U.K. bloggers v. the Uzbek billionaire
Alisher Usmanov bought part of a popular football [soccer] team, thereby drawing public scrutiny. The former U.K. ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who has denounced the Uzbek dictatorship's violent repression much to the horror of his former employer, Tony Blair, had published a blog article that characterized Usmanov as one the gangsters who have gobbled up the wealth of the former Soviet Union by force and trickery.
Usmanov didn't like that, so he got high class London lawyers on the case. The United Kingdom has ferocious libel laws that enable people who claim defamation to pretty much put the publishers out of business -- these laws create a guilty until proved innocent situation, unlike US libel law where truth is a pretty complete defense. So Murray's ISP and an intermediary ISP wholesaler, took down Murray's blog when they got a lawyer letter threatening, not proving, a libel claim. (In the US, ISP's have been held not responsible for what we say using them; we're responsible.)
Murray's ISP blog wholesaler happened also to be serving a couple of members of Parliament -- and Bloggerheads, a sort of crossroads of the Brit political blogosphere. Fearing a libel charge, they took those sites down as well as Murray's. And the UK blogosphere mobilized -- hundreds of blogs took up the hue and cry about Usmanov. It is really not smart to make broad libel suit threats if you were aiming for a low profile about your possibly criminal misdeeds.
As of today, good news. After a couple of weeks, Bloggerheads is up again. More here at Bloggerheads proprietor Tim Ireland's temp site devoted to this imbroglio.
Nell at A Lovely Promise pointed out that U.S. bloggers also have an interest when Usmanov attacks our U.K. counterparts.
And in the U.S.A. ...
Another reason we need some good law making it clear that internet discourse occures in a new form of public space. Boing-Boing reports on AT&T's new terms of service:
Stuff like this needs more speech. Let people know what our corporate masters would like to do to the pipes or there'll be blockages ahead.