DMCA Process Abused To Nuke Post About Researcher Who Faked Data On Federally-Funded Study

from the 'DM'-stands-for-'Dick-Move' dept

Wonderful. It's another one of those anomalies that happens all the time: copyright as censor.

This time, the person abusing copyright protection tools to shut someone up is a disgraced researcher (Kaushik Deb) who received a three-year federal funding ban for "intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly" fabricating data in a research paper created with tax dollars.

Retraction Watch was informed by its hosting service that it had received a DMCA notice targeting the post. The tactic used here is one we've seen before: copy-pasting and backdating of posts to make it appear as though the targeted site is the one engaging in copyright infringement.

On Wednesday, our host, Bluehost, forwarded us another false copyright claim — aka a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice — by someone calling himself “Jiya Khan” and claiming to be based in Delhi, India. (Well, specifically, in “Rohini,sector-12,” which would mean that he or she is based at one of two petrol stations.)

Khan insisted under penalty of perjury that a December 2014 post of ours — which we have now temporarily removed from public view (more on that in a moment) — violated his or her copyright.

What actually happened, in an eerie echo of the 2013 case, is that Khan copied and pasted our December 9 post onto his or her site, then backdated it to December 5 to make it look older than ours, so that he or she could make a false copyright claim. (That, among other things, is a bit of a problem for Khan; the Federal Register notice that the post is about — and to which it manages not to link — wasn’t published until December 9.)

The bogus backdated Blogspot blog contains several other copy-pasted posts, suggesting "Jiya Khan" is just a fake name fronting for a sketchy reputation management service. Presumably, bogus DMCA notices have been issued to target the mixture of critical articles and negative reviews splashed across the blog's pages. It's not exactly a surefire way to rid the net of criticism, but it's cheap and easy and works just often enough it's worth trying. We saw this with disgraced real estate lawyer Sean Gjerde, and gripe sites have seen it happen with just about everyone else.

For the time being, the Retraction Watch post is down. The Federal Register's recounting of the incident and its sanctioning of Dr. Kaushik Deb is still live, and there are multiple snapshots of Retraction Watch's post on Kaushik Deb's data-faking hosted at the Internet Archive.

Retraction Watch is challenging the DMCA takedown notice. Presumably, the post will be live again in the near future. Then again, "Jiya Khan" may continue to insist he created Retraction Watch's post, which means Bluehost won't be able to do much more than keep the post down until all permutations of the DMCA process have been played out.

But that's how easy it is to make fully-factual criticism disappear, even if only temporarily. And whoever's mismanaging Kaushik Deb's questionable reputation knows this. Even if there's provable perjury in the takedown request, who's going to actually be able to track down the real person behind the "Jiya Khan" facade, much less manage to hold them accountable for their abuse of the system?

Filed Under: censorship, dmca, kaushik deb, reputation management, research
Companies: bluehost, retraction watch

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2016 @ 10:28am


    Can't they be sued for direct copyright infringement? Since they know how to file a DMCA notice, isn't it then willful? How are they not in violation of CRIMINAL copyright infringement for the behavior?

    As the Techdirt post noted at the end, the supposed rightsholder is almost certainly an alias with a fictitious location, so applying any sanction whatsoever, whether a copyright suit or an action for the false DMCA claim, is difficult. On the other hand, since Jiya Khan is clearly an attempt to conceal the origin, then according to the FBI's theory that attempting to conceal one's identity and/or location is an indication of knowing wrongdoing, it should be easier to get the FBI interested in extrajurisdictional hacking (conveniently now legal!) to find this person and bring them to justice.

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