Ahlert, Marsden and Yung (N.D.)
|Ahlert, Marsden and Yung (2004)|
|Title:||How ‘Liberty’ Disappeared from Cyberspace: The Mystery Shopper Tests Internet Content Self-Regulation|
|Author(s):||Christian Ahlert, Chris Marsden, Chester Yung|
|Citation:||Ahlert, C., Marsden, C., & Yung, C. (2004). How ‘Liberty’ Disappeared from Cyberspace: The Mystery Shopper Tests Internet Content Self-Regulation. Retrieved from http://pcmlp.socleg.ox.ac.uk/sites/pcmlp.socleg.ox.ac.uk/files/liberty.pdf|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||The study tested the level of scrutiny that ISPs gave to takedown notices before acting, by setting up a fake web page containing non-infringing content (in this case portions of public domain chapters from John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’), and then sending notices to the ISPs concerned asking for it to be removed. This test was applied in both the UK and US. The study was also supplemented with surveys and interviews with the Dutch ISP Association.|
|Data Type:||Primary data|
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|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
“This paper represents the results of a research project on Notice and Take Down attempting to shed light on the "reality" of content self-regulation by Internet Service Providers in general and in particular on differences between the US and the EC legal framework in this area. Under Notice and Takedown (NTD) regimes Internet Service Providers have the duty to remove illegal and harmful content from the internet once they are made aware that their servers host it. The quantity of complains and websites removed under NTD is unknown, and the process by which ISPs determine whether or not a website contains illegal or harmful content remains obscure, raising questions of accountability, transparency and the overall appropriateness of delegating content regulation to private actors under a self-regulatory framework; as in principle this could be seen as a privatization of censorship. However, the consequences are much clearer: once an ISP disables access to a website the content disappears from the internet, which is effectively a form of censorship. The question we then posed was quite simply: How does NTD actually work?”
Main Results of the Study
Following complaint to the US ISP, further details and information were required from the complainant before removal of the website (following exactly the procedure of the DMCA - e.g. the insistence of the usage of particular wordings such as “good faith belief” or “under penalty of perjury”). Conversely, when the same complaint was issued to the UK ISP, the non-infringing website was removed almost immediately, and without further investigation. The authors ascribe the UK ISP’s hastiness to act due to the lack of a standardised notice-and-takedown system in the EU more generally.
Concluding, the authors find that a single email is sufficient to remove a work in the public domain from their server.
In a supplementary study with the Dutch ISP Association, ISPs appeared particularly reluctant to provide data on notice-and-takedown practices, even when questioned by their industry association (only 5 out of 15 responding, and 10 not willing to participate). The authors speculate that this is either due to a view of unimportance, or that their business may be harmed if such transparency opens them up to public discussion.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The authors conclude that the notice-and-takedown system has the capacity for easy abuse. To avoid this, they recommend clarification of the existing regime (as to e.g. limiting liability of ISPs, guidelines, codes of practice etc.) and promotion of transparency measures for private actors.