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Attacks intended to block access to information
  1. David W Lawrence1,
  2. Nilam B Patel2
  1. 1
    Karolinska Institutet, Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of International Health (IHCAR), Injuries’ Social Aetiology and Consequences Group, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2
    San Diego State University, Graduate School of Public Health, Center for Injury Prevention Policy and Practice
  1. David W Lawrence, Center for Injury Prevention Policy & Practice, San Diego State University, PO Box 15817, San Diego, CA 92175, USA; david.lawrence{at}

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The problem of attacks by those who feel threatened by scientific evidence has existed for hundreds of years.1 In the USA, researchers who examine controversial safety-related issues and the institutions that support their studies are well known to have been the targets of threats. Among the topics that have generated storms of conflict in the injury field are firearms laws and requirements that motorcyclists wear helmets.23 It is, perhaps, not so well known that the sources that provide information are also at risk from those who disagree with some of the content.

Almost from its inception, SafetyLit4 (a no-cost, World Health Organization-affiliated online resource for current and older injury-related research articles) has received emailed comments from readers who disagreed with part of its content. The early messages simply pointed out possible conflicts of interest by the authors of editorials or policy statements and methodological problems with certain published studies. As the number of visitors to the SafetyLit website increased (>53 000 unique visitors during the first week of December 2007), so did the problem of reader protests.

In 2003, the US invasion of Iraq precipitated protests from subscribers in Canada and Eastern Europe. More than 3000 SafetyLit email subscribers expressed their dissatisfaction with the USA and opposition to the war by …

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  • Competing interests: DL is the editor of SafetyLit and NP is associate editor. The SafetyLit electronic mailing list and website contain no advertising. SafetyLit is a free service. SafetyLit is currently financed through contracts with several government agencies of the State of California, USA. Funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration contributed to the development of the software that runs the SafetyLit website.