What are Atos up to? Do they seriously believe that they are above criticism? It would certainly appear so judging by their current, and arguably illegal, behaviour.
You may well have heard that Atos, who carry out medical assessments for ESA (and soon to be turning their baleful attentions to DLA), on behalf of the DWP, have been instrumental in getting several blogs and websites shut down which they consider have been libellous towards them.
But, and it’s a big but, Atos have not obtained a single court order, or been compelled to prove their allegations of libel. Their tactics have been nothing but bullying and bullshit.
What staggers me, though, is how absolutely craven the hosting services have been in shutting down these operation – essentially, after being shouted at by Atos, they’ve just pulled the plug.
But why? If somebody approaches a service provider mouthing threats and generally behaving like a schoolyard bully, they should be firmly told to shut the fuck up and, if they feel they can prove their case, go away and don’t come back without a court order. That’s not happening. Why not?
So, in the interests of self-preservation, I wrote to my blog’s hosting service, WordPress, to try to establish what their policy would be, and that they would, in fact, hold out for a court order:-
Subject: Are you easily intimidated?
Here in Britain, a company called Atos, employed by the Department of Work and Pensions to assess disability benefits claimants, is currently threatening hosting platforms to bully them into taking down blogs and websites which they feel are unduly critical – no court orders, just bullying.
I have also been critical of Atos (I, too, am seriously disabled – I’m dying, in a nutshell – and my disability benefits are under threat**), but I have deliberately used more appropriate forms of words, I believe, in order to avoid allegations of libel. I am confident that I have broken no laws.
So I guess my question is, will WP stand up to Atos if they come for me and my blog (not to mention other UK disability blogs hosted on WP – an awful lot of people are critical of Atos, who actually are responsible for several deaths and a huge amount of misery and poverty), especially if they don’t have a court order?
Simple threats have no legal validity.
And should they somehow manage to obtain a court order (personally, I think they’re running a bluff – getting court orders to silence every critic would be hugely expensive, and I would stress that while some hosting services have panicked and taken down blogs, websites, and support forums, no court order has so far been forthcoming), I would really like the opportunity to remove whatever they consider libellous – not lose over three years work.
Thank you in anticipation.
**Right now, everybody on disability benefits is at risk, including you, whether you know it or not.
Personally, I believe that I have chosen my words carefully enough to avoid allegations of libel, but right now, that doesn’t matter, as nobody is challenging Atos to prove their case, and it is absolutely essential that they star doing so – and also reinstate those blogs and websites that they have so cravenly and improperly already shut down
Of those sites closed down, a couple have – at best – been immoderate in their choice of words, and you really can’t afford to be so cavalier, you have to choose your words carefully – accusing Atos of murder was always going to come back and bite you in the ass, but one, a support forum, was shut down based on the content of a private, closed-to-the-public section – the equivalent of trying to legislate against dinner-party conversation.
When it comes to allegations of libel, though, you simply cannot say “Atos is killing people,” it is a clear libel, no matter that you genuinely believe it to be true. However, saying that “People are dying as a result of the actions of Atos assessors,” is, I believe, demonstrably true, in that some terminally ill people have been adjudged fit for work, and have subsequently died before their appeals could be heard. Several others have taken their own lives, either as a result of being wrongly assessed, or out of fear of being so treated.
It seems to me, however, that Atos are not remotely concerned about libel in most cases, but simply setting about systematically shutting down its critics – of which there are very many – regardless of the fact that no person, or organisation, or government, is EVER above criticism. Not even me, hard though that might be to comprehend! 😉
We have the press and broadcast media holding the government to account – or, at least, a small part of it, the BBC seems to have become a government toady – but nobody seems to be attempting to hold Atos to account except private individuals, mainly bloggers, against whom Atos is currently waging war.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a problem if hosting services didn’t have the balls of a whole battalion of eunuchs – cowardly fuckers.
In addition, it is entirely improper to shut down entire blogs, websites, or forums for the sake of a few words, without at least giving the owner the opportunity to remove or change the offending words, even with a court order. Natural justice demands that people be given the chance to abate the alleged libel, not lose years of work at a stroke, as has happened in several cases. And always remember, in the case of alleged libel, accusations are not the same as actuality – no court order, no validity.
So, those of you who represent hosting services’ legal departments, for pity’s sake grow a pair! Abide by the law, and send any bullying ass-wipe from Atos packing with a flea in their ear, and make sure they come back with a court order or not at all. And never forget that, without bloggers, many of you would be out of work.