The Other Side Of The Jurisdiction Issue: UK Politician Upset That US-Based Blogs Follow US Laws

from the the-internet-is-its-own-jurisdiction dept

We were just talking about why the US had jurisdiction on a UK travel agent's websites, and here's a story that flips the situation around somewhat. It appears that a UK politician with a blog got upset that people were posting potentially defamatory comments on his and others' blogs hosted by Google. He demanded that Google take them down, to which Google responded, correctly, that under section 230 of the CDA, they are merely the service provider and will not remove the contents of blog posts. The politician proceeds to then go on a rant about how it is unfair that suddenly British libel law no longer applies, and for that reason, he has shut down his own blog.

He's wrong on a large number of factual points in this claim, all of which should be pointed out. First, it's not clear why he shut down his own blog over this. If the comments were on other blogs, why would that make a difference? Second, he seems to have confused the issues of whether or not British libel law applies with the question of who is responsible. The problem is that he did not sue for defamation. Instead, he merely demanded that Google remove content without any proof that the content was actually defamatory. Thus, Google is absolutely right to refuse. Google is merely the service provider here. Instead, if he had sued in a British court for defamation, then a subpoena could have been issued for the identity of the anonymous posters (assuming that defamation was actually established, and here the UK is much more willing to unmask anonymous speech) and the court could require the person who actually was responsible for the defamation to remove the content. Instead, this guy blames Google rather than the people responsible, and complains about jurisdictional problems without taking the necessary steps to require action.

Furthermore, if the world worked the way this politician preferred, then suddenly we'd automatically have the lowest common denominator of all laws when it came to internet content. Suddenly countries with very strict laws about online content -- such as China or Iran -- could start claiming that any content anywhere else in the world broke those laws, and had to be pulled offline. This guy doesn't seem to think that far ahead, and merely thinks that because he doesn't like US libel laws, a US company should ignore them in his favor. But how will he feel when someone in Iran doesn't like UK libel laws and demands that his website be taken down based on Iranian content laws? Then will he start complaining that they have no right to trump UK laws?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    James, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 6:45am

    More Streisand Effect

    Looks like yet another example (wow there's a lot out there) of the Streisand Effect at work. I'm pretty sure he didn't want anyone to know what people were saying about him - and frankly I'm absolutely certain US citizens had no idea who this guy was beforehand - but it's out in the open now!

    Also, it looks like someone made a website based on your phrase coinage, Mike.. http://www.thestreisandeffect.com/

    You know, I would just laugh out loud if you decided to send over a C&D to that guy - I mean, he is using your name and concept on a site that earns money! You should sue! Sic 'em!

     

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  2.  
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    Thom, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 7:50am

    Testing

    I think it's time that EVERY country that claims to be civilized institute mandatory testing for its politicians. Why stop with the minimum age and citizenship requirements most have? Make every politician take, and pass, tests which cover a broad range of relevant topics most important of which is critical thinking. Chair a committee on intellectual property - you have to pass a test showing you understand (broadly) the concept. Ditto other chairs.

     

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  3.  
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    dorpus, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 8:03am

    Cost of "Freedom"

    Do we want to live in a society where politicians have to waste all their time defending themselves against false accusations? If we live in a cynical society where nobody trusts anyone, is that truly a free society, or an oppressive anarchy where everyone is at each other's throats? Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria, these are societies where nobody believes anything and people shoot each other all the time. Despite the cowboy posturing that Americans like to make on the net, I don't think most people (Americans included) want to live in a society like that.

     

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  4.  
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    stark raver, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 10:37am

    Re: Cost of "Freedom"

    Are you kidding. I pray for the day all politicians have to "waste their time" justifying themselves. They shouldn't have to "waste their time" with false accusations, because, there are more than likely enough true accusations for them to worry about. Prove the accusations are false. While they are doing that they will leave me alone. I, for one, want no one telling me what I can and can't say. These guys will have every joke come under a politically correct filter, or in this, case philter.

     

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  5.  
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    Mickey, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 1:39pm

    Re: More Streisand Effect

    I've been very obvious about giving Mike credit not only for coining the phrase ("About" page), but for his continued efforts to point out these silly things. Any time I see him point out a new SE situation, I post about it with a link back to TechDirt.

    I wouldn't think he'd mind the site, but who knows.

     

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  6.  
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    mike allen, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 2:01pm

    Being a Brit

    This guy is stupid he is a politition after all. the remarks a probaly just criticism of his po;itics with a litle colorful langauge. If he cant stand the heat he should get out of the kitchen. oh he did he pulled the blog. perhaps he should pull his candidacy.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Jake, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 3:17pm

    On the flip side, Britain's legal system is quite strict on what actually constitutes libel, so I doubt he'd have got far even if he had sued.
    For all that, I don't much care for service providers turning a blind eye to what their customers do with their services. Don't Google attach any terms and conditions to their blogs prohibiting abusive language?

     

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  8.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 7th, 2008 @ 10:25pm

    Internet Law Means US Law?

    On the flipside, when something takes place elsewhere on the Internet that has nothing to do with the US, it still manages to find some excuse to claim jurisdiction.

    So what's the lesson here? Is it that other countries have to defer to the US on things that happen on the Internet, but not the other way round?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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