Jan 232012
 

Agence-France Press is reporting that a Bangladeshi high court has ordered police to prosecute Jahangirnagar University teacher Ruhul Khandakar for sedition as a result of a comment made on Facebook. The comment, since deleted, was “[Famous Bangladeshi filmmaker] Tareq Masud died as a result of government giving licence to unqualified drivers. Many die, why does not [Prime Minister] Sheikh Hasina die?”

He was also sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court after he failed to respond to repeated summonses to explain a Facebook posting. The article reports Khandakar has been studying in Australia and these proceedings happened without him.

It also cites a local lawyer saying that this is the first time a Bangladeshi has been ordered to be jailed and tried for sedition over comments made on a social networking site.

Jan 132012
 

Last month Kapil Sibal, acting telecommunications minister for India, floated the proposition that social networks actively filter all content appearing on their systems.  Now comes news that a judge in New Delhi also thinks web censorship appropriate.  From the New York Times:

The comments of the judge, Suresh Kait, came in response to a lawsuit, filed by a private citizen in the capital, New Delhi. The suit demands that Internet companies screen content before it is posted on sites like Facebook, Google or Yahoo, that might offend the religious sentiments of Indians. A related criminal case accuses the companies — 21 in all — of violating an Indian law that applies to books, pamphlets and other material that is deemed to “deprave or corrupt.”

A trial court in New Delhi on Friday ordered that summons be served in the criminal case to officials at all 21 companies at their foreign headquarters’ addresses.

Google and Facebook refused to comment on the case, except to say they had filed a motion in the New Delhi High Court to dismiss the criminal case.

Their motion will be considered on Monday. Continue reading »

Jan 062012
 

Public photography is an issue that frequently appears on this site because it’s a real example of technology-enabled speech that all too often authorities try to prevent.  These attempts are often egregious and never balanced out by whatever policy reasons are ostensibly behind them.  But they are particularly odorous when these prohibitions are enforced on people using photography to record the power of the police.

What’s especially insidious is the logic so often used for it, that recording people acting in public — or, more specifically, agents of the state acting in public under the color of the authority granted by the state — might somehow violate a privacy interest. Continue reading »

Jan 062012
 

The EFF has a round-up of censorship examples from around the world. Although there’s some fuzziness over the details, Belarus seems to have a law making the browsing of certain foreign websites a misdemeanor. Turkey, meanwhile, has been exploring its own filtering requirements. While arguably they are voluntary, it’s not clear exactly how voluntary they are. Furthermore, it gives the authorities creating the filtering blacklists a great deal of censorial control over information consumption in the country.

Iran, in addition to mandating user registration and video surveillance at Internet cafes, is busy trying to build a “halal intranet,” populated only with sites the government will allow citizens to see. (Compare this with “China’s Parallel Online Universe” referenced earlier.) The linked articles cite a government fear of being infected with another Stuxnet-type worm in justifying cutting citizens off from the wider Internet world, but clearly, the other measures such as monitoring Internet cafe usage is designed to quell dissent.

These aren’t the only places in the world, however, where such filtering exists. The ACLU has just sued a library in Missouri for its filtering of content the librarian deemed inappropriate. In this case the blocked content in question pertained to minority religions. But even if this particular blocking seems egregious, it’s actually fairly ordinary. In fact, under CIPA it’s mandatory. It’s worth comparing exactly how different this rule is from the Turkish filtering scheme, which ostensibly is “for the children” as well.

Dec 292011
 

This site was designed to track when state actors interfere with private actors’ technology use. But what happens when state actors affect other state actors? From Reuters, news that Iran has blocked Britain’s website.

Britain’s Foreign Office said Iranian authorities had barred access to a Foreign Office website, “UK in Iran” ukiniran.fco.gov.uk/en/, that carries information on British government policies and statements, including criticism of Iran’s human rights record.

It said the website had been added to thousands of other Internet sites censored by Iranian authorities.

No comment was immediately available from Iran.

“This action is counter-productive and ill-judged. It will confirm to the Iranian people that their government is determined to block their access to information, and to conceal from them the international community’s legitimate concerns about Iran’s policies and behavior,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

“It will also make it harder for Iranian nationals to access information about visiting the UK. And it is further proof to the rest of the world (of) the Iranian government’s dire record on freedom of speech and human rights in general,” he said.

“This action will not deter Britain from continuing to engage with the Iranian people, including through the Internet.”

The website blocking comes as escalation of tensions between the two countries, which has included the closing of embassies and expulsion of diplomats.

Dec 252011
 

Bruce Carton at Legal Blog Watch notes a difference of opinion from police in Canada regarding the propriety of tweeting the location of DUI checkpoints.

The Edmonton police believe it abets drunk driving and thus shouldn’t be done. Citing a CBC article on the subject:

“Putting lives in danger based on the fact that you want to have more followers on your Twitter account is pretty disappointing,” said checkstop co-ordinator Const. Ian Brooks.

Brooks is asking people to consider how they would feel if a drunk driver who avoided a checkstop ended up causing a collision that hurt someone.

“Maybe that one time that we would have actually picked them up and prevented something in the future, maybe that’s enabling them to commit further offences and to put everyone in jeopardy,” Brooks said.

According to the CBC, Calgary police also disfavor the practice.

“We don’t see any value in warning people in advance of how to avoid that detection,” he said. “We want them caught and we want them off the streets.”

The police in Regina share the same view. On the other hand, the police in Saskatoon have no problem with it.

Alyson Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Saskatoon police, said it will be OK if people who see a check-point share that information on Twitter.

“As a service, there is no point in ignoring the fact that people are going to spread the word amongst their friends,” Edwards told CBC News Wednesday.’

She said one goal of their check-point program is get get people to think about the consequences of drinking and driving, before they head out.

She said people who are drinking may think twice about driving, if they know officers are out.

The article about the Edmonton police quotes Doug King, an associate professor of justice studies at Calgary’s Mount Royal University as saying there was no law against such tweets.

“God forbid, you tweeted me and I got out on the road and killed someone and I was impaired, there would be no way that you could be held responsible for my actions.”

Dec 242011
 

Canadian lawyer Antonin Pribetic reports that for the past six months he’s had to defend himself against a professional ethics charge made by an anonymous (at least to him) source who took offense to some of his tweets. That matter has now concluded that “no disciplinary proceedings should […] be initiated as a result of this complaint and that this matter should be closed.”

For any lawyer to face a formal complaint from a governing law society or bar association is professionally worrisome and emotionally taxing. The fact that the complaint is subjectively frivolous is irrelevant; until the bar complaint is formally dismissed and the file is officially closed, your professional and personal life remains in turmoil.

You can imagine the amount of time it took for me to respond to numerous letters from the Law Society requesting explanations, clarifications and re-clarifications; all valuable time that I will never get back. The distraction was unnecessary and a disservice to the Law Society’s regulatory mandate.

Admittedly, the Twitter complaint weighed heavily on my mind , as well as my heart. The price of expressing strong opinions and speaking out against social media fraud is having a large bulls-eye painted on my back.

(h/t Rick Horowitz)

Dec 242011
 

The Northhampton Chronicle & Echo has an article about an English mother who was charged with contempt of court after posting on her Facebook profile the judgement by the same judge that had removed two of her children from her custody.  Per the article she also criticized the judge and children’s guardian in eight posts made between August 30 and September 10 and invited 15 friends to comment.  For this she was charged with breaching the Administration of Justice Act 1960 for having revealed the confidential details of the proceeding, as well as the identities of the children and the guardian.  (Notably, the article did not even mention the woman’s name for fear of running afoul of the same law.)

Finding her in contempt of court, Judge Waine said: “I can readily understand it was a somewhat limited number of people and a limited number invited to access it. But the problem I can see from a series of Facebook entries is that … they would be in a position of passing it on to anyone. Once they got to see it, she loses all control of it beyond that invited individual. I have to take the view that this matter is extremely serious and a prison sentence is absolutely inevitable. This is an increasingly common problem and needs to be stamped out. Continue reading »

Dec 172011
 

The New York Times reports on the dismissal of charges against William Lawrence Cassidy, who was being prosecuted under federal anti-stalking law (18 U.S.C §§ 2261A(2)(A)) for posts made about a religious leader on Twitter.  The decision analogized blogs and Twitter with public media available at the time of the drafting of the Bill of Rights:

Suppose that a Colonist erects a bulletin board in the front yard of his home to post announcements that might be of interest to others and other Colonists do the same. A Blog is like a bulletin board, except that it is erected in cyberspace rather than in one’s front yard. If one Colonist wants to see what is on another’s bulletin board, he would need to walk over to his neighbor’s yard and look at what is posted, or hire someone else to do so. Now, one can inspect a neighbor’s Blog by simply turning on a computer.

Twitter allows the bulletin board system to function so that what is posted on Colonist No. 1’s bulletin board is automatically posted on Colonist No. 2’s bulletin board for Colonist No. 2 to see. The automatic postings from one Colonist to another can be turned on or off by the owners of the bulletin boards, but there is no mandatory aspect of postings on one Colonist’s bulletin board showing up on the other’s. It is entirely up to the two Colonists whether their bulletin boards will be interconnected in such a manner.

The court noted that one does not have to walk over and look at another person’s bulletin board; nor
does one Blog or Twitter user have to see what is posted on another person’s Blog or Twitter
account, which made the medium very different than that of a telephone call, letter or e-mail specifically addressed to and directed at another person. This distinction the court concluded was important for the First Amendment analysis, as the prosecution was over protected speech.

Dec 142011
 

The BBC reports that Danny Cook has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for a Facebook post.

The judge, Mr Justice Butterfield, said: “I would be failing in my public duty if I did not impose a substantial custodial sentence.”

The court heard that Cook set up the group page on 9 August and that it was immediately joined by 44 people.

The defence said the site was “an immature demonstration of some sick form of humour”.

The court heard the Facebook page was only accessible for half an hour.

Mr Justice Butterfield said: “This is a very serious offence committed in the context of riots which took place across the country.”

The sentence came after Cook admitted to having made the Facebook group page in question, called “Letz start a riot.”