EFF Slaps ABC Over Blogger Harassment

    January 26, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Free speech meets corporate paranoia as the Electronic Frontier Foundation took up the cause of ‘Spocko’, an anonymous blogger who posted audio clips broadcast in San Francisco on ABC Radio to his site.

EFF Slaps ABC Over Blogger Harassment
Defending The Blogosphere… If Only Verbally

The clips of KSFO radio hosts making light of the deaths of UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, along with other inflammatory comments, gained Spocko nationwide attention. It also drew the wrath of ABC Radio’s owner Disney, which successfully forced his blog offline for archiving those audio clips.

Disney’s claims of copyright infringement caused Spocko’s original hosting company to shut down the blog, forcing him to find a new host. The situation caught the attention of the EFF, which dispatched a response to Disney regarding what they consider false claims of copyright violation:

“Copyright law is not designed to silence speech that you dislike,” said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. “ABC and KSFO know that their legal threats were absolutely groundless. Their time and efforts are better spent explaining why they think Spocko is wrong, and letting the public decide, instead of resorting to thuggish legal tactics.”

The commentary retained by Spocko has been brought to the attention of advertisers by the blogger, and some of them have yanked their advertising in response. That loss of revenue has likely been more of an irritation to Disney than the alleged copyright issues.

By acting to suppress a relatively unknown blogger over his archiving of politically-tinged commentary, Disney essentially guaranteed more people would notice what was happening. The political blog Daily Kos is one of the most heavily trafficked on the Internet, and picked up on the story.

InfoWorld also noticed what was happening, and pointed to a YouTube mashup of the content Disney sought to quash when they went after Spocko.

Pushing around the little guy who is using free speech has been a given for years, with companies smacking offenders with SLAAP lawsuits and other tricks. That’s all changed now that a single blogger can find a lot of friends, including some powerful ones, who can stand up to such tactics.

Before taking an extreme step to silence a critic, one who is objectionable but lawfully making points, companies of any size should learn to engage that criticism constructively. Being blown up as a heavy-handed thug could reach well beyond a single person’s blog. On the Internet, the world is a much smaller place, and news travels swiftly and broadly to others.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.