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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  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 9:32am

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 9:35am

    The US isn't bound by Australian law, so he can go fuck himself.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 9:35am

    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.

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

    • icon
      RonKaminsky (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 9:47am

      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.

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

    • identicon
      TheCrazyCommenter, 8 Feb 2017 @ 9:50am

      Re: Quick technical partial workaround

      An excellent idea!!!

      No.

      If AUS wants to ban shit, let'em ban shit. Same with any other cuntry.

      The answer to bad speech is more speech.

      Suck it!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:27am

        Re: Re: Quick technical partial workaround

        OP never advocated giving in and letting Australians delist the stories. OP suggested a way to keep the story itself up while fighting to keep the story-with-comments version up.

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

    • identicon
      Michael, 8 Feb 2017 @ 9:52am

      Re: Quick technical partial workaround

      Or, write this story and include a link to the...oh, wait, that's already happened.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:46am

      Re: Quick technical partial workaround

      You can't work around crazy. This man clearly is nuts and coming up with solutions to shield him from the universe will never work.

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 9:47am

    Website Update for TD

    We have boxes for "Essential Reading" and "Recent Stories"... so just add a "Blocked/Delisted Stories".

    And it will need a "more ->" button as it will get larger as more countries adopt these stupid "right to be forgotten" rules.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:28am

    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!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:34am

    I don't use google search.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:43am

    Australia should Build A Wall !!

    Australia should build the biggest best wall there ever was!

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

  • icon
    David Sanger (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 12:27pm

    Wonder why he wants this URL to be removed from search:

    https://productforums.google.com/forum/

    lol

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 1:38pm

    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.

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

    • icon
      R.H. (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 10:02pm

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 3:38pm

    Didn't somebody called Michael Roberts

    marry Barabra Streisand? Or is Michael Roberts that "so-called judge"?
    With so many alternative facts, how can one keep track?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 4:03pm

    Loony Relations

    He must be related to the newly minted Senator Malcolm Roberts (One Neuron Party) who also lives in an alternative universe full of alternative facts. There's far too much sun & heat in Queensland (Australia's Florida) for the brain to operate properly.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 4:28pm

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Canuck, 8 Feb 2017 @ 5:43pm

    One thing is very clear in those old comments - Darren M. Meade was posting with about a dozen sockpuppets. That's enough to tell me that he's extremely dishonest. Doesn't give his rants about Michael Roberts much veracity.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 3:54am

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Monty Adder, 9 Feb 2017 @ 4:59am

      Re: No one is to stone anyone.....

      "why not leave things in context where people can judge the unreliability of the claims on their own merit (or lack thereof)."

      //Look, I'd had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was: "That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah!"//

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

    • identicon
      tracyanne, 9 Feb 2017 @ 2:36pm

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 5:10am

    I just think that Mike's comments at the end of that article are very dangerous.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 8:27am

    given that google manipulates results like auto complete for hillary and trump last year, they are on thin ice here.

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

  • identicon
    Darren M. Meade, 10 Feb 2017 @ 7:14pm

    Michael Roberts ahead of his ex-wife's murder trial was able to scare Google into removing articles that listed him as a possible suspect.

    http://www.slideshare.net/darrenmeade1/jury-witness-tampering-websites-through-google-search -urgent-takedown-request-iowa-vs-tracey-richter-murder-in-the-1st-degree

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


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