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Company threatens litigation17.02.2009 - (idw) University of Gothenburg
Lie detectors don't work. That was the conclusion drawn by two Swedish researchers in an article that would normally only have been of interest to specialists within the subject of phonetics.
However, the article has now received world wide attention.
The reason is that one of the companies that manufactures lie detectors, Nemesysco, is threatening to sue the writers of the article.
The fact that lie detectors are not to be trusted is hardly news among experts.
"However, there is a gap between what has long been common knowledge among researchers and what gets out to the general public. Despite the fact that lie detectors are simply fraudulent, they are used by both insurance companies and town councils in the UK and other countries for functions such as determining entitlement to social security benefits. This leads to faulty decisions, and it is clearly unethical," explains Anders Eriksson, a Phonetics Professor at the University of Gothenburg and one of the authors of the article that has now achieved such attention that even Nature and Science have written about it.
The other author is Francisco Lacerda, Professor in Phonetics at Stockholm University.
The two researchers published their critical article entitled Charlatantry in forensic speech science in the British specialist journal The International Journal of Speech Language and the Law.
"In the article we present the last 50 years of research within the field of lie detectors and draw the conclusion that there is not the slightest scientific support that they work."
However, the article led to Nemesysco Limited demanding that Equinox, the publishers of the journal, withdraw the article. Furthermore, it threatened to sue Anders Eriksson and Francisco Lacerda for defamation if they wrote on the subject again.
"It was a rather strange threat as it is not possible to slander a product or a method, even less to claim that a scientific result is slanderous, Anders Eriksson observes. However, the publisher seems to have been worried about getting into economic difficulties, so they did as Nemesysco requested and withdrew the article.
This has resulted in an enormous amount of attention worldwide. It is incredible that a company engaged in revealing deception should try to obstruct free research. And furthermore, the fact that a scientific journal should give way to the threat is really remarkable."
Jan Lif, Head of the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, emphasises that Anders Eriksson will naturally receive every support if it was to get to the stage where Nemesysco institutes legal proceedings.
"One of the University's most important tasks is to reveal this type of charlatanism. It must be highly unusual for a private company to intervene in scientific publication in this way. It goes without saying that both the department and the faculty are supporting Anders Eriksson."
The good thing about the incident is however that many more people throughout the world are now aware that lie detectors are fraudulent.
"But this can hardly have been Nemesysco's intention," observes Anders Eriksson.
Press information: GU-Journalen, gu-journalen(@)gu.se, editor Eva Lundgren +46 31 786 1081
http://www.scribd.com/doc/9673590/Eriksson-Lacerda-2007 - article in The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law
http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090216/full/news.2009.99.html - article in Nature
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;323/5916/863?maxtoshow=&HITS=... - article in Science
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