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Censorship

UPDATED: Outcast: Censorship Under The Digital Union Jack? 215

Posted by emmett
from the but-I-haven't-said-anything-yet dept.
Serving a community that prides itself on solidarity and free thinking, Outcast magazine has been the center of a censorship issue that has gone from a virtual push to a very real shove. With the advent of British libel litigation that borders on the unbelievable, I spoke to Outcast's editor and publisher Chris Morris about the magazine, ISPs, and free speech under the digital union jack. Update: 04/06 06:48 by E : NetBenefit has written in with their side of the story, and well met. How long until we hear from the Pink Papers?

Slashdot: What happened, Chris?

"On 17th March, Mishcon de Reya, one of the biggest firms of media lawyers in the UK, wrote to Outcast, and the company that prints our magazine, and the company that hosts our Web site, stating that if we ever published anything defamatory, they would sue us. They were representing one of our rivals, the Pink Paper. We thought, 'fine,' because we didn't intend to publish anything defamatory. Outcast is a controversial magazine but we know how far we can go, and we'd never deliberately print anything untrue."

"The printing company tore up the letter because they know the type of magazine Outcast is and know that the editorial team can be trusted. However, our Web site company -- NetBenefit PLC -- was not so sure."

"They wrote to me on 29th March giving me two hours to fax them an assurance from a solicitor that our site did not contain any defamatory content and asking for a written guarantee that it never would. I was out of the office working in Parliament, and returned to find our Web site suspended and an error message where it used to be.

"I faxed NetBenefit on 30th March, pointing out that the article Mishcon de Reya were referring to had not even been published yet, and they were effectively censoring us before knowing what the article was about. They were finding us 'guilty until proven innocent.' I only received a very brief reply from the managing director, Alison Sparshatt, and it did not address my concerns. She has refused to take my phone calls since."

"NetBenefit has told journalists that our site will not be reinstated unless we provide them with written assurances about the content of the site. They appear to accept that nothing defamatory has ever been on the site and agree that there is no reason, apart from a letter from our rivals, to suggest there will be in future. But they say they have to 'play it safe.'"

"To have a solicitor write these assurances would cost in the region of 5,000 US dollars and, because Outcast is a small, community-run magazine, managed by volunteers, we cannot afford it. In any case, we don't think it is fair that we should be asked for guarantees like this -- none of NetBenefit's other customers have been asked for those assurances."

Slashdot: This is extremely frightening; what did you do to let people know about this?

"Outcast issued a press release to the national media at 2pm on 30th March, after it became clear that NetBenefit were not prepared to discuss the case with us. We used the OutRage (www.outrage.org.uk) e-mailing list and flooded the newsgroups."

"Later that afternoon, I sent out a further message asking supporters to e-mail Alison Sparshatt (alison.sparshatt@netbenefit.com) to object to the censorship. We asked people to c.c. the message to us, and we have received about 300 to date. I think that's a fantastic response, but we need to keep up the pressure."

"We also got in touch with the Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain, Feminists Against Censorship and the Anti-Censorship Campaign, all of which have supported us."

"Yesterday I wrote to all the directors of NetBenefit PLC at home asking them to intervene to oppose censorship."

Slashdot: Have you found that people are supportive to your cause?

"The support has been overwhelming -- far more than I expected. I think we've hit a nerve because this is the first time that a UK website has been censored before it has published something."

"The media have been great and have put a lot of pressure on NetBenefit. I also expect a number of politicians to announce their support for us next week if the matter hasn't been resolved by then."

Slashdot: I almost hesitate to ask this, but do you feel the shutdown was targeted at your site because of the sexual preference of your readership?

"I don't think so. The problem is really that ours is the first case of its kind since the Demon Internet 'Net Libel' settlement last week. That case appears to have set a precedent that UK ISPs can be held responsible for the content of newsgroups or websites they host. However, to censor something before it has been published is clearly an over-reaction."

"We can understand NetBenefit's fears and appreciate that they're only acting on the advice of their lawyers. But censorship on the Internet is something to be fought and that's why we're challenging their decision rather than changing to another ISP."

"The real blame lies with the Pink Paper, whose lawyers sought this censorship. They have exploited the ambiguous Internet laws to try to put us out of business. They seem to want a monopoly of the gay press."

Slashdot: In the immortal words of Bruce Perens, "If Slashdot's only good at one thing, it's good at raising a ruckus." Where do we go from here?

"We cannot let this be covered up. If NetBenefit win this case, the precedent will be set that any ISP can remove an entire website because it might contain something defamatory some time in the future. That means they can close down any website at all. It is a violent attack on free speech."

"We are asking supporters to e-mail Alison Sparshatt at NetBenefit and the owners of the Pink Paper to object to their pro-censorship stance. Please c.c. your message to mail@outcastmagazine.co.uk. The site is currently at http://www.gay-news.org.uk/outcast."

Needless to say, Slashdot tried to contact NetBenefit and the Pink Paper, to no avail. I would like to go on the record as stating that if representatives from the Pink Paper or NetBenefit would like to contact me, they may do so at my E-mail address, and I will update this story accordingly ASAP.

I did manage to speak to John Shirley, a manager at After Words, a popular Philadelphia-area gay bookstore. Having explained the situation to John, he noted that while he wouldn't pull the offending paper off of the shelf, they would certainly let people know about it. "We try to advocate on the side of the little guy in general," John said. "We would consider posting something on a bulletin board, especially if it were a magazine that people knew or cared about, in order to create some public outcry."

UPDATE:

I just got this in E-mail from Alison Sparshatt at NetBenefit plc.

NetBenefit Statement April 6 2000

Outcast, a customer of NetBenefit's web hosting services, recently claimed that NetBenefit had attempted to censor Outcast. NetBenefit rejects this.

NetBenefit does not censor any web site it hosts. NetBenefit is happy to host a web site such as Outcast - Outcast was accepted as a NetBenefit customer without question. NetBenefit will continue to support customers who seek to use the web to publish their views, whatever views they espouse, provided they keep within the law and do not expose NetBenefit to unacceptable risks which are clearly spelled out in NetBenefit's terms of business.

NetBenefit has been advised, following the case involving Demon and Laurence Godfrey, that we are obliged to review the content of a web site once we have received a warning that potential defamatory material is expected to appear on it and to act very quickly if potentially defamatory material is found. This applies to all Internet hosting companies operating under English law. We received advice that Outcast actually had on their web site material that was potentially defamatory. NetBenefit had no choice but to take action to avoid an unacceptable risk of being drawn into one or more costly legal disputes which were not of its own making but in which NetBenefit, merely a provider of web space, could be held liable to the same extent as someone who uses that web space to publish a defamatory statement. The Demon case has shown this to be a real risk for providers of web space and ISPs in the UK.

NetBenefit was entitled under the terms of business Outcast accepted, to suspend Outcast's web site without notice, but instead NetBenefit gave notice before suspending Outcast's web site and sought strong assurances from Outcast: specifically an assurance from a lawyer about the then current content of the site and Outcast's assurances about its arrangements for future content. Outcast responded to NetBenefit, acknowledging NetBenefit may be liable for any defamatory content Outcast publishes. Outcast failed to confirm its existing content was not defamatory, and indicated Outcast is not in a position financially to have its content checked by a lawyer but gave no assurance that future content would not be defamatory. Outcast alleged the suspension of their web site was censorship and gave an ultimatum demanding the lifting of the suspension. Outcast's response therefore contained no assurances whatever and NetBenefit declined to reinstate access to the web space, which Outcast since decided to relocate.

We recognise Outcast is in the business of publishing and so understands these issues. We would invite Outcast to campaign on the real issue: the need for a change in the law to allow Internet hosting companies, like NetBenefit, to provide the service Outcast and others are seeking.

---------------------------------
Alison Sparshatt
Managing Director, NetBenefit plc

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UPDATED: Outcast: Censorship Under The Digital Union Jack?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Australia has our net censor laws, requiring ISPs to block sites officially listed as offensive...

    So far, it doesn't seem to be working. ;)

    and actually ask those of us involved in it for ideas on how to make it work

    Kind of unlikely. People in power prefer the comforting lies of yes-men to the unpleasant realities that they don't want to hear.

    Reality however has a way of dealing with this. When the delusions of those in power are too much at odds with reality, then reality kicks their teeth out.

    Eventually the politicians work it out. After chewing this ( and a lot of other things over for the last year ), I'm starting to come to the conclusion that we ( or rather I ) need to spend more time trying to educate the people who are in power.

    So I don't think that we can wait for them to come to us - we have to take the message to them and it's probably best done on a face to face basis, since they sure as hell don't understand the nature of electronic communication.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Are you for real? It's difficult to tell, you've got such a closed mind that it ought to be funny. But if you are being serious:

    Shut up. You just said something that I don't like, therefore I'm going to tell on you and make any evidence of you ever saying it go away. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. I don't like what you're saying, so nobody else can hear it, and I'm going to stop you saying anything ever again. (/me duct-tapes your mouth closed.) Do you see the point?

    Is this really what you want the internet to become? Grow up and open your eyes. Life isn't all fluffy clouds and ice-cream.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    P.S. If you're an American who's about to post your nth reply to a Slashdot story about bad net law in Britain by banging on about what a backwards so-called democracy we are because we don't have legal power to buy submachine guns on street corners and so obviously we must all be serfs toiling under a Monarchist hegemony, why not use the time constructively instead, by trying to come up with a solution to the problem posed above? Mass coordination and publication, anonymous, untraceable, unremovable. It's a fantastic techie problem. Freenet is the start. Where's the rest?

    Maybe we'd just settle for you looking for the shit on your own shoes before the next time you go posting smirking comments about 'those crazy American courts'. It seems to be popular on Slashdot to take the worst decisions of American courts (whether real or fantasized) and take them at face value as perfectly representative. To be honest, I'm glad that the anti-American bigots get reminders once in a while that their judicial systems have idiots in them, too.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The correct response is for people who disagree with NetBenefit's position to simply not do business with them. Don't waste your time whining to the CEO, write to their other customers. If I were a NetBenefit customer I sure wouldn't be for long. Let the market punish them!

    So who do I do business with, considering that NetBenefit is only doing what almost all other British ISPs will have to do at some point in the future? Sorry, but I don't see how survival-of-the-fittest economics can work here (at least, not on the national scale) since the Godfrey legal precedent affects all ISPs.

    On an international scale, of course, web hosting business gets moved offshore, as does most e-commerce once RIP becomes law. Thousands of potentially-great British Internet businesses get killed off, and the British economy becomes a worldwide joke. But, hey, as long as the police can read all our mail, and Lawrence Godfrey's ego doesn't get bruised, that's fine, isn't it?

    Lovely.

    -- Anonymous, on purpose.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I believe the ISP acted correctly and appropriately in protecting itself. If it could be held responsible for content it contained, then it certainly had the right to exercise control over that content.

    In fact, I think all ISPs in the UK are at risk, and should shot down their operations, rather than be held liable. It *IS* the law, after all.

    Perhaps, with Britain's internet thoroughly off the map, Parliament will decide to make some INTELLIGENT laws instead.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It isnt a union jack unless it is flying from the jack staff of a ship of the royal navy.
  • by whoop (194)
    I can assure you as a long-time gun owner that nobody in his right mind ever gets in the habit of sticking his face in front of the barrel when adjusting the sling. Or just about any other time. Ironically, Mr. Gore could benefit from the excellent NRA gun safety training classes.

    Or a little military training. I'm sure people may have rushed through BASIC training back during Vietnam, but I doubt they skipped the weapon saftey training. Heck, back then they were allowed to punch you and stuff to get the message into your head. :)
  • Don't forget that he "discovered" the nuclear waste in Love Canal when there were House meetings on it two years before he got there.

    Somewhere around the RNC's GoreFiles [rnc.org] section they had a whole list of his "accomplishments" like this. It's a funny read even if you're not Republican.
  • The market does not punish those who discriminate according to popular prejudice.

    That is just a matter of getting people to care about it. Look, here around Peoria, IL three overweight women were fired from a Casey's story (small gas station/convenient store) for eating candy on the job and not paying for it. Now they were able to get on the local news broadcasts and had at least 10 people marching in front of the store with signs. Hell, if that can get people motivated, then the same can be done with racism. Despite the work of Al Sharpton types, I don't find every white person to be an inherent racist. If you have a store that is booting blacks (or whichever group) out, you could easily get far more people to picket. Who's going to go in when people are shouting "bigot" and stuff in front of the store? This would be the "punish by market" process working.

    People love protesting, from the WTO thing in Seattle, to the thugs in Decatur, to everyone around Elian Gonzalez's house. The thing we need to do is channel a tiny portion of that energy to other causes.
  • How about some *real* tolerance for a change?

    See, you miss the point of political correctness (in America at least) today. Tolerance means, "You will do (behave, believe, etc) what I say." Most often, it is the left side that you must agree with or you are killing children (but only those who are completely born), senior citizens, and minorities that apply to any given situation. If you don't agree with any given left group, you should die. That is tolerance in America.
  • The machine(s) weren't down completely. I was able to get ping responses from them. They're still running Apache 1.3.6, so I doubt it was to upgrade to the latest. Perhaps they were upgrade slashcode to 1.0 or something.

    That, or they were taken over by aliens to spread their propaganda prior to arrival so we do not rebel against them when the do arrive here.
  • This isn't 1940 anymore either. I'm failing to see your side. Are you saying nothing has changed over the years, everyone is still ambivolent about racism? Maybe it's just the people I associate with, but I don't know people that are this way. There's blacks living in the neighborhoods of friends/family. I see people getting along just fine. Has living among non-racists poisoned me to what's "really" going on? Or is your position, since it happened in 1940, it is happening forever?

    Shouting "bigot" has a different meaning today that it did in 1940's South. I am talking about compaigning today as well. In my life and travels, the normal people FAR outnumber the bigots. So, my idea was to use that to accomplish what you want for this cause. This is more what America is about, not "Eh I'll let them politicians pass a law. That'll take care of them bigots." As others have stated, laws won't change the people's minds.
  • you're right, all those words were improperly spelled. No reason to say you're srry, after all, that's not spelled correctly either :-)
    ----------------------------
  • Yeah, I was just joking, some people on slashdot can't grasp that. I try not to offend gay people, just humorless people. And sometimes humor gets a little too close to the truth, but... well, that's parody for you.

    I doubt real homophobes are encouraged by other's use of slang. They might be repressed, or confused, but I hope they aren't that easily manipulated.

    Remember, people, gay means happy! You *do* want people to be happy, right? If you didn't want that, that would certainly be queer... um, strange. Because queer means strange...

    Oh, but I wasn't kidding about the lawyer part. :)
    ---
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [152.7.41.11].
  • jbarnett says:
    For example, if you say FUCK YOU THESE HAMBURGERS SUCK at a McDonalds restaurnat they CAN and WILL throw your ass out of there.

    Probably true. They cannot, however, (under US law) have, say, a website shut down because the website says their hamburgers suck. More specifically, they would not be able to legally force the website to be shut down, so long as the content was either true or labeled as opinion. (Or at least they shouldn't be able to. I recall some protestors being involved in a very lengthy legal battle over this.)

    Anyway, on to my main contention...

    If you going a McDonalds restarnat for service (large coke, fries, hamburger) and you start slanging them (or they think you will) by being abusive (even if it really isn't, but it is how THEY see it, not you) by saying things like "don't eat here, the food sucks" McDonalds DOES have the right to say, "please leave sir, we do not tolerate that type of launage here"
    (Again, speaking from a US perspective.) If you're being massively offensive or disrupting their normal flow of business, they will likely ask you to leave, and will have a solid legal basis for doing so. If they ask you to leave just because they think you're going to do something along those lines, they would have no legal basis for doing so, and could be taken to court over it. (Rather, they could be taken to court and lose.)
    But in this case, they kicked them out BEFORE they did anything 'abusive'. If I got to McDonalds after they have kicked me out a couple times, they will thing "ok, here comes that crazy nut, hey Bob stop him at the door and don't let me come inside, he will start trouble."
    Also in this case (as I understand it), there was no indication that Outcast was going to write anything defamatory. To continue the analogy (although it's getting pretty stretched at this point), consider what would happen if McDonalds refused to admit an otherwise "normal"-looking young man because he was wearing a leather jacket (and everyone knows that the only people who wear leather jackets are punks just looking to start trouble).

    But that's just between a private company and an individual. For a analogy closer to Outcast's problem, think about a situation where a mom-and-pop burger joint is attempting to lease land near a McDonalds for their own restauraunt. McDonalds, however, is threatening to sue the landowner (not the restaurant owner) unless the restaurant owner can provide a legal document proclaiming that the local restaurant will never mention McDonalds in their advertisement. The issue is not that of the landowner preventing the restaurant from leasing the land, but of one restaurant manimulating the legal system to keep a competitor out of the way.


    --Phil (I wonder if I should mention that one of my first jobs was working at a McDonalds?)
  • [Hope there's still moderators around somewhere to boost that up...]

    Thanks for the link. Balances things out a bit.

    Oh, and no problem with you playing the devil's advocate -- sometimes you've got to be inciteful to be insightful! ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If the libel laws are a problem in the UK, why not operate from a jurisdiction where this is not a problem?

    Consider the following:

    1. Incoporate in Delaware or Nevada. A corp. is a separate "person" under the law, and if someone doesn't like a website owned by a corp., their complaint will first be to the corp, which will be in the US not the UK.
    2. Find a Mailboxes etc. to forward your physical mail to whereever. Alternatively, have the corp rent a few square feet from a buddy in the US.
    3. Get a US phone and fax number at someplace like www.efax.com or www.ureach.com so that your business has US phone numbers.
    4. Apply for a US tax id number [gotta pay taxes, even if its $0] and a local business license in the physical place where your corp has physically located [i.e. that mailbox joint].
    5. Run by remote control from any virtual location.

    This may sound flakey, but as far as I can tell it is ok to operate a US corporation outside of the state where it is formed. Most of the fortune 500 companies are DE corporations, though they might be HQd in Atlanta, NYC, or some other place.

    Of course, not being a lawyer, I can't tell you the legal effects of this. I can say that you can set up a corp yourself for a few hundred $, or with a lawyer for around $1000.

    If your goal is a newsletter, you could probably spend a bit more on the lawyer to become a US non profit corporation. The UK might be legitimately curious about taxes if you were an owner/officer of a for-profit US corporation, but for a non-profit that argument would be more difficult, especially if you do not pay yourself a salary.

    Ok. Maybe you don't want or need to incorporate. How about just hosting, combined with anonymity? Surely someone in a relatively progressive 3rd world state must be out there, advertising their country's unique freedoms as an advantage in web hosting.....Anyone on slashdot have a clue here?

    Wouldn't it be great if competition and the ease at which data and business can be moved on the web would promote strong competition among nation-states to be the most free and least litigious? Of course, the big countrys would come along and arm-twist the small ones with a "treaty".

    I am signing this AC, as I have such an arrangement. Not doing much with it yet, though.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They may not be able to blame NetBenefit for the libel laws, but you can blame them for being cowards. There's no precedent that says you should pull sites in case they might libel somebody. It may be their right to do business with whom they choose, but it's just as clearly anyone else's right to publicize the manner in which they do business.

    The Demon precedent is actually interesting, because it says that Demon had no case because they had been served formal notice about the allegedly defamatory messages. In other words, the post had been made-- demon had been notified that it was considered libelous-- the judge decided that once they received the formal notification they were required to act on it. This is quite different than prior restraint, which seems to be happening in this instance. No libel has taken place, there's simply the threat of action should libel take place-- that's what NetBenefit is responding to.

    I've got a bunch of links on the Demon case and British libel law:

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is Rob, I just haven't had time to log in

    We switched slash to NT and IIS tonight. Pretty smooth transition.

    You probably were just experiencing the normal "reboot every 5 minutes" cycle. You need to get used to it.

    The good news is we are WIN2K complaint now -- sorry, I mean WIN2K compliant

  • Jerf wrote:

    That is the problem. NetBenefit PLC is acting entirely rationally, given the great liability to which they are now exposed. They are not the problem... it is the ruling.

    Ah, but their behavior is not rational given the ruling. I am not a lawyer (and certainly not a British one), but as I recall the ruling, Demon was held liable for content on their site that they were notified about and failed to remove. That is not a precedent for "Every ISP is liable for everything on their site", it's a precedent for "If an ISP knows about objectionable material on their site, they have to remove it or be held liable."

    NetBenefit knows there is no legally objectionable material on the Outcast portion of their site. They are not liable for anything. Even if Outcast were to post something defamatory, NetBenefit still wouldn't be liable until someone could prove that they knew the defamatory content was there and did nothing about it.

    Is the fundimental problem the Demon libel ruling? Kind of, I'd say Britain's draconian libel laws that generated the ruling are more to blame. I'd still say NetBenefit is overreacting, and I would act differently. Hypothetically speaking, if I were in NetBenefit's shoes, I would have:
    * kept Outcast online;
    * sent a polite letter to Pink Paper's lawyers saying I understand their concerns, and if they become aware of any defamatory content on our site, let us know so we can remove it; and
    * bitched out my MP

    I think that doing the above (and following through if notified of anything) would be sufficient to protect an ISP in this circumstance from any lawsuit with meat behind it. As for frivolous lawsuits, I have heard that Britain is much harsher on them than the US is, and NetBenefit would likely find the opposing side paying for their legal expenses.

    ----
  • I didn't mean that one should copy my letter, word for word and idea for idea. I meant that if one was attempting to write a letter regarding this situation, that they could feel free to use mine as a bit of inspiration, or to ignore it, or whatever.

    I agree, 100000 letters with the same content are almost useless. A variety of content will make these letters an order of magnitude more effective. I apologize for my lack of clarity, I guess I should have opened with 'this was the letter i sent, please feel free to borrow any of my ideas while composing an original letter of your own.'

    To anybody reading this who believes a wrong is being committed, please write a letter. It doesn't take very long and you could help, just a little, to protect the freedoms we so often take for granted.
    ----------------------------
  • Out*cast*, not OutRage. As it happens this has many factual inaccuracies about OutRage, but that's not the issue since you're just railing at the wrong organisation.
    --
  • Otherwise known as "homosexual panic". It amazes me the terror of anything gay that people are prepared to show. Chill. I don't run NetBSD, but I'm prepared to look at www.netbsd.org if there's an interesting article there. I'm guessing you'd find it difficult to select the link to my Website because you'll run a mile from anything with "clue" in the name.
    --
  • You don't have to actually get sued for it to be censorship. If you pull the plug on content yourself because you're afraid of what the state will do to you if you don't, that's censorship too.

    That's why *every* news report from heavily censored territories ends with "This news report was compiled under the reporting restrictions of (the local regime)" even if no content in that particular report was pulled, because those who compile it are aware of the restrictions all the time.

    You can accuse the ISPs of extraordinary craven spinelessness in the face of even the tiniest push, but in the end they're just covering their asses; the real censors are still the judges who decide on and enforce censorship legislation.
    --
  • I know exactly what's really going on. And I'd love to tell you. Unfortunately, for legal reasons, I can't comment.
    --
  • Legislating against firearms is not a matter of morality; it's a matter of pragmatics.

    As I said, one can make similar arguments for anti-gay legislation (AIDS, does not promote "proper family values", etc.). These can certainly be seen by some as "pragmatic."

    There is a rural lifestyle that includes the ownership of firearms. Whether you endorse such a lifestyle is irrelevant; it certainly exists. Anti-firearms-rights laws suppress the rights of those living this lifestyle, whether or not that is their intent.

    I find it somewhat revealing that although pro-gun people seem able to grasp the (rather simple) concept of "respect my rights and I'll respect yours," but anti-gun people seem unable or unwilling to do the same.

    New XFMail home page [slappy.org]

    /bin/tcsh: Try it; you'll like it.

  • Hmmph. Are you saying that because we in Britain don't allow people to shoot assault rifles, this is morally equivalent to stopping people having gay sex?

    Certainly. He made a rather good point. Anti-firearms-rights laws are a type of prejudice against a particular group of people and a particular lifestyle.

    You can make seemingly reasonable arguments to support them, but so can the people supporting anti-gay legislation.

    Government (and society) succeeds in removing our rights, because we are all too willing to sacrifice the rights of our brother, forgetting that the same will eventually happen to us.

    New XFMail home page [slappy.org]

    /bin/tcsh: Try it; you'll like it.

  • Red herring, quite obviously. Killing people violates the rights of other people. Owning a gun does not.

    New XFMail home page [slappy.org]

    /bin/tcsh: Try it; you'll like it.

  • But laws against murder are in an entirely different class, as they punish a person for violating the rights of another person.

    Prohibition laws do no such thing; they are so-called 'preventative' measures. The problem with preventative laws is that they punish people who have committed no crime.

    Really, it is a basic philosophical issue: do you see individuals as holding certain inherent rights? And if so, what rights are these? Can society, which is a construct made up of individuals, have rights of its own?

    New XFMail home page [slappy.org]

    /bin/tcsh: Try it; you'll like it.

  • You have utterly missed my point, perhaps intentionally.

    I made no claim whatsoever as to the reasonableness of gun ownership; what I stated is that when you push to outlaw a lifestyle choice with which you disagree, you are ultimately destroying *everyone's* freedom, including your own, in the long run.

    You may wish to rant and rave about this, but I believe it is demonstrably true.

    I am merely making a plea for those with strong opinions to reconsider their push for legislating their morality. And make no mistake about it, passing anti-firearms-rights laws is legislating morality.

    Please, reread your rant, and substitute "gay man" for "people who live with guns" and "have sex with another man" for "own weapons that kill."

    How about some *real* tolerance for a change? Tolerance for those who we genuinely dislike, or disagree with, but who have not directly harmed anyone?

    Support *everyone's* rights, and perhaps you'll find your rights supported by others when push comes to shove.

    New XFMail home page [slappy.org]

    /bin/tcsh: Try it; you'll like it.

  • Assuming of course that the Pink Pages (is that the name) are really behind this, can't you sue them under British Libel laws. Seems like by writing someones net provider they are commiting libel themself.

    Of course I don't claim to understand British laws, but I keep thinking that they must be over the line in this case.

  • If the libel laws are a problem in the UK, why not operate from a jurisdiction where this is not a problem?

    How about: because a fix is better than a workaround. If you keep running away from oppressive regimes, eventually you run out of places to run.
    --
  • So why don't the crackers and script kiddies band together and knock the UK off the 'Net?
    Great, thanks a bunch, pal.
  • Laurence (not Lawrence) Godfrey was a net legend [cs.ruu.nl] years ago. Aside from flaming some of his more nasty comments I thought he was pretty harmless. Oh sure, he talked about suing everyone, but I didn't really believe it.

    Now this [cyber-rights.org]?

    Never underestimate the effect that a single nut with a lawyer. :-(

    Welcome to the dark ages, Britain. Just as something was being done about access costs for being online, you have now been censored. I just wonder how long it will be until The Register [theregister.co.uk] is forced to relocate...

    Ben
  • So why don't the crackers and script kiddies band together and knock the UK off the 'Net?

    Why not shut down the ISPs that are shutting down these sites?

    Seriously, though, I was thinking just this morning that the Internet, because of its distributed nature and its international scope poses a very serious threat to territorial gov't as we know it. I was thinking of this specifically in terms of the US and the various States' attempts at taxing Internet sales. What happens when the transactions are interstate, even international? There's a real Constitutional crisis for the US buried in there and when your government is defacto unconstitutional anyway....

    This case is another example where gov'ts are trying to impose law and order on something that is, by virtue of its very design, anarchic and chaotic. It just won't work. Politicians can criminalize and regulate all they want, but they won't stop the behavior, because those of us who really understand the nuts and bolts of how this thing works will be able to get around their silly little attempts at control. WE DO HAVE THE POWER over this technology. THEY may have guns, but their armies now depend on our technology and on technologies that we can subvert, take over, and control. We can use their tech (as well as our own) against them. This is precisely why politicians prefer unarmed peasants. Trouble is, everything is a weapon today.

  • Just take the website somewhere else, that's all.

    --

  • ... to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable
    Er... It is NOT censorship by that definition, because the plug has been pre-emptively pulled, without any smidgeon of examination...

    --

  • I would like to see Bill Gates as an abused clown though.

    That's already been done. Haven't you seen the news video clip where that Belgian guy whacked him in the face with a cream pie?

    If you haven't seen it, there's a link to it in this ZDnet article [zdnet.com]. Ironically, the video itself is hosted on MSNBC :o)

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction

  • Why not deport the SOB to a country more in tune with his thought processes, say, North Korea.

    On a more realistic note, Parliament should reform the libel law to be more like the U.S. law. The plaintiff should have to show that the defendant knew, or should have known, the statement to be false. Statements of opinion, such as "Laurence Godfrey is a litigious twit", should not be actionable.

  • Sorry, parsing your post returns -EYOULOSE

    Demon did not get sued. Demon bailed out of the case before it got sued and thus there is no internet libel precedent in the UK law yet. And UK law operates on precedents.So Demon did a good thing (TM).

  • Ok, there is no doubt that this needs action. We, the internet community, cannot accept this kind of shit happening.

    I did a whois lookup, it turns out that netbenefit owns a /19 network. They are pretty big. What we need to do, is to reverselookup each and every Ip address, and gather a list of all domains. We should all do our job, and send a mail to the companies we see fit -- that use netbenefit as a provider. We should inform their customers, as many as possible, about their providers actions.

    NOTE! We MUST NOT send out a single message to thousands of their customers. That would be spamming. But we should each and every one look up some of them, and mail them.

    The mails should have links to this slashdot article, and to all relevant sites. This action should and must be taken As Soon As Possible.


    --
    "Rune Kristian Viken" - arcade@kvine-nospam.sdal.com - arcade@efnet
  • After writing the above piece, I remembered once using a nifty little tooled called 'netdemon'. Its a windows(god forbid) tool, but I fired up a computer with windows, and downloaded the tool (which is shareware.. 30 days .. then you've got to pay).

    Using the 'address scanner' you can reverse-resolve any IP range. Since I've yet too see such a tool for *nix (or maybe its just me that's too stupid to figure out how to just reverelookup an iprange;) - I fired it up, and found the list. I suggest that you other slashdot guys do the same. You'll find the tool at www.netdemon.net .. if i remember correctly. If you don't find it, just search at google.

    Find the most interesting customers of netbeans, and mail them about the ISP's behaviour.


    --
    "Rune Kristian Viken" - arcade@kvine-nospam.sdal.com - arcade@efnet
  • That wasn't what happened.
    Someone forged something nasty from Laurence Godfrey, Laurence Godfrey complained to demon (the ISP whose servers he read the post on), asking them for it to be removed as it was a fake. Demon didn't remove it, so they were aware of the post, so were responsible for it.

    Quite clear cut I think
  • Sounds like it's time to resurrect Hacker's Dream #49832: Put a huge barge out in the middle of the Pacific, declare your own statehood, and build software under your own laws.

    Or, let me suggest a slightly more feasible alternative. Given the capital flowing into Open Source stuff now, buy an island. Preferably, one of those little islands that is really destitute because nobody goes there on vacation and they have no exports.

    The infrastructure is relatively simple. You need a port and airport, the ability to ship over a good standard of living (that is, make sure the Mountain Dew ship comes by every two weeks...), get your connectivity through a sattelite uplink, and have some sort of power source to generate electricity (you should be able to get geothermal energy if there's a volcano nearby).

    There is no need for a real defense force if you play it right. You cut a few treaties with some key powers in the area, and make them dependant on your software ("We're under attack! Send planes quick, or you don't bug patch 203 goes down with us!").

    This would be a desperate strategy, but may be persued by a consortium of geek houses if litigation gets so bad one can't operate here any more. Geeks fly out and make money under their own rules, other countries get to import better software than their own laws would let them make, and the natives get a serious economy boost.

  • AFAIK truth is still a defence for libel accusations.

    I don't know how it works in the UK, but in the US, money is a better defense.

  • I believe that the former Yugoslavia is showing us exactly how well removing the symptoms of prejudice work over time. Once the legislation was removed, everybody has been making up for lost time.

    Only it's no longer who can sit at the front of the bus or get into the good schools.

    Governments can remove the symptoms by legislation. To a degree, this is a good idea--it stalls for time and keeps people from, say, shooting at each other. When such legislation promotes prejudice (a point that is in debate in the US with affirmative action and quotas), it may well be counterproductive.

    What the government cannot do is cure prejudice. It is still hard for a government to reach into the minds of all the populace. However, the people themselves can do something about it.

    When the government legislates around this problem, they are buying time for people in the prejudiced groups themselves to get together and stop the prejudice. IMHO, it can happen. Often, it doesn't, and the government is stuck with ugly legislation and no cure for the real problem. Fine; that's the best governments can do. It's not their job, it's ours.

  • There isn't a better tool that the government has.

    Someday, enough of us will realize that the role of government is not to solve our social problems, but to keep us in our respective corners until we can work them out ourselves. That is, governments cannot create love, but only cease-fires. People problems can only be solved by people.

  • Hey... Maybe that French law that had some people so riled up was right after all. I wasn't really flamed for saying it was a good thing, but other people were.

    The French law clearly laid down the terms on which a webhosting company would be responsible for its content. It went something like: If you can't point us at the client, you're in trouble. Otherwise, cool. You (provider) can host anything whatsoever without fear of persecution.

    On an unrelated note, how do the mostly American readers of Slashdot like the report in Rolling Stone that as part of the "War on Drugs", money went to magazines such as "Seventeen" to fund fictional stories, plublished as real, which were basicly anecdotal "Drugs are bad" literature.

    ------

  • Demon were asked by a customer (meaning there was a contract in place between the 2 parties) to take down false information. Demon decided to ignore this request and not respond thus showing no concern for someone they provide service for.

    Completely wrong - Laurence Godfrey has never been a customer of Demon internet. They did not provides services for him, and they had not contractual agreement with him.

  • Demon did not get sued. Demon bailed out of the case before it got sued and thus there is no internet libel precedent in the UK law yet. And UK law operates on precedents.So Demon did a good thing (TM).

    Demon did get sued. In fact they got sued twice by Godfrey.

    There is a libel precedent in UK law as a result of this. Demon's original defence - innocent dissemination - was thrown out by the Judge as "hopeless in law". The court has decided that, once an ISP in the UK (or rather, England and Wales) are notified of a post that a reader considers libellous, then from that point on they are considered publishers of that post. That is the legal precedent that was established by one of these cases. The post that was complained about was considered libellous by the judge - "Squalid, defamatory, and libellous to the plaintiff." were the words he used.

    The second case involved a poster to demon newsgroups (amoungst other places) that Godfrey contacted Demon about, saying that in Godfrey's opinion the poster was probably going commit libel, and he wanted the account suspended (or posting rights removed). Demon refused, the poster posted something that Godfrey considered libellous, and the whole thing went to court. A precedent wasn't established here as the case was settled out of court without a ruling by a Judge of the status of the case.

    This second case involved prior restraint, and this seems the type of argument that the Pink Paper is using to silence Outcast. It is not a course without risks - libel is obviously a wrong, and false (or, in E&W, unprovable) allegations of wrongdoing could be construed as libel themselves - i.e. the Pink Paper is libeling Outcast.

    I don't think that Outcast suing the Pink Paper is any sort of a solution - libel actions only serve one end: enriching lawyers. However, the Pink Paper is a free paper in a small market - it depends entirely on its advertising. What must be done is contacting every advertiser in the Pink Paper with details on their actions. Make sure that its readership know. In other words destroy their credibility - no one likes a bully.

  • O'l Bill, of course. What other reason but telepathic suggestion would millions of people use such horrible software?

    Okay, that was a cheap shot. Not a good fit either-- microsoft subjects aren't loyal or loving enough of their dictator. I would like to see Bill Gates as an abused clown though.
    --

  • There is no need for a real defense force if you play it right. You cut a few treaties with some key powers in the area, and make them dependant on your software ("We're under attack! Send planes quick, or you don't bug patch 203 goes down with us!").

    Yes, and then someone will remember the prophetic words of our leader, Linus Trovalds, about another island on the "other side" of the ocean that will help humanity get through the 1000 years of censorship and darkness.
    --

  • I know you're just joking... but one thing that really gets on my nerves, is the substitution of the word 'bad' (or lame or whatever) with the word 'gay'.

    People that use it argue that they don't mean to imply that homosexuality is bad when they say it and and I believe that a lot of them don't. Unfortunately, this implication is still made.

    I often confront people about the use of the word 'gay' in this manner. Most people are instantly apologetic and tell me they meant no offence to homosexuality. There's the odd person, however, that tells me "But gay does mean bad." These people are encouraged in their homophobia by others' using this slang. This is reason enough, in my opinion, to stop using it.

    As I said before, I realise you're only joking. In fact, you're probably even poking fun at the people who do use the word 'gay' like that. I just figured that this needed to be said.
  • Sorry to be nit-picky, but censorship can be carried out by anyone,
    not just governments. From Mirriam-Webster:

    Main Entry: 2censor

    Function: transitive verb

    Inflected Form(s): censored; censoring /'sen(t)-s&-ri[ng], 'sen(t)s-ri[ng]/
    Date: 1882

    : to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable

  • The correct response is for people who disagree with NetBenefit's position to simply not do business with them. Don't waste your time whining to the CEO, write to their other customers. If I were a NetBenefit customer I sure wouldn't be for long. Let the market punish them!



    Just start sending complaints against every site they host claiming that something Defamatory might appear there in the future. When they solicit all of their customers for a note from a lawyer assuring them that this won't happen most of their customers will get a new hosting company instead of pay out 5K for the note.

    Kintanon
  • In 1982, I wrote a short article [geocities.com] on the potential abuse of libel laws by institutions intent on controlling the free flow if information. Some of it is still applicable.
  • Having not read the article that has caused offence I'm not sure about the full facts.

    Indeed not. Slow down!

    However, from what I have read about the case this hinges around the fact that Outcast have printed as facts things which aren't true about the Pink Papers editor.

    No, the whole point is it's a pre-emptive gag. Netbenefit have pulled the site just in case Outcast print something potentially libellous in the future. Because of Netbenefit's aversion to getting involved in any possible court case in the future, Outcast are now prevented from publishing on the web despite been *two* steps away from breaking the law: they haven't printing anything *potentially* libellous, and whoever they might print anything about in the future has not proved the hypothetical libel in court.

    This demonstrates the ludicrousness both of the current libel system, and of holding ISPs responsible for everything their customers do. It is worth noting that the print publishers promptly told the Pink Paper to get lost.

    It has to be said that lible is very difficult to prove under UK law, see Neil Hamilton V M AlFayed, et al.

    Et al? I would say Hamilton-al Fayed is very much the exception as far as prominent UK libel cases go. Hamilton lost his complaint as he had already been pretty thoroughly discredited; normally it has proven a lot easier to win libel cases, and in many high-profile cases, with absolutely ludicrous damages.

    Maybe if Demon had bothered to acknowledge the complaints of the professor at the time then it would have not gone to court. If anything they were punished for their lack of customer care.

    Whoa there. This is way off, like most of the posts here about the Godfrey case.

    Demon settled with Lawrence Godfrey. No legal precedence has been set. It is unfortunate for everyone that they did so, but clearly they believe that they stand to lose more by fighting the case than by giving in. Demon used to be a strong opponent of censorship and had vowed to fight this case; things may be different now they are owned by Thus, but Demon still look really unhappy about this.

    Godfrey was not a Demon customer. The offending post did not originate at Demon. Cancelling the post would, at that point, have achieved little, whilst opening the door to the necessity of removing any post anybody ever complained about.

    At this point, that was not common practice. It's sad that we would now consider it normal.

    Yes, the libel and slander laws in this country are flawed, but not in that way, if you can prove that what is printed or said is true you don't lose.

    Except that you often do. Just ask Private Eye.

    In fact the flaw with the legislation is that it costs too much for the average person to bring a case, and legal aid doesn't cover it.

    It also costs too much for the average person or company to defend a case. The sums involved are so stupid it frightens people into retracting or just saying nothing in the first place. When responsibility for "publication" spreads unreasonably far - as in this case - it becomes impossible to say anything in the first place. That's why it's a freedom of speech issue; if all ISPs are forced to take the same legal view as Netbenefit, some people won't be able to speak at all.

    On an completely unrelated point, is it just me who strongly dislikes the term "gays", or indeed any adjective turned into a plural noun? It seems to take a group of disparate individuals and classify them as a herd of identical people whose defining characteristic is their gayitude. Or something. "He is gay" means "he is a person, who is gay", as opposed to "he is a gay" which to me at least implies "he is a generic instantiation of the class gay".

    Disclaimer: not being derived from class sexuality.gay myself, I may be totally missing the point.


    --
    This comment was brought to you by And Clover.

  • Strangely enough, even the Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain [liberty.org.uk] seems to have been sensored, and are now scrambling to find offshore sites. I am not entirely certain of the events surrounding this particular event, as not enough information was posted on their website, but I hope to find out more soon. [If anybody knows why cacib got censored, or knows of anything that they need, hosting or whatever, contact me.]

    This kind of idocy is intollerable in any country in the world today that prides itself on freedom of expression, speech and press. It seems extreemly odd to me as well, that a country such as Brittain which has a relatively long history of being tollerant could allow such a twisted chain of events to take place.

    It seems strange to me as well, that people who have a long history of being discriminated against seem to quickly forget the discrimination that they have faced, and perpetrate the same discrimination against others. But I guess that is unfortunatly, the way of things.

    I eagerly await the outcome of these events, and I hope that saner heads prevail, both in the judicator's seat, and in the consul of the Pink Paper.



    Don Armstrong -".naidnE elttiL etah I"
  • I'm still waiting for one country to trade in their Get a Free Clue card

    So am I. I'll be on a plane the next day. Well, as soon as I graduate. Or maybe I'll wait for the hiring managers in silicon valley to come to their senses, but eventually, I'd move there.

    Honestly, any country who wants to become the next high tech hotspot only needs to pass a reasonable set of laws. They don't even need good enforcement -- the tech companies will be happy to bring their own lawyer, arbitrators, private security, clean water and infrastructure. It might not happen overnight, but look at Hong Kong -- the *only* thing Hong Kong had was capitalism.

    I think Russia is the most promising candidate right now. Vladimir Putin realizes that the most important thing a stable society needs is a consistently enforced set of laws. Any stupidity can be contracted around, so long as it's known in advance.

    --Kevin
  • However, from what I have read about the case this hinges around the fact that Outcast have printed as facts things which aren't true about the Pink Papers editor. If these are harmful then this would account for the threat under the libel law.

    Errm, read the article - you've got it all wrong. Outcast never published anything about the Pink Paper - they were sent a letter from Pink Paper's lawyers saying they'd be sued if they ever printing anything defamatory about them. In response to this NetBenefit pulled the Outcast site and won't let them have it back, even though nothing at all has been done by Outcast.

    This isn't anything to do with a libel case, more to do with an ISP forcing pre-emptive censorship on one of their clients. And the Demon case doesn't apply - it was settled out of court and therefore sets no precedence.

  • God, I'm sick and tired of hearing Americans going on about "Constitutional rights" and how it makes them superior to the people of every other country in the world. Every country has rights for its citizens, but no-one bleats on about it like Americans :)

  • Okay Hemos et al, will you be telling us why the site was down for ~7+ hours, or not?
  • I believe that the role of a government is to solve (or at least limit the damage of) any problem that does not solve itself.

    The day that people start acting in everybodies best intrest, including (but *not* limited to) their own, no formal government is neccesary.

    Until then, as you say, sometimes *someone* must keep the hotheads in their corners. Someone must say "Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you" or "Just because *You* want it, you cannot force it upon everyone else"

    Sometimes individuals sort these things out. When they don't I prefer a battle with clear rules and an umpire to no-rules-ultimate-combat.

    *sigh* wouldn't a perfect worl be nice?

  • If you are openly prejudiced against blacks, women or jews you will get in serious trouble today. (In the western world)

    That does not mean that the xenofobia is gone. Prejudice against arabs is "OK" (see any news report)

    If you kick Jews out of your store, you are out of business and into the courtroom faster than you can say swastika
    If you kick out gypsies (that the nazis sent to the gas chambers even quicker than the jews), few people care.

    Yes, the "normal" people outnumber the screaming bigots. Unfortunately, the latter come in clusters.

  • Here's my letter, feel free to cut and paste.

    Dear NetBenefit and Pink Paper

    I find the the actions of your two organizations over the past few weeks
    to be outrageous and unjustified. Further, what you have done infringes
    upon the rights of the people involved, without any evidence to prove the
    plausibility or necessity of the actions you have taken. Let me summarize
    exactly what I am angry about.

    On March 17th, Pink Paper, a competitor to Outcast Magazine, wrote to
    Outcast and NetBenefit informing them that if Outcast ever published
    anything defamatory, both parties would be sued. In response, NetBenefit
    suspended Outcast's web account.

    It may not seem obvious to you as to why this is horribly morally
    imprudent. NetBenefit, by suspending Outcast's account, has effectively
    taken part in a censorship action against material that _has not even been
    published._ While I realize that UK citizens are not guaranteed the same
    rights to free speech as Americans, there is no justification for
    censorship of any sort, and the UK has had (up until recent months) a
    fairly liberal policy towards free speech.

    This is worse than bookburning; It's like burning the printing
    press. While I understand that NetBenefit is "playing it safe," I am
    horrified to learn the true character of the people who run this company.

    People of character stand up for what is right. Yes, that includes taking
    risks. I would, however, rather purchase services from an organization
    that demonstrated moral competency than one who is afraid of such
    an absurd litigious action. As a purveyor of Internet services, you are
    familiar with the open, anti-censorship, and indeed, often rebelious
    nature of the Internet community. Your actions have been a major
    disservice to that community.

    I demand that you reconsider your decisions, and examine the consequences
    that they might bring.

    Respectfully,
    Mike Friedman
  • There was also a distrubing article [salon.com] on Salon [salon.com] about how White House approved anti-drug TV scripts earned TV networks taxpayer money. Government controlled content is scary, especially when the ONDCP is invading my living room spreading propoganda about the evils of that Satanic substance, marajuana.

    I think it's important to remember that censorship has many forms. In the US it's pretty hard for the government to get away with banning something altogether, but that doesn't stop them from abusing taxpayer money to alter things like TV programs, the product of a supposed private corporation, to spread their "helpful" messages.

  • Well, actually, Outrage's policy is to "out" people who are gay but, in public, do or say things which are harmful to the gay community, e.g priests sermonizing about homosexuality being evil, politicians opposing equal rights legislation.

    It is hypocrisy to which they are opposed. You may or may not agree with this stance, but they do not just "out" people arbitrarily.
  • I'm still waiting for one country to trade in their Get a Free Clue card, and actually ask those of us involved in it for ideas on how to make it work - how to balance legal requirements for privacy and accountability with freedom to express.

    why wait for them to ask? maybe we are just reactive? maybe we need to be proactive and go to them?

    maybe we need to form a group, and go the the government and actually say something like "We are concerned with this, and we want to work with the govt to come up with some real solution that's not going to be a knee jerk reaction to anything..."?

    I can't actually remember anywhere that we have done anything like that. maybe it's worth thinking about? maybe we could get some real response that way
  • The host itself reviewed the contents of the pages before removing them having had potentially liabalous materials brought to their attention. I'm going to have to look into outcaste, but if they are from the brance of queer politic that I think they are I could well believe that they are less than rigarous with thier sources of facts.
  • Hmm, cancelled supscriptions...

    Quite difficult for a free paper really ;-)

  • My evidence come from an article written by the independant, a paper which I hold in reasonably high respect. Which states directly that NetBenifit reviewed the contents of the website and then removed it due to the contents.

    As for my comments about the nature of their facts, that is because the name rings strong bells and I will check with my contacts in political compaigning to see who is involved and if I know them.

  • Having not read the article that has caused offence I'm not sure about the full facts..

    However, from what I have read about the case this hinges around the fact that Outcast have printed as facts things which aren't true about the Pink Papers editor. If these are harmful then this would account for the threat under the libel law.

    It has to be said that lible is very difficult to prove under UK law, see Neil Hamilton V M AlFayed, et al.

    This is not a freedom of speeck issue it is the basic right of an individual to be represented truthfully. Under libel law, if Outcast can back up any claims they have made then the Pink will be liable to all their costs in a court of law, they should fight it. It seems as if they are not willing to fight the case though.

    Also people are bringing up the recent demon case. saying that this was wrong too. Maybe if Demon had bothered to acknowledge the complaints of the professor at the time then it would have not gone to court. If anything they were punished for their lack of customer care. Again this case was not entirely about what was printed, but the inability of the ISP to act when the issue of defamity was brought to their attantion. In fact it was their complete lack of even a simple reply to his complaint that lost them the case from the start.

    Yes, the libel and slander laws in this country are flawed, but not in that way, if you can prove that what is printed or said is true you don't lose. In fact the flaw with the legislation is that it costs too much for the average person to bring a case, and legal aid doesn't cover it.

  • You think this is funny?! My left leg is two inches shorter than the other, and I'm sick and tired of this "lame" business. This is a serious handicap, people. You're such a bunch of dummies. No, cretins... No, you're a mongol horde.. no, wait... um.. help me out here.

  • Just because we don't have a written constitution, doesn't mean that we don't have rights.

    We have legal rights, as well as constitutional rights. These are made up from a long list of laws and acts of parliament as well as common law. We are every bit as protective of those rights as Americans, so stop feeling superior just because you've got a bit of paper that says you're all equal.
  • I am not familiar with the legalities of the matter, however I have used geek sense to think about this, and how an ISP can be a publisher.

    What is a publisher?
    Essentially the publisher is the person who owns the printing press, wether this be physical or electronic. Publishers are the ones that take the material, put it in a form to be distributed and then distribute it to the book stores and libraries.

    What are the ISP's?
    The ISP's serve as libraries. They are essentially shelf-space to store the material being distributed over the web. They do not play a part in the content of the material when it is created, they just put it out where people can see it like a giant library.

    --
    Hephaestus_Lee
  • Mailbombing the ISP is not going to get the fundamental legal issues changed. UK (or English?) law holds a printer as responsible for libel as the author. The ISP is arguably analogous to a printer and has a huge potential liability out there. If I were an ISP facing this kind of liability, I might want to take similar steps to limit my liability.

    As it is, the magazine has the means to host their content anywhere in the world, they should avail themselves of it. When enough UK ISPs find their web hosting business going offshore, maybe they will join the fight to get rational libel laws passed in England (Ha! Good luck, I understand that the legal profession has just as big a stranglehold on the legislative process as they do here in the US.)

    Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected
  • In this case, the paper has remedies. They can have their content hosted in one of dozens of countries in the world that don't have laws and legal precedents making hosts liable for content.

    Save the Slashdot effect for important battles.

    Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected
  • I may hate you say, but I will defend your right to say it!

    If ISPs and companies are sued for censoring, then the pendulum will swing the other direction. Then ISPs and companies may act in a more reasonable fashion as opposed to taking a knee-jerk reaction.

    In some cases, it's just a knee-jerk reaction, in others it's malice.

  • If everything start comming apart, then countries start putting censor laws inplace, then there will be no overseas locations available.

    Boy, then life will really suck.

  • Of course they won't, they're too busy cashing in their big advertising checks of thousands of dollars they make off 'free' speech and 'free' software (linux) to care about their users who get them that money.

    - Jeremy Fuller

  • Let me guess, you're American. No offense, but every country in the world has an equal proportion of idiots, but only one of them encourages them to use their right to free speech. Elsewhere in the world, we exort our fools to shut up. Shut up.

    Because of this, at the end of the day, all British citizens are SUBJECTS, not equal citizens of the state

    One of the dumbest yet most persistent myths on Earth. British citizens are citizens -- if you don't believe me, check page 3 of a British passport, where Her Britannic Majesty's Foreign Secretary kindly explains the difference between a British Citizen (having the right of abode in the United Kingdom), a British National (having the right to a British passport), a British Dependent Territories Citizen, a British Protected Person, a British National (Overseas), a British Overseas Citizen (mainly Falklanders and Gibraltarians) and a British subject. British subjects are not the same as British Citizens, and British Citizens are very definitely citizens.

    In the UK, you are not guaranteed the right to free speech. There is no genesis document like our Constitution that explicitly says that you are allowed to express your opinion due to it being a right granted to you as a human being.

    Now that's fucking funny, because I seem to remember that Article 10 [hri.org] of the European Convention on Human Rights (ratified by the UK and enforceable in UK courts, with appeal to the European Court of Human Rights) guarantees me exactly that freedom. Ah yes, I remember rightly. I often rmember these things correctly, due to not being a fucking moron.

    It helps that, unlike you, I'm not lumbering under the myth that everything has to be like the US Constitution, and that only "genesis documents" (for crying out loud) can confer "inalienable rights".

    Why, Oh Lord, must it be the case that the loudest defenders of free speech are those who have fucking nothing to say? Why do you care about free speech? You've clearly never had an original thought in your life. No government in history has ever put people in prison for mindlessly parroting the party line. You're completely safe.

    montoya

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @06:25PM (#1148992)
    Wow, that's some stupid censorship there. Those lawyers are acting really gay... um. I mean, not that there's anything wrong... um, I meant to say lame. They're really *LAME*.

    Oh, and I am not a gay lawyer. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The gay part that is, not the lawyer part. I mean... oh, nevermind!
  • by Paul Crowley (837) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @09:50PM (#1148993) Homepage Journal
    It won't work. First, the Pink is free, and left in big piles at gay venues; few subscribe. Second, everyone already knows it's a nasty rag, but it's free so they read it anyway. Third, Millivres, the publisher, already own half the gay press.

    The Pink survives by selling the Pink Pound to advertisers: lots of dual-income no-kids people to sell lifestyle shit to.

    As for "gay community leaders": Peter Tatchell, probably the best known gay campaigner in the country, is already involved in creating Outcast, so I expect he'll be making his opinion known. However, that the Pink is bad news is not news at all.
    --
  • by panda (10044) on Thursday April 06, 2000 @01:48AM (#1148994) Homepage Journal

    "We cannot let this be covered up. If NetBenefit win this case, the precedent will be set that any ISP can remove an entire website because it might contain something defamatory some time in the future. That means they can close down any website at all. It is a violent attack on free speech."

    Fact is, ISPs have that authority now. As the owners of the equipment used to put your website up, they have the right to refuse any content that they deem inappropriate. This is not really censorship in the strictly legal sense because it is not the government that's doing the censoring. An ISP and any other private business basically has the right to say, "I don't like your politics/lifestyle/your hair/whatever, so I'm not doing business with you." I certainly would not host web sites for Neo-Nazis, as an example. It's a free market (in theory) so you can refuse to do business with some people if you choose. Now, your local/national gov't may disagree, as would the FTC in the US, but really there isn't a hell of a lot anyone can do about it. I'm sure an ISP could always come up with some reason or another that they can't host one site or another.

    Think about it. If you own the hardware that the site resides on, and you lease the lines from the telco/whoever to pump the data out, then you can shut any site down you want. You could even flip a power switch and shut them all down. I'm not saying this is good policy on the part of an ISP, but it's not censorship and it's certainly within the ISP's right considering it's their equipment and you must agree to their policies in order to use it. You can always go somewhere else if you don't like how one ISP does business.

    In this specific case, yeah, they might have overreacted. I'd just get a new ISP (preferably outside of UK) and forget about it. If you get an ISP in a country where ISPs aren't responsible for what their customers post and that is beyond the reach of British law, then you won't have to worry about your ISP being sued, just yourselves. :-)

    If you want to fight back. Slap the Pink Paper with a restraint of trade/unfair competition type lawsuit if you have such a thing in the UK. This is an obvious attempt to put you out of business using strongarm tactics and would probably qualify as a restraint of trade in the US. Unless the article in question has something to do with the Pink Paper, then they have no business threatening to sue you if you publish something defamatory. Why would they threaten to sue on behalf of a third party if they didn't want to put you out of business?

    Anyway, if you want real legal advice, cough up the bucks and hire a solicitor. Sounds to me like your enterprise has gotten important enough to need one. If you can't afford a solicitor, then too bad. Maybe you could get the Pink Paper to buy your outfit, then hire a solicitor, say they screwed you, and sue to get your business back. :-)

  • by Jerf (17166) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @06:13PM (#1148995) Journal
    No wait, listen to me first.

    In his words: "The problem is really that ours is the first case of its kind since the Demon Internet 'Net Libel' settlement last week. That case appears to have set a precedent that UK ISPs can be held responsible for the content of newsgroups or websites they host. However, to censor something before it has been published is clearly an over-reaction."

    Hold onto that quote. That is the problem. NetBenefit PLC is acting entirely rationally, given the great liability to which they are now exposed. They are not the problem... it is the ruling.

    Can you truly say you would do any different if you were completely liable for the contents of your customers web sites? Focus your efforts on the true problem, which is that damnable libel ruling... not NetBenefit PLC.

  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @04:53PM (#1148996) Homepage
    This is a perfect example of how case law can be abused to deny a person or group fair and equal treatment based on a prejudice.

    A bad decision in the Daemon UK case, (IIRC a basically bigmouthed person successfully sued the ISP for not removing some inflammatory information about him) and now the British ISP's are so worried about being sued that they overreact and start pulling crap like this on their customers -- my guess is that it's the more controversial sites that are being targeted -- and just like that we have an economic blockade to free expression.

    I wonder if bandwidth constraints keep the idea of hosting their site outside the UK unfeasible, because sure shooting the day an ISP does that to me (here in the US, by the way), it will be the last day I do business with that ISP, and I would probably countersue if at the time they dropped my site I was in compliance with all of their existing rules.

    Just for the record, I am MMFM (monogamous married hetero male), so I'm as far from gay as a man could get, but I still stand on the side of Outcast and agree that the web (/.) community needs to raise a ruckus against the ISP.

  • by Plasmic (26063) on Thursday April 06, 2000 @03:41AM (#1148997)
    I think that's a great idea. In the interim, here is some more relevant contact info:

    Jonathan Robinson [mailto]
    11, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R0DP, England
    +44 171 3366777

    Stephen Keay [mailto]
    10-11 Clerkenwell Green, London EC1N 0DN, England
    +44 171 336777

    IP address allocation info can be found at whois.ripe.net under NETBENEFIT-NET-1 (They've got their own ASN and a /19).

    There's a US branch, as well:

    Netbenefit Inc.
    55 Broad Street
    18th Floor
    New York, NY 10004

    Their upstream provider is:

    COLT Telecom Group plc [colt.net]
    International Headquarters
    15 Marylebone Road
    London
    NW1 5JD
    Telephone +44 20 7863 5000
    Fax +44 20 7390 3701

    They have a "fibre-optic" backbone that goes straight into London, and they offer services in several European countries. They've got 497 million pounds of equity, according to their latest financial statement, so we could probably milk them for tons of money if we threatened to bring suit against them for hosting NetBenefit which slandered Outcast (or just make them worry enough about us milking them for tons of money that they take down NetBenefit).
  • by pmc (40532) on Thursday April 06, 2000 @01:56AM (#1148998) Homepage
    Not quite true, the court did not find for Godfrey

    The courts didn't find for Godfrey, but a precedent was established - innocent disseminiation is not a defence when put on notice. Justice Moreland ruled on this about a year ago, saying the defence was "hopeless in law".


  • I propose that we remember what civility, and, in particular, the American ideal is supposed to be: don't put down my weird habits, and I won't put down yours. If you like guys having sex with guys, I might think that's sick, but, by all means go ahead, just so long as you don't try and take away my assault rifle. It follows then, if someone is disrupting the weird behavior of one group, then a dangerous ground has been broken. If it is ok to bash one group for its quirky behavior, then it is ok to bash them all. First on the streets, then in the press, then in the politics, group bashing escalates and this can only lead to civil war. Censorship is a tool of this conflict, and so to promote censorship is to promote war.

    So... the next time you see a web site that is getting hammered because you think it is disgusting, stand up for that site - making it clear that you expect quid pro quo for your support. Say "I'll defend your right to have your sick lifestyle if you'll defend my right to have mine." Some people are into packing fudge. Some people are into collecting and shooting assault rifles. It's a sick world but it can be all good. We just have to remember that if we don't let anyone dampen someone's freedom, then nobody will dampen our own.
  • by brevity (155464) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @07:15PM (#1149000)

    Just googled for the Pink Paper; it doesn't have an online presence per se but partners with a G&L portal site, SoNow [sonow.com]. The Pink Paper appears to be providing news (well, little lite bites thereof.) and SoNow provides, ahem, free email and web space.

    The next move is obvious. Register Outcast with sonow.com and publish it from there. :)

  • by mosch (204) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @05:44PM (#1149001) Homepage

    To Whom It May Concern:

    A most grievious situation has recently come to my attention, through an article on slashdot.org. The situation, as it has been related to me, is that the Pink Paper has engaged in a most disreputable and plainly assinine attempt to have outcast effectively shutdown by filing a preemptive complaint.

    The absurdity of the situation boggles my mind in all directions. To the ISP who was hosting outcast, shame on you. I know you're simply making a business of providing web access and it's 'cheaper and easier' to do it this way, but the proper response to the Pink Paper request was to, after research to determine if any wrong-doing had occured or was likely to occur, send a reply to their lawyers politely stating that they are abusing laws, and that they can bugger off until they have a leg to stand on.

    To the Pink Paper. I'm appalled, astounded and just... confused. What's wrong with competition? What did they do to hurt you? What reasonable justification is there for this action other than a lawyer noting in the middle of a business meeting 'i know how to get their website shut down.' I hope that this is a case of a lawyer acting without proper authority, or of a manager who acted against the will of the company as a whole. If this is the type of action which you propose is appropriate for them, perhaps you should stop claiming to be a voice for the gay community as your actions demonstrate that you don't believe in equal rights, fairness or good faith, even within the gay community.

    To the parties who believe that the law is being used in it's proper sense, allow me to state that abuses like this can end in only one inevitable conclusion. Websites will no longer exist in Britain. If you believe that this law makes sense, and that it's being used reasonably, then allow me to note that the sun now sets on the British Empire. When a situation is made rediculous, a solution is always found. Perhaps the most logical solution is to decide that no websites should be hosted in Britain as they might be subject to costly, illogical and frivolous abuse.

    Good luck, outcast magazine,
    Good luck, Britain,


    ----------------------------
  • by seebs (15766) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @05:50PM (#1149002) Homepage
    So, we write the hosting company that hosts NetBenefit. We write them asking them to provide assurances that NetBenefit will not be making any offensive statements, or false accusations, about OutCast.

    So, when NetBenefit's site is pulled, we laugh at them. Because it's their own policy, and they can hardly argue with it.
  • by bkeeler (29897) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @07:58PM (#1149003)
    A few points here.

    The term "Censorship" is over-used these days, especially in Slashdot type forums. Censorship is something that governments do. NetBenefit is not censoring. They are execising their right to choose their customers as they see fit.

    Yes, the ISP libel liability law and the Demon precedent suck very, very much. But you can't blame NetBenefit for that. Write to your MP.

    I'll say it again just to be sure. I believe that a private entity has the right to do or not do business with whomsoever it sees fit. (For the record, I'm against all anti-discrimination laws and equal opportunity laws too.)

    The correct response is for people who disagree with NetBenefit's position to simply not do business with them. Don't waste your time whining to the CEO, write to their other customers. If I were a NetBenefit customer I sure wouldn't be for long. Let the market punish them!

    The only case Outcast have is if they had a contract with NetBenefit which has been breached. I seriously doubt it though.

  • Australia has our net censor laws, requiring ISPs to block sites officially listed as offensive, the US has the current idioticy regarding DMCA, deCSS, etc, and now the UK is diving in with the most oppressive crytpo privacy laws imaginable and then this!

    I know the law makers and Those Who Consider Themselves Very Important are worried about this new medium called the internet (God Bless Quale for inventing it!), but there seems to be a global over reaction.

    I'm still waiting for one country to trade in their Get a Free Clue card, and actually ask those of us involved in it for ideas on how to make it work - how to balance legal requirements for privacy and accountability with freedom to express.

    I wish the Outcast crew all the best. Let's hope they don't have to visit the last resort for such situations - moving their servers off shore.

  • by MosesJones (55544) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @10:33PM (#1149005) Homepage
    3) The courts find for Godfrey. Demon pay up damages. From now on any British ISP is, by legal precedent, responsible for any slanderous content that it makes available, included hosted sites and newsgroups. This is what has prompted NetBenefit's actions - they're covering their arses.

    Not quite true, the court did not find for Godfrey, Demon elected to settle, this doesn't set a precedent in English Law (a judge has to rule for a precedent to be set) but it does place a worry for ISPs. Lets face it who wants to risk being the one setting a precedent ?

  • by James_G (71902) <james@gMOSCOWlob ... p.org minus city> on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @05:27PM (#1149006)
    A bad decision in the Daemon UK case, (IIRC a basically bigmouthed person successfully sued the ISP for not removing some inflammatory information about him)

    Actually, there was no decision. Demon decided to settle the case before it got to court. No legal precedant has been set here by any means, and you should not try to compare these two totally independant cases.

  • by spiralx (97066) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @09:58PM (#1149007)

    then there will be no overseas locations available

    I'd contest this statement - until the advent of a truly "global" government there will always be countries where these laws won't apply. Consider copyright laws - both Malta and Taiwan don't have them, even though there is enormous pressure from the rest of the world that does for them to adopt copyright. Until copyright is universal there will always be somewhere you can go to get around it.

    Similarly, there will always be at least one country without these censorship laws - consider the Cayman Islands or Antigua, where practically all online gambling sites are hosted due to the lax laws there. Its a matter of supply and demand - if the demand for hosting without the restrictions of censorship laws exists, then there will be somewhere which will supply that service, and make a lot of money out of it.

    And then there's offshore hosting at sea, which could become a viable option given the increasingly restrictive nature of laws in most countries.

  • by guran (98325) on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @09:03PM (#1149008)
    I'll say it again just to be sure. I believe that a private entity has the right to do or not do business with whomsoever it sees fit. (For the record, I'm against all anti-discrimination laws and equal opportunity laws too.)

    Agin for the record, I'm oppsosed to most anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws, but I'm certainly not opposed to anti-discrimination and equal opportunity.

    Unfortunately the right to choose whom I do business with is too often a cover up for discrimination and bigottery. The market does not punish those who discriminate according to popular prejudice. How many stores in southern USA was "punished by the market" for their "No niggers" policy?

    I know that the real issue is that dangerous precedent, not this ISP who is acting accordingly.
    However there is a worrying trend of censorship throug proxy. The government can not censor since there are strong feelings about state censorship. Instead they make ISP liable for content, and the censorship is carried though "volontarily"

    I'm worried

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @08:48PM (#1149009)
    There's a very strong connection. The sequence of events goes like this:

    1) Lawrence Godfrey sees something allegedly defamatory about him posted on a newsgroup.

    2) Demon Internet, a major British ISP, gets sued by Godfrey for libel, claiming that by hosting the newsgroup, they are liable.

    3) The courts find for Godfrey. Demon pay up damages. From now on any British ISP is, by legal precedent, responsible for any slanderous content that it makes available, included hosted sites and newsgroups. This is what has prompted NetBenefit's actions - they're covering their arses.

    4) Obviously, this is a bad thing. CACIB post something on their site saying so.

    5) Godfrey, who by now is sending legal letters to anyone who mentions him on the net in any remotely negative tone, threatens CACIB with legal action unless they take the story down.

    It's not just Demon and CACIB he's done this to, either. Certain other very vocal activists and commentators have been unusually silent on the matter, mainly because when they've mentioned him in the past he's been onto them within hours. Now he has the law on his side.

    (Why do you think I'm posting this anonymously? I'm in America at the moment, for God's sake, but I'm coming home this week and I'd like to think I won't get served a writ when I step off the plane.)

    What's obviously needed here is some kind of mass stand against this, because it's obviously threatening not just free speech (after all, we don't have a constitution that protects free speech anyway - but please don't gloat at us about it, Americans, because we're sick of that) but the freedom to contribute anything to the net at all. The Outcast case is a perfect illustration of the ridiculous extremes to which this can be taken, and there will be more, and worse.

    A mass stand - a huge, COORDINATED, unstoppable outcry across the network, too large to be stopped by a few lawyer's letters, too prevalent. Simply because this may be the last time that we can.

    -- Anonymous

    P.S. If you're an American who's about to post your nth reply to a Slashdot story about bad net law in Britain by banging on about what a backwards so-called democracy we are because we don't have legal power to buy submachine guns on street corners and so obviously we must all be serfs toiling under a Monarchist hegemony, why not use the time constructively instead, by trying to come up with a solution to the problem posed above? Mass coordination and publication, anonymous, untraceable, unremovable. It's a fantastic techie problem. Freenet is the start. Where's the rest?
  • by jaed (99912) <jaed@jaedworks.com> on Wednesday April 05, 2000 @05:26PM (#1149010)

    I checked the Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain [liberty.org.uk] link referenced in the story and guess what I found there:

    Site suspended

    It may seem laughable that a site campaigning against censorship has been censored itself, but that is exactly what has just happened. We are making arrangements for the site to be mirrored offshore, where there is a bit more protection for freedom of speech. Don't worry, even the address online won't change, it'll just be based on web servers physically outside the UK. You won't be able to tell the difference.

    Naturally, we are not caving in to the threatening insinuations that have been levelled against us. Check back here tomorrow for the full story.

    Yikes. What the hell goes on in Britain? Does anyone know whether there's a connection to this story?

The absent ones are always at fault.

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