Erdoğan: Turkey’s Trump?

Highly regarded Harvard Law Prof. Laurence Tribe weighs in on my blog post re: WordPress geo-block of Turkish political blog following complaint by Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Last week, I blogged about a Turkish political blog which was geo-blocked by WordPress following a complaint from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The complaint, in the form of a court order, requested that WordPress restrict access to the offending blog, claiming that satirical cartoons depicting the Turkish leader as a tyrannical dictator constitute “an attack on personality rights” and do not “reflect reality.”

Yesterday, I tweeted my item at First Amendment lawyer Popehat aka Ken White, whose blog I recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about the intricacies of freedom of speech, after which it was re-tweeted by Laurence Tribe, a highly regarded Harvard Law Prof. whose former students include President Barack Obama and Senator Ted Cruz.

Via Twitter:

laurence-tribe-erdogan-trump

See also: “Erdoğan Strikes Again,” my November 27, 2016 item re: WordPress geo-block of Turkish political blog following court order by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan Strikes Again

WordPress geo-blocks Turkish political blog featuring cartoons by internationally renowned satirical cartoonists following court order from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Last month, İstanbul lawyer Ahmet Özel filed a complaint with WordPress on behalf of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The complaint, in the form of a court order, requested that WordPress restrict access to a Turkish blog page featuring satirical cartoons depicting Erdoğan as a tyrannical dictator, claiming they constitute “an attack on personality rights” and do not “reflect reality.”

lumen-database-erdogan-court-order

Erdoğan’s October 9, 2016 complaint, via the Lumen Database

Earlier this year, WordPress (via transparency.automattic.com) stated that – absent a U.S. court order – it refuses to take action in response to takedown demands from Turkey.

However, it appears that the offending blog page is currently geo-blocked in Turkey, and when you enter the URL¹ into a Turkish proxy, you get this message…

unavailable-for-legal-reasons

…which links to an official WordPress page on how to bypass the block.

When I asked WordPress if it had taken action against the Turkish blog, I received the following response from Community Guardian Janet J:

From: Janet J ­ WordPress.com <tosreports@wordpress.com>
To: sterlingjones1989 <sterlingjones1989@aol.com>
Subject: [#2927379]: [automattic] Geo­blocking
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:11

Hi there Dean,

Yes, that is correct. We are forced to geo-block the specific sites mentioned in the Turkish court orders or face a whole WordPress.com site block in the country. Instead, we direct users to a message explaining why the site is unavailable, and point them to this site:

https://beatcensorship.wordpress.com/

All the best,


Janet J | Community Guardian | WordPress.com

When I then asked about WordPress’ policy of refusing to take action against bloggers, per the above mentioned Automattic statement, this was her response:

From: Janet J ­ WordPress.com <tosreports@wordpress.com>
To: sterlingjones1989 <sterlingjones1989@aol.com>
Subject: [#2927379]: [automattic] Geo­blocking
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2016 15:40

Hi there,

Thanks for the follow up.

That blog post was correct at the time of writing, but our process has since changed, in order to find the best possible compromise to allow us to continue to ensure access to the bulk of WordPress.com for users in Turkey. Rather than have sites blocked by ISPs with no explanation, we have decided to implement blocks ourselves so that we can provide alternative messaging, and an explanation for visitors to the sites in question.

There is no good solution to the issue of political censorship, and we are constantly reviewing the processes to find ways to combat it, including taking legal action in Turkey where appropriate. Going forward, we’ll look into making the current process clearer in our next transparency report.

All the best,


Janet J | Community Guardian | WordPress.com

I also spoke with Jaume Capdevila aka KAP, an award-winning Spanish cartoonist whose 2013 cartoon of Erdoğan features prominently on the censored blog.

KAP, Cagle Cartoons (2013)

“[Freedom of expression] is a basic right of people, it is a basic freedom,” said Capdevila. “The debate of ideas is fundamental, and it enriches all. Censorship is the first step towards ignorance and fear.”

He went on to explain how satire erodes the image of power.”

To laugh means to lose fear, and fear is what keeps the totalitarians in power. It is therefore natural to react against cartoons, against journalists, and against the Internet, which is a means by which the population can inform and organise to recover lost democracy.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Capdevila said he felt honoured to know his cartoon had succeeded in riling the Turkish despot, whom he described as “an authoritarian politician” seeking to maintain power through fear and repression.

“As a cartoonist it is an honour to know that an intolerant prohibits one of your drawings, of course! In recent years, the satirical cartoonist is a trade with more risk… we are not heroes and do not want to be, but things like this give some sense to our trade.”

He added: “One of the best things in our job is to know that there was someone in Turkey who thought that this drawing could be useful for his struggle for freedom and used it on his blog, or wherever. The ultimate meaning of satirical drawings is to reach the maximum of people and awaken in them something…”

Spanish cartoonist Jaume Capdevila aka KAP

The censored blog also features work by renowned American cartoonist Daryl Cagle, and Patrick Chappatte, editorial cartoonist for The New York Times.

In Cagle’s cartoon, the Turkish leader brazenly denies that his pants are on fire (literally), labelling his accusers “drunkard, extremist Twitterheads.”

Daryl Cagle, Cagle Cartoons (2013)

In Chappatte’s cartoon, Erdoğan is building a huge statue of himself in Taksim Square as an “urban development project,” while angry protesters are gathered outside.

Patrick Chappatte, Cagle Cartoons (2013)

Turkey has a long and colourful history of trying to censor cartoonists.

Last year, Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, from the Turkish satirical magazine Penguen, were sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison after having published a cartoon satirising Erdoğan’s heavy-handed treatment of journalists (the sentence was subsequently reduced to a fine of 7,000 Liras – equalling 1,600 Pounds – each).

In August, top Turkish cartoonist Dogan Güzel spent two days in detention following a raid on İstanbul-based newspaper Özgür Gündem (Turkish for “Free Agenda”).

Earlier this month, another top Turkish cartoonist, Musa Kart, was arrested as part of a roundup of journalists from the country’s opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet.


¹Link: https://yuksekstrateji.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/mizah-yabanci-basinda-cikan-recep-tayyip-erdogan-karikaturleri/

See also: “Erdoğan: Turkey’s Trump?”, my November 29, 2016 item re: Harvard Law Prof. Laurence Tribe’s response to the above blog post.

Dishing the Dirt II

Burlington Police Department responds to Techdirt.com article based on my blog post re: failed attempt to censor news stories about arrests, insists someone is pretending to abuse copyright law to protect reputation

Last week, I blogged about a DMCA/copyright complaint filed by so-called legal agent’ Mike Ferrell who claimed to represent the Burlington, Massachusetts Police Department, demanding that Google remove news stories because it violated the copyright the police department held on certain mugshots.

When I passed the story on to Techdirt.com, I was awaiting a response from the Burlington PD to my request for comment. Over the weekend, the department contacted Techdirt.com putting the record straight.

Via “Burlington Police Insist Someone Is Pretending To Abuse Copyright Law To Censor News Stories About Arrests” by Mike Masnick, November 21, 2016.

Mike Kent, the Chief of Police in Burlington reached out to us over the weekend to let us know that whoever sent the notices, it was not his department. He says they have no one working for them by the name of Mike Ferrell, and that the Burlington PD “has no issues whatsoever with these mugshots being used.”

So… that leaves open the question of just who is impersonating the Burlington Police Department, and filing completely bogus DMCA notices in an attempt to censor news stories. It would seem that the most obvious options are those who were featured in those stories about arrests in Burlington. The very first notice that Ferrell sent, focused on stories about a particular prostitution sting, and named the nine men who were arrested, along with mugshots. It would seem that perhaps one (or more!) of those nine men would have pretty strong incentives to seek to have those stories deleted from Google.

Either way, we’ve been pointing out for years that copyright is an easy tool for censorship — and here’s yet another example. If you want something censored, just try to work out a copyright connection of some sort. In this case, it appears to have failed, but mostly because whoever filed it wasn’t very good at pretending to work for the police.

Andrew Quemere, a public records enthusiast and journalist for digboston.com, has posted a separate response from Kent, stating that he believes the complaint “was filed under a false name by a man who was arrested in a prostitution sting several years ago and who has hounded me because his photo is still on the Internet.”

If this is the case, the perpetrator has succeeded only in attracting attention to his arrest.

The term for this, coined by Masnick himself, is the Streisand Effect, referring to a 2003 story about Barbra Streisand’s failed lawsuit to have a fairly inconspicuous photo of her Malibu coastal home removed from the Internet.

Prior to Streisand filing the lawsuit, the photo had been viewed six times (twice by her own lawyers). Following the news of the lawsuit, it had accumulated around 420,000 views. The photo is currently featured prominently on Wikipedia’s dedicated Streisand Effect page.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Ferrell files any further complaints with Google.

Dishing the Dirt

Techdirt.com publishes article based on my blog post re: failed attempt to censor journalists reporting on crime in Massachusetts

Yesterday, Techdirt.com founder/editor Mike Masnick – and, incidentally, the man who coined the term the “Streisand effect” – wrote an article based on my November 18, 2016 item which asked whether Massachusetts cops had tried to censor journalists reporting on local crime.

Via “Massachusetts Police Dept. Files DMCA Takedowns On News Stories Using Mugshots Taken By Police” by Mike Masnick, Techdirt.com, November 18, 2016.

from the copyright-as-censorship dept

Here we are with yet another example of copyright as censorship. This one comes from the Shooting the Messenger blog, which dug up a fascinating story of how the Burlington, Massachusetts Police Department appears to be abusing copyright law to try to censor articles written about people they’ve arrested. Specifically, a representative from the police department has filed a bunch of DMCA notices with Google, targeting around 30 news stories, claiming the Police Department holds the copyright on the mugshots used in those stories. You can see one of the notices over at the Lumen Database, and you’ll quickly notice that it’s not like they’re targeting fly-by-night websites, but all sorts of big name press outfits, including CBS, the Boston Herald and the Denver Post.

And:

Now, as we’ve discussed in the past, works of the federal government are simply not subject to copyright law. When it moves down to the states, it’s either not entirely clear or subject to specific state laws. And in Massachusetts, the rule is that “records created by governments are not copyrighted and are available for public use.” Separately, in Massachusetts, it’s been determined that mugshots are public records, meaning that the police department has even less control here. And of course, even if these images were subject to copyright protections, their use in reporting would clearly be fair use.

Assuming that [complainant] Mike Ferrell actually represents the Burlington Police Department, it appears that he and the police department are flagrantly violating the law in an attempt to censor news stories in the public interest. If he doesn’t represent the Burlington Police Department, he’s also misrepresenting himself, and potentially committing perjury, as an official DMCA notice requires stating, under the penalty of perjury, that you’re authorized on behalf of the copyright holder.

No matter what… something not good is happening here, and it’s yet another in an increasingly long list of examples of censorship by copyright.

On that last point, it’s standard for Google to highlight where it suspects a complainant to be “an impostor or someone else abusing the [DMCA] process.” That didn’t happen here, so for now I’ll take it on good faith that the complaint is the real deal.

In any case, I’ve asked the Burlington PD to comment. Stay tuned.

See also: Down by [Copyright] Law, my November 18, 2016 article re: failed attempt to censor journalists reporting on crime in Massachusetts.

Down by [Copyright] Law

Are Massachusetts cops trying to censor local journalists?

Earlier this month, ‘legal agent’ Mike Ferrell filed a copyright complaint with Google¹ on behalf of the Burlington Police Department, in Massachusetts, requesting the deletion of a number of local news articles regarding arrests made by the department.

In his November 8, 2016 request, Ferrell claimed that the mugshots used in the articles were “infringing our Copyright since these photographs/images are our property.”

Ferrell’s complaint, via Lumen Database:

Good Afternoon My name is Mike Ferrell. I am the agent legal from the Burlington Police Department (Intellectual Property, Piracy, Copyright/DMCA) located in Massachusetts. I inform you that the infringing content in question awarded or issued previously are infringing our Copyright since these photographs/images are our property, is fully belonging to us. We are the properties, authors or creators of the content that previously indicated content and request of immediate actions appropriate or respective. We need it more soon as possible relevant/correct actions/measures are taken as more before possible, or otherwise we proceed to take action on our own.

Today, I e-mailed Michael Kent, Chief of Police of the Burlington Police Department, to inquire about Ferrell’s complaint re: whether or not booking records taken prior to criminal proceedings are public domain in Massachusetts; and if the use of mugshots in this context – namely, journalists reporting on crime – is considered fair useStay tuned.

¹To date, Ferrell has filed five DMCA complaints, covering a total of 30 news articles, on behalf of Burlington police.

The Brexit Effect

“They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!” – President-elect Donald Trump

Despite nearly every poll indicating that Hillary Clinton would win a landslide victory this election, Donald Trump swept the electoral vote, even taking several traditionally blue states.

Call it the Brexit Effect. Though it was widely assumed that Clinton was a shoo-in to win, a view predicated on the notion that America couldn’t possibly elect a sexist, racist tyrant to its highest office, the pundits and pollsters underestimated the sheer animus of a huge swathe of disaffected, blue collar voters towards the political establishment. On Tuesday, they made their voices heard. America has hit the reset button.

huff-post-poll

Huffington Post chart, stating that “in 99% of simulations, Clinton led Trump.”

The perception among Trump supporters is that Clinton “reeks of Washington.” Even among democratic voters, Clinton is – perhaps unfairly – perceived as dishonest, elitist, and mired in identity politics. But however disagreeable her personal traits, which are outnumbered by her opponent’s, the biggest failure of her campaign was to overlook the Rust Belt, a huge stretch of middle America where people have been hit hard by a myriad of economic factors.

Unlike Trump – who shamelessly pandered to the highest aspirations and darkest fantasies of his supporters – Clinton was unable to rally this core group, whom she dismissively referred to as a “basket of deplorables,” only fueling resentment towards her campaign and pushing potential voters into the hands of her opponent.

Clinton and Trump shake hands during the first presidential debate

This failure was aided by Trump’s offhand strategy to derail the national conversation by behaving as irrationally and incoherently as possible, so that it proved futile to attempt to rebut him rationally and coherently. This was even part of the appeal, Trump by no means being a consummate politician, but someone who supposedly freely speaks his mind – ad nauseam – unrestrained by the normal parameters of civil and political decorum.

Clinton and her supporters in the press assumed that America would repudiate Trump’s despicable attitude towards women and minorities. Last month, the New York Times even published an exhaustive two-page spread listing all of Trump’s insults since declaring his candidacy. They were puzzled as Trump’s popularity continued to grow, his supporters greeting each new verbal transgression with unbridled enthusiasm.

The New York Times’ double page spread re: Trump

But blue collar types have no taste for political correctness, and it was a strategic misstep to think otherwise. If anything, they viewed Trump’s patent offensiveness as a mark of honesty, even if they didn’t always take him at his word. As Salena Zito – writing for The Atlantic – observed: “The press takes [Trump] literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”

Ultimately, Trump won because Clinton failed to persuasively address the deep-rooted cultural and class divisions that exist in America. Like Brexit in June, a large number of disaffected, largely working class voters were handed the rare opportunity to make their voices heard, and that’s exactly what they did.