Category Archives: Open Internet
Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, especially in France and Germany. One outlet for anti-Semetic commentary has been twitter. In France, the hashtag #unbonjuif (literally “a good Jew” has been used to spread anti-Semetic jokes. It is now the 3rd most popular hashtag in France.
In France, as well as Germany, the notion of “Free Speech” is not protected as it is in the United States. Germany for example, has outlawed anti-Semetic speech as a whole, something unthinkable in the U.S. The French government is seeking to crack down on the use of twitter to spreed anti-Semitism. The problem is individuals can use twitter anonymously, and twitter servers are offshore and are generally cannot be subpoenaed in French Courts. The solution is this, sue twitter. From France24.com.
According to French lawyer and online media specialist Gérard Haas, Twitter, as a publisher, is legally responsible for the content of its website, just as much as its individual contributors.
He told FRANCE 24 that the only solution for anti-racism organisations was to target individual tweeters and “sue, sue, sue” in response to last week’s anti-Semitic Twitter binge.
“Twitter has to improve its reaction to events like these so that the justice system can quickly identify who has made posts that are illegal under French anti-racism laws,” he said.
While this is happening in France, if a similar situation were to happen in the United States, this course of action could not happen. First, as tasteless and repugnant as anti-Semetic speech is, it is still covered by the first Amendment to the Constitution as free speech, with very little exception.
Even if that were not the case, twitter is protected by the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Most people know the Communications Decency Act as the anti-internet-porn act of 1996. Well, less than a year later, the anti-pornography provisions were largely struck down by the United States Supreme Court in Reno v. ACLU. However, the safe harbor provisions and section 230 still remain.
Section 230 basically gives websites and servers immunity from any slanderous or defamatory communication posted by a third party, stating in part “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. The key part being “publisher or speaker”. In tort law, a publisher (anyone who prints or repeats the defamatory communication) of information has the same liability as the original speaker. Without that provision, then twitter would be liable for everything everyone posts on its webpage, as would facebook, or any blog or news source with a comments section. So hooray for forward thinking which allows us to have forums to express our thoughts freely, without them having to bear the costs of our own stupidity… for now…
When I purchased my first internet law casebook, it was the lightest casebook I ever bought. The subject matter was so new, there was not nearly enough material to fill the book. At the time, the focus of the cases were creating means to use existing “terrestrial” law and apply it to online activity. The debate has turned to whether or not there needs to be a separate set of laws to govern activity on the internet.
Such a debate is now playing out in California, home of Silicon Valley, and Facebook. Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law directing the L.A County Sheriff and the Alemeda County district attorney to monitor the internet to help determine whether or not California needs a new set of state laws to deal with Internet-related crimes. Specifically, they are directed to compile statistics related to identity theft, stalking, child molestation, and other internet related crimes for a period of one year. law From the L.A. Times.
“One of the most effective weapons in the fight against cyber-crime is accurate data and information,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor.
State Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) introduced the measure a year after Facebook, Google, Twitter and other companies successfully lobbied to kill legislation she promoted that would have allowed parents to restrict their children’s personal information on social networking sites and limit disclosure of information about adults.
It seems that this bill was largely designed to create a justification for Corbett’s original bill, in order to bolster support and counter act the actions of social media and search engines who worked to kill the bill. It is much easier to build a support base for restrictive legislation if you can show evidence that such a restriction is necessary. In other words, this is a first step towards state governed internet restrictions.
A judge in New York as subpoenaed an anonymous blogger who goes by the pseudonym “Alfred Little“. A Chinese consumer products company has sued “Alfred Little” for defamation an for blog posts he has written accusing Deer Consumer Products of fraudulent transactions, which resulted in a drop in share prices. Deer is seeking damages amounting to $100 million for lost in trade revenue, according to the Chicago Tribune.
What makes this case interesting is the fact that the blogger is anonymous. In most cases, the most difficult part of going after an anonymous defendant is finding the defendant. Most of the time it involves hiring forensic investigators to search IP addresses to find the defendant. This can be expensive and time consuming. The plaintiff would have to spend a lot of money merely to find out who they are actually suing. Unless you have the means to actually find the defendant, you cannot subpoena him.
In this case, the defendant hired counsel, which means they established contact with the court system. This means that through his attorney, “Alfred Little” is a known entity, and can be subpoenaed through his attorney. That may be his downfall, however, there is still grounds for appeal. The trick is, if he actually answers his subpoena and appears, his cover is blown. If he does not appear, “Little” can be fined and put in jail for contempt… that is, if someone can actually find him. His actual identity is still covered under attorney-client privilege, and it appears his attorney is the only person who actually knows who “Alfred Little” really is.
There is a saying that explains services made available on the internet. If it’s free, then YOU are the product. This is especially true when it comes to Google, in its effort to be the everything to everyone on the internet.
Google says it plans to use the information in developing its new products, so that by knowing where everyone is, they can estimate travel times on Google Maps for example. Google has also admitted very publicly that the information will be used to better target advertising across their products. This is where YOU become the product because your information is being used for targeted advertising. Remember the mall scene from “Minority Report” where Tom Cruise is walking through the mall and is bombarded with commercials targeted to him, or rather the person whose eyes he’s wearing? It is sort of like that.
Yes, I see the irony in embedding a youtube video.
The most controversial aspect is the inability to opt out, so all of you who have gmail accounts on their computers and on their smartphones, Google is not just watching, it is tracking, and there is nothing you can do about it. There is no where to hide as long as you use any Google products. Then again, you can always just use Bing.
Free Press, a non-profit media reform advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court over what they consider an arbitrary distinction between wired and wireless internet access contained in the Federal Communications Commissions new Open Internet regulations (also known as “Net Neutrality). This may seem like an arbitrary distinctions, but its purpose is primarily to open the door to challenge several other aspects, namely whether or not the FCC itself has the authority, under the 1934 Communications Act, to regulate how Internet Service Providers manage their assets and transactions.
The “Open Internet” Regulations, which go into affect on November 20, is outlined in the 155 page document “Preserving the Open Internet“. Here is its synopsis:
I. PRESERVING THE FREE AND OPEN INTERNET
In this Order the Commission takes an important step to preserve the Internet as an open
platform for innovation, investment, job creation, economic growth, competition, and free
expression. To provide greater clarity and certainty regarding the continued freedom and
openness of the Internet, we adopt three basic rules that are grounded in broadly accepted
Internet norms, as well as our own prior decisions:
i. Transparency. Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network
management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their
ii. No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications,
services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful
websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony
iii. No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably
discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.
We believe these rules, applied with the complementary principle of reasonable network
management, will empower and protect consumers and innovators while helping ensure that the
Internet continues to flourish, with robust private investment and rapid innovation at both the
core and the edge of the network. This is consistent with the National Broadband Plan goal of
broadband access that is ubiquitous and fast, promoting the global competitiveness of the United
Sounds good right? These are a set of principled goals created with the intention of allowing everyone equal access to the internet if they sign up for a service. Opponents of “Open Internet”argue that the government does should not regulate what corporations, businesses, and individuals etc., do lawfully on the internet. They argue that this is a first step encroachment by Big Government into the free market aspect of both internet access and internet activity. Legally their argument questions whether or not the FCC is authorized under the Act to regulate how Businesses providing Internet access, conduct their business activities. Why? Because Congress never amended the Act to give the FCC the authority to regulate business practices.
In an attempt to avoid political fallout over the volatile issue of Net Neutrality, Congress punted the question to the FCC and had them try to figure it out for themselves. In 2010, Comcast successfully used that argument in Federal Court when the FCC issued a cease and desist order attempting to force Comcast to limit bandwidth to users downloading possibly copyrighted video using BitTorrent. It could be argued that the law in this case is a double edged sword; if the FCC cannot force a privately owned internet service provider to limit bandwidth, it then cannot force a privately owned internet service provider to “not” limit ban bandwidth.
The Issues addressed in the lawsuit are contained on Page 32 of the document, where it draws a distinction between broadband or “wired” internet access and mobile, or “wireless” internet access. Free Presses Petition for review can be viewed here.