Friday, September 21, 2007

Blog censorship

A group of blogs have been closed down by a service provider or hosting business (it's not yet clear which), after legal threats on behalf of Uzbekh billionaire Alisher Usmanov who, apparently, is trying to buy Arsenal soccer club. That's a game with a funny round ball, I'm told.

The websites include bloggerheads and Craig Murray's blog, as well as that of Boris Johnson. Tim Ireland's bloggerheads is a sometimes abrasive left wing blog, and Murray can be something of a conspiracy nut. Taking lefties and conspiracy theorists off the web is a sinister development. Who would we mock and quarrel with? How would our adrenal glands receive that stimulation so necessary to a healthy mind and body?

I operate a web hosting business and have offered to host these sites, and as I buy my bandwidth wholesale and my racks straight from the data centre, there's no upstream ISP to pull the plug. I've no idea whether they'll take me up on the offer, but a bit of solidarity is called for. We can't have people silenced by bullying billionaires, now can we?

More from Harry's Place, Iain Dale and Chicken Yoghurt.

This is, incidentally, a sign of the times and an indicator of the future. If any liability for hosted content can in law attach to upstream providers including hosting businesses, then on receipt of the first lawyer's letter they'll tend to pull the plug, rather than spend time and money examining the merits of the case. That seems to be what has happened in this case. It's like suing a bookshop, rather than writer or publisher, for libel. Very bad development.

UPDATE: The plug was pulled by FastHosts, apparently. Anyone hosting with them at the moment might like to reflect on this.

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