Threats over Swedish lie detector research
Published: 27 Jan 2009 17:12 GMT+01:00
Updated: 27 Jan 2009 17:12 GMT+01:00
An Israeli manufacturer of lie detectors has threatened to sue researchers from two Swedish universities who collaborated on a study concluding that lie detector tests are useless.
About a year ago, Francisco Lacerda, a professor of phonetics at Stockholm University and Anders Eriksson, a professor of phonetics at the University of Gothenburg, published an article in the International Journal of Speech Language and the Law entitled "Charlatanry in forensic speech science".
In the article, which provided an overview of the last fifty years of research on lie detectors, the two found that there is no scientific evidence proving that lie detectors actually work, reports the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN).
When Nemesysco Limited, an Israeli company which produces lie detecting equipment, caught wind of the story, the firm contacted Equinox, the journal’s British publisher, and demanded the article be withdrawn.
Equinox relented, leaving only an abstract of the study on the journal’s website, along with a clarification.
Nemesysco’s reaction troubled the researchers, adding that, in its letter to Equinox, the company also threatened to sue the authors themselves if they continued to publish on the subject.
“It is incredibly serious that they are trying to silence us in this way. I have never heard of anything like it. We have apparently damaged their business," Lacerda told DN
Lacerda explained that his work with Eriksson took direct aim at the company’s lie detector patent.
"We showed that the invention cannot work. The article had a journalistic tone and was rather provocatively written. We wanted to prove that the technology behind the lie detector is a scam," he said.
Nemesysco has also sent a letter to DN claiming that Eriksson and Lacerda have slandered the company.
"It's obviously very uncomfortable,” said Lacerda.
“We don't know where this may end. At the same time, it is my responsibility as a researcher to share my findings. The company has not put forward any counter arguments, but has chosen to simply try to silence us.”
Lacerda continues to closely examine Nemesysco’s patent and wants to publish the results of his findings, either on his own blog or in a scientific journal to ensure the public is made aware of the technology used in lie detector tests.
Ironically, the company’s threat has resulted in a windfall of publicity for the researchers.
“That was probably not their intention. But since the article was removed I’ve received huge quantities of mail and request for copies of the article. It would have hardly been as widely read had the company simply passed over it in silence,” he told DN.