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Lie Detector Company Threatens Critical Scientists With Suit 367

Posted by timothy
from the slapp-ing-them-around dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Swedish newspaper DN reports that the Israeli company Nemesysco has sent letters to researchers at the University of Stockholm, threatening legal action if they do not stop publishing findings (Google translation). An article called 'Charlatanry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously' was pulled by the publisher after threats of a libel lawsuit." Online translations can be a little wonky; if your Swedish is as bad as mine, this English-language article describes the situation well.
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Lie Detector Company Threatens Critical Scientists With Suit

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  • 1. socially conservative politics

    2. intellectual property laws

    civilization is bettered in terms of happiness, health, and financial prosperity as long as the power of social conservatives and corporate oligarchy are held in check. certainly, there is now ay to ever completely defeat these forces, and they do actually do good some good in this world. but they must be eternally pruned, for in part sof the world where their power runs unchecked, corruption and classism, intolerance and tribalism take hold

  • by Zironic (1112127) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:24PM (#26658747)

    I wonder when companies will realize that trying to silence people in this modern age will just lead to the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect [wikipedia.org]

  • by professorguy (1108737) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:34PM (#26658893)
    My poly-layered ectoplasmic analysis software measures 22 parameters of ESP in real-time for psychics. It's accuracy is not proven, but it lets psychics more quickly pinpoint where there are problems in psychic emanations. Officiating psychics can zero in much more quickly with their traditional testing techniques.

    .

    Hey, look! I can blast buzzwords and pretend my software works too!

    So how much would you pay? Wait, don't answer because this can flash the overall value for each parameter in a separate window! Now how much would you pay?

    ...boneheads...

  • by kabocox (199019) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:38PM (#26658955)

    I know lie detectors have only been more of toys or threats than really useful tools. A trained questioner doesn't need a lie detector. A lie detector is more for them to let you know that they are almost positive that you've lied on the subject.

    There are folks that want lie detectors to work like in the movies or have it on their cell phones so that they know when the other person is lying. They'd hate to have it used on them though. I have news for you.

    Everyone has a built-in lie detector. It's just how well that it's been trained to work. How would the world be different if we gave elementary school kids the same questioning for lies tools that are usually taught to police detectives? Short answer; not too different. They'd just know faster when the teachers are lost and clueless, and any attempts to bring new information that you know the teacher doesn't have would just be punished faster. We would get politicians that are even better at lying though.

  • by Asmor (775910) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:39PM (#26658965) Homepage

    Except that if the lie detector says the scientists are telling the truth, the company can either:

    1. Publicly admit that the scientists are telling the truth.

    2. Publicly claim that the scientists are lying and, thus, also publicly admit that their own lie detectors are faulty.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:53PM (#26659175)

    Also actual evidence indicates embryonic stem cell treatments would have tons of complications and excessive cost and complexity, while host-harvested adult stem cell treatments would work much more readily and without any complications at all; ...

    Do you actually believe that or are you just trolling? It's hard for me to believe that anyone would be that out of touch with reality.

    Surely, you must realize that you are making such wild and exaggerated claims that they couldn't possibly be true. How could you possibly know that all possible treatments based on embryonic stem cell research will have "tons of complications" or that all possible treatments based on adult stem cell research will be "without any complications at all". Maybe your "actual evidence" consists of a crystal ball?

    But you also imply that conservatives object to embryonic stem cell research purely based on practical scientific concerns. Again, WTF? Are you somehow not aware that conservatives are trying to push some kind of nonsensical view that "life begins at conception".

    But maybe you don't actually have a complete disregard for factual reality - maybe you were just trolling. I hope so - because, if not, you're pretty scary.

  • Easy... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nicopa (87617) <nico@lichtmaier.gmail@com> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:55PM (#26659205)

    Easy solution: the scientists should agree to undergo an interview in which they would be asked if they have proof of what they are saying. A lie detector provided by this Nemesys Co. would then detect if they are lying or not.

  • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:57PM (#26659241) Journal

    I'm not on the lie detector company's side and I sympathize with the Swedish researchers too. However, you seemed to be taking things black-and-white...

    In reality it is all about probabilistic correlation between "lie-o-meter" readings and subjects' honesty. This correlation may be strong or poor. Lie detectors may work or not. I don't know. But I think it's how this correlation is measured and interpreted that matters. If the instrument company fails to make the measurement and interpretation on science, and further exaggerate it's actual use, that would be fraud. And scientists take fraud very seriously.

  • by Chabo (880571) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:59PM (#26659271) Homepage Journal

    What does that have to do with anything in the article?

    Your post ranted on about "socially conservative politics", when that had nothing to do with the article.

    Some researchers published an article with an inflamatory title: "Charlatanry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously", and got sued for libel. This isn't about censorship or intellectual property laws, it's about a company protecting its image from mudslinging.

  • Re:How it works... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @05:59PM (#26659273)

    I can imagine someone taking a politicians speech and running it through this sort of analysis, especially since it can use recorded audio.

    It would show no stress whatsoever. If a politician is reading from a teleprompter, it is duckspeaking, and not actually thinking about the words it's reading.

    If the politician isn't using a teleprompter, you'd get the same flat-line reading you'd get from any other sociopath. Some sincerely believe their lies, others can switch that belief on for just long enough to get the lie out, and then switch the belief off again as soon as there's an opportunity to gain from breaking whatever promise was uttered.

  • Re:Abstract... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:10PM (#26659423) Homepage Journal

    This isn't moral judgement. It's a normal conclusion based on their research. Things like this happen all the time in science - it would not be at all out of place in the conclusions part of their paper.

  • by jeko (179919) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:10PM (#26659429)

    Polygraphs, voice stress analyzers, coin flips, sticking your hand in the statue's mouth and Scientology's "E-Meters" all share the same validity in catching lies -- basically none. It's all pretend "science" with cool moving needles and wires, but you might as well be watching a seismograph for all the good it does you. It simply gives government agencies and insurance companies an excuse to call you a liar. "Hey, don't look at me, the MACHINE says you're lying..."

    Now FOX has this propaganda puff piece for the TSA called "Lie to Me" going where an actor I like is helping spread nonsense I can't stand.

    Can you imagine the revolution society would undergo if "voice stress analyzers" actually worked? "I did not have sex with that woman!" BZZZ! "Saddam Hussein is building nuclear weapons!" BZZZ! "The 700 billion will be wisely spent!" BZZZZ! "I was misquoted!" BZZZ!

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:12PM (#26659447)
    Some researchers published an article with an inflamatory title: "Charlatanry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously", and got sued for libel.

    There's nothing wrong with the title if they do indeed demonstrate that there is charlatanry in forensics speech science. It sounds like they did just that. There are times when an inflamatory-seeming word is still the correct word.
  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:22PM (#26659573)
    "charlatanry" isn't an objective standard, testable with evidence. "False claims in forensic speech science" would have been just as descriptive and perfectly objective.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:36PM (#26659743) Homepage

    Except that if the lie detector says the scientists are telling the truth, the company can either:

    How do you know the lie detector will say the scientists are telling the truth? The scientists themselves say its results are the same as chance.

    Your scenario only works if the lie detector works, in which case the scientists are wrong (though not necessarily lying, so we don't get into any paradoxes here).

  • Re:How it works... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:46PM (#26659835)

    My point is that this isn't lying, it's the listener lying to himself about what he heard... When Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down this Wall!" he wasn't lying about his unwillingness to tear down the wall himself, he was just phrasing his position in such a way the made everyone hear "OMG Reagan promises to defeat teh sovs!" when in fact Reagan was taking responsibility for no action on his part.

    Just the same, when Obama says "Yes we can close Guantanamo!" he isn't promising to do a goddamn thing, he's just phrasing his aspirations for what America could do in such a way that people hear "OMG Barack is gonna close gitmo!"

    This is not lying, and treating it like it is is just victimology of the voter against eeeeeeevil politicians.

  • by orclevegam (940336) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:47PM (#26659847) Journal

    This isn't about censorship or intellectual property laws, it's about a company protecting its image from mudslinging.

    Truth is an absolute defense to libel. Also if it can't be shown one way or another to be fact or not it's not libel as libel only concerns factual matters not opinions. If the paper is even reasonably well written they have little to worry about. What happened is they published a paper that shows the "science" behind lie detectors to be questionable at best, and a company that makes lie detectors threatened to sue them because the paper shows their product to be useless. A better approach (read more effective) would have been if they used the money they paid those lawyers to instead commission their own study of the effectiveness of lie detectors. This of course assumes that they actually believe in their own product, and don't already know it to be a scam.

  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:50PM (#26659899) Journal

    I don't know about Swedish, but I use Google translate for Chinese and Arabic translations into English a lot ,and they've gotten notably better in some places over the past year.

    MT system performance is often very dependent on language genre. They tend to be good at translating news because news text has been a big focus of NLP training corpus development. It's a pretty well controlled genre (you don't get a lot of random slang or neologisms, non-standard syntax, etc.) and there's a whole lot of it already electronically encoded (no print or speech to text conversion needed). And it's packed full of information, which is important to a lot of the big funders of MT research.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:51PM (#26659907)

    IIRC, embryonic stem cells have a tendency to be cancerous ...

    Sure, that's why embryos always die of cancer. Oh, wait, they actually don't.

    Are you really so simple-minded that you think that every possible therapy that might be developed using embryonic stem cell research will always increase the risk of cancer? It wouldn't surprise me if there was a specific therapy or class of therapies that increased cancer risk - but how can you possibly go from that to the radical generalization that all possible therapies that might ever be developed will carry a risk of cancer? Is it the crystal ball, again?

  • Re:How it works... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orclevegam (940336) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:52PM (#26659919) Journal

    Am I the only one who was expecting a statement from Nemesysco advertising "Our products are for entertainment purposes only." ?

    They couldn't do that as their major contracts are with military, intelligence, and police organizations. Labeling their product as an entertainment device would be to more or less admit that the paper is correct and most likely cost them all of their contracts (and future sales).

  • Re:How it works... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Achromatic1978 (916097) <robert@chromablu[ ]et ['e.n' in gap]> on Thursday January 29, 2009 @06:53PM (#26659933)

    V Entertainment recommends it for ... gauging romantic interest.

    Because a relationship built on a situation where you knowingly or surreptitiously subject your partner's speech to a voice analysis to determine if they like or love you is bound for success, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:00PM (#26660011)

    They were not sued, their publisher wimped out. If they were sued then they would be able to prove the company has to prove it works. Therefore the charlatans will not sue them directly because they will lose. So they attack the publishers. If you read your socialist sources, this is the well known Israeli way. Do not argue your point, instead shut people down, silence everybody. Many of their outside supporters are getting very sick of it.

  • by Miseph (979059) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @07:57PM (#26660657) Journal

    "If you read your socialist sources, this is the well known Israeli way."

    It's also, incidentally, the well known fascist way. I'm still waiting for the general public to catch on to that and stop accepting everything Israel does no matter how obviously wrong or oppressive just because they're afraid of being called anti-Semitic.

  • by dwarg (1352059) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:07PM (#26660737)

    Please don't try to bring rational thought to a debate with an "Educated" liberal. I really don't need the headache that will surely ensue.

    Is that because they are unwilling to listen to your rationale, or because you are unwilling to listen to theirs?

    Chances are it's both so I don't see any solution myself, but giving up on talking to one another seems like a poor third option.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @08:14PM (#26660813) Homepage

    Just the same, when Obama says "Yes we can close Guantanamo!" he isn't promising to do a goddamn thing, he's just phrasing his aspirations for what America could do in such a way that people hear "OMG Barack is gonna close gitmo!"

    This is not lying, and treating it like it is is just victimology of the voter against eeeeeeevil politicians.

    That is absolutely lying! We're talking about natural language communication here, not a programming language. Words and phrases have meaning that are not necessarily the sum of their individual parts, there is context involved that guides the necessary interpretation of both sides. As in, pedantic literal interpretation is not, and has never been, the sole judge of the meaning of a sentence.

    When the words spoken by a speaker are designed to convey a certain meaning to the listeners, and the listeners receive that meaning, then we call that successful communication. When that correctly conveyed meaning is deliberately false, that's a fucking lie!

    When the speaker also designs their words to leave themselves a semantic escape valve so they can claim to have meant something else later, that doesn't mean they weren't lying, it means they knew they were lying and thus needed the out!

    When Obama said "Yes we can close Gitmo", everyone correctly interpreted that to mean that if he were elected, he would close Gitmo. That is the meaning he obviously intended to convey. If he doesn't close it, then that's a lie*. And if he defended himself by saying that all he had meant was he thought it was something America could do hypothetically, then that makes him a double liar because that obviously is not the message he intended to convey when he spoke!

    The only people who think that isn't lying are:
    1) People who've sacrificed reason itself on the Altar of Pedantry.
    2) Liars who are lying about it not being lying and just like being able to use semantics to escape from obvious lies.

    I refuse to sacrifice my ability to detect lies covered with such a thin ruse to either group of people.

    * So far so good on this count, but of course I won't be happy until the thing is really truly closed.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @09:09PM (#26661247)
    Torture doesn't work either except as a tool to get somebody to admit to things you've already decided you want them to admit to or as a tool of terror. That is why the KGB used it. One classic is the guy that admitted to blowing up more trains than the USSR had at the time. Another classic is the "evidence" of Saddams involvement in 911 being the ravings of a drowning man and getting presented to the UN to show the world that the US administration no longer cared about truth or the rule of law.
  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Thursday January 29, 2009 @09:41PM (#26661519)

    I think you're arguing for complete solipcism in language, and that people should be held responsible for what their listeners conclude. and not what they themselves say.

    It's not about natural language. You're arguing that voters shouldn't be required to think critically about the things they hear, and that everybody gets to just sorta "decide" all subjectively what the speaker meant. I think you're giving voters an out clause to claim at any time that "politicians lie" because they weren't able to deliver the fruits of the voters' own self-delusion.

    Just open your ears and listen to what people are actually saying. It isn't a lie if you can tease the meaning of a sentence by reading it on the page. Anything less and you just turn into a mob singing slogans, like "Drill Baby Drill!" or "Yes We Can!" That's when people really begin to act like robots (speaking of programming languages...)

    Relatedly, good administrators, in government, business, the military are able to consolidate the will of many into aspirational goals, in such a way that everyone marches together, and no one starts the backbiting and recriminations when some arbitrary marker is not crossed. Letting people know what you want and getting them to help you regardless of the setbacks is kinda the heart of leadership. Not everything in the world is some quid-pro-quo where the leader says "obey me and you'll get a chicken," and then if you don't get the chicken you get to toss the leader over (viz. France thru the 19th century, or Germany between the wars). That's pretty shitty political theory, and it's not how a healthy political system works.

  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Friday January 30, 2009 @01:03AM (#26662697)

    How do you test a lie detector? For it to work you have to have someone ACTUALLY LYING, not saying something contrary to the truth, but actually trying to be secretly untruthful. It is an impossible situation because you have to know 100% that they are lying and they have to be 100% concealing a secret. Otherwise, its all just guess work.

    There is NO WAY to test a lie detector without the existence of a 100% accurate working lie detector. Short of that, there is no way to objectively or theoretically test any such device.

  • by kdemetter (965669) on Friday January 30, 2009 @02:09AM (#26662977)

    Well , there is an increased risk , because after all, you are screwing with the normal workings of the body's cell regeneration.

    Even if there isn't a 100% certainty that it will cause cancer , it's still something that needs to be looked into .

    Both conservatism and progressivism are needed, in a balanced amount. Sadly , with politics , it's usually completely one way or the other.

  • by terjeber (856226) on Friday January 30, 2009 @03:31AM (#26663351)

    It's also, incidentally, the well known fascist way

    The traditional division of political views on a scale from left to right has been absurd for at least 50 years, but even more so since 1990 and the collapse of totalitarian communism in USSR.

    It is far more useful to look at the scale as having individualism on the one and and collectivism on the other. If you divide politics in that manner, socialism and fascism is only marginally different, while liberal democracy is the total opposite whether it is the relatively left-wing Scandinavian kind or the more traditionally right-leaning US kind.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday January 30, 2009 @04:20PM (#26670791) Homepage

    I admit the whole gitmo thing isn't an ideal example, how about this one, from when the man clinched the nomination:

    More like a great example because it perfectly demonstrates how the raw literal meaning of words fails to capture the actual intended meaning. He meant what I and nearly everyone else thought he meant. We correctly interpreted his meaning, whether we believed that meaning or not. Your literal interpretation was wrong.

    If you believe he is promising to reverse global warming, you're a sucker, plain and simple. It's not pedantry, it's the fact of the matter; it's not a promise, a completely subjective and poetic expression. Do you believe in this? March with me!

    If you don't think he is implying that he plans to implement environmental policies designed to counter global warming, then you're a fool who can't understand plain English. Of course he's explicitly said that he intends to do that, but that just means that if you'll allow context to be considered then it's even more obvious what he meant when he said that line.

    Does that mean I believe he WILL simply because that's what his words meant? No, and I have no idea how or why you conflated these ideas! Because as I already said, those are not the same thing! I understood what he actually meant, what the intended message was, and what he wanted the audience to take from the statement.

    Seriously, next you'll tell me that "Read my lips: no new taxes" wasn't a promise of no new taxes.

    You say 'literal pedantry' (no bias there) is the least critical kind of thinking, yet no one seems to do it...

    Yes, because it's a non-critical way of thinking that doesn't represent actual human communication. Literal pedantry -- what's the bias, that's exactly what you're advocating, you actually said people shouldn't "decide" what someone else means as if you don't have to do that constantly -- completely fails to understand the meaning of the majority of forms of expression. That's why nobody does it outside slashdot, and why slashdotters so often fail to comprehend simple english.

    I think you want there to be a falsehood because you are personally invested in the belief that politicians are liars, and you'd rather believe the country is being destroyed by a few bad apples (or "sociopaths") than the fact that a big chunk of the population has bad deductive reasoning skills -- probably brought on by NCLB standardized testing ;).

    No, I'm invested in utterly destroying the notion that pedantry is a superior form of reasoning, and the notion that if it is possible to interpret what someone says in a way that it is not a lie, then they were not and could not have been lying. This mentality has been heavily abused, and I think it's responsible for damaging people's understanding of lies and truth, and their deductive reasoning ability in general.

    Politics is just one of the places where the tolerance for weasel words you're advocating is at its worst. But I'm against this way of thinking in all walks of life.

    I'm telling you to beware of what this politician says, and you keep saying people should be credulous!

    No, not once have I said anyone should be credulous or anything like that. I said that you should actual listen to what a politician says, and what someone says is rarely the same as what the words they utter literally mean. Pedantry is not and never will be the most correct way to interpret meaning.

    I'm saying that, because of this obvious and simple fact of language, we should not allow politicians or anyone else to slide their way out of obvious lies due to semantic pedantry. How you convert that into we should believe whatever a politician says (and then be mad later after we find out we're "duped"), I have no idea, but let me assure you that is absolutely not the case.

    In fact, what I'm saying (have already said, really) is that you should be even more

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 31, 2009 @05:15AM (#26675835)

    socialism and fascism is only marginally different, while liberal democracy is the total opposite whether it is the relatively left-wing Scandinavian kind or the more traditionally right-leaning US kind.

    That is erroneous. Socialism can be democratic. Socialism and fascism are not synonymous, and neither are democracy and capitalism synonymous.

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