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?