from the even-the-Great-Firewall-of-China-couldn't-keep-it-out dept
Techdirt has written a number of posts about the controversial "right to be forgotten" idea -- strictly speaking, a right to be de-listed from search engine results. As Mike noted a couple of months ago, there is no doubt that this idea is starting to "infect" an increasing number of governments and legal systems around the world. The Fei Chang Dao site has a fascinating post about what appears to be China's first "right to be forgotten" case. It includes a translation of the following background information provided by the court itself:
Recently the Haidian Court concluded a case involving a lawsuit filed by Plaintiff Ren against a certain Internet Services Company for infringement of the right of reputation, name, and general personality. On May 13, 2014, a European court issued a final judgment confirming that ordinary citizens have a "right to be forgotten" with respect to personal information, and following that the European Union has established the scope of a "right to be forgotten." During the two year period following the European court's recognition of the "right to be forgotten," the Haidian Court has concluded proceedings in the first case involving the scope of judicial protection of the "right to be forgotten" for a citizen's personal information. This case study has significant theoretical and practical value with respect to the issue of how China will conduct regulatory development and judicial practice to safeguard the "right to be forgotten" for personal information in the Internet age.
It's fascinating to see a Chinese court pointing to these developments in Europe, even though it later goes on to emphasize:
China's law as it exists today is unable to define a category of rights that is the so-called "right to be forgotten." The "right to be forgotten" is only touched upon in foreign statutory and case law, which cannot serve as the legal basis for China's protection of this kind of right.
If you're interested in the details of the case, the Fei Chang Dao site has a good summary, with full translations of all the relevant information. Suffice it to say that the court rejected Mr Ren's request to remove certain links, and gave the following explanation why:
the information at issue in this lawsuit regarding [the plaintiff] Ren Jiayu's work history relates to very recent events, and he continues to work in the business administration education profession. This information happens to form a portion of his professional history, and his current individual professional credibility is both of directly relevant and of ongoing concern. Ren Jiayu hopes to make use of his own good reputation in the industry to attract customers and students going forward, but information about his personal qualification is important information that customers and students rely on in making a judgment.
That eminently sensible reasoning augurs well for the future, if and when China decides to join the burgeoning "right to be forgotten" club officially by bringing in new laws on the matter.
Search for stories about Apple's App Store in the Techdirt archives and you will quickly notice a theme. That theme is that Apple routinely appoints itself as the arbiter of artistic quality and morality when it comes to content within the app store, particularly gaming content, and that its application of these standards swings like some kind of absurd pendulum. Ban a game over here for telling a bible story that includes violence against children, but allow the actual bible to be sold as well. React to the South Carolina massacre by pulling down games about the Civil War because they include images of the Confederate flag. Reject a wargaming simulation, then approve it, and nobody knows how the company might decide to react tomorrow. You often hear that stability breeds a good ground for business, whereas Apple runs its App Store like some kind of experiment in chaos.
And in order to apply its standards in a way that apparently makes the folks at Apple feel all warm and fuzzy inside, it occasionally has to truly lower its explanations to absurd levels of outright lying. For instance, Apple recently disallowed a game about surviving on the Gaza Strip in its store, claiming it wasn't a game at all, but a news publication, even though the briefest review of the app reveals that it's obviously a game.
A game about the Palestine/Israel conflict, Liyla and The Shadows of War, has proved too political for Apple. The technology giant ordered the developer, Rasheed Abueideh, to remove Liyla from the games section of its iTunes app store, claiming it isn't a game and should sit in the news section.
The real question is, is Liyla and The Shadows of War a game? I played it last night, as Liyla is available from Google Play. It's a short platformer with a powerful message and stunning graphics.
The writer goes on from there to describe the plot, the inclusion of reactions to real life events, the graphical elements of the game, and the, well, gameplay. Because it's a game. You have to play to get either a win or lose scenario, there are choices to be made, puzzles to be solved, and stages to complete. It's a platformer, like Mario Bros..
So, why the ban and the lies to support it? Well, one can understand that the Middle East conflict and the ongoing crisis between the Palestinians and the Israelis is among the most touchy of subjects. For a company that wants to keep its brand and its App Store squeaky clean, at least in its own mind, one can imagine that this kind of thing is something Apple wouldn't want to touch. But, misguided as this already is, it becomes all the more so when it can't even bother to stay consistent on the matter. The App Store has available for purchase, for instance, Israeli Heroes, which appears to be an Angry Birds clone in which you lob missiles at bombs that reside under a crescent moon and oh my god, I think I'm about to have an embolism, because come on.
As always, in the midst of this nonsense, the game is available for Android devices, because that garden has no wall around it.
For once, the phrase 'relax, it's just a game' seems apt. Apple take note. Liyla and The Shadows of War is available for Android on Google Play – it's free, it's short and it's definitely a game worth playing.
We've said it before, but we'll say it again: it'd be best if Apple would get out of the art critique business. They're not very good at it.
Over and over again, we're told that copyright is not about censorship, and yet time and time again we see how it is used to censor speech quite frequently. Back in March, we wrote about the somewhat horrifying bit of news that a news website that posted stories about the app Popcorn Timehad been seized by Norwegian police. The "crime" according to the police was that the site -- which never hosted the app at all -- did link to some other sites where you could download Popcorn Time. This is so far removed from the actual infringement as to be crazy. Yes, some users of Popcorn Time use the software to infringe on copyright-covered works. No one doubts that. But the software itself -- like a VCR -- can also be used for legitimate purposes as well. If a user infringes, go after the user. But the software itself shouldn't be targeted (even though it is). But, then you go another step removed to sites that host the app. And then a further step removed to a news site that links to sites that link to the software that a user might use to infringe.
And the police deemed that worthy of seizing? Even though the site also had a ton of news articles that would normally be considered protected expression?
I want to repeat this just to show how crazy it is. The police in Norway didn't go after actual infringers, they went after a news site that links to sites that host an app that might be used to infringe. Oh, and they did it using an asset seizure procedure that has basically no due process prior to an entire news website disappearing. That's messed up.
Apparently, Electronic Frontier Norway (EFN -- which is unrelated but similar to the EFF here in the States) -- and the Norwegian Unix User Group (NUUG) went to court over this, but had that rejected (perhaps reasonably) for lack of standing. However, TorrentFreak is reporting that the case is being appealed... but this time with the legal owner of the site:
With the new party the groups hope to have sufficient standing to have the case heard. In their appeal there’s a strong focus on the free speech element, and they hope the court will clarify when domain seizures are appropriate.
“We feel that this is an important case that addresses the limits of free speech,” EFN’s managing director Tom Fredrik Blenning tells TorrentFreak.
NUUG leader Hans-Petter Fjeld adds that the authorities shouldn’t be allowed to seize the domain name of a news site, which writes about open source software that by itself is not infringing.
“Part of what makes us upset is that the domain name of a news site about a piece of free software that has both legal and illegal uses, has been seized without judicial scrutiny,” Fjeld says.
This use of asset seizure to take down news sites that might be distantly related to infringement is extremely troubling. It's happened in the US, including just recently returning some domains it had seized five years prior, without ever having any evidence of actual infringement associated with those news sites.
The idea that this form of blatant censorship is being used globally should be yet another warning of how copyright law is regularly abused for censorship.
from the 'this-will-end-the-criticism-once-and-for-all!' dept
Copyright: for when you just don't feel like being criticized. (Currently available for periods up to, and including, seventy years past your death!)
Matt Hosseinzadeh, a.k.a. "Matt Hoss," a.k.a. "Bold Guy," a.k.a. "Horny Tony," runs a moderately successful YouTube channel containing his moderately well-done videos of his "characters" performing feats of pickup artistry and parkour. It's all fairly ridiculous, but considering the depths pickup artists can plumb, the HossZone videos are actually fairly tame.
According to H3H3, it all began with a demand for the removal of the video and $3,750 in legal fees racked up so far by Hoss's lawyer. From there, it got stupider. After failing to secure instant capitulation, HossZone's lawyer altered the terms of the deal. ("Pray I don't alter it stupider...") H3H3 could avoid paying any money by apologizing via their channel for misappropriating Hoss's "art," say some nice stuff about him in their apology video, and throw additional compliments HossZone's way for a period of no less than 60 days. (I am not kidding. Watch the video above.)
H3H3 refused to do so, so Hoss has now filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Ethan and Hila Klein. Hoss also hit H3H3 with a copyright strike, despite the fact that the video central to the complaint had been set to "private" shortly after his lawyer began issuing legal threats.
Unlike others who have sought to abuse copyright to censor critics, Hoss appears to have his end of it pretty much nailed down. He has a valid, registered copyright that predates the H3H3 reaction video and his complaint isn't filled with vagues assertions about ethereal property and even vaguer assertions about how it's been violated.
That being said, detailed allegations aren't always credible allegations. It appears that fair use is still misunderstood by a great deal of the population, including those representing plaintiffs in copyright infringement lawsuits. From the complaint:
On or about February 15, 2016, Defendants published a video on their YouTube channel that copied and displayed virtually all of Mr. Hoss’s original Work (the “Infringing Video”).
The Infringing Video features the Defendants purporting to discuss the Work in what they believe to be a humorous manner but in fact reproduces virtually all of the Work as nothing more than a prop in the Defendants’ “comedy routine.”
Contrary to what Hoss's lawyer implies here, there is nothing in caselaw that forbids the use of "virtually all" of a work under fair use. Judges and juries may be more sympathetic if you don't, but this does not automatically make a work infringing, rather than fair use.
The 13 minute h3h3 productions video in questionuses about three minutes of HossZone’s skit, while the rest of the video features Ethan and Hila talking about the setting, script, character development, and even the costume design used by HossZone. They also talk about random things pertaining to their life, as most vlogs of theirs do.
The original video runs 5:25, so H3H3 used a little more than half of it, but that half only makes up about a third of the total reaction video runtime. Not that all this math makes much of a difference when fair use is raised as a defense, but it does serve two purposes: it illustrates there was a great deal of commentary surrounding Hoss's content and it appears to contradict the claims made by the plaintiff.
The Infringing Video was created and published without license from Mr. Hoss in direct violation of Mr. Hoss's exclusive rights as an author pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 106.
Fair use does not require the obtaining of a license from a copyright holder (no matter what Sony Music claims...) because that's exactly what "fair use" is: the use of copyrighted works in a non-infringing way.
The Infringing Video does nothing to alter the original Work with new expression, meaning, or message
The Infringing Video fails to contribute a single substantive comment, criticism, or even parody to or of the original Work.
These are opinions, not factual assertions. The court will determine how substantive Hoss's take on H3H3's video is, but even those standing far outside of the IP-wonk circle can plainly see these are purely subjective statements.
Aside from the fact, as described in greater detail above, that the Infringing Video does not constitute a transformative fair use, it is also the fact that the Defendants operate the Ethan and Hila YouTube channel, where they published the Infringing Video, as an entertainment channel via which the Defendants generate advertising revenues.
People make money from fair use all the time. This argument has been debunked so often, it should ingrained in the mind of any decent IP lawyer.
What's interesting about this lawsuit is that HossZone also accuses H3H3 of filing a "false" DMCA counter notification in response to Hosszone's takedown request.
On or about April 26, 2016, the Defendants submitted to YouTube a counter notification, pursuant to 17 USC § 512(g)(3), affirming under penalty of perjury that the Infringing Video was improperly removed because it was, among other reasons, a fair use and “noncommercial.”
And if it's Hoss's takedown that delivered a strike to H3H3's account is determined to be bogus, what then? Still going to go HAM on the "perjury" angle?
Hoss's lawyer seems to take particular issue with the possibility that the Klein's may have received ad revenue from their reaction video. In addition to claiming YouTube's third-party advertising makes any uploaded video a "commercial" product, the attorney claims that most of H3H3's popularity is due to Hoss's talent and inherent likability, rather than the commentary added to the video or the rest of H3H3's video productions.
Upon information and belief, the Defendants have unfairly derived profit from the Infringing Video in the form of their YouTube channel, which generates advertising revenue, increasing in popularity during the two-month period that the Infringing Video was displayed.
Upon information and belief, the Defendants’ YouTube channel more than doubled its number of subscribers due, at least in part, to the popularity generated by the Infringing Video.
The lawsuit also claims that Hoss is so charismatic his 3-minute appearance in a video mocking him somehow resulted in the Kleins being able to generate income from Patreon and Kickstarter.
All in all, it's a fairly ridiculous lawsuit which is made worse by its apparent motivation: to remove something Matt Hoss doesn't like from the internet. Even if this somehow works out for the parkouring pickup artist, the battle is already lost. A supporter of the Kleins set up a fundraiser for their legal defense, which amassed over $100,000 in under 24 hours. Meanwhile, what's left of Matt Hosszone's web presence is being savaged by dozens of angry commenters -- most of it far more brutal than anything the Kleins said during their criticism of his video.
As we've been covering here at Techdirt, French regulators have been pushing Google to censor the global internet whenever it receives "right to be forgotten" requests. If you don't recall, two years ago, there was a dangerous ruling in the EU that effectively said that people could demand Google remove certain links from showing up when people searched on their names. This "right to be forgotten" is now being abused by a ton of people trying to hide true information they just don't like being known. Google grudgingly has agreed to this, having little choice to do otherwise. But it initially did so only on Google's EU domain searches. Last year, a French regulator said that it needed to apply globally. Google said no, explaining why this was a "troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web."
French regulators responded with "don't care, do it!" Google tried to appease the French regulators earlier this year with a small change where even if you went to Google.com, say, from France (rather than the default of Google.fr), Google would still censor the links based on your IP address. And, again, the French regulators said not good enough, and told Google it needed to censor globally. It also issued a fine.
As a matter of both law and principle, we disagree with this demand. We comply with the laws of the countries in which we operate. But if French law applies globally, how long will it be until other countries - perhaps less open and democratic - start demanding that their laws regulating information likewise have global reach? This order could lead to a global race to the bottom, harming access to information that is perfectly lawful to view in one’s own country. For example, this could prevent French citizens from seeing content that is perfectly legal in France. This is not just a hypothetical concern. We have received demands from governments to remove content globally on various grounds -- and we have resisted, even if that has sometimes led to the blocking of our services.
This is a big, big deal for how the global internet will function. Giving the most censorious and autocratic countries veto powers over the global internet should obviously raise serious concerns among everyone -- even those among you who hate or fear Google.
Here we go again: intellectual property laws being abused to silence critics. In this case -- which resembles the tactics exposed by Pissed Consumer recently -- bogus copyright claims contained in bogus DMCA notices are being used to remove negative reviews from websites.
[Annabelle] Narey, who is the head of programme at an international children’s charity, had turned to London-based BuildTeam for a side return extension, but almost six months later, the relationship had turned acrimonious. The build, which was only supposed to take 10–14 weeks, was still unfinished, she wrote. “On Christmas day a ceiling fell down in an upstairs bedroom,” she says, apparently due to an issue with the plumbing. “Mercifully no one was hurt. [That] there seem to be so many glowing reports out there it is frankly curious. Proceed at your own risk,” the review concluded.
BuildTeam disputes her account. In a letter sent to Mumsnet, which the site passed on to Narey, the builders complained that the comments were defamatory. They say it is “untrue” that the ceiling fell down due to an issue with plumbing, and cited a total of 11 statements they claimed were defamatory.
Mumsnet refused to remove the post, so BuildTeam decided to start harassing Narey at her home, showing up with printouts of the negative review and asking for it to be taken down. BuildTeam's reps refused to discuss Narey's accusations or verify for themselves the damage allegedly caused by their work. They were only interested in the removal of the review.
More unsatisfied customers joined Narey's thread at Mumsnet. So, BuildTeam decided to nuke the entire thread from orbit by abusing the DMCA process and IP laws meant to protect artistic endeavors, not shoddy construction work.
As soon as the DMCA takedown request had been filed, Google de-listed the entire thread. All 126 posts are now not discoverable when a user searches Google for BuildTeam – or any other terms. The search company told Mumsnet it could make a counterclaim, if it was certain no infringement had taken place, but since the site couldn’t verify that its users weren’t actually posting copyrighted material, it would have opened it up to further legal pressure.
But there was no copyright infringement. The DMCA notice links back to a bogus site created solely for the purpose of posting the review BuildTeam wanted removed, backdating it so it appeared to predate Narey's complaint, and use that post as the basis of a bogus takedown request.
The website crafted for the purpose of crafting bogus takedown requests follows the same M.O. we've seen elsewhere: random bits of content are scraped to create the appearance of a legitimate website. After that, the reviews companies/individuals want to see vanished are mixed in and DMCA notices issued.
I'm upset at finding out my article was copied without my permission starting at "Do not be taken in by the slick facade this company presents to the public", word for word, till the very end. My name was also removed from the post, and now it looks like it's not mine. I flagged the post and mentioned that it was stolen, but they did not remove it (about a month passed). At least I want it to be removed from Google. Thank you
As the Guardian's Alex Hern points out, there is no "Douglas Bush."
The post, headlined “Buildteam interior designers” was backdated to September 14 2015, three months before Narey had written it, and was signed by a “Douglas Bush” of South Bend, Indiana. The website was registered to someone quite different, though: Muhammed Ashraf, from Faisalabad, Pakistan.
BuildTeam denies having anything to do with Ashraf, Bush, the bogus website, or its bogus DMCA takedown notice -- a statement that deserves no more credibility than "Douglas Bush" himself. This sort of thing does not happen in a vacuum. It may be that BuildTeam has created plausible deniability by placing a series of intermediaries between it and this bogus DMCA takedown, but it's no coincidence that a review it wanted removed badly enough it sent reps to Narey's house has now been destroyed by a scraper site doing double duty as a half-assed reputation management service.
from the don't-let-the-sun-on-sunday-reveal-me... dept
For years we've written about the troubling practice in the UK of so-called super injunctions, which bar the press from discussing certain topics. It seems that these super injunctions are most frequently used to stop any discussion in the media of embarrassing situations involving the rich and famous. Of course, social media -- and Twitter in particular -- have become a real challenge to making those super injunctions have any meaning at all.
Apparently, one such super injunction was recently granted to a "celebrity couple" who added a third person to add a "trois" to the "menage." The threesome doesn't want their extracurricular activities to be discussed publicly, and the courts have obliged, with the UK Supreme Court upholding the super injunction, while the UK's the Sun on Sunday tabloid sought to break the media gag order. I'm not exactly a fan of media reporting on the personal activities of what celebrities do in their bedrooms, but it still seems troubling to have courts completely bar the media from discussing the situation at all (they can discuss that the super injunction exists, but not much beyond that).
But, again, there's social media. So it seemed doubly odd that people who had been tweeting about the "celebrity threesome" started receiving emails from the Twitter legal department alerting them that they may wish to be cautious about tweeting such things.
An email from Twitter’s legal team, seen by the Guardian, does not explicitly ask users to delete the tweets but hints that there could be consequences for not doing so.
The email reads: “The complainant requests that the following tweet, allegedly in violation of local law in the UK, be removed immediately from your account. Please confirm whether you will voluntarily comply with the request.”
It also includes a reminder that Twitter’s rules require that users “comply with all local laws regarding their online conduct and acceptable content”.
From that, it actually appears that lawyers for at least someone involved in the threesome reached out to Twitter to complain about specific tweets and argued that the super injunction applied there as well. Of course, the super injunction applies to media, which raises the question of whether or not random Twitter users qualify as "media." At the very least, the Attorney General for England and Wales is similarly warning that even those tweeting the names may be prosecuted:
The attorney-general has warned Twitter and Facebook users may face prosecution if they name the celebrity at the centre of a privacy injuction banning the reporting of his alleged extramarital activities.
Jeremy Wright QC said in a statement that anyone who breached the order, not just newspapers, could have contempt of court proceedings brought against them.
So, perhaps the email from Twitter was just trying to protect its UK userbase from facing such legal actions.
Of course, all this activity seems to only be fueling even more interest on social media in leading people to figure out who the suspected celebrities are. Apparently tabloid publications outside of the UK have freely published the details of the story, so it's not like anyone in the UK has to look very hard to find the details, and that was one of the arguments used against allowing the super injunction to continue -- but apparently the Supreme Court was not convinced. Either way, even if Twitter argues it's doing this to protect its users from possible charges (as ridiculous as those might be), there does seem to be something quite troubling when a company like Twitter is basically telling people to "watch what they say" for fear of potential legal consequences.
Earlier this year, we wrote about how the entire Medium.com website was being blocked in Malaysia, after a publication it hosted, called the Sarawak Report, had been doing detailed, independent journalism on corruption in the Malaysian government, including a story about $700 million magically appearing in the Malaysian Prime Minister's personal bank account. The government first blocked access to the Sarawak Report's own website, and then to all of Medium after Sarawak started reposting all of its articles there. The government had first contacted Medium, via the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), asking the company to remove an article.
Medium's legal team wrote back to the MCMC, requesting more details to understand if the request was legitimate. But without any further response, the Malaysian government just blocked all of Medium.
And, apparently, that was just the beginning. Because the government is now pushing a new law that gives the MCMC much more power to silence criticism online. And a big part of this is removing the intermediary liability protections that service providers have. This is a topic that we've discussed an awful lot -- especially with regards to things like Section 230 of the CDA in the US, which makes websites immune from liability for actions of their users. Many people try to attack these protections, claiming that they're just protecting big companies, but they're actually very much about protecting the public's ability to speak freely -- and the situation in Malaysia is a perfect example.
Without strong intermediary liability protections, websites will now have very strong incentive to immediately block or take down any content that might displease the government, for fear that leaving it up will lead to legal consequences. This is also why we're so concerned about the recent lawsuits in France claiming that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube didn't take down offensive comments fast enough. Expecting service providers to police and monitor content is a path to widespread censorship.
In Malaysia, a coalition of civil society/public interest groups are fighting back against this new law, and trying to spread the word about its possible impact.
These changes, if introduced and passed by Parliament, together with the amendments to restrict bail for all offences under Section 124 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which has been used against activists and the media. Both the amendments will have combined effect of entrenching censorship in an environment already heavily regulated for the media and publishing.
It is regrettable that the government has done little consultation with stakeholders, proving yet again the absence of political will for open and democratic law making processes in Malaysia. Civil society stands to be most affected by the proposed amendments as we constitute the majority of the internet population, and as such, it is critical that our views and voices are duly recognised and reflected.
We agree that the laws governing the internet need to be reviewed for them to have stronger provisions for privacy and protections for freedom of expression. But these are not being prioritised; instead we see a pattern of reviewing laws to extend the powers of the executive to conveniently target media, political opponents and individuals critics.
The attempts to crack down on free speech on the internet around the globe are extremely concerning. The success in some countries is only making other countries even bolder in their attempts to suppress speech as well.
from the how-do-you-say-publicity-stunt-in-french? dept
Three years ago, we wrote about a crazy story in which the Union of Jewish French Students (UEJF) was suing Twitter for $50 million, claiming that the fact that an anti-semitic hashtag started trendng violated some sort of anti-hate speech law in France. Twitter, somewhat ridiculously, actually agreed to remove the tweets in question, saying they were offensive. Even after that, UEJF demanded that Twitter also reveal the identities of everyone who tweeted the hashtag... and won (not the money, but Twitter was told to hand over the user info)! Yeah, France is not a big supporter of free speech, we get it, but this is still ridiculous.
"We've been in continual discussions with UEJF," a Twitter spokesperson told CNET. "As yesterday's new filing shows, they are sadly more interested in grandstanding than taking the proper international legal path for this data."
Apparently, it's time to ramp up the grandstanding again, as reports are now spreading that the same group has now sued Twitter yet again, and once again for $50 million, and (somewhat incredibly) in all of the tech press coverage I'm reading of this, none seem to mention the lawsuit from three years ago. Of course, this time it's not just Twitter, but YouTube and Facebook that are also being sued for $50 million. And it's not over a trending hashtag, but rather just a bunch of obnoxious tweets:
In this "first mass test of social networks," the groups uncovered 586 instances of content that was "racist, anti-Semitic, denied the Holocaust, homophobic (or) defended terrorism or crimes against humanity," the joint statement said.
Only a fraction of these postings were deleted by the host organisations within a "reasonable time," as required under a 2004 French law: four percent on Twitter, seven percent on YouTube and 34 percent on Facebook.
Look, there are a lot of terrible people who say terrible stuff on the internet. That's kind of a thing that happens on the internet. And, no, it's not very nice. But it takes an incredible leap in logic to take that fact and say... "Hey, let's sue the internet companies for this." In the US, of course, such a lawsuit would be immediately laughed out of court for infringing on the First Amendment. You can say ignorant stuff in America and it won't lead to $50 million dollar lawsuits against the technology you used to say your ignorant stuff. Now, as we've discussed in the past, American companies should be protected from these kinds of ridiculous lawsuits by the SPEECH Act, which rejects foreign judgments that wouldn't survive First Amendment scrutiny in the US. But, of course, that won't do much good for internet giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube -- all of whom have a strong presence in France, including employees. The courts can still target all of that.
But, really, UEJF is being completely idiotic here:
"It's a mystery whether moderating teams in social media are actually working," said Sacha Reingewirtz, president of the UEJF.
Dominique Sopo, head of SOS-Racisme, said the social media giants were hypocritical.
"These platforms seem more shocked about content with bare breasts, which is swiftly censored, than about incitement to hatred," Sopo said.
"Our legal step aims at getting the authorities to apply the law so that these organisation submit to it in full."
First of all, the quote from Reingewirtz is ridiculous. It's something someone says when they have absolutely no sense of the sheer scale of what these companies deal with. They don't scan every new post or video because that's simply impossible. And while Sopo at least has a point about Facebook's prude sensibilities, that doesn't necessary apply to the other platforms... and also, is a very different thing. And, really, if you're trying to get platforms to broadly censor a class of content, it seems like a rather strange way to go about it by then mocking the very same companies for blocking a class of content that you don't happen to find offensive.
Who knows where this ends up, though given that France is the same country that once declared Yahoo's CEO to be a war criminal, because someone used Yahoo's auction service (yes, children, Yahoo once competed directly with eBay in auctions) to auction off some Nazi memorabilia, it may not end well for those companies. The whole thing is ridiculous though. Even if you think saying stupid, ignorant, racist, homophobic and anti-semitic things should be against the law, at the very least focus on the people who actually said that stuff, rather than the technologies people used to say them.
Every time you think that the thin-skinned, insecure freakouts of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can't get any more crazy, they do. If you don't recall, Erdogan has a notrious thin skin, and a long history of censorship of views he doesn't like. But since becoming President, this has gone into overdrive, with him filing over 1800 cases against people in Turkey for insulting him -- including the famous case in which someone passed around an internet meme comparing Erdogan to Gollum.
That kind of nuttiness jumped international boundaries recently, when Erdogan's lawyers discovered a long-forgotten German law that made it illegal to insult the head of a foreign country, and demanded that the law be used against a satirical German comedian, Jan Bohmermann, who purposefully read an insulting poem about Erdogan, in order to mock his thin skin. Some might find suing over that poem to be... well... a bit on the nose in making the point the poem was intended to make. But, to Erdogan, it appears that suing over insults is just something he can't stop doing. More recently, Erdogan discovered that Switzerland has a similar law and went after people there too (while also getting a Dutch reporter arrested).
Apparently, the fact that the most commonly mocked aspect of Erdogan these days is his inability to handle people mocking him hasn't made Erdogan realize that the more he freaks out, the more people are going to mock him. His latest move is especially crazy. It appears that the CEO of German mega-publishers Axel Springer, Mathias Dopfner, wrote an "open letter" in support of Bohmermann, which stated that he "laughed out loud" at Bohmermann's poem, and suggested that the case against Bohmermann is a problem for free speech. This is obviously a reasonable opinion held by many.
Erdogan's response? Apparently, it's to use the same law that was used against Bohmermann, to demand an injunction against Dopfner for publishing the letter, in order to get it taken down. Thankfully, this request was quickly rejected by a German court, saying that the open letter was "a contribution to building public opinion in a controversial debate."
Erdogan and his lawyer, Ralf Hocker, seem to only want to double down on this. In one article he says (prior to the injunction being denied) that if it were denied, he would appeal the decision to a higher court. And Hocker has some weird ideas about free speech and human dignity:
“Mr Erdogan is a human being and human dignity is inviolable,” Hocker said, adding that this was placed above the freedom of press, art and opinion in the German constitution.
Uh, no. Dignity is very much violable. If you do something that trashes your own dignity. Like suing comedians for making a joke about you. Or suing nearly 2,000 other people for making jokes about you. The loss of dignity is not from the poem or the insults. It's from Erdogan's own actions.
In the NY Times link above, Hocker, makes some even more ridiculous statements:
Ralf Hocker, a lawyer representing Mr. Erdogan in Germany, said he had a mandate to seek an injunction against anyone who publicly insults the Turkish president, to try to stop what he described as an “avalanche” of scornful abuse.
“Everyone thinks they are allowed to insult Mr. Erdogan in any way that they want because they do not find him very sympathetic,” Mr. Höcker said. “But this is not about sympathy, it is about human dignity, namely to protect it.”
Of course, seeking an injunction against people mocking Erdogan for trying to silence all this criticism isn't going to stop the avalanche. It's just going to make it bigger. And, no, the reason people think they are allowed to insult Mr. Erdogan is because they believe in freedom of expression and that Erdogan has done things worthy of scorn. Stop doing those things -- like suing people over meaningless jokes -- and the scorn goes away. And, again, suing over "protecting human dignity" seems like an odd way to improve your dignity.