Ms Brenda Nielson – 18/07/2023
Rikal, Hathon, Novella Islands
Novellan National News Service
Remedial science education, suspended corvée sentencing for protest organisers
A group of twelve activists in Rikal, Hathon, have today been convicted of producing, publishing, promoting, or disseminating misinformation or disinformation, and of organising or conducting an unauthorised protest. The verdict was handed down by Justice Helena Thompson, who described the actions of the convicted individuals as a ‘blatant’ disregard for the truth, and a harmful disservice to the community.
The activists, part of a larger international anti-intellectual movement known as the “Anti-Science Coalition”, had been spreading false information across various social media platforms, undermining the credibility of scientific research, and promoting baseless conspiracy theories. Their activities included denying the existence of climate change, advocating against vaccinations, and questioning the efficacy of various other widely accepted medical treatments.
During the trial, evidence was presented showcasing numerous instances where the defendants deliberately shared misleading articles, manipulated data, and distorted scientific research to validate their own misguided beliefs. Their actions had far-reaching consequences, sowing confusion, and generating public distrust in reputable scientific institutions. This culminated in the scheduling of a protest event outside of the Rikal electorate offices of the First Minister, Dr Edmund Dell, which was shared widely across social media by the group.
Having found the defendants guilty, Justice Helena Thompson acknowledged the importance of freedom of speech and of sincerely held political beliefs, but emphasised that such rights do not extend to spreading deliberate misinformation that serves to endanger public health, or that serves to undermine scientific progress.
She stated, “This court recognises the importance of free speech, and of the right to protest. However, when that freedom is exploited to disseminate falsehoods and incite ignorance, it becomes a dangerous weapon against truth and progress. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, promoting misinformation – especially in matters of vital importance – is a betrayal of the trust placed in our society’s pursuit of knowledge”.
In light of their conviction, the twelve activists will be required to attend remedial science education courses as part of their sentencing, equivalent to those of a first-year undergraduate. These include education on the philosophy of the scientific method; an overview of the various advances made within a wide range of scientific fields over the last century, and their consequences and benefits to society; and a course on science communication. Each of the classes will be taken alongside other general education students, at a university convenient to each of the sentenced individuals.
Additionally, Justice Thompson declared that each of the defendants shall serve a corvée of one year, where they shall each be assigned community service tasks aimed at promoting scientific literacy and debunking misinformation. However, this element of their sentence is to be suspended, and will be annulled, providing satisfactory progress has been made on the defendants’ remedial educational classes.
The Dell Government has reiterated its commitment to safeguarding the pursuit of knowledge, and of maintaining the integrity of scientific research. In a joint statement, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Science emphasised the importance of promoting critical thinking, evidence-based decision making, and fostering a society that values scientific literacy.
“As the convicted activists embark on their remedial education, the hope is that they will come to recognise the value of scientific expertise, and the necessity of informed deliberation in shaping policies that affect public welfare. With this sentencing, the Novella Islands takes a firm stance against the spread of misinformation, ensuring that evidence and truth prevail in the face of ignorance”.