Copyright As Censorship: Popular Twitter Account Keeps Getting Deleted Over Trollish DMCA Claims

from the without-a-robust-punishment,-this-will-keep-happening dept

Amazingly, there are still some people out there who insist that copyright is never used for censorship. But an even bigger concern is how more and more people are looking at the ability to censor via copyright as a feature, not a bug, and are interested in expanding that right. Most bizarre of all, we've seen a number of people, who insist that they're "online activists" who want to stop bullying and trolling, advocating for expanding DMCA style takedowns to trollish behavior.

What they don't realize is that this will only make the trolling and abuse much worse, because it puts a new tool for abuse into the hands of the abusers.

Take, for example, what appears to be happening with a popular, if silly, Twitter account @Dog_rates which, as you may have guessed, rates dogs:
I like dogs. I have a wonderful dog. I still don't get the appeal of the account, but apparently thousands of people do love it. Apparently, there's also a troll who doesn't appreciate it, and who keeps sending bogus DMCA takedown notices on the account, leading it to get repeatedly suspended. Reporters at the Daily Dot and the Washington Post both wrote about this, and from the details in the accounts, it seems pretty clear that the guy sending the DMCA notices is your standard, garden variety troll, who just wants to take down an account because it's something he can do.

To ensure that this mysterious individual wouldn’t continue to try to remove his work from the Internet, Nelson decided to try to negotiate with them. Their email exchange is … strange. At one point, the troll claims that they will next target another popular animal Twitter account dedicated to goats. After several emails, the two finally settled on a resolution. The copyright complainer wouldn’t target @dog_rates further if Nelson promised to delete two of the tweets targeted by the DMCA claims. Nelson was given a dramatic 20-minute time limit to comply.

After he deleted the tweets, Nelson asked, “Mind telling me what that was about?”

His troll replied: “Enjoy your account. Sorry about that. I’m just a one of your old followers. I’m going through a tough time I’m really sorry.”

Of course, it's possible that this trollish behavior was inspired (and I can't believe I'm actually typing this), by an earlier spat about dog rating Twitter accounts, in which @dog_rates got incensed about a competing dog rating Twitter account that didn't just have the same idea, but was actively reusing both pictures and Tweet text from the @dog_rates accounts. It did seem like @dog_rates overreacted to that (and seems to take this whole dog rating thing way, way too seriously).

However, the larger point remains: if you give people a tool that they can use to try to stifle the speech of others, it will be abused. It's always abused. Those insisting that expanding takedown abilities to target trollish accounts will lead to good outcomes are failing to realize that the exact opposite is likely to happen. The takedown powers will be abused by the trolls instead. Be careful what you wish for.

Filed Under: censorship, copyright, dmca, dog ratings, dogs, takedowns, trolling
Companies: twitter


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:42am

    it needs to keep happening

    Hopefully someone somewhere will finally send the right DMCA takedown notice and generate enough buzz and pain to get the politicians to wake up.

    But who am I kidding, they will just be bought out.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2016 @ 12:04am

      Re: it needs to keep happening

      I guess that will happen when someone DMCA's a trailer for a Hollywood movie and the movie itself once it is released on Netflix or other stream services.

      To be honest I got a popcorn storage put a side for that day. All those FBI investigations claiming some terrorist haxor is the one to blame and then it turns out that some intern FBI guy delivered the DMCA via tor... one can hope.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:47am

    This, to me, only shows a problem with one person, not the DMCA system. If you really want to focus on abuse, why not write about the millions of intentional pirates who deliberately violate the rights of copyright owners? Of course, that's not the kind of abuse that gets you worked up, Mike. You don't mind that at all. So, yeah, you found one abuser, and he uses the DMCA to abuse. Yay! That's worth an article or three. You can milk this for days!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      It's funny how you say this EVERY SINGLE TIME with complete lack of self-awareness.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:54am

      Re:

      Let me get out my copyright maximalist quotes bingo card. Yep, "this is just one exception!" is the free spot in the center - the guaranteed utterance from anyone wanting to dismiss a single example, regardless of how many single examples there are that add up to a corrupt tool.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2016 @ 3:02am

        Re: Re:

        If we made a copyright apologist bingo card forty foot long in 10point Helvetica and every single spot said 'this is an anomaly' we'd have filled the card and yelled bingo so often we'd have lost our voices months ago.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:56am

      Re:

      It's a problem with the system because of how difficult it is to actually punish the abuse. Yeah there's some writing in the Act to punish this, but it's up to the abused to pony up the cost and dive into a courtroom to try to prove that the asshole is actually malicious and not just playing dumb.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:10am

        Re: Re:

        If only there were some simple way to counter a notice that's been wrongly sent. They could call it a counternotice, even. Congress should get on that!

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          And if that 'counter-notice' was even remotely as effective at restoring content as the original notice was at removing it, you might have a point.

          As it stands though anyone can make a false claim and get something taken down with a minimum of effort and no risk to themselves, whereas to get content restored requires work and opens you up to having to fight the matter out in court if the original sender doubles-down, with the content remaining gone during the process, the odds of the recipient of the claim recouping lost costs so small as to be effectively non-existent, and the odds of any punishment for the sender of the bogus claim likewise non-existent.

          To call the process 'unbalanced' or 'one-sided' would be a gross understatement.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 12:00pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The counter-notice is ineffective because, amongst other reasons, the damage is already done. You've already removed the content for a period, in many cases the period for which the content is relevant.

          For counter-notices to be effective, they need to include remuneration paid to the falsely accused for the loss of readership incurred.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 12:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            and the remuneration should be at least as great as the penalties for infringement.

            IP extremists may claim it's not fair to impose such huge punishments on potentially speculative damages. Well then it's equally not fair to impose huge penalties on speculative infringement damages. But they don't care about the latter because they are hypocrites.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2016 @ 3:05am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            every persons gets 3 counternotice counternotices.
            and also 3 counternotice counternotice counternotices they can use every tuesday if it's not raining and they have an even number of $ in the bank.
            Counternotices must be filled in using green ink by a licensed chiropractor, witnessed by the Dalai Llama and signed in the blood of 3 vestal virgins.

            and it STILL wouldn't be as fucking stupidly retarded as the current DMCA system

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 9:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          If only there were a way to penalize idiots who abuse the system and send notices willy-nilly. As in, a penalty substantially more than the range of "jack shit" and "fuck all".

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

        • icon
          techflaws (profile), 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Wow, you're even failing at irony. Impressive.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:05am

      Re:

      Fail to see the big picture?
      Not to worry, it will not affect you. Just keep on being ignorant, it's not that bad now is it?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      It's just a lot of coincidental single cases of Ebola, not an epidemic!

      Of course when you look at things as an isolated frame, it's easy to dismiss as being just an anomaly. When you ignore the millions of illegitimate claims and focus on them one by one, they're all just simple mistakes!

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:16am

      Look, a red herring!

      I like how you're not even pretending that this isn't an abuse of the system, and instead are just trying to claim that it's not a big deal because 'Look, piracy!'

      Copyright infringement already has penalties, insane ones, but issuing bogus, even blatantly bogus DMCA claims? No penalty whatsoever.

      If you really care about content creators/owners, surely you're in favor of equally harsh penalties bogus claims that negatively impact them, such as what's demonstrated here, right?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 12:02pm

        Re: Look, a red herring!

        "If you really care about content creators/owners"

        Of course not. He has no concern whatsoever for content creators and authors. That's why he favors a system that gives IP holders/distributors more protections than authors.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 12:16pm

      Re:

      The problem is two fold

      A: The system should only be intended to serve the public interest. Shills claim that it should serve the interests of authors.

      B: The shills don't care for the interests of authors and only care for the interests of distributors. The system only serves the distributors.

      As has been pointed out

      "This may result from the inherent imbalance in prerequisites for the original complaint and the counter-notice. To get content removed, copyright holder Bob need only claim a good-faith belief that neither he nor the law has authorized the use. Bob is not subject to penalties for perjury. In contrast, to get access to content re-enabled, Alice must claim a good faith belief under penalty of perjury that the material was mistakenly taken down. This allows for copyright holders to send out take-down notices without incurring much liability; to get the sites back up, the recipients might need to expend considerably more resources. Section 512(f) makes the sender of an invalid claim liable for the damages resulting from the content’s improper removal, including legal fees, but that remedy is not always practical."

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160211/18083433583/wikimedia-takes-down-diary-anne-fr ank-uses-it-to-highlight-idiocy-dmca-rules-copyright-terms.shtml#c362

      A system designed to put distributors over authors and the public by giving distributors more protections than authors (ie: authors that have their works falsely taken down) is not an acceptable system. Why should we have a system not designed to promote the progress or even to equally protect the rights of authors to have their works distributed without facing bogus takedowns.

      "deliberately violate the rights of copyright owners?"

      at least you admit that you don't care for the authors/artists. Only the IP holders/distributors. This is supposed to be a democracy and the government should represent the public not the interests of distributors. Just because you can buy politicians does make it any more right for you to subvert democracy to get what you want against the public interest and against the interests of authors.

      and copy 'right' is a misnomer. It's actually a privilege. Something provided for by government. Those who infringe aren't violating any rights.

      You also seem to have a guilty until proven innocent attitude. Everyone is infringing until they can prove otherwise. Please prove to me you aren't a serial killer.

      I also have no problems with those that do infringe because it's not like these laws were passed democratically. I don't ever remember seeing large groups of people protesting to extend and expand IP laws. But I do remember who did lobby for these laws to be expanded and extended. Companies like Disney. The MPAA and RIAA. Obama even announced his plans to back Disney at their headquarters. Industry interests were invited to secretly negotiate treaties involving IP laws while the public was kept out. It's very clear who is responsible for these laws and it's not the people. It's the corporations. These laws were undemocratically passed and so, as far as I'm concerned, we have every right to violate them as we please and you are in no position to tell us we are wrong. You are the one who is wrong for subverting the democratic process to get self serving laws passed.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 12:18pm

        Re: Re:

        errr ... does not make it *

        Also I remember masses of people protesting against laws like SOPA and other pro-IP laws. Again, these laws were not democratically passed.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 9:59pm

      Re:

      Lets take your argument to its logical conclusion.

      If abuse occurs so seldom then you should have no problems with increasing abuse penalties to at least match infringement penalties. After all if abuse happens so seldom then what difference does it make to increase false takedown penalties?

      Oh, the potential for such huge penalties may deter legitimate takedown requests from being made you say? Not any more than the extent that huge penalties may potentially deter the distribution of non-infringing works due to the possibility of a false takedown request.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:05pm

        Re: Re:

        IOW, if someone wants to make a takedown request and they are so sure the takedown request is legitimate and you are so sure that false takedown requests are the exception and not the rule then they should have no problems facing possibly huge penalties if the takedown request turned out to be false. and you should have no problems with false takedown requests being much more harshly penalized. Just like IP extremists would argue that those that don't infringe have nothing to worry about so long as they don't infringe with respect to the possibility of facing huge infringement damages if they do infringe.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2016 @ 12:09am

      Re:

      "millions of intentional pirates"
      There are millions of people who own a ship and take over the content owners ship which has the only copy? Darrrrrn! That is amazing. How do they know the location of the ship and how do they get all those weapons? I knew that open waters were scary but now I can only hope to not be killed by those pirates when I sail to the south in summer.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 10:48am

    This guy better not hit @emergencycats or I'm going to be pissed.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:06am

    Youtube takedown abuse is rampant right now, so much so that popular Youtubers are coming out against the system for destroying their livelihoods. A lot of people are saying there isn't a day that goes by where a takedown or false claim isn't filed against one of their videos.

    Something is going to give soon.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:09am

    $500 deposit to request DMCA takedowns

    If the people who honestly feel that they own the rights to whatever they are taking down, they shouldn't mind having to put down a $500 deposit to ensure that they are not abusing the DMCA process. If their takedown is found to be baseless and or not taking fair use into account and the request end up being false, they can forfeit their deposit. Right now there is literally no repercussion to abusing the system to stifle speech.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:35am

      Re: $500 deposit to request DMCA takedowns

      I don't know about a deposit. Some poor artist might not have the cash to spare. Enough identifying/contact information and a signed statement of liability for falsehoods by the DMCA requester should do the trick though.

      Now the problem is to get the already paid for congress to turn against their contributors. Good luck with that. I would vote for it, but congresscritter lie to their constituents and vote the way their contributors tell them. Fraud,I think, certainly lying, but who the hell would prosecute?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 Feb 2016 @ 11:38am

      Re: $500 deposit to request DMCA takedowns

      Good start, but not nearly far enough. Instead of $500, which is pocket change to any company or individual with a large enough bank account, make the penalties for sending a bogus DMCA claim exactly match those for hosting/sharing/posting infringing content. Now those arguing for even harsher penalties for copyright infringement have some incentive to be a little more 'moderate' in their demands, as they face the very real possibility of being the ones slammed by those penalties.

      Alternatively the courts could simply start enforcing the penalty already in the law, which treats a false DMCA claim as perjury, a charge that carries the potential for jail time. Throw a few people in a cell and I imagine the abuse of the law would all but vanish overnight.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 12:10pm

        Re: Re: $500 deposit to request DMCA takedowns

        Amen.

        Not willing to say a deposit, just say that knowingly issuing a false takedown has the same costs as a copyright violation... I suppose you might consider it "slander of title"

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 12:31pm

        Re: Re: $500 deposit to request DMCA takedowns

        The penalties for a false takedown should be greater than those of infringement

        A: A false takedown more directly hurts the progress of the sciences and useful arts a whole lot more than infringement. Available content is the definition of progress, taking it down falsely is exactly the antithesis of progress. The purpose of IP laws should be to encourage the availability of more content and this is doing the exact opposite.

        B: The person requesting a takedown is in a much better position to know if they own the copy protection privileges to something than the person putting it up. The person putting it up may think that the content they are distributing is either in the public domain or is released under a CC or other similar license.

        C: A false takedown directly hurts authors. Infringement mostly just violates the privileges of distributors.

        D: The existing state of IP laws were not democratically passed. They were passed through politician buying and backdoor dealings and with industry interests invited to secretive meetings.

        F: IP is a privilege not a right. An author posting something on Youtube and Youtube hosting it is a right. For someone to misuse a privilege to falsely violate the rights of others is not acceptable and is deserving of huge punishments, punishments much greater than the punishment imposed on someone that does violate an IP protection privilege. Our rights > your privileges so punishment for violating a right should be greater than punishment for violating a privilege.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:11pm

        Re: Re: $500 deposit to request DMCA takedowns

        The penalty already in the law is toothless, which is why it generally hasn't even been looked at.

        Any person who knowingly makes a false representation of a material fact in the application for copyright registration provided for by section 409, or in any written statement filed in connection with the application, shall be fined not more than $2,500.


        $2,500 isn't enough to even get a lawyer to look at it. ... and it isn't any kind of deterrent to more than small companies or individuals.

        No, what is needed is a "cry wolf" provision: If you are found three times asserting copyright falsely, you are forbidden from thereafter asserting ANY copyright claims.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 2:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: $500 deposit to request DMCA takedowns

          2500 isn't too little so much as the bar you have to show to nail them for it is too high. For example, many of them auto-generate these notices, so they can claim it wasn't known, just a honest mistake. THAT needs to be stopped: machine or not, if it's material you don't own, it should it's a misrepresentation. Fair use is a bit harder, but if it's being used for review or illustrative purposes, it's a misrepresentation.

          The other issue is that fine does not go to the person wronged. This needs to be used to offset the damages done, and as such needs to go to the person falsely accused.

          Considering the vast majority of abuse is from serial abusers (there are a few game developers who are really bad about this), making the victims a class would multiply that number a hundred-fold.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 12:37pm

    Can we get a "Rate The Troll" account?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 19 Feb 2016 @ 1:26pm

      Re:

      Probably not, as that would just encourage them to compete for a higher score and more recognition. The flag that compresses their screeds works well enough, though at times it confuses the hell out of them as they perceive it as censorship where it really is that enough of us just get tired of their insecurities.

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

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 22 Feb 2016 @ 5:35am

    People who wish to censor others tend to be the biggest hypocrites around. Think "hoist" and "petard."

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

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 22 Feb 2016 @ 5:36am

    People who wish to censor others tend to be the biggest hypocrites around. Think "hoist" and "petard."

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


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