I feel silly using this one…most of the information comes from Goldsmith and Wu, “Who Controls the Internet?” Perhaps i should find something else…but it’s just too darn perfect…poorly written…need to spend more time on it.
First Draft / First Half
In February 2000, Mark Knobel, a researcher from Paris for the Wiesenthal Center, found Nazi paraphernalia for sale on the English-language U.S. Yahoo auction site as well as Nazi and anti-Semitic revisionists websites that offered free downloads of Mein Kampf and Protocol of the Elders of Zion, both in French (Frydman & Rorive, 2002). He threatened Yahoo with a media blitz if they did not pull the items from their auction website and shut down the racist websites that were being hosted by Yahoo as they were in direct violation of French law that prohibits the sale or display of anything that provokes racism. Jerry Yang and David Filo, the founders of Yahoo merely shrugged off these threats. They were products of the
This was the first case to questions the extent of one’s country’s laws over another country’s citizens when the interaction is taking place solely across the internet. Christophe Pecnard, the lawyer for Yahoo on the case, stated, “The real question put before this court is whether a French jurisdiction can make a decision on the English content of an American site, run by an American company for the sole reason that French users have access via the Internet” (Enos, 2000). To do so would institute a race to the bottom, forcing companies to institute the strictest of all of the world’s laws in order to be able to do accessible to any of the world’s countries. This in turn could lead to an eventual decay into fascism as the control mechanism of the internet. Marc Levy, representing LICRA and UEFJ, however, believed that he was working to save the internet from being a lawless place.
On May 22, 2000, Judge Jean-Jacques Gomez ruled that Yahoo had a responsibility to ensure that French law as not violated on the internet by the company, and that they must make it impossible for French web surfers to access illegal Yahoo Nazi auction sites on yahoo.com. Lawyers for Yahoo argued that it was impossible for them to filter users by geography as the internet is not located in any geographical location. Physical borders are not announced – information in cyberspace moves from portals to portals without any indication of where the portals are existing. The judge gave Yahoo two months to figure out how to make it possible.
On July 24th, Yahoo returned to French court to insist that it is impossible to identify and filter French users and content. However, in the two months since the original ruling, Cyril Houri, the founder of Infosplit, had come forward with a new geo-locating software that did, in fact, make it possible to identify users’ locations. Insert section explaining geo-location software and how it works. Infosplit, founded in 1999, developed software that could translate IP addresses into geographical locations (Svantesson, 2004). With this technology it was believed that up to 70% of French users could be screened out of the sites, thus reaffirming that French law had been broken and that honest self-declaration by users could cover the other 30%. Implementing this new software would cost Yahoo $500,000 and six months (Fryden & Rorive, 2002).
In August of 2000, yahoo counter-sued in a San Jose Federal Court to block the French judgment as it was not enforceable and was counter to the First Amendment. By November, the court had issued the ruling in favour of Yahoo. Robert Katz, the American lawyer representing LICRA and UEFJ in the
This court case has set an international precedence toward international regulation of the internet. But it is one without an overseer. Freedom on the internet is being eaten away one case at a time without trans-national agreements. And yet there are several non-profit groups who are attempting to protect the freedom of speech on the internet, as though the internet were a nebulous frontier without borders. What is at stake here is the question of geography and jurisdiction.
Yahoo’s French lawsuit was the beginning of a long downward spiral. When Yahoo went public in 2000, shares opened at $475 (Goldsmith & Wu, 2006). In 2002, shares dropped to $9.71. That same year, Yahoo entered into an agreement with
In September 2002, yahoo gave the Chinese government information leading to the arrest of Wang Xiaoning for dissident emails. His emails and discussions advocated for multi-party elections and democratic reform in
But Yahoo is not alone. In February 2006, the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations held a hearing with Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Cisco to demand clarification in their roles in
All of this points to the heady complications faced by internet providers and the public they serve. Insert transition to
In 1996, the Federal Telecommunications Act was put into effect. It was the first major overhaul to the 1934 Communications Act and was an attempt to address changes in technology. The intent, stated at the beginning of the Act, is to “To promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies” (Telecommunications Act 1996). Among its major components is the belief that competition should replace regulatory schemes, thus allowing companies in one communications sector to provide services in another (i.e., telephone companies are now permitted to offer internet services).
Anderson, Nate. “Human Rights Group Sues Yahoo Over Jailing of Chinese Dissident.” Ars Technica 19 April 2007
“China Sites Pledge to be Nice.” Associated Press 15 July 2002 Wired Magazine
Enos, Lori. “Yahoo! Forced to Bar French from Nazi Auctions.” Ecommerctimes 23 May 2000
Frydman, Benoît & Isabelle Rorive. “Fighting Nazi and Anti-Semitic Material on the Internet:
the Yahoo Case and It’s Global Implications.” Keynoteat Address at
Law Conference Hate and Terrorist Speech on the Internet: The Global Implications of the Yahoo Ruling in
Gross, Grant. “US Lawmakers Scold Tech Companies for
Communication, Inc. 16 February 2006 PC World
Malone, Steve. “Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Under Fire in
Limited 16 February 2006 pcpro.com
Svantesson, Dan. “Geo-Location Technoloies – a Brief Overview.”