Saturday, February 9, 2013

Google ordered to expose alleged internet defamers of London rabbi

times of Israel   A British judge ordered Google to help identify people who may have defamed a London rabbi accused of inappropriate conduct toward women.

Justice Elizabeth Gloster of Britain’s High Court in London ordered the American Internet company to identify the authors of online comments said to have defamed Rabbi Chaim Halpern, the Jewish Chronicle reported on Friday.

The rabbi denies claims of inappropriate conduct, which are currently being investigated by a special rabbinical court set up at the behest of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations. Chloe Strong, Halpern’s attorney, said that the comments contained “serious defamatory slurs.”

Google, the judge said, needs to disclose the names of several people who have posted comments about Halpern under pseudonyms.


29 comments:

  1. Baruch Hashem. May justice be served. And may all who think they can defame and libel on the Internet anonymously will be without consequence, be forewarned.

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  2. I think it's fair enough that if you make unequivocal statements that you should stand by them. At the same time I think R' Halpern should also face his day in court: guilty or not guilty.
    I'm interested to know, however, which Beis Din allowed the secular authorities to become involved in attempting to out the blogger? Would that Beis Din also ask the police if they have any information about Rabbonim about whom there was a "Kolo D'Lo Posik?"

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  3. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 10, 2013 at 5:09 AM

    "Dan said...Baruch Hashem. May justice be served. And may all who think they can defame and libel on the Internet anonymously will be without consequence, be forewarned."

    Nonsense, first of all let's see if this judge is right and can win in the long run. What are the laws and legal precedents about this in the United Kingdom?? What is the status of dissension and freedom of speech in the UK as a democracy?? Do you even know?? This is just what is called a digression and a red herring and a desire to create a "chill effect" on posters who are stating the truth, and you know it. The days are long gone when PUBLIC leaders can "get away with murder" because the Information Age now goes way beyond the media and the press it now allows anyone with Internet access to get involved and speak up. The only way to counter an argument is by giving a good counter-argument and proving that the allegations are false. As Mark Zukerberg, the founder of Facebook has stated, and he should now, he has one seventh of the 7 billion humans on Earth as users, that "The Age of Privacy is Over! Take note, no one can escape that in the 21st century.

    So: Are you defending Helpern?? Do you think he is "innocent"?? Do you think that all those women who went to Bais Din to reveal what he had done to them are all "liars"?? Do you think that anyone can "control" the Internet?? Does a judge in Britain have legal jurisdiction over Google that is an American corporation?? In the USA, thus far, the anonymity of bloggers is protected. And what will it accomplish if the name of some unknown bloggers are exposed, will that clear Halpern of his "guilt"?? Who will care that a bunch of nobody chaim yankels have taken the time to post about a rabbi's indiscretions?? Will it stop others who are determined from doing the same??

    Bottom line, in the USA for example, when rabbis were accused of wrongdoing and were forced to quit, and of course at some point bloggers got involved, but the bloggers themselves cannot and do not and have not fired the rabbis who did the wrongs, it is the balebatim who pay the rabbis that fire them, and by blaming bloggers it misses the point of the story, wastes time, and even though some rabbis have sued Internet providers, none of them were rehabilitated or reinstated because the rabbis only have themselves to blame for their own wrongdoings, being called on it, and the bloggers are just the messengers "being shot" but it will not help to expunge the misdeeds of that wrongdoers.

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    1. Does a judge in Britain have legal jurisdiction over Google that is an American corporation?? In the USA, thus far, the anonymity of bloggers is protected.
      Cross jurisdiction law concerning internet defamation is still being worked out. It is more complicated with companies such as Google that have offices and do business in various nations(UK and Israel being two such nations). As several US companies have recently found out, doing business in Britain means abiding by their laws.
      Further the US, while it protects domestic bloggers from domestic suits, has, as of yet not granted bloggers immunity from international suits.
      If you google the subject, you will find ample case law in which US courts have upheld the rights of foreign courts against US citizens and corporations.

      So, it is quite possible that a US blogger could face whatever punishments are normative in British courts if they violated British laws.

      In this case it gets more complicated, because very few IP addresses can be traced(without the engagement of local law enforcement authorities) to specific addresses. So assuming it is an anonymous blogger/commenter even if Google gives up the IP, that does not automatically deliver a defendant. It will then be up to the nation as to whether their own privacy laws protect said person. So we will have to see how this case ultimately unfolds, but there is some case-precedent for the judge to be able to do this.

      PS I'm not defending Halpern. He is obviously accused of some fairly serious crimes, and there are numerous alleged victims against him(yes I am covering myself because I am not an anonymous blogger).

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    2. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 11, 2013 at 1:57 AM

      Michael old boy, you seem so well-versed in this issue, why would that be? Are you pro or anti bloggers' rights by the way?

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    3. Michael old boy, you seem so well-versed in this issue, why would that be? Are you pro or anti bloggers' rights by the way?
      I am well versed in this for several reasons.
      1) I am a partner in Security/PI firm.
      2) I have covered Tropper affair and Nachlaot pedophile affair as a victims advocate on my own blog.

      As far as being pro or anti bloggers rights, I'm not sure what you mean by that as it would seem many have different definitions. Personally I believe that blogs and bloggers should be treated as any other sort of media, with the same rights and the same responsibilities.

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    4. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 12, 2013 at 2:35 AM

      1 of 2: "Rabbi Michael Tzadok said...1) I am a partner in Security/PI firm."

      RaP: very impressive, who do you work for mostly. Seems unusual that "an aspiring mekubal" and rabbi should also be working as a "Security"PI" person. Isn't there a better way to earn a living per parnosa nekiha vekala? Do you ever face situations where there is conflict between the Halacha, such as against mesira, and when law-enforcement requires you to report things? Sounds very intriguing and challenging.

      "2) I have covered Tropper affair"

      RaP: Yo were part of the debates but I cannot recall if you were pro or anti Tropper.and EJF.

      "and Nachlaot pedophile affair as a victims advocate on my own blog."

      RaP: Ok.

      "As far as being pro or anti bloggers rights, I'm not sure what you mean by that as it would seem many have different definitions."

      RaP: Indeed.

      "Personally I believe that blogs and bloggers should be treated as any other sort of media, with the same rights and the same responsibilities."

      RaP: You know quite well that that is NOT the view of bloggers. You don't get it. The Internet exists on its own terms in its own ether. The web is not a court of law, nor is it a media outlet alone, it is a vast "brain" that connects all parts of humanity, with all its ills and with all its pluses. They are not part of any "media" they are just ordinary people trying to be heard or get things done when society can't move forward.

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    5. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 12, 2013 at 2:35 AM

      2 of 2: "Rabbi Michael Tzadok said...1) I am a partner in Security/PI firm."...continued:

      RaP: As in the case of Tropper or pedophiles without bloggers Tropper and many pedophiles would still be in power, so you contradict yourself. You can't imply that you are somehow "anti Tropper" and "anti pedophiles" but yet at the same time also be anti the honest bloggers who brought them down and those bloggers are essentially are small-time little people, Lilliputians, that would get hurt if they went out front to confront big guys like Tropper with tens of millions of $$$ to back him up and those pedophiles and seducers of weak women and children, basically rapists, who hide behind rabbinic backing and the mask of rabbinic privilege, so the bloggers, just plain people who are hurting, have no choice and become whistle-blowers and tipsters, setting the wheels of change in motion. No one can "get off" or "stop" this www-boat from sailing because it has left the shores a long time ago. We are now in full throttle orbit.

      Thus, unless one can run the world like Communist China tries to do, and even they cannot control what micro-bloggers and dissidents say, regardless of government and state police persecution, Bloggers can never be controlled or held to the same standards as media and neither can social networking sites nor texters or people using skype or a cell phone, simply because they are thinking and talking and writing and typing out aloud. No way you can control Twitter and Facebook etc etc etc unless you shut them all down. Stopping the flow of electricity is the ONLY way that all cyber tools will be stopped. even then some folks will be able to generate their own energy with portable generators.

      If there does come a situation where someone is genuinely being falsely picked on or abused by bloggers it very easy for them to give their own counter-argument. The media is bulky, rigid, in the back pockets of vested interests and has it's own agendas, while bloggers are juts the voices of ordinary people expressing their views. It is like the difference between the "crude" sound of the shofar versus a well-orchestrated symphony orchestra. While the shofar expresses a kind of "groan" or "krechts" or "oy vey" and let the chips fall where they may, the media is controlled behemoth that the private citizen can do nothing to influence.

      Bottom line, bloggers express the unvarnished and free democratic voice of the common people and that is why they are perceived as threats to any (particularly corrupt) authorities who wish to preserve their privileges and cover up corruption.

      There is a sea-change at work, it's further along than most realize, in this Information Age with the democratization of the spread and reception of ALL INFORMATION by billions of people between billions of people about billions of topics and billions of times on billions of devices that can be handled by the trillions on the Internet, and it cannot be stopped by anyone or any government or any power, except by God Himself when HE so chooses.

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    6. You can't imply that you are somehow "anti Tropper" and "anti pedophiles" but yet at the same time also be anti the honest bloggers who brought them down
      See and I thought it was the expert analysis and confirmation of the infamous "Tropper tapes and video" that brought Tropper down. Which was done primarily pro-bono by my security firm.

      No democracy has ever given freedom of speech without boundaries, and that is being more recently applied to the internet as well. Honest bloggers I have no problem with. However, dishonest bloggers can ruin a person's life, and that is libel which should be illegal, and in fact is in many jurisdictions.

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    7. There was no one factor that brought Tropper down. Rav Sternbuch and the Bedatz were convinced by the tapes themselves as well as Tropper's problematic view of halacha. Most rabbis and laymen were convinced by the tapes themselves -without any additional analysis. I don't think Tom Kaplan required the tapes be confirmed before he withdrew his support. However there were some rabbis who thought the tapes might be forged. The evaluation that was done by Rabbi Tzadok's colleagues was useful in swaying these rabbis. I seem to recall that it was also validated by others.

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    8. True. Very true.

      We offered to have them validated by others and offered several other firms that could do it. I don't think it was ever actually done because of the monetary cost.

      Delete
    9. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 13, 2013 at 5:37 AM

      Rabbi Michael Tzadok said...

      "the expert analysis and confirmation of the infamous "Tropper tapes and video" that brought Tropper down. Which was done primarily pro-bono by my security firm."

      RaP: Good job!!! But this is news to those of us on this blog who had no idea of your involvement in this regard. Most times people involved in running "security" companies must have had prior training in detective, or military intelligence or police work.

      "No democracy has ever given freedom of speech without boundaries, and that is being more recently applied to the internet as well."

      RaP: No one is talking about running around a democracy and casually spreading slander for no reason. Juts as no one wishes to be in a dictatorship where citizens are arrested on a whim. As you know, there is FREEDOM and there is LAW reflecting the balance between CHESED and DIN -- This post and the case before us and that is the public eye in Britain is that of one Chaim Helpern, it is HE who has brought this upon himself now that so much has gone on that CRITICAL MASS has been reached and former victims are coming forth to tell their tales, in the media, in Batei Din, to rabbonim, on blogs, to friends, and hence where there is smoke there is fire, and it is HE who has been accused by women he allegedly molested and he is therefore under the axe of several Batei Din who have censured him. He has his allies, like all powerful and he can pull strings, again like all powerful men he has access to lawyers and he is now evidently using them to silence dissent, but as you well know there is something called THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION and while often the oilem is a goilem, yet as Abraham Lincoln allegedly said "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all, but you cannot fool the people all the time!" and in today's world on the Internet there is no way to impose a global universal "silencing order" to stop the world from stating the obvious. There are always going to be those that speak for that "silent majority" that is hurting. If they are forced to remain silent when obvious wrongdoing is occurring, then that is when the fuse is lit for eventual and inevitable revolutions to take place that will secure those freedoms whether the prevailing powers like it or not. That is how modern history has worked and it has not changed only quickened its pace.

      "Honest bloggers I have no problem with. However, dishonest bloggers can ruin a person's life, and that is libel which should be illegal, and in fact is in many jurisdictions."

      RaP: Again on this blog, Rabbi Eidensohn does not post about dishonest subjects and he is certainly not a dishonest blogger and neither are those posters who merely comment further support Rabbi Eidensohn on the topics he posts about that are not news but are already heavily under discussion, like the Halpern affair, and are past being private matters since they concern large swathes of Klal Yisrael and even of humanity.

      By the way, why are you so concerned about acting more like Halpern's lawyers are and avoiding sharing your views about what should be done about the problems and challenges types like Halpern pose to society. In other words why are you avoiding the main topic while you pivot to stress your opposition to bloggers who are trying to fight for a good cause such as getting rid of sexual predators who are inflicting pain and shame and damage on innocent females and weak people in communities under their power?

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    10. RaP: Good job!!! But this is news to those of us on this blog who had no idea of your involvement in this regard. Most times people involved in running "security" companies must have had prior training in detective, or military intelligence or police work.

      Actually it was posted.
      What prior training I had is mostly my business.

      By the way, why are you so concerned about acting more like Halpern's lawyers are and avoiding sharing your views about what should be done about the problems and challenges types like Halpern pose to society. In other words why are you avoiding the main topic while you pivot to stress your opposition to bloggers who are trying to fight for a good cause such as getting rid of sexual predators who are inflicting pain and shame and damage on innocent females and weak people in communities under their power?
      In all due respect, and honestly I do greatly appreciate your analysis most times, this is one of your prime weaknesses. You read motive, tone ect. into comments, and often you are simply wrong. Here being an example.

      Now regarding Halpern in particular, and alleged molesters and rapists in general, my view is simple. I do not believe that a Rav is in anyway equipped to investigate an issue(a fact that I think was proven by those Rabbanim who were briefly taken in by Tropper's claim that the tapes were faked). The training of the average Rav is well beyond inadequate to the task, and often, if undertaken will result in damage being done to the case, often irreparably. We saw this in particular in the Nachalaot case.

      My opinion is, that any serious suspicion should be turned over to a professional police force for proper investigation.

      Further I find it sad that this isn't the primary, and immediate response despite the great weight of halakhic responsa to that effect.

      As for well intentions of bloggers, I am glad that so many want to help and be voices of reason and action. However, again from the Nachalaot experience, they can also blow an investigation, if(and no not all bloggers are so irresponsible) they become focused on the hits and conspiracy theories. For instance in Nachalaot it went from being a horrible uncovering of several active pedophile, where possibly two or three worked together, to being a Satanist-Illumanti-Catholic-Na, Nach-Homosexual-Wife swapping-Pedophile cult/ring that had seruptisiously dug an elaborate system of subterranean tunnels and obtained keys to all the homes while bribing the National and local governments as well as the police to look the other way.

      Now you may sit at your terminal and laugh(I don't blame you, it sounds funny). However, that kind of crazy(and the varying degrees that lead up to it) serve two counterproductive purposes:
      1) It tends to make the law enforcement officials far less likely to get involved or take the case seriously(an Interpol contact of mine backed away, despite our long standing relationship because he was more convinced that I had been duped than that folks like Mondrowitz were real threats because of the crazy).
      2) It makes the Rabbis far less likely to want to be supportive of investigations, and thus pushes the problem back under the rug.

      Now I know you can say, well that was just one case. How many children need to suffer so that some anonymous(or not so anonymous) blogger can spread around their crazy? Because that is exactly what has happened here.

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    11. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 14, 2013 at 2:46 AM

      Interesting and very informative. You seem to have blended kabbalah, halacha, high tech and detective work very well.

      Delete
  4. Mesira for Libel is deemed OK by the same ones who deem Mesira for abuse unacceptable?

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  5. The U.K. has the strongest anti-libel and and anti-slander laws in the world.

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    1. IOW "it's true" is not a defense against libel in the UK.

      And Zuckerberg was talking about anonymous comments, too.

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  6. Rav Eidensohn, I respectfully suggest you change the caption. As you know, unlike "lashon hara," "defamation" in Anglo-American law requires that the statements in question be false. I have no first-hand knowledge, but the actions of a number of London rabbeim (of which I'm sure you are aware) indicate that it is quite unlikely that the accusations against R. Chaim Halpern are false, and so I believe it is inappropriate to refer to them as "defamers," rather than "alleged defamers." You do say "may have defamed" in your post, but since other blogs pick up only the caption, I suggest you change it.

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    1. title of article is that of the Times of Israel. You and Yoel B. seem to disagree about whether truth is a defense.

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    2. I would also add that there is a good reason that news agencies used the words "alleged", "supposed", "suspect" and "suspected" when dealing with anyone not yet convicted even when there has been a full confession.

      Until there is a criminal or civil conviction the offense in question in many jurisdictions, while possibly true, does not bear the weight of fact(i.e. innocent until proven guilty).

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    3. Rav Eidensohn, I'm apparently replying to myself because it seems that I can't reply to you. FWIW, I am a (non-practicing) US lawyer. I don't know contemporary UK law, but I would be greatly surprised if truth were not an absolute defense to a claim of defamation, written or oral, since that is the common-law tradition and the law of all US states as far as I am aware. [Moshe Moshel -- as truth is a defense, the defendant, i.e., the person sued for defamation, has the burden of proving that the allegations in question are true or substantially true.] I believe in some states there are precedents allowing a limited exception, based on a right to privacy, permitting a claim for re-publicizing old but true facts that tend to portray the plaintiff in a "false light," i.e., as he or she may have been, but not as he or she is, an exception that would hardly apply here.

      Certainly no one will sue you over your caption. I only meant respectfully to suggest that "dan l'khaf zechut" cuts the other way here.

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  7. Will halpern have to prove in court that he is clean of the allegations?

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  8. Kevin is correct... on paper. De facto, since the defendant's statement is considered false unless proven true, as Wikipedia states: "English defamation law puts the burden of proof on the defendant, rather than the plaintiff, and is considered an impediment to free speech in much of the developed world."

    More from Wikipedia:

    •English law allows actions for libel to be brought in the High Court for any published statements which are alleged to defame a named or identifiable individual (or individuals) in a manner which causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of him, her or them.

    •Allowable defences are justification (i.e. the truth of the statement), fair comment (i.e. whether the statement was a view that a reasonable person could have held), and privilege (i.e. whether the statements were made in Parliament or in court, or whether they were fair reports of allegations in the public interest). An offer of amends is a barrier to litigation. A defamatory statement is presumed to be false, unless the defendant can prove its truth. Furthermore, to collect compensatory damages, a public official or public figure must prove actual malice (knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth). A private individual must only prove negligence (not exercising due care) to collect compensatory damages. In order to collect punitive damages, all individuals must prove actual malice.

    •English defamation law puts the burden of proof on the defendant, rather than the plaintiff, and is considered an impediment to free speech in much of the developed world. In many cases of libel tourism, plaintiffs sue in England to censor critical works when their home countries would reject the case outright. In the United States, the 2010 SPEECH Act makes foreign libel judgements unenforceable in US courts if they don't comply with US free speech law, largely in response to the English laws.

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  9. The problem is that while truth is usually a defense, the burden of establishing the truth falls on the defendant.

    Exercising that defense is expensive and Halpern seems quite willing to spend a lot.

    In addition, the truth defense requires willing witnesses to Halpern's alleged misconduct. But the haredi world is very good at intimidating witnesses.

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  10. Moshe Finkels Brother Chaim Finkel did the Same Thing when Girls in His High School Bnos Beis Yackov /Lakewood Accused him of Touching Them and Making Inapropriate Comments about Their Bodies

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  11. Halpern has already been defamed by 5 prominent London Rabbis and therefore any comments made by anonymous bloggers are of no further consequence. They will not have to prove the truth in their comments because Halpern cannot claim that additional damage has been done to himself by the bloggers. If he thought that he could get another job as a Rabbi after a strongly worded rebuke from the London Beth Din then not only is he mistaken but he will have huge difficulty in persuading a civil court that this is not the case.

    The purpose of taking the blog 'ifyoutickleus' to court was to stifle comment. Halpern and his legal advisers mistakenly thought that they could intimidate comment using legal means. The threat of 'having ones cover blown' has not worked as the comments have now jumped into the 300's and you can be sure that any further developments will only bring about more comment not less.

    How sad it is that Halpern needs to resort to legal intimidation of his own community. If he is not guilty then he should simply clear his name.

    The other thing is that even if Halpern is given IP addresses etc. the cost of uncovering the owner of that IP address will be burdensome. It is not as if you can look up the user of a certain Ip address and then know who it is. All that he will be given is the name of the telephone company that owns the IP address. He will then have to take them to court to force them to reveal who was using it at a particular time during the day. With a shared Internet connection you could have hundreds of users on a single IP address - so essentially Halpern is going to get to a dead-end in most cases.

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  12. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 12, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Yasher Koach to the above posters, "Yerachmiel Lopin" (e.g. "the haredi world is very good at intimidating witnesses") and "Nechama'' (e.g. "Touching Them and Making Inapropriate Comments about Their Bodies") and "E" (e.g. "How sad it is that Halpern needs to resort to legal intimidation of his own community. If he is not guilty then he should simply clear his name.") for their refreshingly honest and pointed comments without beating around the bush. Way to go!

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    1. If he cleared his name would all of those comments and blog articles simply disappear? Or in five years would Google still turn up results on his "crimes"?

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