • QBeamus
          Posted Jul 8, 2010 at 9:40 AM | Permalink

          I’m not sure what you’re point is–you’re speaking as though the relevant inquiry is whether the Team committed some actionable legal infraction. Whether or not they did, they plainly abused the public’s trust, by failing to abide by the standards we expect of our publicly funded scientists.

          And, incidentally, you’ve simply mistaken in your assertion that a court would exclude evidence that was published illegally. To the contrary, the general rule is that anything that becomes public is fair game–the principle exception being if the violation was committed by the adverse party in the litigation. In this context, therefore, to persuade a court to exclude this evidence you’d have to show two things that you’ve failed to show so far: (1) the emails were illegally published; and (2) Steve did it.

        • coniston
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 1:59 PM | Permalink

          Carl, you are conflating two things: the multiple emails with the countries divided up – carefully so as to avoid unnecessary duplication – occurred MONTHS before Climategate and any one who did his homework could see that they were in response to the stonewalling and tricks of language in order to avoid complying with the law. (e.g. oh you asked for “humperdinck emails 2004-2005″ but you didn’t ask for “THE humperdinck emails 2004-2005″ ah we don’t have to respond then) led Steve to ask for the multiple emails that included all the countries so they could not wiggle out through yet another Trick! They were easily dealt with as a group provided that CRU had any organisational skills which would have had all this to hand.

          Your supposition regarding the tone of SM’s emails is just that. As a matter of fact you have NO evidence upon which to base your supposition. Get your facts straight before commenting again pls.

        • Janice
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 1:59 PM | Permalink

          Carl, I believe the pertinent phrase that you use is “private emails”. If the emails in question were taken from some gmail or yahoo accounts, then that would be fraud and abuse. However, any time that someone uses their corporate, government, or educational email account, the email that is sent does not actually belong to them. Just as a discovery that is made while in the employ of someone else does not belong to the discoverer, but to the entity that is providing the livelihood, so it is with emails.

          If these were supposed to be private emails, they should have been sent using private email accounts, to other private email accounts. The scientists who used non-private email accounts set themselves up for their emails to be part of FOI requests. They may as well have published the emails in journals, along with their data.

          Not everyone is as rash as you imply, about their private email correspondence. I always assume that my emails could be read by someone other than the recipient. I save my more snarky remarks for telephone calls and face-to-face conversation.

        • Carl C
          Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 3:44 PM | Permalink

          err, a hacker (or more likely, disgruntled employee with access to emails) is not the same as a company or university keeping emails around, and getting a subpoena to release said emails. You guys take a crime, and run away with it, as if it’s “whistleblowing”, and then ultimately, there’s not much to see other than a few scientists’ digust with your nutty overblown, phony “requests”

    • cicero
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

      Carl C, is there any wonder that CRU received a lot of FoI requests as even the Russell report concludes:

      ‘…we find that a fundamental lack of engagement by the CRU team with their obligations under FoIA/EIR, both prior to 2005 and subsequently,
      led to an overly defensive approach that set the stage for the subsequent mass of FoIA/EIR requests in July and August 2009.’ (pg 95)

      and…

      ‘We found a tendency [of CRU] to answer the wrong question or to give a partial answer.’ (pg 91)

      and…

      ‘The Review found an ethos of minimal compliance (and at times non-compliance)by the CRU with both the letter and the spirit of the FoIA and EIR.’ (pg 93)

      • Carl C
        Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

        but McI, through this site, kept moving the goalposts, always screeching he didn’t get the data he wanted/needed, and you sheep helped him out with hundreds of requests. Then you act shocked & outraged years later that they didn’t take all of these spurious requests seriously. You basically are contriving your own scandal, and it’s disingenuous at best, and dishonest at worst. Again – all you proved is some scientists can personally get pissed off like any human.

    • Latimer Alder
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 1:26 PM | Permalink

      @CarlC

      I seem to have forgotten exactly how many confidentiality agreements there were actually shown to be in existence..from the 200 countries concerned?

      Perhaps somebody can remind me. Was it five or six? Between 2 or 3% of the 200?

    • steven Mosher
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

      Actually Carl we knew at the time that CRU could consolidate all the requests into ONE response, which they did. Since I helped in organizing the effort, I did research the code. I believe I explained to everyone how CRU would handle it. By consolidating all requests into one. And I explicitly stated that I would write my differently so that they would have to treat my request separately, which they did. My request was denied because they said they thought it would take more than 18 hours to respond

  19. ZT
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

    Email name calling is a “good way to solve a problem” where the problem is the paucity of facts that support the CAGW position.

    Similarly whitewashing the CRU crew’s activities is a “good way to solve a problem” where the problem is a lack of an impressive title or the possession of an unblemished reputation.

    • Carl C
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 1:47 PM | Permalink

      “paucity of facts” — oh yeah — because the entire corpus of climate change research revolves around these few guys & their hockey stick. another ridiculous straw-man to prop up the self-importance of McI & McK….

      • Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 10:19 PM | Permalink

        Carl, How’s this?

        At 01:07 PM 9/22/99 +0100, Folland, Chris wrote:
        Dear All

        A proxy diagram of temperature change is a clear favourite for the Policy
        Makers summary.
        But the current diagram with the tree ring only data
        somewhat contradicts the multiproxy curve and dilutes the message rather
        significantly.

        I would’t want facts to get in the way of the self-importance of McI & McK though.

  20. coniston
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 2:02 PM | Permalink

    Carl,

    Why do you employ self-evidently false statements like “the entire corpus of climate change research”??
    State what you mean and back it up with facts. If you keep up with the straw you’ll become a fire hazard.

  21. Graeme W
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 4:43 PM | Permalink

    Just one small quibble on what Steve wrote. He has essentially claimed that Microsoft owns/invented email. That’s not true. He should have said “It was the Internet’s fault.”

    Otherwise, I’ve enjoyed the post and the subsequent comments. Having been burnt myself with an email sent to one person that made a comment about the lack of technical skills of someone else, and then found that the email had been forwarded to said person (not maliciously, I should add), I am very much aware that any email I write is out of my control as soon as I send it.

    You could probably argue that emails in the first two or three years were probably private comments, but as professionals they should have realised all emails after that point could be made public at any time, and that they should have conducted themselves appropriately. Of course, the counter argument is that private conversations between friends, rather than between work colleagues, can and often would have a different tone and they may have expected them to remain as such: private conversations. Unfortunately, many of their ‘private conversations’ were intermingled with work conversations, and that’s probably how they ended up in that ZIP file.

  22. Feedback
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 5:49 PM | Permalink

    I receive and write many e-mails daily, as most people do, in my job, with collegues and customers. You wouldn’t find much “extreme forms of language” in my e-mails. Most people I communicate with are friendly, many are informal but most, if not all, are polite, even if there is some conflict. I somehow find it hard to believe that there should be something with the communication media itself that encourages one to be anything else but polite. BTW I’m also polite on the telephone, even when I probably shoudn’t be.

    As for “public” or “private”, there seems to be some kind of grey zone here: when Mann writes to Andy Revkin saying that

    “Hi Andy,
    The McIntyre and McKitrick paper is pure scientific fraud.”

    http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=492&filename=1107899057.txt

    When you write such thing to a renowned journalist, it’s not just “private” anymore, or is it?

    • dougie
      Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 7:23 PM | Permalink

      those were the days when they thought they ruled the media (world) & slapped down any dissent.

      hope, thanks to Steve/climategate & many others that this has changed.

      but worry that the fix is in.

  23. LearDog
    Posted Jul 7, 2010 at 6:52 PM | Permalink

    I guess that I am not surprised owing to the nature of the all of these interrogatories (tilted by design or implementation) – in that they actually are NOT supposed to seek the truth – but further chalk up the outcomes to the fact that framework of analysis of the panelists prohibits them from seeing clearly.

    In reality – all it takes is an open mind, a little homework (reading will suffice (its not THAT ‘inside baseball’)), and guts to challenge these people.

    The real loss here is that these fellows acknowledge the behavior of these vaunted leaders of ‘climate science’ – yet would cringe at the thought of their children behaving in such a petulant manner. And so – rather than hold these fellows to a HIGHER standard – they are held to NO STANDARD at all. And they’re the LEADERS for cryin’ out loud!

    Its a loss for Science and Civility all around.

    Thank you Steven for all that you do. You’re a true hero, a class act.

  24. pesadilla
    Posted Jul 8, 2010 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

    “I disagree with what you say but i will defend with my life, your right to say it” Voltaire (i think)

    In my humble opinion, the comments in the e-mails(all of which I have read) reveal a great deal about the writers and none of that which has been revealed reflects well on the participants. Their shortcommings are obvious to independently minded people regardless of their climatic persuasions.
    The likelyhood is that the other 99.7% of e-mails will confirm that which (in my opinion) is already apparent.

  25. Alan Wilkinson
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 9:13 PM | Permalink

    Like “Feedback” I have been writing emails since they were invented and as a business professional every single one is written with the “back of mind” realisation that it could eventually be evidence in a court of law.

    There is absolutely nothing in my 15+ years of archived emails sent or received that descends anywhere near the obnoxious standard revealed by Climategate.

    Those “extreme modes of expression” are certainly not characteristic of the medium. Nor are they characteristic of proper scientists. They are, however, characteristic of many political manipulators.

    • Mark F
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 9:55 PM | Permalink

      Dare I link those certain gauche email habits with those of a persuasion usually associated with the English translation of the term?

  26. MrPete
    Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 7:16 AM | Permalink

    I want to address another of TFP’s statements, which reflects an extremely common misunderstanding. What I’ll say has been said before.

    Until 2005 there was no COMPLETE FOI act in the UK. So until then emails would have been thought private.

    FOI isn’t the only law covering privacy protection.
    I am not a lawyer, but have been involved in legal discovery situations involving employer/employee relationships.

    AFAIK, communications created on company time using company resources are owned by the company, not the employee. Employees can have NO expectation that their recorded communications are either their own, or will remain hidden. At the very least they are “discoverable” in a lawsuit.

    Thus the common claim that these were “private” communications is simply incorrect. They are “corporate” communication, ie. owned by the corporation.

    If you think there’s such a thing as communication privacy in the workplace, get enough education to adjust your perspective. Begin by learning a little about records-retention policies. This isn’t the 19th century anymore.

    [Maintaining a semblance of privacy is even harder today in the US, after Sarbanes-Oxley: corporations are now required by law to retain a copy of all employee communications for a rather long time! Even Instant Messaging may be subject to these rules; some organizations are disabling IM for this reason, because the conversations can't be reliably archived. A great example of how a small rule requiring "corporate controls" turns into monster regulation and cost.]

5 Trackbacks

  1. By » Muir Russell rapport - Climategate.nl on Jul 7, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    [...] 17:49 http://climateaudit.org/2010/07/07/microsoft-made-them-do-it/ [...]

  2. [...] More from Steve: [...]

  3. By The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 132 on Jul 7, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    [...] the panel to censure the scientists on his behalf. Maybe that is why he wants his apology. Microsoft Made Them Do It Climate Audit He got off lightly – his FOI requests were deliberately posed to be annoyances. It must be galling [...]

  4. [...] Microsoft Made Climategate professors Do It!? 'Calling people 'frauds', 'fraudit', 'bozos', 'morons'…Muir Russell blamed email itself for the language: 'Finding: The extreme modes of expression used in many e-mails are characteristic of the medium….Extreme forms of language are frequently applied to quite normal situations by people who would never use it in other communication channels' [...]

  5. [...] http://climateaudit.org/2010/07/07/microsoft-made-them-do-it/ [...]

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