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.
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 the region of £5,000 to obtain a disclosure order 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 it’s completely out of reach for ordinary citizens. Often these are the most vulnerable. Does this sound like ‘internet democracy’?
Clearly there’s something wrong. There has to be an easier way, and the option has to be made available and feasible 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.
I’m not saying it’s a grand conspiracy against the poor, but we have to go through the justice system and it is within our power to make that process easier and 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 a 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.
Listen to Yair Cohen full radio interview with BBC Radio Four “World at One”
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.
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
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 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.
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 () to offer his foolproof guide to going full Jason Bourne…
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.
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.
Tonight, 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.
Yair Cohen’s new controversial book: The Net Is Closing, birth of the e-police. A powerful debate about the future policing of the internet; a platform from which the crying voices of victims of online crime can be loudly and clearly heard.
I celebrate my new book The Net Is Closing: birth of the e-police.
The net is closing. The e-police are here. That is the controversial debate this book brings to the fore. Telling a painful truth about what really happens online, the net is closing: birth of the e-police calls out internet bullies and online anonymity, and shines a bright light on who (or what) is behind policing our current “virtual” reality.
The book is a polemical work about online safety and policing. It argues for a move away from self-policing and towards a more conventional form of state maintained supervision in the still relatively new sphere of human activity of the internet. The inevitable conclusion, that soon, the internet will become neatly policed, is primarily based on my own extensive experience of working as a lawyer in the field of online defamation, harassment and infringement of privacy.
I deploy this experience, along with my personal observation of the other forces which shape online behaviour, such as the profit motive of large social media businesses, to make a case for an approach to self-expression and anonymity online which is more consistent with the “real-world” already standards applied to offensive conduct by the state.
Through powerful real life stories, addressing the conflict between emotion and logic, I tell the stories of a prominent football coach child abuser who carefully orchestrated sexual assaults on dozens of young victims so that he can freely share the videos of his abuse online, and that of a school teacher whose innocent quest for companionship online turned into a pornographic nightmare involving blackmail and extortion by the Moroccan mafia. I also follow the story of six form pupils from London who whilst studying for their A Level exams were left to fend for themselves after they discovered a Facebook Page, which contained hundreds of commentaries about pupil’s alleged sexual activities. Dozens of pupils and their parents who reported the page to Facebook did not even get a reply, let alone a removal of the shaming information, whilst the Head Teacher claimed that because the activities on the shaming Facebook page were “carried out after school hours,” it had nothing to do with the school. Consequentially, at least one pupil was ready to take his own life.
In my book, I dare asking challenging questions such as, how do we want our online presence to be governed and policed? And, what priority do we give to safety versus freedom of expression?
I cannot promise that you will like what this book says. You may well disagree with my conclusions, or even become angry or scared by some of the things I have to say. But that is what I want. It’s what I believe society needs: a powerful debate about the future policing of the internet; a platform from which the crying voices of victims of online crime can be loudly and clearly heard.
The Net Is Closing: birth of the e-police is now available on Amazon. Enjoy and let me have your feedback!
The FBI has stepped up its effort to police the internet by requesting Yahoo to assist in developing software to scan emails which were going through YahooMail servers. Yahoo was reported to have agreed but the intrusion did not only affect YahooMail customers but also other email users who happened to communicate with a YahooMail address.
Following the report, Yahoo was accused of “selling out its customers base to an out of control, data-hungry Federal government”.
However, despite the obvious intrusion into private emails CybeLawExpert has long campaigned for an increase in police power over internet communications and against the discrepancy and inconsistencies between offline and online policing.
The request of Yahoo by the FBI is not dissimilar to the good old fashion profiling method, used for example in airports across the world, and which is aimed to save lives of tens of thousand of people without the need to intrusively screen each and every passenger.
Yahoo would have filtered all incoming emails but would only pass on the FBI emails that matched specific keywords.
According to the government officials, as reported by the NY Times, Yahoo was served with an individualised court order to look only for code uniquely used by foreign terrorist organizations. It appears Yahoo had adapted an existing scanning systems that it already had in place to comply with that order adding a few modifications.
Bearing in mind that technology companies like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have been scanning emails for child pornography for many years now, the additional scanning requirement which aims to prevent acts of terrorism represents a natural progress in internet policing.
I spoke to SputnikNews radio back in October 2016 about internet policing and you can listen to the full interview here:
The big question is of course Do email uses actually care or do we feel this is a price worth paying for added safety and security online?