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Target Advertising Used to Censor NY Times Article 373

avtchillsboro writes to tell us The New York Times has adapted technology usually used for targeted advertising to censor a recent article from British viewers in an attempt to comply with local publishing rules. The New York Times explained that this move "arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial."
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Target Advertising Used to Censor NY Times Article

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  • Cryptome (Score:4, Informative)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:09PM (#16001611)
    As always with this sort of thing, it's on Cryptome: []
  • so what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tritonman ( 998572 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:10PM (#16001625)
    If they have to follow the british law, they have to follow it, else get sued like MS is getting sued by the EU.
    • Re:so what? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DragonPup ( 302885 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:07PM (#16002021)
      So if China passes a law that makes it unlawful to publish information that reflects badly upon them, then by that logic, the NY Times can not publish anything critical of the Chinese government?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by xoyoyo ( 949672 )
      The NYT could get sued, but a more likely result in a case like this is that a conviction could be ruled unsafe even if all the evidence indicated that the (hypothetical) suspects were guilty. That's a fairly extreme thing to happen, and I can't think offhand of a conviction that has been overturned because of media intrusion, but the possibility exists in British law.

      So the NYT has taken the eminently sensible decision to block access to UK readers. Americans get their freedom of speech, which apparently

      • Re:so what? (Score:4, Informative)

        by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:45PM (#16002315)
        Americans get their freedom of speech, which apparently overrides all other rights in criminal cases
        Not at all. The judge in a case can issue a gag order, and even seal indictments, evidence, etc., to prevent anyone involved from talking or leaking information.

        On the other hand, if information is leaked, the papers usually have the right to publish it. The person who leaked it may be in contempt of court and headed to jail, but the paper or journalist won't get into trouble unless they refuse to name a source.

        It is freedom of the press that is paramount in this example. Free speech can be curtailed if the judge feels that it would lead to the violation of another right, such as due process.
        • Re:so what? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @06:54PM (#16003446)
          So what you're saying is that these are the differences between the British and US systems:

          UK: We'll disclose all the details to the press, who have the responsibility to oversee government and communicate that oversight to the public but we require that they don't make that information public for a well-defined amount of time so the defendants can get a fair trial.

          US: We won't tell anybody anything at all if we can possibly help it. If for some reason it does leak out, too bad for the defendant. We didn't like him anyway.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thebdj ( 768618 )
      Actually, I think the NYT would have a pretty strong case against any suit against the government. Unless the NYT has some sort of permanent position in the UK (e.g. a remote newsroom or UK based hosting servers), it would be very hard to apply another countries laws on a US media company with no ties to said country. This is rather unlike MS who almost assuredly has offices in the EU and around the world, making them much more open to attack of this sort.

      In reality, I think if the NYT wanted to stand u
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xrikcus ( 207545 )
        You think that a law attempting to increase the chance of a fair trial is tyrannical? Should the right of the press to publish (and is it really to anyone's advantage to do so?) really override the right of a defendent to get an unbiased trial?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:10PM (#16001629)
    Nothing to see... move along.
  • by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:12PM (#16001638)
    CNET version of the article []

    I can see abuse over this technology. News stories used to rejuvenate Liberals will be viewable only in liberal areas, and they'll put a different twist to the same story and make it interesting & viewable in Conservative areas. That's kinda what happens now, except it comes from different sources, but now with this new technology it could come from the same sourcd!
  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [45ttam.yrrep]> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:12PM (#16001641)
    From the article:
    In adapting technology intended for targeted advertising to keep the article out of Britain, The Times addressed one of the concerns of news organizations publishing online: how to avoid running afoul of local publishing laws.

    But they aren't publishing in Britain so the laws aren't local. I don't see what the problem is or why they felt the need to do this.
    • it might be local if they host a data center in the uk. but then i'm not a lawyer, merely a techy prone to speculation.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ChowRiit ( 939581 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:16PM (#16001674)
      While you may not have to follow local laws, it's general considered respectful to follow them.

      The laws are there for a reason, we tend to put quite a lot of emphasis on keeping juries impartial in this country (the UK): the law is in place, as I understand it, to make sure no media outlets are publishing material which is likely to sway juries either way before the facts have been fairly weighed in court, even for major cases. It's the price we pay for the system of "innoccent until proven guilty", and, at least in my view, is a fair one.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RyoShin ( 610051 )
        Having impartial juries without media influence sounds like a damn good idea to me; I wouldn't mind seeing similar laws in the States. Too many high-profile cases are now "Trial by Media", where the media puts all sorts or horrible twists on the case to get ratings, and the sheeple (the same ones who can't get out of jury duty) just absorb it and take it with them.

        What was that case a few months back, the one with Scott Peterson? I didn't follow it much, but from what I remember most of the evidence was cir
    • I'm guessing it's because they have offices, and hence a corporate presence, in Britain.
    • This is an area of internet law that the world's judges and lawyers still haven't come to an agreement over.

      Apple have several different iTunes sites, with different pricing structures and licensing agreements because, regardless of where the server is hosted, they are publishing the material to people that they know are in a different country, and there are different copyright laws, publishing agreements and standard prices in different countries. If they were allowed to use not-in-your-country as a lega

    • by terrymr ( 316118 ) *
      Becuase the NY Times offers a print edition in the UK and no doubt has offices there they would likely be subject to the laws in Britain at least in as far as that edition of the paper goes.
    • From what I understand, there are rules which govern jurisdiction when the actions of people in one "state" have impact on those in another "state". In some situations, a court may determine that it has the ability to adjudicate against a foreign defendant, even internationally. IANAL, and I've only started to read about this, so take this with a grain of salt. The NY Times could be said to be "publishing" in the UK, depending in your definition of publish. Perhaps a better word would be "distribute".
  • proud to be british (Score:4, Informative)

    by eneville ( 745111 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:13PM (#16001643) Homepage
    All us brits use public proxies anyways. Nothing to see. We can all read about it in the papers tomorrow.
    • And watch those same newspapers be taken to court for breaking the same law the NYT is trying not to break.

      (I hope. The jaded, Private Eye reading side of me doubts it tbh...)
  • Looks like they're just using IP-to-geographic mapping to determine whether to show the article or not.

    Sure, it's been most widely used for targeted ads, but it's also been used for other forms of content negotiation -- selecting a default language where the browser doesn't request one, for instance, or defaulting to the US or international version of CNN.
    • by szembek ( 948327 )
      Exactly! I read the summary twice trying to figure out what the hell it meant and then resorted to reading the article. All that happened is: The New York Times made it so that people in Britain couldn't read a certain article. Big deal, they resolve your IP before showing you the article. The crap about targeted advertising is completely irrelevant, what they did was trivial. While their actions may be significant, the method of implementing these actions is not.
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:21PM (#16001706) Homepage Journal
    They have fairly strict publication restrictions on cases before and during trials, so I would expect this to happen not just in the UK (which is far more than Britain, as any Scot or Welshman could tell you, and I'm both), but also in Canada.

    It's a bit more problematic, in terms of Canada, in that you could have a Canadian surf a wireless site just over the border to get his unfiltered press from a nearby US site, and go around the blockade at the border, but if you're using a fixed cable provider like Rogers Cable in British Columbia, they'll probably block certain news articles from your feed.
    • by Ignignot ( 782335 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:45PM (#16001879) Journal
      I know there is the whole "I don't consider myself British, now I'm Welsh or whatever" that's gone on - but Britain and UK are synonymous at least as far as wikipedia [] goes. Britain can mean either the island or the UK. And either one includes both Scotland and Wales. Maybe you are confusing this with people confusing England and the UK, which are actually not the same.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by chrisbtoo ( 41029 )

      the UK (which is far more than Britain, as any Scot or Welshman could tell you, and I'm both)

      Is that because the Scots and the Welsh have a good view of Northern Ireland?
    • by nagora ( 177841 )
      I would expect this to happen not just in the UK (which is far more than Britain, as any Scot or Welshman could tell you, and I'm both),

      Er... Scotland and Wales are in both Britain and the UK. Great Britain (as opposed to Lesser Britain - AKA Brittany in France) is the main island, and so includes England, Scotland, and Wales, while the UK additionally includes Northern Ireland, but not the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, both of which are part of the British Isles. I've neither the time nor the energy

  • maybe slashdot could license this technology to censor stories about Cringely and Dvorak?
  • The fourth estate! Protecting the interests of the firs^H^H^Hsecon^H^H^Hthir^H^H^Hfourth estate since 1780 BC!

    Remember, Our Privilege Helps Secure Your Freedom*.

    *May not actually help, assist or otherwise aid securing freedom. The fourth estate is distributed in the hope that it will aid freedom but WITHOUT ANY GUARANTEE; without even the implied guarantee of USEFULNESS IN AIDING FREEDOM or FITNESS FOR CONSUMPTION. Any freedom inducing effects are purely coincidental. May induce totalitarianism in excessive doses.
  • The next logical step in this evolution is custom self-modifying news articles based upon the reader's location, user preferences, user history, etc...

    And many people would probably welcome this - they want to read the news they want to believe - ie. Iraq is going great, the economy is dandy, and ... wait that sounds like FOX News already LOL!

    Anyways, I'd like to see a website started somewhere that specifically archives news articles in their various forms; doesn't do that the last I checked fo
  • This technology is in use all over the place, along w/ geotargeted marketing, law/regulations compliance is a leading reason for using IP Intelligence.

    Click to Find Hot Singles in (your town here) Tonight!!!!

  • by TheFlyingGoat ( 161967 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:40PM (#16001837) Homepage Journal
    The Times may not be located in Britain, but I'm sure they have readership there. If they have the technical capability to follow the laws of a certain region, then they should. If this were real censorship, they'd be hiding the article from everyone.

    As much as I dislike the Times, I think this is a non-issue. If people are upset about the Times doing this, they should contact their politicians in Britain to change the law that the Times was following. If you're not from the UK, then it doesn't affect you anyway, so what are you complaining about?
    • In this case it may be innocuous, even beneficial. But what if it were, say, an article about human rights in China that includes information the government in China considers "state secrets." Should the New York times voluntarily block users in China from seeing that content in order to comply with the law in China?
  • by LevKuleshov ( 998639 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @03:47PM (#16001893)

    NYT are doing this for one very simple reason: if a British judge finds that material has been published that is prejudicial to the outcome of the trial, the people who tried to murder thousands by blowing up planes mid-flight can get off scott-free. In this respect, I guess it's the British equivalent of not reading someone their Miranda rights -- slip up on it and the whole case goes out of the window (not a brilliant analogy, but you get the picture).

    The NYT has been in trouble in the UK courts before as it has published material prejudicial to a trial, albeit in a much less important case. They could receive a huge fine for contempt of court [] if people had to be released because of publishing prejudicial information.

    I'm surprised this is being labelled censorship by some people -- it's complying with the law and ensuring that a very important trail isn't jeopordised.

    As for whether NYT has to comply with British law: Firstly, the print edition of the NYT is distributed in the UK. Secondly, publish anything online and you are automatically suspectible to be taken to court in criminal or civil proceedings IN ANY COUNTRY!!! The Australian high court, for example, has ruled [] that in the case of libel "each time material is downloaded, it will enliven the defamation laws of the place where [downloading] occurs."

    This is very obviously utterly disturbing... but it's the way things are at the moment and responsible news organisations, such as the NYT, are compelled to act accordingly.

  • Well, since no one appears to have said it yet, I guess this is one reason to support your local proxy server. The people in the UK should be able to just connect through a US based proxy server and see what their law does not allow them to see.
  • by kirun ( 658684 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:00PM (#16001976) Homepage Journal
    Definition: By "right" here, I mean what I consider to be somebody's rights, rather than what the law considers. I'm not saying I'm the ultimate judge of everything here, just stating my opinion. With that necessary diversion over:

    I never quite get this idea that one right, whatever you may pick, say, "freedom of speech", is a total absolute that overrides all other rights. "Free speech" is one right. "A fair trial" is another right. Sometimes, like in this case, the rights conflict. It's clear if all the papers printed headline stories before a trial asserting that the accused is guilty, they wouldn't receive a fair trial. It's hard enough for terror suspects to get a fair trial anyway, given the number of high-profile arrests (on suspicion of being brown) and subsequent low-profile releases without charge.

    So, in these situations, you need to compromise. It's not as if we're secretly being censored in these matters - this evening, one of the stories on PM on BBC Radio Four was the police statement to the effect of "reporters are reminded of their duty not to prejudice the trial". So, we know that the Daily Mail has to hold back from its desired Bring Back Hanging For These Sick Terrorist Traitors opinion piece (but is free to change "terrorist" for "pedophile", "illegal immigrant" or "single mother" as required).

    In any case, most people would already accept that certain things cannot be defended under free speech. Few would argue that banning contract killings interfered with the "free speech" of the orderer, as they had to use words to make the contract. Again, I suspect little support for perjury being swept away as a free speech issue. If perjury [] is wrong because it damages the cause of justice, then printing newspaper stories that ruin somebody's chance of a fair trial is also wrong.
  • Quite right too... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gerv ( 15179 ) <gerv@gerv.n3.14159et minus pi> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:17PM (#16002120) Homepage
    It's absolutely right that you can't state a man is guilty of an offence for which he's been charged until it's proven in a court of law. You can state that you personally think he's guilty; you can state that he allegedly committed the offence; but unless you want to be hauled up in front of the judge and asked for the evidence you apparently have that he definitely did it, saying that he did is libellous.

    If the US had a similar system, there might be less "trial by media" and more trial by judge and jury. Not that the UK is perfect, but it's better.
  • by macshome ( 818789 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:32PM (#16002224) Homepage
    Anyone else read the headline as if Target the retail chain was censoring advertising?
  • Wow. This is it folks. The tables have turned. A sizeable number of posters on Slashdot are siding with complying with a foreign law. Now this is aside from the fact that the NYT has a British presence, which is the reason I see that NYT is doing this.

    A lot of you are talking about respecting laws of other countries simply because that would be the courteous thing to do. Courtesy has no place in international law. We could almost call it a precedent. Ask your 1998 self if it would be thinking these same tho
  • The publisher is free to do whatever they want with their publications. If they want to remove some content or pull it out altogether - they have a right to do it.

    What is wrong with it is the UK (or any other country) government trying to impose their own laws onto a company in another country just because UK citizens can access that information. If I buy a NYT newspaper in NY and bring it to London, do I have to cut out the pieces that are not legal in UK?

    At the same time UK did not see any problem wi

  • I think this story is a non-issue, since compliance with local laws is a good thing and it was decent of the New York Times to go to such lengths to respect them.

    However, the more important issue here is that now that this technology exists and has been shown to work in situations like this, how long before something like this will be required to be used before you publish anything on the Internet?

    I'll bet won't be long before some county government (or other small entity) in the sues a national/internation

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?