I am Spartacus

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Over at the TeflTrade blog, Sandy McManus has received another legal demand for material critical of a school to be taken down from his site. This time, his blog host received a letter alleging defamation from Mr Paul Lowe of Windsor TEFL, who appeared in this blog here and also replied to what I said here. In the first case, Abbey College, Malvern demanded that a post that contained a critical description of their summer schools was removed. The original text had appeared on Dave's ESL Cafe and Sandy had reposted it after it was pulled from Dave's.

While I believe that much of the vaunted power of blogs is over-rated, the I am Spartacus tactic is a genuine example of how they can be used in a very powerful way, as Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek billionaire who is trying to buy Arsenal football club, discovered. When the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray published a piece that was highly critical of Mr Usmanov on his blog, Mr Usmanov had the blog closed down. However, the blog is back up and hosted in Holland, where libel laws are not so heavily biased in favour favour of the person complaining, and, worse for Mr Usmanov , the blogosphere responded by republishing the piece on hundreds of different sites. Mr Usmanov's attempt to silence a piece by a critic resulted in a massive increase in awareness of it and a far wider dissemination. Like the movie Spartacus, where hundreds claim that they are Spartacus to protect the identity of the real Spartacus, blogs can be used to create a dense and complex web that cannot be silenced with a single lawyer's letter. The text that Abbey College tried to have removed from the web has been freely available here since September 2005. In all likelihood, removing the texts from TeflTrade will just ensure that they appear in a number of blogs, hosted in different countries with different legal systems and accessible to a wider public. One associated blog has already promised to repost them and some comments contain similar promises.

ESL Blacklists provide a service, even if flawed, and attempting to silence them may well resulting in far more noise than silence. If the Dave Spartacuses start reproducing the texts, the silence may well become deafening.

Categories: General


You write with clarity about an incredibly convoluted topic. Thank you for making it understandable. The world gets racier and more dishonest by the day. My comment would be longer except you've said it all.

I found this suggestion invaluable in my dealings with a certain Mr P L of W TEFL. I hope more people also make good use of it.

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