ACS steps up press intimidation campaign

The Australian Computer Society’s Management Committee has continued its campaign of attempting to shut down all reporting on its activities. It has directed its lawyers Clayton Utz to threaten online publication InnovationAus with legal action if it does not remove all of its reportage on the organisation over the last year.

The letter, dated 22 September and marked ‘Confidential’ (but which InnovationAus has published), says of the publication’s articles are defamatory. InnovationAus has refused to take down its articles.

“InnovationAus will not be removing any of the ACS articles from the website,” said Editorial Director James Riley. “As is standard journalistic practice, InnovationAus is open to both criticism and constructive dialogue where there is a factual error or if the subject of a story feels they have been unfairly treated.”

The action follows a similar and even more threatening letter to iTWire on 10 September complaining about articles I had written, demanding an apology for daring to publish them, and threatening further legal action if I published any more articles about ACS’s activities.

I didn’t want to cause iTWire any problems, so I removed the articles myself and republished them all on my own website. If they were defamatory then, which they were not, then they are defamatory now, but ACS has not yet come after me personally. Maybe they realise that their behaviour has actually had the effect of increasing readership of these articles.

After the threatening and poorly written legal letter to iTWire I thought cooler heads might have prevailed at ACS. I was wrong. Now they are going after InnovationAus, which has not even published an article on the subject for some months. They are attempting to expunge it all from the record. They are behaving just like Stalin, as I said in a recent blog.

Industry reaction to ACS’s attempts to shut down discussion of its activities has been fierce. I’ve received dozens of phone calls and emails from people aghast at ACS’s behaviour. Many were private communications, but here’s a few comments from my LinkedIn post at the time. Apologies to these people for posting them, but I figure that as they identify themselves on LinkedIn they’re happy for me to pblicise them.

“Hi Graeme – hang tough. From time to time the ACS loses some direction and hold of its mission to be a financially viable and member focused society. Your lifetime interest and support to the ACS is a very valuable source of inspiration to keep the ACS on track. Best wishes.”

(Geoff Dober, ACS President 1992-93)

“Graeme, you have my support. Go get ’em … The ACS looks to be living in a self serving bubble. From what I have read, their actions are surely Trumpian!”

(Greg Porter, ACS member and retired CIO)

“The legal muzzle that the ACS Management Committee has applied to your iTWire articles is just a further indication that those ACS board members supposed to oversee transparent and effective governance of the Society and act as exemplars of professional leadership and behaviour, are in fact just the antithesis.

“ACS Elected Officials and unelected staff that aim to hide the truth, expect members and Congress to simply follow without question, and obstruct open debate through officious processes when legitimate questions are asked, read from the playbook of ‘how to divide and conquer’ rather than that of ‘creating a shared vision built on trust and ethics’.

(Jeff Mitchell, ACS Member and cofounder of Digital Metrix)

“Graeme you are my hero. IMHO, NOTHING you have ever written about ACS has ever been anything but helping to make it the great society it once was. what was the ACS thinking to send their lawyers after iTwire. You’ve done such a brave and unselfish thing to remove yourself from iITWire to preserve them. Let’s hope one of the national media outlets takes on this disgusting behaviour by CLUTZ and the ACS that must have asked them to do what they did. Let’s just hope CLUTZ got this wrong and a simple comment by someone in authority at the ACS has been misinterpreted. Let’s hope its all soon mended and CLUTZ is put back in their box. I think appologies are due.

(Ann Moffatt, Fellow of ACS)

There’s a lot more where that came from, much of it from very seniorand  influential people. I have not received a single communication suggesting that my actions are unreasonable or that I should lay off.

I must say I find ACS’s behaviour unbelievable. Truly, in the real meaning of the term. I simply cannot understand how anyone in charge of an organisation that is so demonstrably unable to answer valid criticisms of its corporate governance can think that attempting to silence fair reportage of its activities will help matters.

Do they not realise what a Pandora’s box they have opened? Do they not understand that by intimidating and threatening journalists they are achieving exactly the opposite of what they intend? The depths of their stupidity are truly unplumbed.

There are many, many people seriously concerned about what is going on inside ACS. Some of them are raking over the rules and the finances and have found some disturbing things, which will lead to many more questions being asked. It is becoming apparent that they are hiding something. The organisation is behaving increasingly like a cornered rat, irrationally lashing out at anything and everything.

It will not end well.

In the 19th century the famous statesman Talleyrand said of the Bourbons when they were re-instituted after Napoleon’s fall that they remembered everything but learned nothing.

That didn’t end well either.

Posted in: ACS