Legal Questions About Facebook's Blocking Of Links To The Pirate Bay

from the is-that-legal? dept

Last month, the news broke that Facebook had started blocking any and all links to The Pirate Bay... including links in private messages between two users. Wired is now exploring whether or not Facebook has violated the law in censoring private communications between two people. While I find Facebook's actions to be questionable, I can't see how/why they'd be illegal. It's just an automated filter. The EFF is suggesting it might violate wiretapping laws by "looking at" private messages, but if that's true, any ISP-level spam filter probably faces the same legal questions.

That said, what is troubling is Facebook's defense of the policy, claiming that it is allowed to do so, because under its terms of service, it says users cannot "disseminate spammy, illegal, threatening or harassing content." But, as the Wired article shows, there's plenty of legit content on The Pirate Bay as well. The reporter and his editor tried to send a link via private message to a public domain book on The Pirate Bay, and had it rejected, claiming that it was an abuse and the sender would be reported. While Facebook has a right to decide how it runs its service, it's quite disappointing that it would outright declare any link to The Pirate Bay to be somehow illegal. That's simply not true.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    yozoo, May 8th, 2009 @ 5:51am

    seems a bit rediculous

    The federal wiretapping regulations dont apply here, this is a rediculous claim. Frankly over reaching like this simply tarnishes the image of a group like the EFF. Let the ACLU "fight the good fight" and test laws, the EFF has real stuff to be worried about.

     

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    mike42 (profile), May 8th, 2009 @ 6:30am

    Flood 'em

    Send a bunch of legitimate links on the pirate bay, and allow them to be filtered and reported. Maybe some manager somewhere will get annoyed enough to actually check out the filter, and allow legit content to pass. Prolly not, but it's worth a try.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Do they block TinyURLs? Just wondering...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2009 @ 7:09am

    as far as im concerned this is a non issue, you said it yourself "While Facebook has a right to decide how it runs its service[....]" any one not happy with that can:
    1 complain to facebook.
    2 not use facebook.

    as far as filtering TPB urls thats like asking ISPs to police there network vs P2P.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2009 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      No one asked Facebook to filter TPB links. They took it upon themselves to do so. Your analogy doesn't work.

       

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      Chronno S. Trigger, May 8th, 2009 @ 8:29am

      Re:

      It's not that they are filtering the links, it's the reason they give for it. They basically say that TPB is illegal and every single torrent on the site is also illegal. That's said in the second to last sentence in this article (just goes to show that one should read and understand the entire thing before trying to shoot it down.)

       

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    Logo, May 8th, 2009 @ 8:08am

    How sad is it that linking to a site (pirate bay) that links to something (torrent tracker) that allows a user to get a piece of data (the actual file of the torrent) that may or may not be illegal is considered a objectionable act.

    How many steps from a torrent do you have to be for it to no longer be objectionable to people?

     

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      Jason, May 8th, 2009 @ 11:25am

      Re:

      Dear Logo,

      Your Facebook account has been deleted for violations to the terms of service. On May 8, 2009 you commented on the techdirt blog regarding the Bay that shall not be named. Please do respond to this message. Your account cannot be reinstated.

      Thank you,
      Lord Cutler Beckett

       

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    JohnMc, May 8th, 2009 @ 9:52am

    Re:

    The legality isn't the issue, its Facebooks's site and you are using it for free. There for the users don't have a say in the matter. Weather TPB is illegal or not, hasn't been truly established. Facebook has or should have the right to block access to any site they wish if you don't like it don't use it. There is too much BS about a free internet get grow up and face reality nothing is free. The providers need to maintain some control over there network, weather its blocking areas of the internet or controling the amount of users bandwidth.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2009 @ 9:58am

    Commincations

    Facebook is a communications platform and should be treated as such. If an ISP isn't allowed to mess with your data going through them, then Facebook can't either.

     

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    Hon Hon, May 8th, 2009 @ 11:44am

    what about myspace blocking all external links to legal music stores!

    Facebook blocking links to Pirate bay is just a precaution and maybe a way to cozy up to some new advertisers..

    I am more furious about the fact that myspace is blocking links from widgets that lead people to places where they can legally buy music.

     

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    Logo, May 8th, 2009 @ 1:50pm

    @Jason haha

    You almost had me going until I realized the message wasn't in pirate speak like my Facebook account. Avast Ye mateys!

    (I haven't understood anything Facebook has tried to communicate with me for the past few months now... and I kinda like it that way)

     

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    crystalattice (profile), May 9th, 2009 @ 5:33pm

    I use torrents to distribute my book

    I recently wrote an ebook about programming that I licensed under the GNU Free Document License. I currently distribute it via The Pirate Bay.

    Anyone can download, read, modify, and anything else allowed by the GFDL. But according to Facebook, people who want to tell others about it and include the link are in violation of the terms of agreement. I could effectively say that Facebook is limiting the audience of my book, even though it's a perfectly legal item to torrent.

    I don't like that.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2009 @ 9:29pm

    Personal

    It looks like someone in Facebook's upper management has a personal dislike for The Pirate Bay and is using their position to force their views on the Facebook users.

     

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    Yeebok (profile), May 11th, 2009 @ 4:52am

    Facebook are the new Gestapo, or at least they think they are. Ever deleted something but kept an external link ? They never 404.

     

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    moondookie, May 12th, 2009 @ 1:27am

    facebook blocks the pirtaebay

    So what if face book blocks acess to the bay, facebook is for tweeners anyways so get over it,
    cheers

     

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    Facebook Login, Jul 25th, 2009 @ 12:54pm

    Cool

    I think its good that they do this is best to keep stuff clean and that site has viruses on it which will harm your computer trust me I have caught one before. Toms from Facebook Login

     

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    Tom Tom Car GPS, Oct 26th, 2010 @ 4:53am

    Nice

    Let the ACLU "fight the good fight" and test laws, the EFF has real stuff to be worried about.

     

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