Lilly Attacks Internet Free Speech

"It is a messy plot that pits Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant at the center of several articles in The New York Times suggesting that the company tried to hide or play down the health risks of its leading antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa, and lawyers representing various individuals, organizations and Web sites - all arguing that their online speech has been gagged. The case has attracted the attention of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the venerable digital rights group based in San Francisco, and one of its lawyers, Fred von Lohmann, who is now representing an anonymous Internet user caught up in the legal fracas. "One of the core missions of the foundation's 16-year history has been to establish that when you go online, you take with you all the same civil rights you had with you in prior media," said von Lohmann. "But of course, you need to fight for that principle." - Tom Zeller, Jr., The New York Times, January 15, 2007, Documents Borne by Winds of Free Speech

Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:

We have seen it coming for a long time. Wealthy and politically influential pharmaceutical corporations, which market reactive drugs and vaccines, want to shut down free speech on the internet so they can hide the dangers of their products from the public. Right now, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is in federal court trying to prevent non- profit health advocacy groups from posting documents on their websites which suggest that Lilly hid or downplayed the dangerous side effects of the antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa, from doctors and patients.

Lilly convinced a federal judge in New York to issue an injunction prohibiting the Alliance for Human Research Protection ( headed by Vera Hassner Sharav, as well as MindFreedom International, and their websites from posting Lilly documents detailing Zyprexa risks. The websites were not only barred from posting the company documents but also barred from even directing browsers to other websites that contained the documents.

Lilly is trying to set a legal precedent that the information communicated on the internet by private citizens and advocacy websites based in the U.S. should be exempt from freedom of speech protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, which have historically protected freedom of the press in the U.S. Apparently Lilly would like to pave the way for corporations (and perhaps government agencies?) with something to hide to prevent citizens from talking about what they know on the internet.

The internet, which has become an international forum for free speech and information uncensored by multinational corporations and government agencies, is under attack by those who want to keep the people in the dark, compliant and easily manipulated. Will U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinsten, who is being lobbied by Lilly, put the first nail in the coffin of the last frontier for free speech?

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