Free Speech

Someone Yet Again Trying to Vanish Post Criticizing New Britain (Conn.) Volunteer Commissioner Ken Haas

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

In 2017, I wrote about an attempt to use a forged court order to deindex New Britain Independent articles critical of New Britain (Connecticut) volunteer Conservation Commissioner Ken Haas (a mayoral appointee). Then someone tried to get Google to deindex my post about the forgery and a Techdirt post about the same forgery, arguing:

In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized an individual interest in the "practical obscurity" of certain personal information. The case was DOJ v. Reporters Committee for a Free Press. As well, this information is harmful to me as it concerns unfounded information which never resulted in prosecution. Not only has the dissemination of this information never been legitimate, but its internet referencing is clearly harmful to my reputation as my professional and personal surroundings can access it by typing my first and last names on the Internet.

A few months ago, it turns out, there was another attempt to deindex one of the original New Britain Independent articles, this time on a copyright infringement theory; the deindexing request was submitted under Ken Haas's name (though the deindexing request process doesn't verify whether the submitter name is accurate):

Copyright claim #1
KIND OF WORK: Unspecified
DESCRIPTION Text from a post that was on a private and personal Facebook profile stating, "You do know I have access to ALL city records. Including criminal and civil, right???".
ORIGINAL URLS: No copyrighted URLs were submitted.
ALLEGEDLY INFRINGING URLS:
https://newbritainindependent.com/blog/2016/10/14/stewart-conservation-commissioner-accused-abuse-power/

The article had said, among other things,

At 9:21 PM Monday September 19th, 2016 Mr. Haas, in an exchange on Facebook, on a thread in which he was not originally included, tagged in, or involved with, injected himself.  Members of the community were having a conversation about the Tilcon deal that the Stewart Administration is pushing, regardless of community sentiment.  Hass interjected in this facebook conversation, threatening to embarrass one of the participants, who is a member of New Britain's community, using government resource's.  Hass said, "You do know I have access to ALL city records. Including criminal and civil, right???".

And of course that's "fair use" under copyright law, and not an infringement at all; criticizing a government official (even a volunteer) for this kind of short public comment, by quoting the comment, is fully legal—indeed, newspapers do it all the time. Google naturally didn't act on the deindexing request; but I though it worth noting that 08someone seems to be pretty insistent about trying to vanish criticism of Commissioner Haas.

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  1. Does anyone really believe it isn’t Haas himself, or somebody in his employ?

    1. Yeah, especially since the Lumen link shows that “Ken Haas” is the actual requester.

  2. And the “Streisand effect” is now activated. There is/was little local or statewide notice of this issue. And now?

    1. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the fraudulent takedown orders were actually being arranged by Haas’ foes, to intentionally exploit the Streisand effect?

      1. No, it would be insane. If someone is choosing to cover his tracks with manure, don’t assume you can improve the scent.

  3. Instead of making fun of him (again, and some more), the obvious step is to ask if anyone licensed in Connecticut is willing to give Mr. Haas a few pro-bono hours to explain this to him in depth.

    1. Couldn’t we instead just have him register for free on this site?

      He could read for himself why he’s such a dumbass and maybe he could even provide some insight why he’s a wilting snowflake.

      1. Can’t imagine why he might not want to read the commentary here.

  4. The remedy is more speech. Even speech which IMO seeks to misinform or to undermine our institutions or our laws, to insult, offend, or even spread hate.

    But government must not accede to efforts to suppress speech. Imagine if Donald Trump had that power.

    1. Anorlunda, leaving this case aside, it is worth remembering that “more speech” is a useful remedy on questions of politics. On questions related to damaging publications, saying, “more speech” is just an inappropriate way to taunt victims (as in cases of defamation), or to dodge responsibility for policy breakdowns (as with damage to the electoral process).

      Previously, the laws and norms of publishing encouraged the use of a screen of private editing to keep unjustifiably damaging publications from ever appearing. And it mostly worked, with the result that the law of defamation was crafted around the expectation that a private editing screen would be in place.

      Now, because of Section 230, internet publishing assures that every instance of privately damaging or publicly hurtful content will get published, do its damage, and then be controlled only after the fact, if at all. As a practical matter, mostly not at all. On the internet, the private editing screen is gone, and the legal structures designed to depend on it have become all but useless.

      EV’s advocacy, in a long list of posts on this topic, seems to amount to a perverse insistence that under this new regime of publish-first-check-later, the process of checking and correcting should be made complicated, costly, and as ineffective as possible. I think he does that with a notion in mind that his advocacy is on behalf of speech freedom.

      EV’s comments draw almost universally favorable, and remarkably uncritical responses, from people who also suppose speech freedom is being advanced. It seems true that a majority of Americans for now suppose the internet is inherently and infallibly a speech-protective, freedom-advancing technology.

      I suggest the opposite. I suggest that broad public support for speech freedom will not indefinitely abide a new regime which seems to the people unaccountably to cherish damage and destruction, and which offers no practical remedy to correct damage and destruction after the fact—let alone prevent them beforehand. To accomplish that pre-internet, private editing was the method and custom society relied upon for centuries.

      Unfortunately, that reliance came mostly without day-to-day social cognizance of the public benefits it delivered. Ironically, the nation now pays a price in confusion for the loss of an institutional amenity that went mostly unnoticed because it worked so well. Hopefully, the nation can get its attention focused anew—before, under this new, more destructive regime the people decide that if this is speech freedom, they want no part of it.

      You can take the incipient avalanche of demands for government regulation of internet publishers as a good first indicator that the people’s patience has already worn thin. The most important issue for speech freedom now is to prevent government from regulating publishing. To do that, bring back private editing. Repeal Section 230.

      1. Anorlunda, leaving this case aside,

        LOL.

        I was reading this piece, and I was thinking of posting, “See, Lathrop? Your argument that defamation lawsuits prove that § 230 is causing the erosion of support for free speech are wrong; after all, even when neither § 230 nor defamation are at issue, people still try to suppress speech they don’t like.”

        Lo and behold, you solve the problem by simply ignoring the facts and repeating the same inane fact-free rant.

        The most important issue for speech freedom now is to prevent government from regulating publishing. To do that, bring back private editing. Repeal Section 230.

        No, Lathrop. We will not pass the “Former newspaper editor who doesn’t understand the law whines that people like him have lost the power to censor” law.

        1. Best response for you, Nieporent, is to quote myself:

          It seems true that a majority of Americans for now suppose the internet is inherently and infallibly a speech-protective, freedom-advancing technology.

          That’s utopian, and that’s you.

          Compared to ink-on-paper, internet publishing can advance speech freedom, broaden access, and diversify the range of published opinion. It can’t make publishing perfectly accessible, nor should it.

          People who want to use publishing to inflict unjustifiable damage on others for no legitimate purpose—and they are legion—should find no easier path to do so on the internet than they did previously with traditional publishing. To enable that, and bless it, cannot promote speech freedom, but only tear speech freedom down and discredit it.

          Your commentary is far outside the norm. The majority of Americans are inconsistent. They agree with you, in your utopianism. They agree with me, in wanting the newly-empowered destructive side of internet technology reined in. They also disagree with you and me, about how to rein it in. Neither of us wants government censorship.

          The majority of Americans want actual censorship, by government. If you want the power to censor restrained, instead of advanced, you ought to get rid of your utopianism, and start agreeing with me. What, for heaven’s sake, is wrong with using the unique advantages of internet technology to strengthen, diversify, and further advance a system—publishing using private editing—which has already shown a centuries-long run of success?

          1. People who want to use publishing to inflict unjustifiable damage on others for no legitimate purpose—and they are legion—should find no easier path to do so on the internet than they did previously with traditional publishing

            Of course they should. Just as people who want to make getaways from bank robberies should find an easier path to do so via automobiles on highways than they did previously with horses. That’s not because we want it to be easier to rob banks, but because we want better transportation overall, and to get that we need to enable better transportation for bad purposes as well as for good ones. We want communication to be easier, and to get that we need to enable better communication for bad purposes as well as for good ones.

            They agree with me, in wanting the newly-empowered destructive side of internet technology reined in.

            I find it safer to speak for myself, rather than trying to speak for the majority of Americans.

            Neither of us wants government censorship.

            That is not true; you still fail to grasp after all this time that defamation law is government censorship. And your plan is to use the threat of defamation liability imposed by the state to force private actors to censor.

            If you want the power to censor restrained, instead of advanced, you ought to get rid of your utopianism, and start agreeing with me.

            You favor advancing censorship.

        2. By the way Nieporent, you assert that someone who founds a publication, creates an audience for it, mobilizes the free market to provide the resources to sustain it, and opens it to the opinions and commentary of diverse contributors past counting, is thereby establishing himself as a would-be censor? That is petulance taken to an astounding extreme.

  5. Democrats. What do you expect?

    1. While I don’t know for sure which mayor appointed Mr. Haas, the current mayor is a Republican woman.

    2. Where are you getting the Democrats part?

      1. You would think as one of the founders of this page that you would know that 75% of the people who comment here blame Democrats for everything. Including their divorce, dead puppies, etc.

  6. Dear Google,

    In the name of habeas corpus, ex post facto, post hoc, and e pluribus unum, you are commanded to post more naked pictures of the actresses listed in the attached schedule. Herein fail not, forasmuch as this court is getting horny.

    Sincerely
    Sir Matthew Hale, Judge of Judgitude

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