If Web readers in Britain were intrigued by the headline “Details Emerge in British Terror Case,” which sat on top of The New York Times’s home page much of yesterday, they would have been disappointed with a click.This sets an interesting precedent - if the NY Times is willing to filter content for one jurisdiction to avoid contempt of court problems, how long will it be able to avoid filtering for possible libel issues?
“On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of nytimes.com in Britain,” is the message they would have seen. “This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial.”
In adapting technology intended for targeted advertising to keep the article out of Britain, The Times addressed one of the concerns of news organizations publishing online: how to avoid running afoul of local publishing laws.
“I think we have to take every case on its own facts,” said George Freeman, vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company. “But we’re dealing with a country that, while it doesn’t have a First Amendment, it does have a free press, and it’s our position that we ought to respect that country’s laws.”
Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University, said restricting information fit with trends across the Internet. “There’s a been a sense that technology can create a form of geographic zoning on the Internet for many years now — that they might not be 100 percent effective, but effective enough,” Mr. Zittrain said. “And there’s even a sense that international courts might be willing to take into account these efforts.
Plans were made at The Times over the weekend to withhold print versions of the article in Britain, as well as news agency and archived versions.
But the issue of the Web was more complicated.
Richard J. Meislin, the paper’s associate managing editor for Internet publishing, said the technological hurdle was surmounted by using some of The Times’s Web advertising technology. The paper could already discern the Internet address of users connecting to the site to deliver targeted marketing, and could therefore deliver targeted editorial content as well. That took several hours of programming.
“It’s never a happy choice to deny any reader a story,” said Jill Abramson, a managing editor at The Times. “But this was preferable to not having it on the Web at all.”"
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
NY Times uses geolocation to avoid contempt of court
Times Withholds Web Article in Britain: