Thursday, September 20, 2007

Russian billionaire takes down blogs

I don't particularly like Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads, and I think this is quite well known. He knows what I think of him I'm sure. In my view, I think he often take things along paths that lead to overly conspiratorial ends, especially on the matter of blogs and blogging.

However, he still has every right to say what the hell he wants online about me or anyone else. I am a NetLibertarian and this space we exist in is a free network of words, ideas and binary data. So I have absolutely no problem with saying that the news that the plug has been pulled on his site (nah the whole server it seems) because of what he wrote about a Russian/Uzbek billionaire, as well as the site of Craig Murray (former Uzbek ambassador) is not a very good day for freedom of speech.

It's worth noting, and I put my industry hat on here, that this will have happened with such speed because the provider in the UK can be held liable for the content it hosts, rather than just the author. The precedent was set some years ago with Usenet and Demon Internet if I recall correctly.

Whilst this does not make it right, it shouldn't be forgotten that the company will have been protecting itself by acting as it has with threats from laywers. They, as much as Tim et al, are the victims of legal pressure and restriction on free speech.

I imagine Tim will not be gone for very long though. A new host will be found somewhere, and his right to say what he wants, however right or wrong it may be, will be restored.

More details over at Chicken Yoghurt

Note: Boris Johnson and Bob Piper have both been impacted by this affront to free speech as well as they are hosted on the same server that has had the plug pulled.

UPDATE: I have just read the offending article that was reported to be defamatory. I am presuming that Tim Ireland reproduced it from Craig Murray's site, or that perhaps Craig Murray was the target and Tim Ireland found himself involved that way. Whether what is contained in it is factual or not is problematic though from a legal standpoint. As one person said to me, "I'd say a deaf, dumb, mute barrister would be able to deal with that."

Freedom of speech yes. But if you do libel someone in the process then you're going to have to deal with it. The annoyance with libel of course is that it is not a matter for the person libelled to prove a story is false, but rather the person that wrote it to prove it is true. The article I have read by Craig Murray actually appears to concede a lack of evidence whilst still making assertive statements about the said Russian billionaire. It doesn't look good from a legal standpoint even if what he wrote is actually true.

Update II: The precedent I mentioned earlier about content liability was "Dr Laurence Godfrey vs Demon Internet". It is very easy to note that the closure of a website so quickly can occur if you have good lawyers. But Fasthost's decision to act as it did should be viewed within the context of the legal precedent the market is currently operating under.


Dr. James P. Holdren said...
20 Sep 2007 20:20:00  

I live in this country this man comes from and the mentality is well established - if you have the cash, then criticism gets the big stick.

The mistake he makes is trying to apply his bully-boy tactics to Britain and he'll find it's something up with which Brits will not put.

Anonymous said...
20 Sep 2007 21:21:00  

Tim maybe a pain sometimes but I think what's happened to him stinks,I hope he gets back online soon,I wish him the best.

nadds said...
20 Sep 2007 22:00:00  

His lawyers are pretty dim.

A quick search on his name has Craig's original article popping up on loads of cached sites.

All they are actually doing is creating interest and focusing attention.

As Chelski fans have found out - ex USSR based owners are more than a little difficult to deal with.

I do think most of Bloggerheads is shite, but Tim has every right to say what he likes

Anonymous said...
21 Sep 2007 08:13:00  

Do not solicitors have to swear allegience to the Crown, and are they not technically Officers of the Court? And do they not have a duty to tell the truth at all times? Indeed a barrister was jailed this week for making false evidence. When will come the day that a solicitor is challenged over making untruthful statements about one of these tawdry/tacky/vulgar folk who seem to be the entire client base of this firm?

paranora said...
21 Sep 2007 08:36:00  

Most likely this Russian chap did a deal on cheap Russian fuel oil with Ken Livingstone, and the icing of Bozza's site was the sweetener.

Adam said...
21 Sep 2007 12:50:00  

I was arguing this over with Brad at our site. In short, he hates the UK libel laws and I'm OK with them, I just don't think that ISPs should be treated like publishers (they can hardly comb over every site they host, after all).

Praguetory said...
21 Sep 2007 17:12:00  

Whilst I hope that this issue is resolved and our Uzbek friends feels the repercussions, maybe Boris will also learn that his association with Tim Ireland is misguided.

Carl Eve said...
24 Sep 2007 20:31:00  

Oh PT, you were doing so well, but you just couldn't resist the last swipe, eh? is a participant in the Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to