Thursday, February 28, 2013

Google, Facebook And Twitter Ordered To Delete Photos By UK Law Enforcement

from the the-internet-police dept

It seems that, once again, the UK is going censorship crazy and not realizing how that only attacts more attention to that which they're trying to censor. This time, it involves some photos that were posted online of one Jon Venables, who at the age of 10, murdered 2-year old James Bulger, in a rather horrifying story. Venables was released from jail in 2001, at the age of 19 (though he has since gone back to prison). Photos of Venables, now 30 years old and apparently using a new identity to avoid his past, appeared online. The UK apparently wants a right to forget the fact that Venables did what he did, and seems to think that there should be no additional public consequences. Attorney General Dominic Grieve has said he's going to take legal action against anyone posting the photo, and has gone even further in telling Google, Facebook and Twitter that they need to magically delete any and all such photos that appear via their services.

It appears that at least Twitter has pushed back a little bit, pointing out that it will take down images if the law requires it upon notification, but that it cannot and will not monitor every one of its users to prevent them from posting the image:
Sinead McSweeney, Twitter's director of public policy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said she did not wish to be drawn into commenting on individual accounts.

She added: "We work with law enforcement here in the UK. We have established points of contact with law enforcement in the UK where they communicate with us about content, they bring content to our attention that is illegal, and appropriate steps are taken by the company. You may read into those words what you wish in context of the current [issue]."

McSweeney, who appeared alongside officials from Google and Facebook, said Twitter could not be expected to proactively monitor what is published on its social network across the globe each day. She added: "It's important that people increasingly understand that online is no different to offline: what is illegal offline is illegal online."
You can argue that it's unfair for Venables, under his new identity, to be connected back to what he actually did, though I'm not sure I buy that argument. But, it's taking it to a whole different level to then seek to prosecute people for merely posting a photo to their social network feed. They then take it to an entirely ridiculous level to order that third party service providers actively police and censor this particular photo. And, of course, all this is doing is calling much, much, much, much more attention to the photo. A lot more people are now seeing the photo than would have if people had just ignored the original postings.

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