Dysmey Post > Essays > Politics > Extortion on the Internet

Extortion on the Internet

A Las Vegas extortion racket, hiding behind the city's biggest newspaper, is starting to sweat as the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) is backing several of the racket's victims.

The extortion racket was set up by the newspaper in order to hunt for anyone who put in their Web site hyperlinks to, or reposted text from, any article on the newspaper's Web site. Those who are found thus are sued by the racket, which demands thousands of dollars and the domain names of the victims. The result of this is the shutdown of the sites.

The extortion racket has become so outrageous that it sued those, whom the newspaper had interviewed and who then had posted the text of the interviews. It has even sued a Senate candidate that the newspaper endorsed! (The candidate lost.)

This has made the newspaper's position untenable, despite its protests to the contrary. All the newspaper and its extortion racket have done is to scare people into not reading the newspaper on the Web, not linking to the newspaper's Web site, and not refering to the newspaper or its articles in any way.

I'd link to the story, but since the [newspaper] has made it clear it doesn't like links, I figured it's best not to do so.

Also, I would normally quote [the newspaper's editor's] article to debunk it — a clear case of fair use — but since the [newspaper] has made it clear it doesn't want anyone quoting its articles (despite the fact it still has 19 separate "share" buttons on each article), I won't bother.

No doubt others have followed the example of Mr. Masnick of Techdirt in tiptoeing around the newspaper. I know I have, going so far as to not mention the name of the newspaper, the name of its editor or its extortion racket. That is why I excised the names out of the quote above.

Now the extortion racket and its newspaper are in trouble, as the EFF is not only defending several of their victims, but has filed countersuits against them, claiming (among others) that the extortion racket is not a separate company, but a part of the newspaper, which provides the racket funding.

The extortion racket is now trying to drop one of its original lawsuits, out of fear that it would lose in court and have to pay lawyers fees, not just to the defendant but to the EFF, too. But with the countersuits from the EFF in place, the racket cannot back out on its own. And it is unlikely the courts will allow it to drop it, either. Promoting judicial economy, indeed! The racket does not want its profits gnawed away.

And, more than that, the newspaper and its extortion racket does not want shot down the racket's reason for existence: A business model of mass litigation of blog sites in order to shake them down for protection money. This sort of activity is a tradition in gambling-addicted, mafiosi-dominated Las Vegas.

But extortion is not a tradition on the Internet, but an evil introduced to it by that vile general public that invaded it in the mid-1990's. It is in the best interest of the Internet and its netizens to support the EFF as it fights the suppression of free speech from outfits like the newspaper and its extortion racket. More than that, we should bring about a true reform of copyright law, so that it does not brand every citizen as guilty until proven innocent, giving legal extortion rackets like the newspaper's an excuse to rob netizens blind.

Written by Andy West on 21 November 2010