From Matt Buck's Hack Cartoons
Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov sent one letter to Fasthosts, a Gloucester-based hosting company, alledging defamation and got Craig Murray's website taken down, and along with it a stack of others, including that of Tory Mayoral candidate Boris Johnson.
A friend of Putin, Usmanov has form in the UK, having demanded similar censorship from Arsenal Bulletin Boards and fan blogs (he's trying to buy the Football Club) and having made requests to Fasthosts to insert editorial changes to Murray's site previously.
His UK legal firm, the appropriately named Schillings, also has form. They are "the celebrity defamation firm par excellence", Keira Knightley and Britney Spears amongst their other, more attractive, clients. In this case, they have even threated under 'copyright' bloggers who've published their legal letters.
"As a former British Ambassador in Uzbekistan, I know a great deal more about Mr Usmanov, and especially about his criminal record, than he finds comfortable. The principal point at issue is that he has been able to take down one of the UK’s leading political websites without anything being tested in court. Fasthosts have pathetically repeated Schillings bluster that my site is 'Defamatory', as though that were established."In fact, the supposedly defamatory 'allegations' were repeated from a book, Murder in Samarkand, by Murray published over a year ago and never challenged in court by Usmanov.
Usmanov, however, has been badly served by his lawyers. The heavy handed tactics and 'collateral damage' done to Johnson in particular has, in 48hrs, let loose a wave of support online for Murray from all across the political range.
"This is London, not Uzbekistan," Johnson said.Plus, Murray's original posts are now mirrored across the world and easy to find.
"It is unbelievable that a website can be wiped out on the say-so of some tycoon. We live in a world where internet communication is increasingly vital, and this is a serious erosion of free speech."
It appears Schillings has fallen victim to something our pals at Techdirt like to call "The Streisand Effect." Back in 2003, Barbra Streisand sued a photographer in an attempt to remove an aerial photo of her California home from the Internet, despite the fact that the photo was part of a publicly funded coastline erosion study and wasn't even labeled as her home. As a result, photos of her house were published all over the web within days.
A similar situation happened last year to Diebold when internal memos discussing their easily hackable electronic voting machines were leaked to the web, and a group of students at Swarthmore College published the memos to the web. Diebold attempted to have the memos removed, claiming the students were committing copyright infringement. The company was successfully sued for issuing unlawful takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and forced to pay $125,000 in damages.