September 10, 2009

Amir Khan and Frank Warren threaten Facebook with legal action

WBA light welterweight champion Amir Khan
The WBA light welterweight champion Amir Khan and his promoter, Frank Warren, are squaring up to the social networking site Facebook in a legal battle that could have far-reaching consequences.

The pair have engaged lawyers to threaten the US internet company with action over the use of images and names alongside material they consider to be defamatory and racist. Stephen Taylor Heath, head of sports and media at Lupton Fawcett, said that a cursory search of Facebook quickly led to "bogus" pages that used the images and names of the pair to link to material that would be "highly defamatory" if published in a newspaper or magazine.

Warren, who has fought several high-profile legal battles, is understood to be determined to force Facebook to change its policy and take responsibility for the more unsavoury opinions of its registered users. Taylor Heath has called on other sports stars and celebrities to come forward. There is a legal grey area about the extent to which the operator of a website, or the provider of community tools, can be held liable for comments posted.

"The problem is when you search for a celebrity on the site you also come across pages using the celebrity's name and image that have no official link but in some instances are full of defamatory and illegal content," Taylor Heath said.

"At the moment the owners of Facebook do not seem to be taking this problem seriously. We have written to them outlining our concerns but all we received was a standard acknowledgement. We are still awaiting a response from their legal department."

The row goes to the heart of a debate about the extent to which internet service providers, search engines, message boards and social networking sites should be responsible for material posted by users. Warren and Khan want Facebook to remove defamatory and racist material, as well as responding more promptly when it is flagged up.

Under its terms and conditions, Facebook promises to remove posts that are "abusive, vulgar, hateful or racially and ethnically objectionable". However, the sheer volume of material posted is difficult to moderate and Facebook relies on users to notify it of serious breaches.

"We want Facebook to be a place where people can discuss issues and current affairs while respecting the rights and feelings of others," the company said this year, in response to complaints from anti-racism campaigners. "However, there is no place for content that is threatening, abusive, hateful, or racially or ethnically objectionable on the site and Facebook will remove any such content that violates our terms of use when it is reported."

Following similar complaints, the Google-owned video sharing website YouTube promises to act promptly when it receives complaints about copyrighted material or videos that are offensive or glamorise violence. But it has resisted policing the site itself.

Taylor Heath stressed that his clients did not have a problem with fan sites or fair comment around the sport, but want to clamp down on comments that were seriously racist or defamatory.

The Guardian


Jamie The Antifascist said...

Totally agree with both Amir and Frank, they should also look at some of the disturbing stuff that people have on their youtube channels, pretending to be someone they are not.

As an example, I was surfing round some of the YT's channel pages a few weeks ago when I come across this white supremacist's page and he had nooses around the necks of some of Hollywood's finest black actors in his background, he also had Obama in his profile pic with a small Hitler like moustache...

Springer said...

I think Amir Khan and Nick Griffin (who apparently did some boxing at Uni) should get into a ring together and do ten rounds. Not for any particular reason - just because I'd like to see Griffin get beaten to a pulp. Do it on Pay As You Watch and the promoters would make a fortune!

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I've been checking Facebook out for fascists recently and found it to be almost entirely unregulated here's a disgusting post I found and reported twice which has never been deleted:

"we should digg a big hole and throw all the p***s in and set the mother f*****s alight!"

This appears to be a BNP group run by supporters and they discuss things like getting rid of Muslims and knocking down Mosques:

It's not far off Stormfront now, yet it's on Facebook.

gee said...

Both YouTube and Facebook are totally evil. That "ammendment" that allows free speech in America shouldn't apply to the site available to the rest of the world, so hopefully Amir and Frank will win the case against both organisations.