More Enforcement Needed To Stop Online Fraud?

from the so-it-goes... dept

While laws about various online scams continue to get proposed and passed, some are noticing that there already appear to be plenty of laws on the books that cover just about every kind of online scam. The problem is enforcement. Despite recent announcements from the US DOJ about taking down various online scams, it’s just a tiny drop in the bucket. One interesting point in the article is that many ISPs are slow to deal with scammers because they can get hit from both sides. They don’t want to know what the scammers are doing, because they don’t want to be held liable for “aiding and abetting” by knowing about the scams that take place on their systems. At the same time, by shutting down scammers, some are afraid they can be accused of breach of contract and tortious interference with a business relationship. In other words, the incentive is for ISPs to just look the other way until it’s absolutely necessary that they do something.

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Comments on “More Enforcement Needed To Stop Online Fraud?”

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1 Comment
Michael Vilain (user link) says:

Heavy-handed vs. look-the-other-way ISPs

Suppose someone doesn’t like my site and complains to my ISP that it’s infringing on some trademark or my site is a scam. The ISP can unilaterally take it down without investigation or investigate (not really their job) or ask me to find another ISP because they don’t the contreversy.

A unilateral take down may be illegal–the phone company doesn’t disconnect your service if someone complains about you calling them.

Investigating the complaint against the site is a burden on the ISP. Unless there’s fraud involved (i.e. illegal activity they can be shown to have known about), haven’t the courts found that ISPs aren’t responcible for content on their networks and servers? How does an ISP investigate an alligation of fraud? Isn’t that the job of the local DA or other government agencies?

Don’t most business have a sign somewhere on their premises saying something like “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”. I would hope there’d be a clause in the ISP Terms of Use contract that customers sign. This is probably what the ‘heavy-handed’ ISP category is invoking. But, if ISPs are some sort of ‘common-carrier’ like a phone company, isn’t there some sort of government guideline prohibiting capricious terminations? Sadly, most phone carriers don’t shut down telemarketers when they get complaints about them.

To me, this isn’t as cut-and-dried an issue as it would seem.

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