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Google Keeps Tahrir Sex Abuse Video Up, Bans UN Complaint from Search

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 14 -- That Google's YouTube refused to take down the video of a sexual assault in Cairo's Tahrir Square despite the victim's requests is taken by some as their commitment to free expression and against censorship.  And perhaps it is.

  Sisi's spokesperson said, "The Egyptian embassy in Washington DC and a number of Egyptian authorities, at the direction of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, have requested the YouTube administration to remove the video of the sexual assault victim. This came in response to her wish, which she expressed during the president's visit to her yesterday at the hospital to check on her condition.

   Google said versions of the video are newsworthy, and they are.

   But consider this: Google has allowed a bogus Digital Millennium Copyright Act filing by Reuters' UN bureau chief to ban from its Search a "for the record" anti-Press complaint Reuters filed with the UN.

  By contrast, Google fought in court to try to keep online "Innocence of Muslims" by Mark Basseley Youssef.  It was certainly a stretch to say that bit actor Cindy Garcia briefly appearing in a film is an "author" for purposes of copyright law.

  But it is a travesty to say that copyright covers and can take-down a "for the record" complaint e-mailed to Stephane Dujarric, the UN's then supervisor of Media Accreditation now  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson on March 10, click here for more on that, and here for, yes, a YouTube video not yet banned from Google's Search.

 Back on January 7, Google's "Global Head of Free Expression" Ross LaJeunesse met at the UN  with Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson. See UN notice, saved here.

  It is ironic: most recently regarding the UN, Google allowed a censorship-related leaked document to be blocked from its Search, based on a bad faith complaint by Reuters bureau chief under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

  So what was LaJeunesse at the UN to discuss: more censorship?

  There are further ironies. Prior to lobbying for Google, LaJeunesse worked for California's then-Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, who 13 months ago was given an award by the United Nations Correspondents Association. This is the group which tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN for its reporting on Sri Lanka -- a topic on which Eliasson now leads up the UN's post-failure "Rights Upfront" initiative.

   While free press protections are in some ways advanced in the United States, as the Free UN Coalition for Access has begun highlighting, the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act can be and has been used as an end-run attack on freedom of the press.

(Another irony: from UN transcripts of Eliasson's press conference, the "Free UN Coalition for Access" introduction was omitted, while the UN's Censorship Alliance was left in, click here for that.)

    Bigger picture, as exemplified by an August 14, 2013 bad faith complaint to Google by Reuters' UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau, DMCA's provisions for "take-down" or blocking of information with no prior judicial review allow for abuse.

   Leaked documents used in an investigative story can be blocked, as the Reuters' complaint to Google blocked from Google's search its bureau chief's e-mail to the UN seeking to get Inner City Press thrown out. This is a perversion of the concept of copyright (as well as a contradictory argument for Reuters or anyone in journalism to be making, that such documents should be taken down or blocked.)

   In Chile, for example, any such take-down requires the requester to get a court order. But DMCA provides, and Google allowed, blocking based on a non-reviewed, bad faith complaint.

  As the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry told Inner City Press about the case:

"Unfortunately, it is all too easy for a copyright holder (assuming that the person that sent this notice actually held copyright in the email) to abuse the DMCA to take down content and stifle legitimate speech. As countries outside the US consider adopting DMCA-like procedures, they must make sure they include strong protections for free speech, such as significant penalties for takedown abuse."

  Along with other pro-corporate provisions, TPP would internationalize this abuse of copyright to undermine freedom of the press. 

 If this remains precedent, what else could come down?

  Why not an email from Iran, for example, to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency? Why not a sanctions filing by a country? Here is Reuters logic, accepted if only automatically by Google:

The copyrighted material is a private email I wrote in April 2012 and for which I never gave permission to be published. It has been published on a blog and appears in on the first page of search results for my name and the firm I work for, Reuters. It can be seen here:

  But this is true of ANY leaked document: it can be said that the entity or person exposed "never gave permission [for it] to be published." Does that mean Google can or should block search access to it?

  Can a complaint to a Media Accreditation official against a competitor legitimately be considered "private"? In any event, the DMCA is not about protecting privacy.

  Iran or North Korea could say a filing or status report they make with the IAEA is "private" and was not intended to be published. Would Google, receiving a DMCA filing, block access to the information on, say,

  Charbonneau's bad-faith argument says his complaint to the UN was "published on a blog." Is THAT what Reuters claims makes it different that publication in some other media?

  The logic of Reuters' and Charbonneau's August 14, 2013 filing with Google, put online via the project, is profoundly anti free press.

  The fact that Google accepts or didn't check, to remain in the DMCA Safe Harbor, the filing makes it even worse. The request to take-down wasn't made to or its server -- it would have been rejected. But banning a page from Search has the same censoring effect.

  The US has a regime to protect freedom of the press, and against prior restraint. But this is a loophole, exploited cynically by Reuters. What if a media conducted a long investigation of a mayor, fueled by a leaked email. When the story was published, could the Mayor make a Reuters-like filing with Google and get it blocked?

  Here is the text of Charbonneau's communication to the UN's top Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit official Stephane Dujarric and MALU's manager, to which he claimed "copyright" and for now has banned from Google's Search:

Hi Isabelle and Stephane,

I just wanted to pass on for the record that I was just confronted by Matt Lee in the DHL auditorium in very hostile fashion a short while ago (there were several witnesses, including Giampaolo). He's obviously gotten wind that there's a movement afoot to expel him from the UNCA executive committee, though he doesn't know the details yet. But he was going out of his way to be as intimidating and aggressive as possible towards me, told me I "disgust" him, etc.

In all my 20+ years of reporting I've never been approached like that by a follow journalist in any press corps, no matter how stressful things got. He's become someone who's making it very hard for me and others in the UN press to do our jobs. His harassment of fellow reporters is reaching a new fever pitch.

I just thought you should know this.


Louis Charbonneau
Bureau Chief. United Nations
Reuters News Thomson Reuters reuters. com

This email was sent to you by Thomson Reuters, the global news and information company.

"UNCA" in the for-now banned e-mail is the United Nations Correspondents Association. The story developed here, as to Sri Lanka; here is a sample pick-up in Italian, to which we link and give full credit, translated into English (NOT for now by Google)...



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