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Archive for May 20th, 2011

Twitter Vs. Unnamed Sportsman.

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Up front, I like Twitter, the ease of accessing masses of information appeals to me, plus the fact that the rich and powerful can’t exert their customary controls and are brought down to the ground by the free availability of Twitter, so the new court case against Twitter should prove very amusing.

Apparently, lawyers on behalf of a Premier league footballer have served an injunction on Twitter, Business Week reports:

“May 20 (Bloomberg) — Twitter Inc. and some of its users were sued by an entity known as “CTB” in London, according to a court filing.

While the document gave no details, CTB are the initials used by the court in a separate lawsuit to refer to an athlete who won an anonymity order banning the media from publishing stories about his alleged affair with a reality-television star.

The Twitter suit was filed May 18 at the High Court in London according to court records, and named as defendants the San Francisco-based company and “persons unknown responsible for the publication of information on the Twitter accounts” listed in confidential court documents.

A Twitter user on May 8 posted a series of messages claiming a number of U.K. celebrities had received so-called super-injunctions and made claims detailing the activities that the people had sought to keep out of the public eye.

Twitter didn’t respond to a messages seeking comment. Daniel Ingram-Fletcher, a spokesman for the law firm representing CTB, didn’t respond to a messages seeking comment.

The case is: CTB v. Twitter Inc., Persons Unknown, High Court of Justice (Queens Bench Division), HQ11X01814.”

I imagine within an hour or two we will know from tweets on Twitter who CTB is and what’s going on!

It all seems so self-defeating as it highlights these issues and people are naturally going to comment on them, on Twitter, again, leading to the Barbra Streisand effect.

I suppose lawyers love it, they will end up suing tens of thousands of people across the globe who use Twitter, or perhaps they will realise the futility of such actions? When will the legal profession, the rich and powerful finally catch up with technology?

(Hat tip: Index on Censorship)

Update 1: The Guardian has more.

Update 2: Heresy Corner posts on this topic:

“It’s not yet clear how Twitter will respond to the lawsuit. Their terms of service specify that “international users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content”, but the most notorious of the Twitter accounts listing alleged injunctions (@InjunctionSuper, which posted details of six supposed cases on 8th May and then went quiet) has not been taken down. The company is based in the United States and has little to fear from the English courts – although any assets they have in this country might be vulnerable.

In the short term, however, two things are clear. It is impossible for Twitter to delete all references to the alleged affair from their website. It has long since gone viral. It had gone viral even before the @InjunctionSuper account was set up, which is one reason why (unlike David Allen Green) I don’t think there are good grounds for saying that the account was a deliberate leak by someone in the know. (At least, if there are such grounds they do not lie in the content of the Tweets themselves, but rather in the immediate and disproportionate attention they attracted.) Predictably, the main result of today’s news on Twitter itself has been the proliferation of the name Giggs. Twitter, as a company, is powerless to shut this one down.

Secondly, there are now so many thousand “persons unknown” that they cannot all be sued, or even identified (the more likely intention). And even if CTB’s lawyers were able to track them all down and serve them with injunctions, the self-defeating effect would be to confirm the facts. Suspicion would become actual knowledge.

So how can Twitter satisfy the demands of the English courts – assuming, that is, that CTB’s case is found to have merit? The obvious way would be to block Twitter from the UK, putting it permanently out of the reach of British judges. It could happen. Already some US-based news and gossip sites, including National Enquirer, are unviewable in Britain without use of a proxy server, so alarmed are the publishers by English libel law. If CTB’s case succeeds, or inspires other, Twitter’s bosses might begin to see such a course of action as preferable to fighting costly legal battles on foreign soil. “

Update 3: The Guardian explains the Streisand effect: Secrecy in the digital age.

Update 4: TechCrunch is perplexed by the British legal system and I don’t blame them:

“We’ve been watching the British legal system turn itself into knots for the last couple of weeks, largely due to the ability of Twitter users to break just about any legal ‘super injunction’ a ‘celebrity’ (usually footballers) has on the reporting of their private life (usually affairs). So far so normal for Twitter. What’s a super injunction? It’s when someone rich (these things are very expensive) takes out an injunction on the press that not only stops them reporting something but also stops them reporting that the injunction even exists. That makes it ‘super’, which of course it is anything but.

But today the story took a new turn when it emerged that Twitter Inc. itself is being sued. Oh yes. They are going there.”

Update 5: David Allen Green blogs on it, carefully:

“It is important at this stage to be aware of what one cannot know for certain:

1. that the “CTB” is actually the same person as “CTB” in the recent privacy case (though it appears the same law firm is instructed);

2. what the claim is for in terms of law – is it a privacy claim or is it under some other form of law; and

3. what the remedy requested is – is it a damages claim or is it for disclosure by Twitter of third party information (for example the information of those who have used Twitter accounts to break – rather than repeat – allegations), or for something else.

As yet, we simply do not know.”

UCU’s Quibbling Over Definitions Of anti-Jewish Racism.

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Mark Gardner at the CST eviscerates the UCU’s NEC and their failure to deal with anti-Jewish racism:

“People who carp and quibble over definitions of racism often have ulterior motives; and even more so, when they seek to outlaw the mere suggestion of a certain definition of racism.

When the British National Party shouts “Rights for Whites” whilst urging racism against non-whites, you know what kind of self-serving hypocrisy you are dealing with. In the context of Jews and antisemitism, however, you have the striking phenomenon of far left organisations and individuals who bitterly oppose racism and are very quick to see and oppose it in all sorts of places: but are deeply and actively hostile to mainstream Jewish perceptions on antisemitism.

Step forward, then, the Executive Committee of the University and College Union (UCU), who have proposed a resolution for UCU’s forthcoming conference to banish all use of the “working definition of antisemitism”, which was drafted for law enforcement and human rights agencies by the anti-racism watchdog of the European Union, the European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC, now renamed Fundamental Rights Agency) back in 2004/2005. It is not that the UCU approves of antisemitism, far from it: but its disapproval of antisemitism comes strictly within its own terms and its own guideleines, and appears utterly subordinate to its own ideological wordview.

Defend Trade Union Rights in Turkey.

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Just in:

“111 trade union leaders and members, including the President of the IUF-affiliated TEKGIDA-İŞ along with four other national officers of the union and 12 branch presidents, and current and former officers of the national centers DISK and KESK, have been indicted on criminal charges in connection with an April 1 demonstration in Ankara in support of 12,000 tobacco workers whose jobs and acquired rights were eliminated overnight.

The charges carry prison terms of up to 5 years.

The trials, which begin on June 3, are a massive attack on trade union rights and the rights of all workers. ”

The IUF has more:

“The Turkish government has filed criminal charges against 111 union leaders, members and supporters which carry prison terms of up to 5 years in connection with a 2010 demonstration in Ankara. The Ankara action was in support of 12,000 workers made redundant overnight following the privatization of the state tobacco monopoly TEKEL.

Following the sale of the TEKEL tobacco manufacturing activities to BAT in February 2008, the state retained control over the 40 warehouses where leaf and semi-processed tobacco was stored. IUF-affiliated Tekgida-Is, which represents the workforce at TEKEL, continually sought negotiations with the government over the future of the 12,000 warehouse workers, who were offered only insecure contracts at half their former wages and no rights or benefits. In December 2009, their employment was abruptly terminated.

Three months of union protests in Ankara brought no results, but as a goodwill gesture the union ceased public action and waited for a response to their demands for new employment with acquired rights – as required under Turkish law.

When the government failed to offer anything concrete, TEKGIDA-IS and their many supporters demonstrated again in Ankara on April 1, 2010. They were beaten and pepper-gassed – and now they face prison. “

(H/T: Eric Lee)

Written by modernityblog

20/05/2011 at 13:57

UCU’s NEC: Antisemitism, We Don’t Want A Policy

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Looking back, from my earliest days I was a trade unionist, active in many unions in lay positions and committed to trade unionism. Equally, I have always had a high regard for academics and scholars, as a book lover, but I am dismayed at the posturing and intellectual stupidity coming out of the University and College Union’s (UCU) National Executive Committee.

UCU’s NEC have submitted a motion to Congress which essentially says: “Antisemitism, we don’t want a policy and won’t listen to anyone who wants to discuss it”.

This motion only reinforces the view that UCU are institutionally antisemitic, that is, they are unable and unwilling to counter anti-Jewish racism within their own organisation.

In many ways, UCU remind me of the Metropolitan Police of yesteryear, when they were confronted by evidence of institutional racism within the police services.

However, the Met Police did not, if I remember correctly, respond by saying:

“The Race Relations Act is stifling debate on immigrants, blacks and other foreigners. We, the Met Police, reject its usage and it should not be used in educating people against racial prejudice or internal disputes within the Police Service.”

NO, the Met Police didn’t say that, but in this motion that’s essentially what UCU are arguing concerning anti-Jewish racism.

The Met Police acknowledged they had a problem with racism, which is considerably better than UCU have done.

So we have the anomaly of a Union for academics, staff and others in the educational sector unable to face up to anti-Jewish racism, whereas even the awful, often violent and thugish Met Police have done something against institutional racism, but not UCU:

“70 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism – National Executive Committee

Congress notes with concern that the so-called ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’, while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.

Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.

Congress resolves:

1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)

2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved

3. that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.”

It is hard to think of greater intellectual turpitude, an inability to deal with anti-Jewish racism, and why those in the educational sector should consciously choose to go down this path is beyond me, but let us refesh our memories as to what institutional racism is:

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.
The Macpherson report

“Institutional racism is that which, covertly or overtly, resides in the policies, procedures, operations and culture of public or private institutions – reinforcing individual prejudices and being reinforced by them in turn.”
A. Sivanandan, Director, Institute of Race Relations

“If racist consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs or practices, that institution is racist whether or not the individuals maintaning those practices have racial intentions.”
The Commission for Racial Equality

Perhaps instead of playing political games UCU’s NEC would be better off admitting the obvious, the institutional racism within UCU and dealing with it, or at the very least making an effort, as the Met Police did a decade ago.

Update 1: Engage has more, David Hirsh is very good on these issues:

“The EUMC definition says it may, in some contexts, be antisemitic to accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to their union; to say Israel is a racist endeavour; to apply double standards; to boycott Israelis but not others for the same violations; to say that Israeli policy is like Nazi policy; to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel. All of these things have been going on a lot inside the academic unions for the last eight years. Instead of addressing the antisemitic culture, the leadership of the union now proposes to alter the definition of antisemitism. The union wants to carry on treating ‘Zionists’ as disloyal; singling out Israel and only Israel for boycott; holding Israeli universities responsible for their government; allowing ‘Zionist’ union members to be denounced as Nazis or supporters of apartheid.

The precise form that bullying typically takes within UCU is that people who complain about antisemitism are accused of doing so in bad faith in a dishonest attempt to outlaw criticism of Israel. The antisemitism isn’t seen, isn’t acknowledged, the accuser is accused; and Israel is blamed for the unseen and unacknowledged antisemitism.”

Eggs And The Firewall Of China.

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Shanghaiist has a good piece:

“Breaking, kind of hilarious news! Fang Binxing, the principal of Beijing University of Posts & Telecommunications and the guy thought to be behind the infrastructure of the Great Firewall, was giving a lecture at Wuhan University earlier today and was allegedly pelted with eggs and a shoe.

While the numerous eggs seem to have missed, the shoe allegedly struck its target… apparently that guy’s going to get pretty lucky later on. Already, Sina Weibo has started erasing mentions of the incident.

If you want to follow what people are saying, Chinese Tweeters already have a hashtag for it on Twitter (which, obviously, isn’t erasing posts): #FuckFBX. Subtle! “

This explains it too:

“The hashtag #fuckfbx is what the Chinese are using to help avoid #Censorchip at this moment. Fang Binxing is a censored topic in China.”

Written by modernityblog

20/05/2011 at 02:38