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TED withdraws support for upcoming TEDx event, didn't meet guidelines for 'solid science'

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TEDx logo

TED has revoked a license it provided to organizers of the TEDxWestHollywood event, which allowed those behind the program to freely use the TEDx brand for the upcoming talk. The move comes amidst increased awareness that some independently-run TEDx talks were promoting pseudoscience — and that organizers were not upholding the terms of their licensing agreement with TED. A stern letter was sent out to all TEDx organizers last month reminding them that "it is your job, before any speaker is booked, to check them out, and to reject bad science, pseudoscience and health hoaxes," and now the organization has decided to take action. In a note published today, TED says that it met with the organizers of TEDxWestHollywood beginning in December about concerns with their planned program, but they could not find "a mutually agreeable path in which she could produce an event that fit her vision while remaining under the TEDx license."

The organizers still plan to hold the event — and TED has agreed to help with costs associated with TEDx branding — but what's significant is that TED caught this event before it happened. Hundreds of TEDx events are held every month with only local, volunteer organizers serving to ensure quality control. TED has historically been slow and uneven in its response to TEDx talks that go against the rules, and, as our own Russell Brandom mentioned in a report on the subject last December, actions have often taken place after speakers gain the exposure they desire. In this case, at least — only the second time TED has withdrawn a TEDx license — the organization acted preemptively to stop the program. If it continues to do so, it may be able to prevent further damage to the reputation of TEDx.