Australian Guy Demands Techdirt Story Be Blocked In Australia Over Comments

from the really-now? dept

I will admit that Australia’s defamation law is fairly baffling, in that it seems to repeatedly allow individuals who have had mean stuff said about them to demand all sorts of content be completely blocked from existence — based solely on the claims of the aggrieved, and prior to any court ruling. It’s a “right to be forgotten” gone mad. The latest such example of this… involves us. We recently discovered that an Australian guy by the name of Michael Roberts is demanding that an entire Techdirt page be removed from Google’s index. Having not recalled ever writing about anyone named Michael Roberts, I went to look at the article and discovered… it doesn’t mention anyone named Michael Roberts and doesn’t seem to involve him at all.

Instead, it’s an article from about a year and a half ago about a preemptive lawsuit filed by Ripoff Report against a prosecutor in Iowa who has been aggressively pursuing Ripoff Report for quite some time. As we noted in the article, the judge in the case found no one to like and spends plenty of time pointing out the problems of everyone who is a party to the lawsuit. As the judge noted, the prosecutor pursing Ripoff Report, Ben Smith, appeared to focus on investigating Ripoff Report for “retaliatory reasons.” Meanwhile, Ripoff Report was clearly no angel as well, potentially trying to stretch Section 230 of the CDA to cover content written by someone hired by the company (CDA 230 is clearly limited to user generated content, and not to works directed by the company).

That story was kind of interesting, but it apparently just revealed the tip of the ice berg of the dispute between Smith and Ripoff Report. It apparently goes much deeper involving all sorts of conspiracy theories, which we won’t even begin to discuss here, other than to note that it appears that many of the people involved in the ongoing dispute all happened to show up in our comments and… go wild posting anything and everything. Some of the back and forth conspiracy theories do involve the guy who sent this notice, Michael Roberts. And, because of that, he wants our entire post (and a whole bunch of other things) entirely blocked from Google. I’m not going to go into the different claims and conspiracy theories in the comments because, frankly, it would take basically a week — and probably some bulletin boards with photos, printouts and red strings connecting totally unrelated incidents.

But I do find it worrisome that even if Roberts is correct that various negative “imputations” can be made from some of the nuttier comments in the thread, that it means our original story — which, again, doesn’t even mention him — should be blocked from Google. Honestly, if you read through the comments, and can even keep the various players and claims straight (good luck with that!), it’s hard to believe that Roberts is the one who comes out of the whole thing looking bad. But, of course, in filing this takedown notice, he’s only causing more people who wouldn’t be paying attention at all to go look at the comments and see what this is all about.

Also, it does seem worth noting that beyond our specific articles, and some specific YouTube videos, the takedown request demands entire blogs and social media accounts be blocked, rather than specific statements/posts/articles that could be defamatory. That seems like a clear demand for prior restraint and broad based blocking of individuals, rather than of actually defamatory speech.

There’s a popular saying that the best response to speech you dislike is more speech, and this seems like one of those cases. Rather than freaking out and demanding an entire article (not about him) be taken down, why not leave things in context where people can judge the unreliability of the claims on their own merit (or lack thereof).

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Companies: google, ripoff report, techdirt

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Comments on “Australian Guy Demands Techdirt Story Be Blocked In Australia Over Comments”

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52 Comments
JoeCool (profile) says:

Makes him look even worse.

Rather than freaking out and demanding an entire article (not about him) be taken down, why not leave things in context where people can judge the unreliability of the claims on their own merit (or lack thereof).

Most people realize that folks (usually) only freak out over comments are when they true. So freaking out only makes him look guilty and trying to "cover up the truth". The old saying "The lady (guy) doth protest too much, methinks" comes to mind.

anonymous citizen of the world says:

Re: Duffy Makes him look even worse.

I bet it is that f^&$%^ w&^%$ Duffy behind him like the other c&^$*

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20151201/01513032951/our-response-to-latest-ridiculous-legal-threat-against-us-milorad-trkulja-can-go-pound-sand.shtml

Fame whore, Duffy, ya c^&%*, you should be bleeped…ya c&^%*

Darren (profile) says:

Re: . Darren Meade , concerned guy who was on to something and who got stomped on.

I may or may not win the Pulitzer Prize for reporting, I may not be a lawyer and I may be wrong about many things, but there were good reason for anyone to be concerned about this situation and I had a right and duty to say something. If no one listens or if Smith trashes me personally, so be it, but to use his power to punish me and shut me down and ruin my life is unwarranted, offensive and illegal. I may be wrong on my broader concerns about a conspiracy with Michael Roberts and County Attorney Ben Smith, but when Smith went that far to punish not just me but others, it makes me unable to shake that I am right about that as well. I faced 25 years in prison unless I retracted my articles about Michael Robert pertaining to the attempted sexual assault/murder of his wife and children. I refused, and after 9 months, we defeated them in court.

I did my best and never claimed to be a genius reporter. I had the basic right to say something and stop a minor duty to act to try and stop a woman and her (then) three young children from being beaten and abused any further.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well,

1) everyone knows that Obama was in charge of the .com domain names. Citation: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160610/07561834679/yes-getting-us-government-out-managing-internet-domain-governance-is-good-thing.shtml

2) Said person changed his name, and the new name fell under the purview of ICANN. Citation:
https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/want-to-know-how-kim-dotcom-got-his-last-name-6179301

3) After registering himself with the US Commerce Dept, he is subject to US law. He probably should have worked with GoDaddy! to get a .nz

4) Profit!!

5) Anyone who has read this far, and still is taking this seriously is not clever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Quick technical partial workaround

Provide a comments-free version of the page linked in a way that the search engine is likely to find it. Include on that page a link to the regular story-with-comments version, much the way the front page shows summaries of the stories, but not the comments attached. Once done, Google can continue to index at least the main story, independent of any craziness that commenters bring. It’s not as nice as keeping the main page listed in Google, but it protects important stories from being incidentally delisted due to crazy commenters.

RonKaminsky (profile) says:

Re: Quick technical partial workaround

Ah, the memories! I do find your suggestion interesting, but what it really reminds me of is the period in Slashdot where people would constantly try to find technical solutions which would solve the "spam problem", and in reply would receive the standard reply ith the appropriate checkboxes checked off.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let’s start a game of whack-a-mole for Michael Roberts!

Michael Roberts is a nutter. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he abuses his children which is why his wife shot Dustin Wehde. Roberts tried to hire Wehde to kill her after she threatened to expose his abuse and she ended up killing him in self defense.

I could go on but why bother? Now go file another de-listing order with Google, Mr. Roberts. Then we can have another posting about that de-listing where we discuss your misdeeds again. Don’t forget to say hi to Ms. Streisand the next time you see her!

Anonymous Coward says:

He has a point

… although I regretfully agree that it doesn’t justify wholesale censorship.

I looked into the stories about Michael Roberts, and it does appear that he is the unfortunate victim of some truly outrageous injustices. I really sympathise with him, and I wish him well. I hope that he can survive and overcome.

In that light, some of the comments on this page appear very cruel. You might want to take off your tech-focused or rights-focused specs, occasionally, and try pretending to be a real human being.

R.H. (profile) says:

Re: He has a point

This "real human being" believes that the answer to speech you disagree with is either to walk away from the speaker or to counter it with speech of your own but never censorship.

People who invite governments to intervene on their behalf by limiting everyone’s freedoms may have good reasons to do so but, it is not in our best interests to allow them to continue.

Anonymous Coward says:

This letter is all bluff. It is expensive in Australia to pursue a defamation case and I doubt he has the funds to pursue it further.

And to make matters worse for him it has to be done within 1 year of when they published the information.

So it’s all just BS. And the biggest give away, it isn’t on a law firms letter head.

Darren M. Meade (profile) says:

Re: Sworn Testimony on Michael Roberts

Prosecutor Ben Smith was a proxy for Michael Roberts, Rexxfield and Mile2 who wanted to discredit my research and articles about the prosecutorial misconduct in the Tracey Richter murder trial. Tracey Richter is the ex-wife of Michael Roberts.

Here is Ben Smith’s sworn testimony that Michael Roberts conspired to draft false claims about reporter Darren Meade which led to the dismissal against reporter Darren Meade.

http://www.slideshare.net/darrenmeade1/ben-smith-sworn-testimony-5-115-48729234

Anonymous Coward says:

WOW! This is perhaps one of the most ignorant comments I have seen Mike Masnick make:

There’s a popular saying that the best response to speech you dislike is more speech, and this seems like one of those cases. Rather than freaking out and demanding an entire article (not about him) be taken down, why not leave things in context where people can judge the unreliability of the claims on their own merit (or lack thereof).

SERIOUSLY? I run my own website and community and when one of my members posts an inappropriate message or comment, it gets deleted and the person who posted it gets reprimanded.

I find that remark totally inappropriate because by that reasoning, even slanderous, libelous comments can be carefully shaped to conform to that reasoning.

tracyanne (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m part of an online community (not one of those you’re the product like Facebook or Google +), we have a policy that what you post does not get deleted. So anyone who posts, has to either stand by their words or publicly retract them… or go away, if they can’t handle the heat. Such posts usually end up in the Dungeon, but they are never deleted.

Darren (profile) says:

Michael Roberts bragging about his whole new strain of WMD's weapons of mass defamation [ see pages 22 and 23 ]

No matter how you slice it, there is a long line of people who will pay handsomely for their own private kill-switch on Internet free speech. Even so, every good arms dealer knows if the market isn’t big enough (and it never is), you have to create new ones. Michael Roberts has a plan for that, using automated technology to generate defamatory content about individuals and corporations that value their reputations the bigger the better. We’re talking about a whole new strain of WMDs weapons of mass defamation. Think about it: What if allegations of pedophilia were to pop up the next time you Google your name? Or obscene stories about your wife or your daughter? When we’re talking about the potential ruin of your career, your marriage, or your child’s future, money is no object and these predators know it. When the time is right, you’ll get an email and it’ll be Page1me to the rescue antidote in one hand, anthrax in the other.

Which brings us back to the question, how do I know all of this? It’s simple: I was in the room while the plot was being hatched. I now know and can prove that Rexxfield isn’t just another reputation management company: It’s a bonafide criminal enterprise.

Look, I know I can’t expect you to take my word for all this, partly because the Rexxfield gang has already made good on their first threat to destroy my reputation online. Go ahead Google my name. It’s mud if you don’t already know me.

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