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Scientist speaks out about decade-long defamation lawsuit against online trolls: ‘The American people are fed up’

“This case will hopefully prove that there are consequences for this type of behavior.”

"This case will hopefully prove that there are consequences for this type of behavior."

Photo Credit: iStock

The scientist who co-authored the famous “hockey stick” graph showing the accelerated rise of global temperatures is hoping to receive a favorable ruling after opening statements began Jan. 18 in his defamation lawsuit against a pair of writers, as reported by The Guardian. 

Michael Mann filed the lawsuit more than 10 years ago against the writers and their outlets, claiming the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute published “utterly false and defamatory statements” about him by journalists Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn.

In part, Simberg and Steyn attacked Mann’s work by comparing him to Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach who was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in 2012.

“The American people are fed up with fake news and false accusations, and this case will hopefully prove that there are consequences for this type of behavior,” Mann said in a statement emailed by his lawyers to Inside Climate News in February 2021.

The nonprofit news organization noted that the National Research Council ruled in 2006 that Mann and his co-authors “accurately and honestly reported their underlying research and did not make claims that were stronger than the data could support.” 

A series of investigations by the United States and United Kingdom — spurred by leaked emails in 2009 — further cleared Mann and the scientists he was working with. 

“For years, the defendants have been boasting that they wanted to get us into court so they could question us under oath. … And they came up with nothing because their statements were absolutely baseless,” Mann told Inside Climate News through his attorneys. 

The cases against the publishers were dismissed in 2021 after the court ruled Mann failed to prove “actual malice” on their part, as the blog was intended to give “outside writers … a platform for their opinions.”

Meanwhile, the trial by jury against the writers is slated to go through at least Feb. 6, per The Guardian, which pointed out the case is taking place amid increased concerns of online abuse of scientists and misinformation about the overheating of our planet

According to a 2023 survey by Global Witness, about 40% of climate scientists reported online harassment or abuse, and that figure jumped to 73% for respondents who appeared in the media at least once per month. 

Depression, decreased productivity, and fear for personal safety were among the reported negative impacts on the researchers, with 13% of the women surveyed reporting they were threatened with sexual violence. 

“Abuse, harassment, and disinformation are the antithesis to science and truth,” Henry Peck, a digital threats campaigner for Global Witness, said in a news release about the poll results. 

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