I need to talk about this issue, because not only does it affect me personally – it plays a major role in a number of criminal activities, and in terrorism.
I’ll get the personal issue out of the way first, concerning defamation and death threats. Regular readers of this blog may be aware that I’ve had some success in the courts with three straight victories suing three different people for defaming me. Two of them were not in Australia – they were both in the United States. Neither defendant made an appearance – the first sent a very rude letter to the court (the term “rude” was given to it by the Associate Justice who looked after the pre trial hearings and acknowledged as defamatory in itself by the trial judge) stating that he wanted nothing to do with the proceedings because there wasn’t a case. The fact that he didn’t want anything to do with it is the reason why he never got a sealed copy of the decision. The second defendant ignored everything about the proceeding.
That was the easy part. The hard part is getting what I’m owed through damages. In order to do that, I have to register the orders in the United States. It doesn’t really matter where I do it within the fifty states, but in order to maximise the chances of a successful application I need to do both of them in the respective home states of the pair of them – New Hampshire and California.
Now here’s where the problem lies, particularly with the second decision. In 2010, President Barack Obama signed off on a law that is called “The SPEECH Act”. This law prohibits the registration of defamation decisions made outside of the US against US citizens that isn’t compliant with the United States interpretation of defamation. Now with the New Hampshire defendant that was taken into account even though it didn’t need to under Victorian law. The difference is that in the United States – the plaintiff must prove that they have been defamed (ie they have to prove that what was said is not true and that it is damaging, with the former the critical component). In Victoria – and every other Australian state and Territory as well as in the United Kingdom at least – the onus is on the defendant to prove that what they said was true and defensible. With the Californian based defendant I didn’t get the chance to make the same effort, which is why I need the first decision registered as a precedent given that some of the the second defendant’s accusations matched the first.
As a result of this “overlay of animus” (I’m assuming this) no lawyer in the US is willing to take this case on. This is despite the fact that the First Amendment of the United States does NOT protect people who engage in PROVEN defamation. It’s getting to the point that I may have to travel to the US myself to get it done, and with my current finances and being Autistic forcing me to business class on the Pacific Ocean journey that’s not going to happen in the forseeable future.
This is the problem with the Internet. Anyone can say what they want from the United States and get away with it because of their interpretation of Freedom of Speech. Most providers won’t act without a court order (Google won’t. Neither will Word Press) or they get the interpretation of their own rules wrong (Facebook and Twitter apply here).
This brings me to the general issue, but first I have to mention the other issue that affects me personally – death threats. I was in receipt of no less than nine of them between December 16, 2015, and January 3, 2016 – as it happens from the same person in California that I sued successfully for defamation. And despite the blatant violation of the Californian Penal Code the Los Angeles Police Department insisted that the matter wasn’t in their jurisdiction! They pushed it to Victoria Police, who wanted nothing to do with it (and I’m with them on that one) leaving me in no man’s land and chasing down a solution to it ever since. That effort still goes on today as I type this.
Now to the general issue – the Internet is clearly out of control, with no one prepared to put their hand up and say “I’ll do something about this”. To be honest, one person or group can’t do it. It has to be a collective effort between countries. As it stands – criminal activity is rife. Paedophiles ply their trade from anonymous locations and are untouchable in real life as they keep moving around to avoid detection in countries that won’t co-operate. Organised crime operates in a similar manner, and so do the worst criminals of all – terrorists. Not to mention the biggest visible scourge of the Internet – hate speech. It’s that last one that creates radicalisation, a key factor in the recruitment of converts to the terrorist cause. It’s why the membership of my website awarded Blair Cottrell the Idiot of the Month for April after his hate laden stunt at the Melbourne Cricket Ground during the Richmond/Collingwood game.
But because of the laws of countries differing, it makes prosecuting criminals a rough task. Take Gary McKinnon for instance. The United States were determined to extradite him from England for his crimes, but they failed because of British law and it’s system. I don’t doubt that he did the wrong thing, but clashing administrative laws meant that the matter wasn’t really resolved – even if McKinnon got the message that what he did was wrong.
Extradition of criminals is another problem. If a country doesn’t have an extradition treaty with another, a confirmed criminal is safe from arrest. That one goes back to well before the Internet – the most famous example that I’m aware of is Ronald Biggs, safely holed up in Brazil at a time when England didn’t have an extradition treaty with them. There are a number of countries that Australia don’t have extradition treaties with, mostly in Africa and Asia outside of the south east of that region. This includes Russia where apparently a lot of the active online paedophiles hide (I’ve heard).
Here’s the rub. I’m all for the sovereignty of countries. Some don’t deserve it – such as a Taliban led Afghanistan, a Hussein led Iraq or other such dictatorships. But when people are being hurt, either psychologically or physically, or killed or otherwise infringed upon in the criminal sense – they have to be punished. Justice needs to be served. But how can it be served when so much anonymity is allowed creating holes in the administration of the law that would make great business for a Swiss cheese factory?
It has to stop.
The question is – how? Who actually wants to do something about it and has the resources to get it up and running? Freedom has a price. True freedom is a myth because the minute someone gets hurt, freedom is lost. We can’t allow criminals to continue to break the law and get away with it. Countries that are presently protecting them need to understand the hurt they are causing. They need to start caring about other countries. Freedom fighters will point at Russia and China as the biggest offenders. I would agree – except that I would equally point the finger at the United States of America. It’s one big mess and I wish there was a way to get this sorted out properly so that we can put a stop to all the criminal behaviour that is going on.
(And I can get justice on my issues as well! And I’ll bet I’m not the only one!)