Techdirt Hoists Would-Be Speech Censors

— Techdirt douses German government’s “Raging Dumpster Fire Of Censorial Stupidity”

Last week, I highlighted abuse of Germany’s newly implemented speech law, NetzDG, intended to regulate the spread of disinformation and hateful rhetoric online.

Yesterday, Techdirt hoisted the would-be censors who are abusing the new law.

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Via “Germany’s Speech Laws Continue To Be A Raging Dumpster Fire Of Censorial Stupidity” by Tim Cushing, Techdirt, February 21, 2018:

Germany’s new law, targeting hate speech and other unpleasantness online, is off to a roaring start. Instead of cleaning up the internet for German consumption, the law has been instrumental in targeting innocuous posts by politicians and taking down satirical content. The law is a bludgeon with hefty fines attached. This has forced American tech companies to be proactive, targeting innocuous content and satire before the German government comes around with its hand out.

It took only 72 hours for the new law (Netzwerkdurchsezungsgesetz, or NetzDG) to start censoring content that didn’t violate the law. Some German officials have expressed concern, but the government as a whole seems content to let more censorship of lawful content occur before the law is given a second look. The things critics of the law said would happen have happened. And yet the law remains in full effect.

The spirit is willing but the body is weak, Sterling Jones says in the opening of his excellent post detailing more blundering attempts by the German government to enforce its terrible law.

While intended to stop the spread of disinformation and hateful rhetoric online, recently published “local law” complaints show that would-be censors are using NetzDG to target all variety of content, including mainstream news stories, sexual words and images, an anti-Nazi online forum, and criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and of the NetzDG law itself.

So, that’s how the law is working out. Sterling’s post is filled with takedown notices forwarded to the Lumen Database — all of them targeting speech that doesn’t appear to be unlawful even under Germany’s screwed up laws.

Read the full article by clicking here.

The Takedown Conspiracy (Redux)

— TechDirt, Volokh Conspiracy hoist mystery defamer claimer

Earlier this week, I blogged about an anonymous defamation takedown request of articles by The Washington Post and Techdirt re: forged court orders intended to force Google to deindex links.

Yesterday, Techdirt and The Volokh Conspiracy hoisted the mystery complainant.

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Via “Techdirt, Volokh Conspiracy Targeted With Bogus Defamation Claim For Publishing A Bunch Of Facts” by Tim Cushing, Techdirt, February 9, 2018:

Last spring, Mike Masnick covered a completely fake court order that was served to Google to make some unflattering information disappear. The court order targeted some posts by a critic of a local politician.

Ken Haas, a member of the New Britain (CT) city commission got into an online argument with a few people. When things didn’t go his way, Haas played a dubious trump card:

Several months ago, he got into a public controversy with local activist Robert Berriault — allegedly, when someone got in a Facebook political spat with Haas, he responded by writing, “You do know I have access to ALL city records, including criminal and civil, right???” Berriault took that to be a threat that Haas would misuse that access for political purposes and wrote about this on the New Britain Independent site, as well as in a not-much-noticed change.org petition calling for Haas’s removal.

Following this, a delisting request was sent to Google with a supposed Connecticut federal court order attached. But the judge who signed it (John W. Darrah) didn’t exist, the word “state” was misspelled (as “Sate”), and the docket number had already been used for another, existing civil case…

Invaluable scourer of the Lumen database, Dean Jones, points out another bogus attempt to delist online content has been made — targeting posts at both Techdirt and the Volokh Conspiracy.

Now it emerges that an anonymous complainant has sent Google a defamation complaint requesting the removal of the two articles from its search results, citing a 1979 Supreme Court case concerning the public disclosure of personal information.

Yes, this one is styled as a defamation takedown request, even though both articles are factual and contain receipts. The takedown notice cites a Supreme Court decision that has nothing to do with either post, despite the claims made in the notice.

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Via “Someone Trying to Vanish My Post About Someone Trying to Vanish Another Post” by Eugene Volokh, Reason, February 9, 2018:

Who submitted the forged order to Google? Commissioner Haas seems the likeliest intended beneficiary of the forgery and the takedown request, and his name (spelled as Ken Hass) was used on the takedown request. But it is of course possible that this was done by someone else, whether someone hired by Haas (with or without knowledge of what would be done) or someone else. I called Haas back in March to ask about what happened here, but he told me he had no comment.

Then I wrote about this on the blog, hosted at the time at the Washington Post; TechDirt covered it as well. The New Britain Progressive covered it as well, and then mentioned the incident again in December, as part of its “Top 10 of 2017” retrospective.

A week later, someone submitted a deindexing request to Google asking it to vanish my original Washington Post item and the TechDirt piece.

In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized an individual interest in the “practical obscurity” of certain personal information. The case was DOJ v. Reporters Committee for a Free Press. As well, this information is harmful to me as it concerns unfounded information which never resulted in prosecution. Not only has the dissemination of this information never been legitimate, but its internet referencing is clearly harmful to my reputation as my professional and personal surroundings can access it by typing my first and last names on the Internet.

(Thanks to Dean Sterling Jones (Shooting the Messenger) for spotting the request, and, as always, to the Lumen Database for its invaluable role as an archive for these submissions.)

Now the submission doesn’t explain how the “information” in my original post is “unfounded.” It’s true that it didn’t result in prosecution, but the purported order submitted to Google in March is indubitably a forgery, whether the Connecticut prosecutor’s office wants to try to act on that or not. Nor does the submission explain how “the dissemination of this information [has] never been legitimate” — I would think that writing about forgeries of court orders, especially (but not only) those that seem to benefit local officials and community activists, would be quite “legitimate.”

DOJ v. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press holds that the federal government has no statutory obligation, under the Freedom of Information Act, to reveal “criminal identification records” to people who request them. But that doesn’t affect all of our First Amendment rights to discuss crimes that we ourselves know about, and note who would have benefited from those crimes. (Tim Cushing (TechDirt) has also written about this incident.)

Fortunately, Google has not deindexed TechDirt’s or my posts in response to this request, and I’m confident that it won’t. But I thought it was worth noting that there has been indeed an attempt to vanish this story.

The full articles are available to read by clicking here and here.

NBT Films: Debunked Again

— Techdirt reports my post about debunked YouTuber’s copyright complaint against fact-checking website Snopes

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Via “Snopes Debunks Fake YouTube Video; Video’s Creator Responds With A Bogus DMCA Notice” by Tim Cushing, Techdirt, December 6, 2017:

from the pressing-the-shut-up-button dept

Nothing But the Truth Films (NBT) has a credibility problem. Oh, the irony, I would normally say, except for the fact NBT deals mostly with this sort of “truth.”

We present the black and white facts about the geopolitical climate which include Islam, Illuminati, Freemasonry, Cults and more. See how your freedoms are slowly eroding and spread the message with the help of our channel.

[…]

One popular video on NBT’s YouTube channel shows a supposed Islamic man angrily and bitterly decrying the religion after having his eyes opened by [NBT creator J.K. Sheindlin’s book]. But the video isn’t what it seems: it’s actually footage taken from somewhere else, dealing with an entirely different issue, but with NBT’s fabricated subtitles giving the impression Sheindlin’s book has unconverted another follower of Islam.

It made the internet rounds enough that Snopes picked it up and debunked it.

[…]

Having been caught out, Sheindlin did what any self-respecting truth-seeker huckster would do: he decided to get Google involved. The invaluable Dean Sterling first spotted the bogus DMCA notice:

Last month, the conspiracy channel filed a DMCA copyright complaint requesting that Google delist Evon’s article from its search results. That’s according to the Lumen Database, which archives online takedown requests.

Read the full article by clicking here.

Brittain Gets Streisanded (Again)

— Techdirt reports my post about Arizona Senate candidate/former revenge pornster Craig R. Brittain’s most recent efforts to delete criticism about himself from the web

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Via “Craig Brittain’s Senate Race Page Reports Craig Brittain’s Personal Account As An ‘Imposter’” by Tim Cushing, Techdirt, October 31, 2017:

Former revenge porn site owner Craig Brittain is now a Senate candidate in Arizona. He’s not a viable candidate, mind you, not even with Arizona senator Jeff Flake recently announcing his retirement. But he has filed the proper paperwork and is now engaged in a charm offensive offensive offensive to win the hearts and minds of whatever demographic feels the public would be best served by someone who reacts to every perceptible slight with unhinged personal attacks.

As a former revenge porn entrepreneur, Brittain has a bit more pre-run reputation management to engage in than most candidates. Just shortly after his candidacy was announced, Brittain issued two bogus “privacy” takedown requests targeting videos criticizing his ridesharing vaporware and his voluntary interview with journalists about his revenge porn site operations.

Brittain followed this up with more reputation mismanagement, raining down insults on a Twitter user who dared to unfollow him. He’s continued to poll the electorate in similar ways on Facebook, telling people they’re wrong about everything if they don’t agree with him, but especially about free speech and the concept of consent.

That’s what’s happening above ground. Behind the scenes at Facebook, Craig Brittain is engaged in more bogus takedown efforts, this time in an attempt to scrub the web of a string of insults he sent to a woman via Facebook Messenger. The following comes from Shooting the Messenger, with an assist by Asher Langton.

Click here to read the full article.

The Ghost of Trump U.

— Google delists marketer’s analysis of Trump University sales letter after friend of deceased Donald Trump ghostwriter files copyright claim

Trump University, founded in 2004 by its presidential namesake, was an unaccredited real estate programme aimed at budding investors.

Before and after its closure in 2010, the New York-based programme faced repeated allegations of illegal business practices by state authorities, plus two federal lawsuits brought by former students who claimed they were defrauded out of thousands of dollars in tuition fees (in late 2016, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle the lawsuits).

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Now Trump U. is back to haunt the archives of the Lumen Database, a website that collects and analyses online takedown requests.

Earlier this month, Lumen published multiple DMCA copyright complaints received by Google requesting that the search engine delist pages from Swiped.co, a self-described “community for marketers, copywriters & savvy business minds” founded in 2013 by New Jersey-based marketer Mike Schauer.

Swiped.co founder Mike Schauer (source)

The complaints were sent by Big Jason Henderson, founder of Las Vegas marketing company SMH Marketing, who requested that Google delist Schauer’s annotated analysis of a decade-old Trump U. sales letter by deceased Trump ghostwriter Scott “Mongo” Haines.

Henderson says he acquired the rights to Haines’ works shortly after Haines’ death in January.

Top right: Marketing consultant Big Jason Henderson (source)

Here’s one of three complaints Henderson sent Google:

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If you can’t read that it says:

I am the copyright holder of “Shortcut Copywriting Secrets.” This course includes a text-based course (204 pages), a quickstart guide (27 pages), and two volumes of sales letters (336 pages). My rights to this work include text, sales letters, logos, and cover images. This sales letter from the course appear on the website swiped.co and subsequently appears in Google search results.

Search results for “Scott Haines” show that Google has delisted the page as a result of Henderson’s complaint:

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In an e-mail, Schauer said that he is saddened by the ordeal.

“I’m not trying to pass his work off as my own or sell it,” said Schauer. “I’m using it to educate and teach copywriting, while highlighting the man who wrote it.”

I asked Techdirt reporter Tim Cushing about the possible fair use components of Schauer’s post.

“I think it’s clearly fair use,” said Cushing. “In addition to [the fact that Schauer’s commentary alone should be enough to stake a credible fair use claim], it’s a marketing letter meant to be seen by as many potential customers as possible. It’s not as though publishing it somehow diminishes the market for Trump U. offerings – even if Trump U. were still a viable entity. This is marketing material, not an excerpt from the courses Trump U. was selling.”

Cushing added: “Misuse of the DMCA process only creates more commentary.”

Strangely enough, Henderson appears to agree. In an e-mail, he said he has no issue with the delisted page, and that he intended to target another page which he claims contains copyrighted material taken from Haines’ collection – a claim disputed by Schauer.

Here’s what Henderson wrote to me:

My wife’s been helping out and says she did not intend to put in a claim for the Trump U. letter.

I had told her to only look for Trump U. letters which were addressed to Scott which would indicate it was taken from Scott’s collection.

Might have been because it was also on a page that linked to another sales letter which was copyrighted by Scott and included in his collection.

So, I believe she is in communication with swiped.co and working something out because I have no issue with and would even be willing to provide some missing info about that Trump U. letter.

Henderson confirmed that he will ask Google to relist the disappeared pages, on the condition that Schauer agrees to include a link to Henderson’s website.

In the meantime, Schauer has filed a counter notification with Google.

Update, 7/11/2017: According to Schauer, Google has relisted his website.

First Lady of Lumen

— First Lady of Turkey Emine Erdoğan demands takedown of negative news reports

That’s according to the Lumen Database, a website that collects and analyses online takedown requests. In April, the site uploaded a Turkish court order complaint Erdoğan sent to Google and WordPress demanding the removal of news reports described as “damaging” to the “personality rights” of the First Lady.

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“Personality rights” refers to “the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or other unequivocal aspects of one’s identity.”

Most of the targeted URLs, including one of the WordPress blogs, have since been removed from the web, making it difficult to determine the specifics of Erdoğan’s complaint.

From the remaining URLs, it appears that she objected to a blitz of negative news reports and images, including this image of her husband, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, wearing what appears to be a training bra on his head:

Definitely not a fez (source)

Elsewhere, the Turkish First Lady has targeted Turkish opposition paper Ulusal Kanal for reporting that she copied her Twitter bio from former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. While the original link is no longer available, a duplicate of the story carries the headline: “Emine Erdoğan is disgraced in the world!”

The story was first reported in 2014 by former Pentagon advisor Michael Rubin, who wrote via the American Enterprise Institute:

When it comes to respect for Intellectual Property Rights, Turkey ranks quite poorly. If Turkey wants to reform, perhaps they should start at the top. When Recep Tayyip Erdoğan assumed the presidency last month, his wife Emine became first lady. It seems Emine models herself after Michelle Obama, right down to her twitter account.

The description on Michelle’s twitter account reads, “This account is run by Organizing for Action staff. Tweets from the First Lady are signed -mo.”

Now here’s the description from Emine Erdoğan’s twitter feed: “Emine Erdoğan Resmi Twitter Hesabı This account is run by Organizing for Action staff. Tweets from the First Lady are signed -mo.”

Then again, maybe it’s not shameless plagiarism in Turkey’s presidential palace. Maybe Emine Erdoğan really does use the initials ‘mo.’ And as for suggesting any impropriety that might undercut Emine’s vestal image, I’m sure we’re only a Turkish press conference away from blaming this scandal on Jews, the interest rate lobbyyours truly, that well-known personification of subversion Steven Cook, or the Gülenists.

As it happens, Turkish officials didn’t blame the Jews, instead blaming “anti-government forces” and claiming that the Twitter account was not operated by the Turkish First Lady.

Speaking to the Washington Free Beacon, Rubin gave his own interpretation:

“The account has been active since August,” Rubin said. “Turkey has taken the power to knock sites offline without court orders in a matter of minutes. The Turkish explanation beggars belief.”

“The fact that Emine Erdogan’s account continues—this time with its plagiarized description fixed—suggests that Emine’s handlers screwed up but were too proud to admit it,” Rubin said. “The whole incident is a metaphor for what Turkey has become: dishonest, dishonorable, but too proud to admit its fundamental corruption.”

Other targeted URLs include a Google blog post about Turkey’s nationwide Twitter ban, another since-deleted story that implicates the Turkish First Lady in a financial corruption scandal, and an article that appears to suggest that Turkish citizens who insult their government will be deported and have their citizenship revoked.

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It’s not the first time the Erdoğans have petitioned Google and WordPress to delete negative reports about themselves from the web.

Last year I blogged about successful attempts by the Turkish president to block a WordPress blog featuring satirical cartoons depicting him as a tyrannical dictator. That story was subsequently picked up by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Maren Williams (click here to read), and touched on by The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markey (click here to read).

Earlier this year, the easily offended president asked Google to delist “hurtful, humiliating” reports comparing him to Adolf Hitler. That story was subsequently picked up by Techdirt’s Tim Cushing (click here to read).

Techdirt Skewers Turkey

Techdirt publishes article based on my blog post re: Erdoğan’s takedown demand of “humiliating” news reports comparing him to Hitler

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Via “Turkish President Demands Google Delist a Bunch of Websites Comparing Him to Hitler” by Tim Cushing, Techdirt, May 24, 2017:

from the ‘Hitler-was-an-amateur-authoritarian,’-the-president-complained dept

The world’s most thin-skinned “leader” is at it again. Perpetually-insulted Turkish super-villain Recip Erdogan is still firing off court orders to Google, expecting the immediate banishment of anything he finds offensive. Dean Jones of the invaluable Shooting the Messenger has more details:


The Turkish tyrant ordered Google
[Note: actually, Google only dealt with three Blogspot URLs; the rest is addressed to the Internet in general, I guess.] to delist over 40 URLs including a critical report by The Washington Times, plus an AOL image search for “Adolf Erdoğan,” because they allegedly link to “hurtful, humiliating” images and memes.

[…]

The targeted sites had reported about Erdoğan’s recent crackdown on journalists and other critics of the Turkish government, comparing him to Hitler.


Not helping these comparisons is Erdogan’s similar facial structure and his endless vindictive actions against anyone who’s hurt his feelings.

Turkish law gives him considerable leeway to do this. Unfortunately, a small handful of countries have extended helping hands rather than middle fingers in response to censorship and/or prosecution demands. It’s unknown why the Turkish government thought Google could help it out with an AOL image search, but it’s equally unclear why it didn’t ask for the delisting of Google’s image search, which shows virtually-identical results.

The more someone humors this tyrant, the worse he’s going to get. And it certainly doesn’t help that Jones’ report comes on the heels of the Erdogan’s US visit, during which his personal bodyguards beat up American protesters. This prompted a tepid display of disappointment from the US State Department and a much more hot-blooded demand for an apology from the Turkish government US law enforcement daring to interrupt Erdogan’s bodyguards while they were beating up US citizens.

Read the full article by clicking here.

Brittain Gets Streisanded

Popehat and techdirt publish articles based on my blog post about “revenge pornster” and Dryvyng CEO Craig R. Brittain re: DMCA takedown requests

Via “As A Dog Returns To His Vomit, Lunatic Revenge Porn Extortionist and Dryvyng CEO Craig Brittain Returns To Censorious Threatsby Ken White, Popehat, April 6, 2017:

Thanks to Dean Sterling Jones at Shooting The Messenger, I see that the demented and easily enraged Craig Brittain has returned to his habit of ineffectual gestures at censorship.

You remember Craigbo. He ran a revenge porn site called “Is Anyone Down,” posing as a lawyer named David Blade in order to extort victims into paying money to have their pictures taken down.

…More recently, Craig has embarked on two simultaneous paths: the path of a social critic and aspiring pseudo-journalist seeking investors to back his anarcho-capitalist critique of society, and aspiring CEO of Uber competitor “Dryvyng,” a business devoted to the proposition that if you’d like a ride you ought to order one from a pathological revenge porn extortionist with a searing hatred of women and humanity in general.

on behalf of Dryvyng [Brittain recently issued a DMCA copyright complaint against] a Wikipedia page on his revenge porn site “Is Anybody Down?” The DMCA process, as you know, addresses intellectual property rights, but with characteristic legal acumen Craigbo has demanded that Wikipedia remove the page based on “Slanderous [sic], libelous and deliberately misleading Wikipedia entry designed to defame and libel me and my company . . . Please permanently remove this page (and all of Wikipedia itself, which is a left-wing hive for slander and libel) from Google.” Craigbo has also attempted to target Business Insider, Fusion, Reddit, and others.

Craig will be Craig. But will he be Craig, free and in the wild forever? The wheels of justice grind slowly — but remember that they do grind, my friends. To the extent that Craig’s continued existence as Craig is not the most brutal consequence a cold universe can inflict upon him, Craig will encounter justice sooner or later.

Via “Revenge Pornster Craig Brittain Issues DMCA Notices Demanding Google Delist Entire Websites, Including Wikipedia” by Tim Cushing, techdirt, April 7, 2017:

Former revenge porn site operator/lawyer impersonator Craig Brittain is once again engaged in some DMCA abuse. A couple of years ago, Brittain issued bogus DMCA notices in hopes of whitewashing his past. Along with posts at Popehat, Vice, Huffington Post, Ars Technica, and Reddit, Brittain asked Google to delist the FTC’s press release about its settlement with Brittainover his revenge porn misdeeds.

It didn’t work, obviously. A new set of stories highlighting Brittain’s sordid past swiftly filled up any gaps in the revenge porn purveyor’s vanity Google searches.

Popehat reports Brittain has apparently learned nothing from his last Streisanding. Brittain is once again issuing bogus takedown notices — this time on behalf of his alt-right ride-sharing pipe dream, Dryvyng. (Pronounced “dryheaving.”)

…It’s this “company” that Craig has issued the DMCA notices for. Apparently, he’s none too thrilled at the lack of positive press for his hypothetical ride-sharing startup and has once again asked Google to delist all sorts of things he has no business asking to be delisted. Dean Jones of Shooting the Messenger is the person who originally discovered a handful of notices sent by “Dryvyng,” all of which feature petulant commentary not normally found in legal paperwork.

…In every case, the accusation is internet libelslander, which can’t be touched by DMCA notices. The reason is in the name of the notice itself: Digital Millennium COPYRIGHT Act. But when you’re angry at the internet, any fill-in-the-blank form will do. Even if Brittain had used the proper paperwork, Google would be under no obligation to delist the alleged slander, thanks to Section 230 of the CDA.

It’s no surprise Brittain’s attempt to pass himself off as David Blade, Esq. went so badly. He obviously has zero legal acumen. If you’re going to beclown yourself with bogus notices, at least try to do so somewhat competently. Sure, the outcome won’t change, but at least you won’t look like even more of an idiot than you already do.

You can read my April 6, 2017 blog post about Brittain by clicking here.