Policing the internet, is this a beginning of a new era?

So, who is really in charge of policing the internet? In my book, The Net Is Closing Birth of the E-Police, I made the point that no one in fact was in charge and that if you were in favour of ending the current state of online anarchy and replacing it with regulations and safety standards, similar to those that we are used to in the real world, you should join the calls for the government to step in.

So many people did and during 2017 internet users began to demand more from those who are meant to protect them and the government has responded. Internet giants have been warned time after time to up their self-regulatory game or face external policing of the internet.

For many years, internet companies claimed that moderating and removing user generated content was undemocratic, hard and expensive. In 2017, it seems, they had a change of heart.

Internet companies now say that they have changed their approach and that they are now up for self-regulation, which would include new self-made user rules, more people hiring, more user account blocking, more fake accounts removal and far more exercise of own initiatives in reporting suspicious activities of their users to the authorities.

So is it true, that internet companies such as Facebook, Google, Yelp and Automoatic are doing more to keep us safe online?

USA right to be forgotten. Yair Cohen UK internet law expert

Yair Cohen speaking at Google Campus, London in 2016

I always said that when it came to self-regulation of the internet by internet companies, I will only believe it when I see it. So later this week I will flying to Santa Clara in California to take part in a rare event, which for the first time in the history of the internet will see representatives from Reddit, Google, Facebook, Wikimedia, Yelp, Pinterest and Microsoft (to mention just a few)  coming together publicly to openly discuss their own philosophies, strategies and policies of online self-regulation. From the volume and quality of the pre-reading material I was sent prior to the conference, it seems this time they mean business.

The conference will also explore how internet companies operationalise the moderation and removal of third party/user-generated content on their own platforms and what are the main operational challenges they face and their possible solutions.

I am looking forward to attending and then reporting back from the Content Moderation & Removal at Scale conference, to our clients and to the government and of course I will be updating this blog in due course.

Taking out privacy injunction against online trolls

Getting disclosure orders against internet trolls to be made easier

As online abuse of celebrity, MPs and regular people reach nearly an epidemic level, the common misconception that free speech and online anonymity are one and the same must be challenged.

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As Prosecutors in England and Wales say hate crime online must be taken as seriously as hate crime in everyday life, internet law expert and social media solicitor Yair Cohen, who regularly acts for celebrity who face abuse online, tells BBC Radio 4 World at One, why identification of suspects is crucial to combating anti-social behaviour online.

It costs in excess of £3,000 to obtain an internet disclosure order against a web host or an internet service provider in the UK or in the USA (my law firm specialises in both). That’s just to try to find out someone’s identity. And it’s not an easy process either. Sure, wealthy individuals and large corporations can afford it, but often, obtaining a disclosure order in relation to an internet troll is out of the reach of ordinary internet users. Often, the most vulnerable are those who cannot afford the legal costs. Does this sound like ‘internet democracy’?

Clearly there’s something wrong. There has to be an easier way, and the ability to obtain internet disclosure orders easily and cheaply has to be made available to the police, and therefore to ordinary people. At the moment victims must fund these disclosure orders privately and– as I understand it, having spoken to a number of police officers in the know – the cost of obtaining disclosure orders privately is far lower than the cost to the police of obtaining the very same order.

Perhaps the police need a way of getting these faster and at a lower cost, or they should be able to instruct private specialist law firms to get the orders for them quickly. In one case, the one involving the internet troll and web designer Paul Britton, a police officer from Hounslow police station and myself, we both started the process of trying to unmask the troll exactly at the same time, with the police officer taking the official route and me taking the quick one. The result was staggering. Within 10 days, my firm was able to hand over to the police  enough evidence to have Paul Britton arrested for harassment. The police officer, on the other hand, informed me 6 months into Paul Britton’s criminal trial, that he had just received all the required authorisations to approach the Interpol so that the police can apply to a court in Arizona for a disclosure order against GoDaddy, the host of the harassing websites Paul Britton had created. All in all, it would have taken the police 10 months to obtain the disclosure, at the cost of around £10,000 to the tax payer, whilst it took my team 10 days to achieve the same at half of this amount.

You can read about the case of Paul Britton here Unmasking Internet Trolls.

I’m not saying it’s a grand conspiracy against the poor, but we have to examine the criminal justice system and it is within our power to make the process of obtaining online disclosure orders more affordable. The police should be able to obtain these orders more easily, simply by presenting evidence to a judge, or a committee, and saying, “We have grounds to believe that a crime is being committed, and we would like to unmask this individual on the basis of this evidence”.

Just as they would go to the local magistrate and say, “We think that Joe Bloggs is being threatened here”, or “We suspect Joe Bloggs of committing a crime and we have grounds to believe this is the case”, present their evidence, and then ask, “Can we have a search warrant?” Granted – no problem. A disclosure order is simply the equivalent of a search warrant, but online. So why are we so resistant?

If we are seeking an online disclosure order on someone based in the United States, as a private citizen we can get an ID on them in seven days. Meanwhile, the police will have to go through Interpol, and it could take six months, or longer. In contrast, if you’re driving your car and you break the law, or are under suspicion, a police officer can tell you to pull over and ask for your ID. If you refuse to identify yourself, it is a crime. You have an obligation to identify yourself.

Likewise, if you know the identity of an offender you will be expected to reveal that identity. In some cases, you could even be charged as an accessory or with perverting the course of justice if you don’t. Identity is a big thing when it comes to crime-solving, offline or online. We readily accept certain facts in the offline world, and yet we remain obstinate in our resistance to this important change online, despite the implications.

Is the argument of “free speech” strong enough to prevent disclosure of the identity of online trolls? Listen to my radio interview on BBC Radio Four “World at One”

Contact Yair Cohen for advice on obtaining disclosure orders against online trolls

 

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Remove search results from Google worldwide

So where do Europeans stand in relation to the removal of Google search results worldwide?

Since Google ordered to remove search results worldwide, Europeans are eagerly awaiting the French High Court’s final decision on an appeal.

In May 2015 French data regulator ordered Google  to apply Right to be Forgotten removals of search results not only to the company’s European domains such as google.co.uk or google.fr, but to the search engine’s global domain google.com.

After Google’s representations were rejected and following its refusal to affect the removal of search results globally, the French regulator issued Google with a penalty of 100,000 Euros. Google appealed to France’s highest court, the Council of State (Conseil d’État). A decision in the case is expected by the end of 2017.

Remove search results from Google worldwide

Google’s position is that it will not delist search results from all its search engine extensions. You can read here Google’s reasons for refusing to remove search results from Google worldwide.

The French data regulator’s position is that Google has come a long way in complying with European data requirements but only a measure that applies to all processing by the search engine, with no distinction between the extensions used and the geographical location of the internet user making a search, is legally adequate to meet the requirement under the Right to be Forgotten.

The position of Cohen Davis solicitors is that any data, which is found to be unlawfully processed anywhere in the EEA and which is resulting in delisting of search results under the Right to be Forgotten, must not then be processed outside of the EEA.

This is because under European data protection laws, any organisation that transfers personal data to a country outside of the EEA, must do so under the same conditions of processing which applies to processing of the same data within the EEA.

If follows that if processing of personal data is unlawful within the EEA, it must also be unlawful outside of the EEA.

You can read the full article here

Removing search results from Google worldwide

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Raped on a film set-London 2017

I am becoming increasingly concerned about the mounting evidence that is arriving at my office in relation to rape through porn.  It seems, in 2017 London, gang rape of vulnerable victims on amateur  adult film sets is far more common than anyone could have ever imagined.

Rape through porn happens when an individual agrees to participate in a pornographic film in circumstances, which give rise to some serious questions about the validity of the consent they gave.

In many instances, the issue of consent comes about as a result of a participant in an adult film, allegedly consenting to be sexually exploited whilst being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

I have seen and heard evidence that suggest that some amateur and low budget production companies in and around London, encourage participants to consume alcohol before and during filming.Remove porn video from the internet

I found it impossible to understand why a woman in her early 20s will be willing to have sex with a group of 10 men, picked up from the street, and then have the film posted on hundreds of pornographic websites in return for a payment of £250 or less.

Under English law, a person who is intoxicated or who is under the influence of drugs is not capable of giving consent to sexual intercourse. Strictly speaking, you cannot give consent to some other forms of personal assault either.

Other common circumstances that might invalidate consent are associated with what I would term as “duress of circumstances”, where the individual allegedly consenting to participate in a particularly degrading scene is doing so under so much pressure whether personal, financial or social, which result in a mistaken belief that they have no choice but to agree to participate in that scene.

In circumstances where an individual was paid a sum of money and/or signed a contract of any sort, the payment or the signing of the contract could in fact evident the lack of consent rather than the grant of it.

An example of this might be an individual who is not a professional actor and who agreed to be paid a small sum of money, (commonly few a hundred pounds or dollars) in return for their participation in a hard-core pornographic film, where the amount paid was totally disproportionate to the actions they were required to perform or to be subject to.Often, they tell me, is no way they would have agreed to take part in that scene now, when they are no longer under pressure to do so.

Another example might be where an individual signed a contract or an agreement or a disclaimer, which state that they were consenting to participate in a pornographic film, but it is clear from the circumstances that they had not been given sufficient time to consider the contract, did not understand the contact, had not sought independent legal advice, where unable to read or write, were under group pressure or pressure by the producer or the film maker or where what they had given up in terms of legal rights, was highly disproportionate to the remuneration they actually received. Evidence of this can be found in  buyer’s remorse where very shortly after participating in a sex film, the amateur actor changes his or her mind, but is told that it was no too late.

Whenever consent by an individual to participate in a particular sex scene simply doesn’t make sense, it is likely it was given under questionable circumstances. The usual rules of civil contracts don’t always apply to participation in sex films so a contract might mean absolutely nothing in terms of granting consent. The contract might also be invalid for many other reasons, which I intend to discuss in a separate post.

The type of legal rights, a performer in an amateur adult film is giving away, often go far beyond copyright or other intellectual property rights. They often also give away forever their right to privacy, and their right to not have their personal data used in a degrading manner. Arguably, no one in their right mind would agree to give away so much in return for so little, unless they struggled to think straight at the time, and were unfairly taken advantage of.

In fact, often the issue of consent goes far beyond civil legal rights and straight into the realm of criminal offending. If there are questions regarding consent, then this should give rise to a police investigation and to potential criminal charges of rape, indecent assault and other related offences including conspiracy to commit a variety of criminal offences involving interference with one’s physical being.

All parties involved and present during filming could face criminal charges, including individuals who participate in sexual activities whilst knowing or having reasons to suspect that the person they were indecently touching or penetrating was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

From the growing number of inquiries of this nature this law firm has recently received, it is starting to become clear that there is a huge problem here involving vulnerable victims who had been sexually exploited and who are too afraid and too embarrassed to revisit a dark period in their lives, which they are desperate to put behind. There seem to be zero policing activity and very little awareness of the issue in this country.

If you have been sexually exploited on a film set, please get in touch with us.

Remove porn videos form the intenret

Delete your past from the internet. Social media lawyer Yair Cohen

Social Media Disorder

With the Snooper’s Charter passing into law and potential employers scanning Facebook before they’ve even read your CV, it’s time to start giving serious thought to erasing your online footprint. We called on internet oracle and social media solicitor Yair Cohen (internetlawcentre.co.uk) to offer his foolproof guide to going full Jason Bourne…

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Is catfishing illegal in the UK?

Is internet catfishing illegal?

Currently internet catfishing is not illegal but there are now calls to outlaw the practice of online catfishing.

Catfishing happens when someone uses false identity to lure you into loving them. They pretend they are the person they believe you want them to be. They make you believe the they are that loving, caring, complementing, appreciating individual you had been waiting to meet all your life. They make you believe they are that prince or princess you always craved for. They often borrow images of somebody else and pretend they are them.

They will send you authentic pictures of their brothers and sisters just to make you believe they are real. They will tell you daily about the daily hardships they experience at work just that you believe they are real authentic.Social media lawyer tv interview

They will make their cover story sound and look so believable that even a very smart person will fall for it. They will make you fall in love with them, online, in the virtual world, believing that one day soon you are both going to meet and live happy ever after.

Then they disappear from your life. Just like that. Leaving you feel sad, lonely, disappointed and a even a bit stupid. For them it’s just a game, for you on the other hand its harsh reality.
People say that catfishing should be made illegal and that people shouldn’t be allowed to go online pretending they are somebody else and then break someone’s heart just because they think its fun. There have been cases where victims of catfishing went to meet that ideal online persona who then went on the rape them and in some cases the meeting even ended up with murder.

Yair Cohen UK social media lawyer interview about catfishingTonight, at 20:00 tune in to Sky channel 212 / Freeview channel 161 where I will be interviewed by TV host Vanessa Cruickshank about catfishing and whether catfishing could or should be made illegal. You must watch tonight’s episode if you have young children who use the internet or if you use the internet for dating. It’s a light, cool and informative TV show with great interviews and live music.