This comment at Club Troppo is interesting.
It now contains a link to this document that contains this statement.
In 1990, Dr Mark Diesendorf, coordinator of the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Global Change Program, criticised statements by Dr Brian O’Brien, formerly head of the WA Environmental Protection Authority, which minimised the likely impacts of the greenhouse effect. Diesendorf also pointed out that O’Brien’s employment as a consultant to the coal industry should be taken into account when evaluating his views. O’Brien has now issued proceedings against both Diesendorf and the ACF.
Yet earlier it contained a link to this document that contained this statement.
I sent a draft of this chapter to O’Brien, inviting his comments. In reply he pointed out that he had publicly stated and published his views on the greenhouse effect before having any contact with the coal industry.
So when and why did the substitution occur? Mind you the original link is far more informative. It tells us the outcome of the defamation action.
O’Brien responded by suing Mark and the ACF for defamation but not, interestingly, the newspapers that had reported Mark’s comments. The ACF took on the defence, briefing its lawyers. As in many cases, it never went to court. After many months, a settlement was reached. The ACF published an apology. Why did the ACF agree to publish an apology? Basically, it would have been too expensive even to win the case. The ACF would have had to pay its own legal costs, and there was a slim chance of losing. The ACF is not a rich organisation. It receives most of its income from donations and subscribers. It could hardly afford a major pay-out. The expedient course was to settle the case and avoid further costs.
The substitution of one link for another goes beyond fixing minor errors or providing additional information. In this case it actually reduces the information available to readers.
Update: Ken Parish strongly denies that any change to the post has occurred at the Club Troppo side and Jacques suggests that the explanation is a cut n paste error. In the absence of any other evidence or explanation we should accept this explanation.
Update II: Tim Lambert clarifies.
There are two versions of the story by Brian Martin, one I’ll call H92 published in 1992 in Habitat Australia, and SS4 a book chapter published in 1997. SS4 has a little more information:
I sent a draft of this chapter to O’Brien, inviting his comments. In reply he pointed out that he had publicly stated and published his views on the greenhouse effect before having any contact with the coal industry. In my view, this does not affect my assessment of the case.
In my comment @236 I put in a link to SS4 because it had more information. But the link there now goes to H92. And I’m sure that no-one edited my comment, because I still had that window open on another computer so I have a snapshot of what the comments at Troppo looked like just after I posted, and the link then went to H92. Moreover, the URL has the file name 92habitat.html which implies that it’s a link to H92. If it was just me, I’d guess that I’d just pasted the wrong URL into my comment. But it wasn’t just me. Rafe followed the link and posted part of the passage I quoted above, though leaving out the last sentence where Martin said that O’Brien’s reply didn’t affect his assessment (it doesn’t affect mine either). So he got a copy of SS4 at the link to BH92 as well.
I also looked at the Google cache of BH92. Or rather, tried to, since I get an error message “This webpage has a redirect loop”. The only thing I can think of is that there was temporary problem with the web server returning the wrong page.
So the facts are that a link has changed from what was first posted as alleged in this post. What is unclear is how that happened. Link rot is annoying enough – random substitution is going to make things a lot more annoying.