Baybrook Remodelers' cack-handed SEO genius wants our unflattering coverage removed from the net


Remember Baybrook Remodelers, Ken Carney's Connecticut-based construction company who bully and sue disgruntled customers who leave negative reviews on Yelp and other sites? Well, now they've hired an SEO creep called Todd Ramos, who is hassling Techdirt to try and get their post about Baybrook taken down.

Ramos's campaign tactics include smearing Baybrook's victim (referring to her over and and over again as a "crazy woman"), and inventing imaginary conversations with Boing Boing in which we are said to be considering removing our own coverage. For the record, we are not. He also claims that we were hired by Baybrook's victim to post uncomplimentary things about Baybrook (we were not). And he claims to have "600 bloggers and 20000 blog as ranging in pr 4 to 7" through which he will smear Techdirt if they don't remove the post.

The most cack-handed part of this whole thing is that its founder, Mike Masnick actually coined the term "The Streisand Effect" to describe the knock-on publicity that arises from censorship attempts, because the attempt at censorship is often more newsworthy than the information that is under dispute.

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Stamping Chinese banknotes with censorship-busting QR codes


An anonymous anti-censorship group is stamping Chinese banknotes with a QR code and the message "Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall." The stamps encode a URL for Freegate, a firewall-busting service. The stamps are widely suspected to be the work of Falun Gong, an outlawed religious sect that has a long history of supplying anti-censorship technology inside of mainland China, both to supply access to its own censored websites and to advertise the virtues of its belief-system to Chinese Internet users who are more interested in beating censorship than religion.

The money-stamping story has been big news in China, even attracting reportage in state-run media, where the comment-sections are full of Chinese Internet users complaining that the photos of the stamped money are too low-rez to be scanned in.

This isn't the first time that anti-corruption messages have been circulated through defaced currency: Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame runs the Stamp Stampede, which stamps messages condemning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates of unlimited, anonymous political campaign spending.

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Baybrook Remodelers sue (and sue and sue) people who give them negative reviews


Since 2010, Kristen A. has maintained a website where she documents the legal hassles she's undergone with Baybrook Remodelers, Ken Carney's Connecticut company, who has sued her for posting a negative online review of the work they did for her. Baybrook has filed more than 40 lawsuits against its online critics. In Kristin A's case, Baybrook has filed for 15 continuances, dragging the case out so that it was never heard -- it's only scheduled for a hearing now because Kristin A's lawyer insisted. It's not the only case that's been dragged out by Baybrook's lawyers.

Kristen A's mother actually moved houses because of legal harrassment from Carney and Baybrook -- after she hung up a sign saying "I do not recommend Baybrook Remodellers" and another showing how many lawsuits the company had filed, Baybrook had the city of Milford pull her zoning approval and make her life hell (nice one, Milford, CT).

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection's complaints file for Baybrook is 40 pages long.

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United nearly kills shipped dog, refuses to pay vet bills without NDA


Janet Sinclair and her dog "Sedona"

When Janet Sinclair shipped her greyhound from San Diego to Boston with United Airlines' PetSafe program, she was horrified to discover her dog nearly dead on arrival, covered in feces and blood, with blood in its stool and urine. The dog had been exposed to punishing heat, its cage had been kicked across United's shipping facilities by their handlers. The vet bill was $2700, and the vet confirmed that the dog's injuries were the result of heat stroke and rough treatment.

United agreed to pay the vet bill, but only if Sinclair would sign a nondisclosure agreement promising not to tell anyone about their monumental screw-up. Instead, Sinclair went public. The ensuing media attention revealed hundreds of other people whose pets were injured and killed by United.

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UK Conservative party tries to send all official speeches down the memory hole

The UK Conservative Party's ten-year archive of campaign and policy speeches has been erased from the Internet. Sometime since October, they posted a robots.txt file to block the Internet Archive and other sites from caching copies of the deleted archives. Ironically, Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne ran on a platform of "open source politics." The Internet Archive has started to restore its archive of deleted Tory speeches. Conservative Party HQ won't comment on it, because the "website guy" is out of the office.

Meantime, we've lost such speeches as Cameron's 2006 talk at Google Zeitgeist where he lauded "democratising the world's information" and said the Internet gave us "the power for anyone to hold to account those who in the past might have had a monopoly of power - whether it's government, big business, or the traditional media."

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Comcast says its attempt to shut down TorrentFreak by claiming copyright on court filing was "error"


This morning, I posted about a series of legal threats sent to TorrentFreak by Comcast's (creepy) enforcers Cyveillance. At the time I posted, TorrentFreak had less than 24 hours to resolve the issue before being booted off its webhost, and was unable to get anyone at Cyveillance or Comcast to answer its repeated emails.

Now, Comcast has changed its mind. Here's an email I just received:

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UPDATED: Comcast asserts copyright over its court filing, is attempting to shut down news site that reproduced it


In an article published last week, TorrentFreak reproduced Comcast's response to a subpoena regarding the copyright troll Prenda Law. Since then, Comcast's agents Cyveillance have sent a series of escalating legal threats to TorrentFreak and its hosting provider, LeaseWeb, asserting copyright over a document that is not copyrightable, and whose reproduction would be Fair Use in any event. TorrentFreak's hosting provider has given them 24 hours to resolve the issue or face shutdown.


Update: Comcast has changed its mind. Here's an email I just received:

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Ikea catalog made from found hardcore porn footage

A tumblr called just another ikea catalog [VERY NSFW] consists of clips from hardcore pornography in which Ikea furniture appears, converted to animated GIFs with catalog-style product names and pricing superimposed as appropriate.

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Big Telco uses shills to smear book about Net Neutrality and telcoms corruption

Susan Crawford is an eminent telcoms scholar, former government official (who resigned because of corruption in telcoms policy) and the author, recently, of an important book on telcoms corruption and net neutrality called Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age. This book has scared the pants off of big telcos.

Their anti-Net-Neutrality front groups like NetCompetition, Broadband For America, and Media Freedom have been smearing Crawford and her book since it was published, and now, at least 31 people have posted highly similar one-star reviews of her book to Amazon, quoting talking points from these organizations. Most of these reviewers are not in Amazon's "real name" program, and the ones that are work for big telcos and the think-tanks they fund. Mike Masnick investigated the reviews in detail and it's pretty clear that nearly all the five-star reviews are from legit, named, disinterested parties (albeit with a few people who have a dog in the fight, like activists and scholars, and a couple more who say they are trying to balance out the one-star smears); meanwhile, nearly all the one-star reviews are from shills or telco people.

America has some of the worst Internet infrastructure in the developed world, and it's getting worse year by year. It's thanks to the crooked phone companies and their corrupt pals in Congress, the state houses, and the regulators. These titans have the country by its nervous system, and they're so afraid of criticism that they engage in petty, corrupt astroturfing to attack books that call them out. Now is a great time to buy Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, read it, and give it an honest review.

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Rotolight sends fraudulent takedown notice to censor unfavorable review


Den Lennie posted a video to Vimeo that compared the Rotolight Anova to a competing product, the Kino Flo Celeb, and found the Rotolight product inferior. Rotolight responded by filing a perjurious, fraudulent DMCA takedown notice with Vimeo (who, to its shame, honored it), claiming that the review violated Rotolight's trademark. This is pure copyfraud: first, because the DMCA is only available as a remedy for copyright infringement (not trademark infringement) and second, because product reviews are not trademark infringements, full stop.

Using a Copyright Infringement claim to shut down the opposition (Thanks, Dave!)

Critic of AIDS denialist needs help with Texas defamation lawsuit

Clark Baker, an "AIDS denialist" who plays hardball with his critics -- for example, calling a critic's elderly mother and saying that, as an ex-police-officer, it is his opinion that her son was a violent criminal who might murder her in her sleep -- can dish it out but can't take it.

Baker operates a consultancy that helps people who have HIV and have unprotected sex escape from the legal consequences of their recklessness. His professional service involves appearing in court and arguing that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.

Understandably, this draws firm and impassioned criticism. One critic, J. Todd Deshong of Texas, is now the target of a lawsuit by Baker and his attorney, Mark Weitz of Weitz Morgan PLLC in Austin, Texas. They have brought suit against Deshong for "trademark infringement, defamation, "business disparagement," and for injunctive relief."

As Ken at Popehat points out, this is without legal merit. But nuisance suits can be ruinously expensive, and if you're a deep-pocketed pseudoscientist-for-hire whose career as an AIDS denialist depends on silencing critics who point out the obvious holes in your scientific reasoning, then no price is too high when it comes to frivolous litigation.

Mr Deshong needs help from members of the Texas bar and supporters around the world who can come to his aid and defend his right to participate in vigorous debate over important, life-or-death issues without this sort of litigious harassment.

Todd Deshong needs help. He's being sued for attacking junk science; he's being sued by the sort of loathsome nutter who threatens the mothers of critics. Your freedom to speak without fear of censorious and frivolous litigation chilling you depends on the willingness of people to step up in situations like this. If nobody helps Todd Deshong, then anybody can be driven to penury by a flawed legal system that serves as a vehicle for despicable and un-American censorship by lunatics of every stripe. If you're a Texas lawyer, please consider helping. If you know Texas lawyers, please bring this to their attention. If you have an online presence, please tell this story — and research Clark Baker's behavior yourself. Clark Baker and his lawyer should experience the social consequences of their actions — help be a part of those social consequences. Step up for free speech.

Popehat Signal: Vengeful AIDS Denialist Sues Critic In Texas

TV station that aired racist joke-names for Asiana crash pilots now misusing copyright to censor evidence of its stupidity


KTVU, the San Francisco TV station that displayed a bunch of jokey, racist pilot names on a newscast about the Asiana crash at SFO, is now misusing copyright law to censor clips that record its mistake for posterity. They say that "everyone has seen the clips" and that it was an "accidental mistake" (as opposed to all those deliberate mistakes), and that this somehow justifies multiple acts of copyfraud against services around the Internet and their users. As always, Mike Masnick Techdirt brings the scathing critique:

First things first. If you're not taking it down for copyright reasons, then why the hell are you using the DMCA takedown system? Noah H. Webster, it's got "COPYRIGHT" right in the frickin' name! Wouldn't a polite note to the YouTube account holders stating the above accomplish the same thing (i.e., a minimal level of compliance)?

As for the arguing it should be removed because "most people have seen it," I don't even know where to go with that. Continuing to show the video isn't "offensive." Only the original act is. Pretending this has something to do with making amends for an earlier error is just kind of sad, especially when the station manager tries to drag viewers into his Shame Circle with "thoughtless repetition of the video by others."

TV Station Issues DMCA Takedowns On Videos Of Its Fake Asian Pilot Names Debacle

India's OMICS Publishing Group threatens scholarly critic with $1 billion lawsuit, jail time

OMICS Publishing Group, an Indian scholarly publisher has threatened to sue one of its critics, Metadata librarian Jeffrey Beall, for $1 billion, and has threatened him with prison time over posts he made to his prominent Scholarly Open Access site. OMICS cites India's terrible Information Technology Act as the basis for its threats. However, it seems unlikely that Beall would be extradited to India even if OMICS makes good on its threats, and unless he has assets in India, they'll have a hard time collecting on any judgment.

Today The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a less amusing letter Beall received Tuesday. An Indian intellectual property management firm called IP Markets informed Beall that they would be suing for $1 billion in damages and that he could face up to three years in prison for his "deliberate attempt to defame our client." That client is OMICS Publishing Group, an India-based operation profiled several times on the blog. The group requested that Beall remove the posts and e-mail updates to anyone who published his work, yet IP Markets still intends to go through with the suit either way.

"All the allegation [sic] that you have mentioned in your blog are nothing more than fantastic figment of your imagination by you," the six-page letter reads according to The Chronicle. "Our client perceive the blog as mindless rattle of a incoherent person and please be assured that our client has taken a very serious note of the language, tone, and tenure adopted by you as well as the criminal acts of putting the same on the Internet."

I know nothing about OMICS's publishing practices, but based on how they handle their critics, I feel confident in saying that they're not the sort of firm that any scholar should be doing business with -- censoring, terrible bullies don't make good publishers.

Blogger writes about predatory publishing, is threatened with $1B suit

EFF updates the Takedown Hall of Shame

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published its latest "Takedown Hall of Shame" installment, listing three companies that used baseless and stupid legal threats to censor the Internet. The current crop includes Kern's Kitchen in Louisville, which claims a trademark on the common term "Derby Pie" and threatens bloggers who post their family recipes for the classic desert -- they also target WordPress.com for their threats (one victim changed the name of the recipe to "Mean Spirited Censorship Pie").

Another inductee is Time Warner Cable, who went after a critic who put up a site making fun of the company's terrible customer service, trying to get its YouTube, Twitter and other social media sites taken down.

Finally, there's Fox, which earned a place in the Hall of Shame by sending out fraudulent takedown notices over my bestselling novel Homeland, swearing on pain of perjury that it represented me (it doesn't).

Takedown Hall of Shame Inductions, May 2013

Suburban Express bus-line sends bullying, cowardly legal threat to Reddit, discovers Streisand Effect


A convicted cybersquatter named Dennis Toeppen now runs the Suburban Express bus service that is used to take students home from university in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa to Chicago. Suburban Express attracts many online complaints from riders who object to the company's policy of fining riders $100 (charged automatically to their ticket-purchase credit-card) if they present the wrong ticket when they board, and other, similar policies -- and who allege that the company hunts down its online critics and bans them from riding.

But Toeppen and Suburban Express went too far when it threatened a volunteer Reddit moderator with a defamation suit for failing to police the company's critics on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign subreddit, where a banner read, "Don't ride Suburban Express! They're likely to sue you, have terrible reviews, and also this." The banner implied that an anonymous Reddit commenter who accused Suburban Express critics of of being "lonely virgins" was run by Toeppen or his representatives.

The ensuing negative publicity (and a stern note from Ken "Popehat" White) frightened the bullying, cowardly company into withdrawing its threat. But with any luck, the company's public conduct will warn its potential customers away and make the offers presented by its rivals more attractive. If I was running a competing bus service, I'd be buying ad space on the subreddit in question, running ads that say, "Ride with us, we don't fine you, we don't ban you for complaining, and we won't threaten to sue you if you aren't happy!"

The company has developed a bad reputation online, with reviewers on Yelp and commenters on reddit sharing stories of what they claim are the company’s cutthroat business practices. For example, the company's ticket policy includes a "ticket fraud" clause that hits riders who hand the wrong ticket to a driver with a $100 fine, charged to the credit card used to purchase their ticket. "In the event that ticket is used to obtain transportation on another day or at another time," the company's policy statement reads, "or to or from a Chicago area stop other than printed on your ticket, you will be charged full fare for the trip you actually rode PLUS $100 penalty. You will also be permanently banned." The company also has a history of suing passengers for violating its terms and conditions—it has filed 125 tort and contract damage lawsuits against passengers this year alone, according to a report from a student newspaper.

The terms of service don't include not speaking ill of the company online, but apparently they might as well. Some commenters have accused the company's owner, Dennis Toeppen, of hunting down negative reviewers and banning them from the company's buses.

The Internet cauldron of opinion boiled over for Suburban Express after an incident on March 31. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign graduate student Jeremy Leval took to Facebook, describing a driver he saw make derogatory comments to an international student who was having difficulty understanding him—“If you don’t understand English, you don’t belong at the University of Illinois or any ‘American’ University," he reportedly told her.


Update: Aaand here it is: a rival company, Peoria Charter, is advertising to Suburban Express customers with a campaign that stresses that they don't sue their customers. They're offering $2 off if you book tickets on their coaches with the promo code "nolawsuits" -- thanks, Murph!

Express to Internet Hate: Bus company threatens redditor with lawsuit [Sean Gallagher/Ars Technica]