Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mark Cuban's attorney challenges FaceBook on allowing Holocaust Denial on its pages

Technically Incorrect has posted an interesting article on censorship instigated by Dallas Cowboys owner Mark Cuban's brother and attorney for his companies, Brian. Brian has written to Facebook demanding to know why the social-networking site allows Holocaust denial groups. His opinion is that this is not a First Amendment issue.

"The belief that the First Amendment protects speech in the private social media arena or at your place of employment is a common misconception," he says.

Facebook is able, as a private entity, to choose its own rules with regards to free speech. However, he believes its terms of service very clearly limit the content that can be featured on any Facebook page. You cannot "upload, post, transmit, share, store or otherwise make available content that would constitute, encourage or provide instructions for a criminal offense, violate the rights of any party, or that would otherwise create liability or violate any local, state, national or international law."

Although Holocaust denial is not illegal in the US, it is a crime in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Israel, Slovakia, and Switzerland.

To Cuban, any Holocaust denial group is clearly committing an illegal act in those countries. He has therefore written to Facebook asking the company why it permits the five Holocaust denial groups he has found on the site.

Chris Matyszczyk had a detailed e-mail Q&A Wednesday with Facebook's spokesman, Barry Schnitt. He publishes it here in full.

Not a word that is new, but an interesting back and forth. Once again the rich and influential want to censor revisionist arguments for reasons that go deeper than mere thought


Larry Fafarman said...

The interview of the Facebook spokesman says,

Q: You mention that you have "recently begun to block content by IP in countries where that content is illegal."
Using IP addresses to block Internet communications is illegal or frowned upon in Europe. A news article said,

(AP) IP addresses, string of numbers that identify computers on the Internet, should generally be regarded as personal information, the head of the European Union's group of data privacy regulators said Monday.

Germany's data protection commissioner, Peter Scharr, leads the EU group preparing a report on how well the privacy policies of Internet search engines operated by Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and others comply with EU privacy law.

Here are some excerpts from Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995:

Article 1

Object of the Directive

1. In accordance with this Directive, Member States shall protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, and in particular their right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data . . . . .

Article 2


For the purposes of this Directive:

(a) 'personal data' shall mean any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person ('data subject'); an identifiable person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identification number or to one or more factors specific to his physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural or social identity . . . . .(emphasis added)

Article 6

1. Member States shall provide that personal data must be:

- - - - - - - - -

(e) kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data were collected or for which they are further processed . . . . .

Article 7

Member States shall provide that personal data may be processed only if:

(IP address blocking is not specifically one of the reasons allowed for accessing and recording IP address numbers).
Relevant articles on my blog are here, here, here, here, and here.

Larry Fafarman said...

Brian Cuban said, "Private companies such as Facebook are free to regulate speech however they see fit." WRONG. Being private will not necessarily protect Facebook from lawsuits for violation of 1st Amendment rights. TV and radio stations are private but subject to government regulation of 1st Amendment rights. And Facebook is so big that it is a de facto public forum.

Brian Cuban said, "This is an important Term Of Service as it relates to Holocaust Denial because Holocaust Denial does not enjoy the same protection in other countries that it does in the United States." It is not Facebook's job to enforce these laws against Holocaust Denial. If these other countries think that Facebook is violating their laws, then let those countries take action.