Friday, September 28, 2007


Matt Wardman writes: If Mr Usmanov were employing Schillings Lawyers to generate attention for himself rather than to try and muzzle it, they would be performing very well indeed. Here are a couple of graphs from the useful Blogpulse Service, which racks how much attention is being devoted to different topics on the blogs. The first bulge is Alisher Usmanov buying part of Arsenal. The second bulge is the interest after Mr Usmanov used Schillings Lawyers to close down Craig Murray's critical website.

And what a bulge it is. Go and see the graphs, and picture how much Schillings must be hurting right now. This is a bloody train wreck for them.

Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall at Friday drinkies?


UK libel law: a discussion

Join an ongoing discussion of the current state of play and possible ways forward over at Unity's:

Ministry of Truth - Rewriting Britain's Libel Laws (1)

Time-consuming, but important.

TRANSCRIPT: Parliamentary privilege (EU edition)

The transcript of the speech made by a Member of the European Parliament has been published here on the European Parliament website. Matt has the details and says; "If you are carrying a self-produced transcript of the speech, I suggest you update it."

Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz

You'll want to read the second item on this post. The matter is tightly related to what we're dealing with here.

New poll

I've closed the existing poll a little early, as it was argued (quite fairly) that it did not present fair options for voters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The new poll does.

The parties in this new poll have been chosen according to the following criteria (with the help of Gus Abraham and Mick Fealty); UK parties either polling 15%+, having current representation, or being in office or coalition at a devolved level.

If a snap election is called, how do you plan on voting?
The new poll is now live in the sidebar... VOTE NOW!

(Also, to keep you busy over the weekend... please send us your best summary/summaries of this case so far.)

List of supporters

Below if the official list of blogs and bloggers that support this fight for free speech. Many thanks to Justin McKeating for hosting and managing the original.

This new version of the original list is managed by Aaron Heath. To add your blog to this list, simply send a permalink to your initial/primary post on this subject to:

tyger AT tygerland DOT net

If you're worried about arriving late for the party, don't.

If you haven’t blogged this yet and would like to, or have but haven’t let us know about it, please do so now.

[Note - We've removed the function that allows bloggers to copy and paste these links, as the resulting posts were sending multiple pings that disrupted conversations.]

The Alisher Usmanov Affair - current list of supporters:

[Justin McKeating], Curious Hamster, Pickled Politics, Harry’s Place, Tim Worstall, Dizzy, Iain Dale, Ten Percent, Blairwatch, Davide Simonetti, Earthquake Cove, Turbulent Cleric (who suggests dropping a line to the FA about Mr Usmanov), Mike Power (Mike has also produced this video), Jailhouse Lawyer, Suesam, Devil’s Kitchen, The Cartoonist, Falco, Casualty Monitor, Forever Expat, Arseblog, Drink-soaked Trots (and another), Pitch Invasion, Wonko’s World, Roll A Monkey, Caroline Hunt, Westminster Wisdom, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Norfolk Blogger, Chris Paul, Indymedia (with a list of Craig Murray’s articles that are currently unavailable), Obsolete, Tom Watson, Cynical Chatter, Reactionary Snob, Mr Eugenides, Matthew Sinclair, The Select Society, Liberal England, Davblog, Peter Gasston Pitch Perfect, Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe, Lunartalks, Tygerland, The Crossed Pond, Our Kingdom, Big Daddy Merk, Daily Mail Watch, Graeme’s, Random Thoughts, Nosemonkey, Matt Wardman (i, ii, iii, iv, v), Politics in the Zeros, Love and Garbage, The Huntsman, Conservative Party Reptile, Ellee Seymour, Sabretache, Not A Sheep, Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, The People’s Republic Of Newport, Life, the Universe & Everything, Arsenal Transfer Rumour Mill, The Green Ribbon, Blood & Treasure, The Last Ditch, Areopagitica, Football in Finland, An Englishman’s Castle, Freeborn John, Eursoc, The Back Four, Rebellion Suck!, Ministry of Truth, ModernityBlog, Beau Bo D’Or, Scots and Independent, The Splund, Bill Cameron, Podnosh, Dodgeblogium, Moving Target, Serious Golmal, Goonerholic, The Spine, Zero Point Nine, Lenin’s Tomb, The Durruti Column, The Bristol Blogger, ArseNews, David Lindsay, Quaequam Blog!, On A Quiet Day…, Kathz’s Blog, England Expects, Theo Spark, Duncan Borrowman, Senn’s Blog, Katykins, Jewcy, Kevin Maguire, Stumbling and Mumbling, Famous for 15 megapixels, Ordovicius, Tom Morris, AOL Fanhouse, Doctor Vee, The Curmudgeonly, The Poor Mouth, 1820, Hangbitch, Crooked Timber, ArseNole, Identity Unknown, Liberty Alone, Amused Cynicism, Clairwil, The Lone Voice, Tampon Teabag, Unoriginalname38, Special/Blown It, The Remittance Man, 18 Doughty Street, Laban Tall, Martin Bright, Spy Blog The Exile, poons, Jangliss, Who Knows Where Thoughts Come From?, Imagined Community, A Pint of Unionist Lite, Poldraw, Disillusioned And Bored, Error Gorilla, Indigo Jo, Swiss Metablog, Kate Garnwen Truemors, Asn14, D-Notice, The Judge, Political Penguin, Miserable Old Fart, Jottings, fridgemagnet, Blah Blah Flowers, J. Arthur MacNumpty, Tony Hatfield, Grendel, Charlie Whitaker, Matt Buck, The Waendel Journal, Marginalized Action Dinosaur, SoccerLens, Toblog, John Brissenden East Lower, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Peter Black AM, Boing Boing, BLTP, Gunnerblog, LFB UK, Liberal Revolution, Wombles, Focus on Sodbury…, Follow The Money, Freedom and Whisky, Melting Man, PoliticalHackUK, Simon Says…, Daily EM, From The Barrel of a Gun, The Fourth Place, The Armchair News Blog, Journalist und Optimist, Bristol Indymedia, Dave Weeden, Up North John, Gizmonaut, Spin and Spinners, Marginalia, Arnique, Heather Yaxley, The Whiskey Priest, On The Beat, Paul Canning, Martin Stabe, Mat Bowles, Pigdogfucker, Rachel North, B3TA board, Naqniq, Yorkshire Ranter, The Home Of Football, UFO Breakfast Recipients, Moninski , Kerching, e-clectig, Mediocracy, Sicily Scene, Samizdata, I blog, they blog, weblog, Colcam, Some Random Thoughts, Bel is thinking, Vino S, Simply Jews, Atlantic Free Press, Registan, Filasteen, Britblog Roundup #136, Scientific Misconduct Blog, Adam Bowie, Duncan at Abcol, Camera Anguish, A Very British Dude, Whatever, Central News, Green Gathering, Leighton Cooke (224), , Skuds’ Sister’s Brother, Contrast News, Poliblog Perspective, Parish Pump, El Gales, Noodle, Curly’s Corner Shop, Freunde der offenen Gesellschaft, otromundoesposible, Richard Stacy, Looking For A Voice, News Dissector, Kateshomeblog, Writes Like She Talks, Extra! Extra!, Committee To Protect Bloggers, Liberty’s Requiem, American Samizdat, The Thunder Dragon, Cybersoc, Achievable Life, Paperholic, Creative-i, Raedwald, Nobody’s Friend, Lobster Blogster, Panchromatica (251), Back off, man…, Dan Hardie, Krusenstern, Brendadada, Freace, Boriswatch, Fork Handles, Chris Applegate, Christopher Glamorgan, West Virginia Rebel’s Blog, Instapundit, Powerpymes, iDiligence Forum, Gizmotastic, Demos, Gary Andrews, Neweurasia , Never Trust a Hippy, sub specie aeternitatis, Bananas in the Falklands, The Sharpener, Virtual Light, Stu News, Scraps of Moscow, Danivon, As A Dodo, La Russophobe, PJC Journal, Mick Fealty’s Brassneck, dead brains don’t dance, A Comfortable Place, Bamblog, Robert Amsterdam, The Customer, No Longer at Ease, Rachel-Catherine, Humaniform, Mike Rouse, Chesus Yuste, anticapitalista, Aderyn Cân, Ulla’s Amazing Wee Blog (294), Ross200, Disruptive,, The Obscurer, A Lefty Down Under, Things I Learned or Made Up, Pickled Bushman, Persons Unknown, Gnus of the World, Postman Patel, Parburypolitica (ii) Miscellany Symposium (306) Omnium (ii), In the Café and the Station, James Cridland's blog, Small Beds and Large Bears, Christopher White, Rolled-up Trousers, Lynne Featherstone, ßench, Random Comments from South London, Chap Sticks, (316) Suraci, UK Politics - Can't Get Enough, Critical Facility Dojo, MetaMedia (IHT), LFCM: Casualty Monitor, IP Democracy, (322) Magna Carta Plus News, Antony Loewenstein, Sports Blog, football is fixed, Mailstrom, B2fxxx, (328)

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Yesterday, thousands of witnesses (most of them authors of key weblogs or their readers) watched Fasthosts punk out... again. They had their chance to make good and they blew it.

Next cab off the rank: Schillings.

You'll like this one; it's short and sweet...


----- Original Message -----
From: Clive Summerfield
Cc: Tim Ireland
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2007 10:01 AM
Subject: Usamanov/Schillings/Summerfield/Murray - Request for correspondence

Dear Sirs,

This is a request for copies of all correspondence sent to Fasthosts from your organisation involving material published on the websites of Craig Murray and Tim Ireland. In case you're not aware, Fasthosts have so far failed to show me anything beyond your first letter.

We're feeling a little ignored over here, and in no mood to waste time. We've set a perfectly reasonable deadline of 6 hours, which we hope you will meet as a sign of good faith.

Please keep in mind that statements made by your representatives seeking to lay the blame with Fasthosts would carry much more weight if you were able to show that they acted in an unreasonable fashion to reasonable demands.

Clive Summerfield
[CC: Tim Ireland]

That gives them until 4pm this afternoon. Let's see what they come back with.

UPDATE (5:30pm) - Tch. That's what you get for trying to be accommodating; we got nothing back. Not a sausage.

So, basically, Schillings' case to the public is that they made perfectly reasonable demands of Fasthosts, but we're not allowed to see them.

Fine by me. The longer they stick with this line, the longer people will suspect that Schillings own an unknown but not insignificant percentage of this almighty cock-up.

They're not afraid of appearing rabid (in fact, they seem quite proud of it), but it won't do them much good to look stupid.


A note on cross-spectrum support

(Note - I'm using the term 'cross-spectrum' instead of 'cross-party' to include the many non-aligned bloggers who are in on this.)

One thing outsiders appear to be struggling with is how significant the level of cross-spectrum support is on this issue. Unprecedented is a perfect word for it.

I found this post to be particularly striking; what's right is right:

I must confess that I am a couple days late to this fight for the inexcusable reason that I simply cannot abide Tim Ireland, but in truth that has nothing to do with the outrageousness of some jumped up plutocrat throwing his weight around like this. However much I might dislike the notion I am forced to support Tim Ireland unequivocally.
That's the most honest and compelling thing I've read on a blog in a very long time. Perry de Havilland, who wrote it, also blockquotes Mr Eugenidies' thoughts on the subject, as many other bloggers have:
And let's be clear on this point; these blogs are down not because Usmanov has been libelled, but because he says he's been libelled, and has a room full of paid monkeys sitting at typewriters firing off threatening letters to that effect.

I don't give a shit about this character, or Arsenal FC (no offence to any Gooners out there); nor do I share all or even most of Tim Ireland or Craig Murray's politics. But that's far from the point. If you can be silenced for calling a businessman a crook, then you can be silenced for calling a politician a crook, too. Then it's everyone's problem.

There's also this from Harry's Place:
Tim Ireland is a manic sort, whose politics I often find a bit odd. He is also one of the longest serving of the British blogging community.

Craig Murray, as readers of Harry's Place will know, is a man who is sometimes right and sometimes not. He has inspired some of us, and has been a tremendous source of fun for others.

Bloggers cannot operate if they are bullied by rich plaintiffs. Defamation law in the United Kingdom is both farcical and unfair, and is in desperate need of fundamental reform. Errors on blogs can easily be remedied: particularly where they permit open commenting (a libel risk in itself) which allows postings to be criticised, facts corrected, and arguments opposed. I know what it is like to be at the receiving end of a well funded threat of defamation proceedings, and it is no fun at all. It is outrageous that the law of defamation should be used to break bloggers: like butterflies upon wheels.

Frankly, we might as well shut up shop altogether if we do not stick together on this issue.

For all these reasons both of them deserve our support, and we should give it to them.
And you can rest assured that I for one won't be pissing it away in pursuit of a personal or party-political agenda.

Watch for significant changes to this weblog and a cross-spectrum evolution of this campaign once the fact-finding process nears completion; if you're hesitant because you think you'll be marching under my banner or Craig Murray's, think again.

Everyone should have the right to take part in open and honest debate online; this is going to be your best chance to fight for that right, secure it in law or precedent, and finally establish the importance of blogs in general.

UPDATE - This, from Justin McKeating:
291 people now linking to and blogging about this story... I've noticed one or two people apologising about 'coming late to the party'. Please, don't. This isn't a race, this about sharing views and showing solidarity. If you haven't blogged this yet and would like to, or have but haven’t let us know, please do.


I saw this excellent summary of recent events earlier that focuses admirably on Schillings:

Here's a new proposal for a case study for Schillings' prospectus:

The problem
Our client was a lardy foreign oligarch looking to take over a leading British football club. The former British Ambassador to his country had published allegations about him which he considered to be false and defamatory.

The solution
We put the frighteners on the former Ambassador's webhost to such an extent that it shut down not only his blog, but also other high profile blogs which had nothing to do with it, including that of the Conservative candidate for London mayor, and others in elected office. The allegations then spread around the internet and the mainstream media like wildfire.

I need more summaries. Impassioned or neutral, and maybe a bit in bewteen.

A useful summary could focus on Alisher Usmanov, Arsenal, Schillings, Fasthosts, the law etc.

A more useful summary would rope it all in and tell people why they need to care about this issue in general, because that's where we're headed.

(I'm trying to do the same myself, but am cutting it straight to video, which can be helpful but time-consuming. I also tend to get impossibly long-winded when I'm mired in detail as I am right now.)

I'll set a limit you can regard to be soft if you like; 10-20 word introduction paragraph, 200 words maximum.

I may dig some prizes out of the Special Cupboard if you bring me something really nice. I have treasure.



Blogroll: On its way

Translations: Please check in if you have or wish to make a translation of the (ahem) detailed text summary in this post.

Schillings: Later this morning.


Arsenal petition

Via Matthias, something for fans of the game to share:

PETITION: Investigate Alisher Usmanov as being unfit to invest in Arsenal FC

Sound off under comments if you think it belongs in the sidebar.

[NOTE - I would want to draw more facts out of this case and come to some form of consensus with supporters from across the political spectrum before attempting a petition to the Prime Minister.]

UPDATE - A few emails about there already being a Downing Street petition for Arsenal fans:

PETITION - Draw up a rigorous "fit and proper person" test for football club ownership

We're still holding fire on a law/rights petition for the moment.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fasthosts: a timeline of excellent service


Alisher Usmanov: Uzbek billionaire, current owner of 21% of Arsenal FC.

Schillings: Lawyers for Alisher Usmanov.

Fasthosts: UK-based provider of web hosting.

Clive Summerfield: Reseller for Fasthosts and manager of two dedicated web servers provided by them.

Craig Murray: Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; site [] hosted by Fasthosts via Clive Summerfield.

Tim Ireland: Non-aligned political blogger; site [] hosted by Fasthosts via Clive Summerfield.

[Please advise us via email if you intend to translate the text summary to a foreign language.]

On 02 September 2007, Craig Murray (the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan), wrote and published an article on his weblog [] about Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek-born billionaire who had just bought a 14.58% stake in the English team Arsenal Football Club and announced his intention to increase his stake to 25%

Schillings, a London law firm claiming to specialise in 'media, entertainment, internet, new media and sports legal issues, particularly defamation law', issued a legal threat to Fasthosts demanding removal of the article within 24 hours.

This action bypassed the author of the article (Craig Murray) and the reseller for Fasthosts (Clive Summerfield) who managed two dedicated webservers, including one that hosted Craig Murray's website, and a few other personal, professional and/or political websites.

This was the first in a series of four complaints involving Craig Murray's website and the website of Tim Ireland []. Correspondence from Schillings was only shared with the reseller on that first occasion. From the second (minor) complaint onwards, Clive Summerfield and the clients involved had little to no idea exactly what content Schillings objected to and/or on what legal grounds they were making their complaint.

On the third complaint, relating to a post made by Tim Ireland on that included a heavily-censored excerpt from Craig Murray's article, Clive was given a mere 15 minutes in which to remove the article in question. This deadline was met.

Upon the fourth complaint from Schillings (on 20 September 2007), which related not to any new articles written by Craig Murray, but to two older articles in his archives (one of which was almost two years old), Clive Summerfield immediately deactivated Craig Murray's website and told Fasthosts of his intention to begin a dialogue between Schillings, Murray and himself. Fasthosts were invited to take part in that dialogue.

Fasthosts responded by closing down not just Craig Murray's website, but the entire account. Both servers managed by Clive were removed from service resulting in the closure of the websites of Craig Murray, Tim Ireland, Clive Summerfield, Bob Piper (Labour Councillor for Sandwell), Boris Johnson (Conservative MP for Henley), and many other bystanders. Only two of the dozen or so websites involved published anything about Alisher Usmanov.

A backlash began amongst bloggers, starting at the website of Justin McKeating [] and soon spread to the news media. It was at this time that Fasthosts issued a statement to the press saying:

"There were certain statements on one individual site which we asked were removed because they were potentially defamatory. The customer was repeatedly advised of the breach and upon failing to permanently remove the content in question their customer account was terminated, the unfortunate result being the possible downtime of other unrelated websites of which we understand was one."
In reality, Clive Summerfield had done everything within his power to meet with demands that often came without explanation or documentation. Further, the fourth and final complaint not only appears to be on very shaky ground, it could in no way be construed as a failure by Clive Summerfield to meet with previous demands.

Since then, Clive Summerfield and Tim Ireland have issued a request to Fasthosts for all relevant Schillings correspondence, a retraction and/or correction of the above statement, an apology, plus a fair offer of compensation for all parties concerned:

Fasthosts did not reply to that request, and, at the time of writing, have also stopped taking questions from the press regarding this matter.

In effect, Schillings had a number of articles removed or edited with only the threat of legal action (as opposed to legal action itself).

The constant barrage of threats (of varying substance) was certainly a contributing factor to Fasthosts deciding that they were better off out of it... and it was this decision that led to the sudden and unexpected closure of the sites of Craig Murray, Tim Ireland, Clive Summerfield, Bob Piper, Boris Johnson and others.


Thursday 06 Sep 2007 (am) - Fasthosts receive takedown request from Schillings for a recent post by Craig Murray [Craig Murray - 02 Sep 2007: Alisher Usmanov, potential Arsenal chairman is a....]. Clive Summerfield, is given 24 hours to remove the item.

Thursday 06 Sep 2007 (pm) - Post removed and covering post put up [Craig Murray - 06 Sep 2007: Usmanov redux]. Immediate request made for a copy of the relevant correspondence from Schillings, which was later shared with Clive Summerfield.

Friday 07 Sep 2007 (am) - Schillings contact Fasthosts to request removal of phrase "less than salubrious" from covering post [Craig Murray - 06 Sep 2007: Usmanov redux]. Fasthosts contact Clive Summerfield by phone, amendment made within minutes. No relevant correspondence from Schillings is disclosed beyond this simple instruction.

Wednesday 13 Sep 2007 (am) - Fasthosts receive takedown request from Schillings regarding a post at Bloggerheads (a separate website hosted under same reseller account); [Tim Ireland - 06 Sep 2007: Alisher Usmanov: how will bloggers and Arsenal fans react as the screws tighten?]. This post includes highly censored passages from Murray's article, but the exact content that offended has yet to be determined (see below). Fasthosts email Clive Summerfield, and phone at 8:45am, giving 9:00am deadline!!! Tim Ireland strips post of all content before deadline, pending details and/or legal advice (sadly, no relevant correspondence from Schillings was disclosed beyond the demand for removal). Fasthosts mention their terms and conditions of service to Clive Summerfield, who confirms that his terms are in line with theirs and that his clients will be reminded of their responsibilities.


Note from Tim #1: I still don't know exactly what it was about my article that Schillings objected to, because Fasthosts failed to share the relevant Schillings correspondence with Clive or myself and - with this complaint (complete with a 15 minute deadline) - even failed to give us the scant details required to avoid making the same mistake again. In my view, the article was pretty benign and, ironically, primarily discussed the effect of blogs on search engines and the dangerous territory Schillings had come barging into. Here's what I had to say at the time:
I'm not sure what Usmanov expected when he took on this high-profile investment. Judging by the pre-emptive strike on mainstream media (as outlined in the extract above), Usmanov did expect some unwanted attention, but I'm sensing a distinct lack of awareness about the way crowds behave in this country.
The post also included this screen capture, which is published here exactly as it was in the 'offending' post [Tim Ireland - 06 Sep 2007: Alisher Usmanov: how will bloggers and Arsenal fans react as the screws tighten?]. The following screen capture shows the top search result for 'alisher usmanov' on 06 Sep 2007:

Please note that this screen capture does not contain any sensitive material from Craig's recent article. A grab of the Yahoo result was also published at this time with sensitive information removed. Please also note that, while Google is responding to the recent inbound link to Craig Murray's latest article, it also chooses to display a much earlier article by Murray [Craig Murray - 30 Oct 2005: Craig Murray - Opposition leader tortured with drugs] as a potential result. To make this point clear; this search result was visible to most UK web users on 06 Sep 2007.

At some stage between the 6th and 20th of September, Google re-indexed Craig Murray's site in full. This meant that it no longer presented Murray's recent article [Craig Murray - 02 Sep 2007: Alisher Usmanov, potential Arsenal chairman is a....] in its cache; according to Google, the recent article they considered to be one of the most relevant to the query 'alisher usmanov' was gone, but the site many web users regarded to be relevant was still there. The algorithm chose to display the much earlier article by Murray [Craig Murray - 30 Oct 2005: Craig Murray - Opposition leader tortured with drugs] on its own instead.

It may have escaped Schillings attention early on, but as the lone result it could not be missed. The following is a screen capture of the top search result for 'alisher usmanov' from 20 Sep 2007:

There was no deliberate attempt by Craig Murray to publish a new article about Usmanov at this stage; Google simply chose to present an old one as a relevant search result... and not for the first time. Anybody looking at the page in question would be able to see the 30 Oct 2005 time-stamp quite clearly. If they were any doubt about the authenticity of its stated vintage, the main page of Craig Murray's weblog was actually captured and stored by the Web Archive project on the very day it was published (see URL for time stamp; 20051030 = 30 Oct 2005).

This article was later extended by 6 paragraphs, but probably almost immediately and certainly no later than 02 Sep 2006 and none of the additional content mentions Alisher Usmanov by name anyway.

The evidence clearly shows that this was a very old article by Craig Murray, and that no effort was made to republish it or even retro moderate it in a way designed to outmanoeuvre Usmanov's lawyers.

Keener minds with more expertise may want to cast an eye over this, but it was my understanding that you lose your chance to sue over libel or slander after a year; in this example, we're talking about nearly two years. Back to the timeline...


Thursday 20 Sep 2007 (am) - Email received from Fasthosts. They have suspended one of two servers managed by Clive Summerfield in response to a further takedown request from Schillings regarding two more of Craig Murray's articles/posts, one from June 2007 [Craig Murray - 01 Jun 2007: Russian Journalist Murders, and Gazprom], the other from Oct 2005 [Craig Murray - 30 Oct 2005: Craig Murray - Opposition leader tortured with drugs]. Neither of these articles had been mentioned in any previous correspondence that we were aware of. On the suspended server were the websites of Craig Murray and Tim Ireland. On the same server were the websites of Clive Summerfield and Bob Piper (Labour Councillor for Sandwell), who hadn't published a single word about Alisher Usmanov. The server is unsuspended following contact between Fasthosts and Clive Summerfield, who is unable to get hold of Craig Murray or anybody with editing access to the weblog; Clive instead uses his upper admin access to the now-functional server to halt Craig's site and Craig's site alone. Anyone trying to visit Craig Murray's website sees an Apache default page indicating that the server is up but that there is a problem with Craig's site.

Thursday 20 Sep 2007 (midday) - Email sent to Fasthosts by Clive Summerfield. Informs them that Craig's site is down and will remain down until the end of the day at least. Clive also states that he intends to try and get a dialog going with himself, Schillings and Craig. He asks Fasthosts if they wish to be included and makes mention of the BT/AOL case.

Thursday 20 Sep 2007 (pm) - Email from Fasthosts. States that they no longer wish to be involved and have terminated Clive's account with them. Both servers managed by Clive are now down resulting in the closure of the websites of Craig Murray, Tim Ireland, Clive Summerfield, Bob Piper, Boris Johnson (Conservative MP for Henley), and many other bystanders. At 2pm, Fasthosts inform Clive that he has 48 hours to get everything off the two servers.

Thursday 20 Sep 2007 (pm) - Clive given access to servers via "lights-out" console in order to perform backups.


Note from Tim #2 - For those who don't know, this is the equivalent of transferring a tanker load of water with the aid of a single teaspoon. Cheers, Fasthosts.


Thursday 20 Sep 2007 (pm) - Clive sends request to Fasthosts pointing out that it is impossible to download backups via "lights-out" within the 48-hour 'off the servers' deadline they have issued.

Thursday 20 Sep 2007 (pm) - Justin McKeating publishes the post that informs users of these websites of recent developments. Bloggers from the left, right, middle and basement begin to express their disapproval in notable numbers.

Friday 21 Sep 2007 (midday) - Fasthosts bring both servers back and re-enable Clive's account to allow him to backup content. At the same time they unwittingly bring up Craig's website, complete with offending posts!!! As Clive has already started backups and DNS propagation, and so stops all sites on both servers; this saves Fasthosts from the embarrassment of Craig's posts reappearing.

Friday 21 Sep 2007 (pm) - The Guardian reports:
Fasthosts Internet confirmed that Mr Johnson's site was disabled as part of a clampdown on a separate web address. "Where concerns are raised to us about a website, such as in this case, in accordance with our normal procedures, we will investigate the website content," (Fasthosts) said in a statement. "In this case, we examined a website for potentially defamatory material and communicated to the customer that they had indeed breached the terms and conditions for Fasthosts Internet hosting. The customer was repeatedly advised of the breach and upon failing to permanently remove the content in question. Their customer account was terminated, the unfortunate result being the possible downtime of other unrelated websites ... of which we understand was one." Responsibility for the content of websites lay solely with their owners and publishers, the company added. A spokesman for Mr Usmanov said he was not aware of any reason why Mr Johnson's website should have been taken down. "We only requested the removal of specific statements and postings with regard to one individual site" he said.

Note from Tim #3 - The person who issued the statement for Fasthosts really should take a close look at our timeline and see if he/she wants to revise it. Also... *possible* downtime? Try very real downtime; they should know... they flipped the switch. Schillings also appear to be confused about he number of sites involved, but perhaps it's because they're busy calling "Your ball!"

Meanwhile, Clive and I were in no position to counter what Fasthosts had to say, as we were at their mercy until we retrieved the data. Fasthosts' statement appeared again the next day, and Schillings again called the ball for Fasthosts (albeit in a gentle manner)...


Saturday 22 Sep 2007 (am) - The Times reports:

Mr Usmanov’s spokesman blamed a technical glitch by the web host. “There were certain statements on one individual site which we asked were removed because they were potentially defamatory.” Fasthosts Internet said: “The customer was repeatedly advised of the breach and upon failing to permanently remove the content in question their customer account was terminated, the unfortunate result being the possible downtime of other unrelated websites of which we understand was one.”

Saturday 22 Sep 2007 (am) - Data recovery complete.

Saturday 22 Sep 2007 (4pm) - The deadline for server closure has passed. Clive notes that both Fasthosts servers are still live.


Note from Tim #4 - An error, or were we getting slack for the initial delay in providing a decent transfer facility, or because of the online attention and/or press we were receiving? One can't be sure A slightly different and tight-lipped line emerges from Fasthosts from Monday onwards, but this could easily have a lot to do with them speaking with a journalist who knows a thing or two about IT...


Monday 24 Sep 2007 (pm) - The Register reports:
Fasthosts said Murray's account had been terminated according to industry standard practice. It refused to say why unrelated websites had been hit by the takedown...
Tuesday 25 Sep 2007 (am) - Clive informs Fasthosts that all backups are finished, and receives the following reply:
----- Original Message -----
From: Abuse Support Team []
To: Clive Summerfield
Sent: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 12:10:00 +0100
Subject: 1408052#[snip] Your email enquiry (PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE SUBJECT)

Dear Mr Summerfield,

Account Number: [snip]
Ticket Reference Number: [snip]

As you've completed retrieval of the data you require could you now instruct as us to how you would like to proceed with your account?

Best Regards
Misuse Team
Fasthosts Internet Ltd

Tuesday 25 Sep 2007 (pm) - Clive informs Fasthosts that as all sites are moved, they can close the account.

Tuesday 25 Sep 2007 (pm) - We issue a request for a response to several issues, statements and developments that we considered unfair, unacceptable or untrue. Fasthosts are given 24 hours to respond.

Tuesday 25 Sep 2007 (pm) - The Register reports:
Fasthosts says it acted according to standard industry practice and has declined to answer Reg questions.
Wednesday 25 Sep 2007 (pm) - The deadline passes, with no response from Fasthosts.


Note from Tim #5 – Which, to me, seems odd, because they were awfully mouthy when they held all the cards.


[Fasthosts will be given a further 12 hours to respond to the above timeline and submit any corrections or clarifications they wish to make.]

On the subject of Alisher Usmanov's BMI

The draft timeline is complete and is being checked for accuracy. Here's a little thought for you while you wait...

BMI = a statistical measure of the weight of a person scaled according to height.

Mr Usmanov's BMI could safely be described to be in the 'overweight' or 'obese' class, and you may even somehow convince him to settle for a public test to settle the matter once and for all...

... but I think we can do better than that, don't you?


Now let that be the end of it.

[Mind you, if a solid case can be made that Alisher Usmanov conducts himself in a manner not unlike that of the fictional character Jabba the Hutt and you can work Leia's metal bikini into the equation, well, *then* you might have something.]

High Noon (and a bit)

Fasthosts have not responded to this. At all.

Requesting a response from Fasthosts

But since the request was issued, they appear to have made a statement... of sorts:

The Register - Downed blogger Murray vows to continue Usmanov attacks: Fasthosts says it acted according to standard industry practice and has declined to answer Reg questions.

They picked a hell of a time to go quiet, didn't they? And yet they had no much to say about it only a few short days ago.

I now know that I have to make do with some blank spaces in the timeline.

With you shortly... we have to a dot an I or T or two.

UPDATE - Timeline is now live.

Parliamentary privilege (EU edition)

Guardian - Hill-Wood: We do not want Usmanov here: Laura Tyler, of Schillings, said they did not intend to sue Murray directly because they did not want to give him a platform to express his views.

Not the most convincing line to take given the circumstances, is it?

Matt Wardman - Usmanov allegations repeated in European Parliament Debate by Tom Wise MEP: Last night Tom Wise MEP mentioned some of the Craig Murray criticisms of Alisher Usmanov in a speech in a debate at the European Parliament.

More on Schillings soon. First, we want to hear from Fasthosts.

UPDATE - Audio is available below... get your own copy to share here.

UPDATE (28 Sep) - Click here for details of the official transcript, which is now available online.

Immediate plans for this website


We're still missing some key facts from the case, primarily due to Fasthosts' reluctance to share the relevant Schillings correspondence with us.

Fasthosts should take note of the following while considering their options:

We were extremely reluctant to have the role played by Fasthosts highlighted until we had the chance to retrieve our data from their servers (we're not entirely sure why; perhaps they struck us as the panicky sort). Regardless of this, several key bloggers and assorted web publishers have already identified Fasthosts independently and questioned their actions in an entirely spontaneous fashion. We expect these people and those who are as yet unaware of the role played by Fasthosts to be even less impressed when we publish the timeline (hopefully later today).

Fastshosts' response (or lack thereof) is also likely to have a significant impact in and on the wider UK web hosting industry. We urge Fasthosts to take this matter seriously and to accept responsibility for where they went wrong; the alternative is a genuine risk that popular feeling will swing against hosting in the UK in general.


This site is badly in need of a summary as the audience shifts from those in the know to those who are just now finding out about all of this. A summary is planned to coincide with the timeline. (If we're forced to leave some unknowns in place because Fasthosts choose to suddenly go quiet, then so be it.)

Foreign Languages

A foreign language hub is planned for the sidebar, with external links to translations of the summary. Spanish is covered, and any offer to translate the summary into other languages would be welcome. Offers via email or under comments, please.


A blogroll will follow; this will primarily involve links to the relevant *category* pages of key supporters; i.e. bloggers who are actually generating new content regarding this matter (but if you are generating new content and categories/labels are a problem for you, do let us know). Link support is equally appreciated, and a centralised page of link supporters (that allows for rolling updates) will follow the blogroll.

Banners and Buttons

When the facts are in, or we are as close to the facts as we are going to get, we will then look at the use and promotion of new and existing banners and buttons.


Ditto. A soundtrack has already been selected, and permission has been granted for its use; all that needs to be addressed before editing is a few pesky gaps in the script.

Over to you, Fasthosts. We'd love to hear from you before 12:30pm today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Primitive but useful poll

A poll has been added to the sidebar, asking the following question:

If a snap election is called, how do you plan on voting?
Results will be posted here next week. Please note that the (yes, limited) options focus on the balance of power in the UK, and no specification is made regarding the exact nature of any changes to UK libel law. I just want to find out who's interested in something other than the status quo.


[Note - This is my first time out with this widget; if the poll allows for multiple votes or any other such nonsense, please feel free to sound off in comments.]

Latest article in The Register

(The first is here for those who missed it.)

The Register - Downed blogger Murray vows to continue Usmanov attacks: Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has vowed to carry on making allegations against billionaire Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, despite attempts to silence him and his supporters. Murray told The Reg: "If the man believes he was libelled then he should take me to court."

Well said.

The above article also contains some juicy hints of what you can expect from the upcoming timeline (including one of my favourite bits; the out-of-the-blue Google scoop) and a rather muted response from Fasthosts.

Here's hoping they do better tomorrow.

Requesting a response from Fasthosts

1) First things first...

Cheers to:

Craig Murray - for the moral courage that triggered this latest difficulty
Clive Summerfield - for handling this and many other technical difficulties
Justin McKeating - for handling the response to this latest difficulty
200+ other bloggers - for that response

Apologies to:

The many bystanders who were affected by a nuclear response to a pissweak threat.

2) Schillings used a combination of misdirection, intimidation and character assassination to silence and undermine Craig Murray instead of properly addressing the substance of what he had to say about their client Alisher Usmanov or challenging it through the courts. While the exact abuse(s) of power and inappropriate use(s) of media, law, and money differ, this is otherwise indistinguishable from Jack Straw's approach to the former ambassador to Uzbekistan (1, 2). It's comforting to know that Iain Dale considers this type of assault on free speech to be wrong but, in an effort to maintain the remarkable level of cross-spectrum support we've seen in recent days, I'm going to draw this observation to a close at that point and say no more.

3) Seeing the extraordinary level of support, it's hard not to collapse into a blubbering heap a'la Sally Field, but the reality of it is that this matters to bloggers because it could happen to any one of us. Nevertheless, Clive and I do have a responsibility to finally make clear exactly what has happened and attempt to see that some general good comes of this manifestation of absolute absurdity.

4) But before we proceed, I have a quick personal message for those representatives of the mainstream media who only regarded this to be newsworthy because of the collateral damage done to Boris Johnson and/or took people like Schillings and Fasthosts at their word without even bothering to speak to us:


Now, onwards...

To ensure we broadcast as clear a picture as possible, Clive and I need to deal with this matter by addressing the parties/issues involved in the following order:

- Fasthosts
- Schillings
- Alisher Usmanov
- UK libel law

Today, we begin with Fasthosts. A small part of their response will be vital to our subsequent response to Schillings, but if we have to proceed without their co-operation, then so be it:


Shortly, Clive and I will be publishing a timeline of the events that led up the closure of the account, and the events that followed. However, we would like to offer Fasthosts 24 hours in which to deliver the following before we do so:

- All Schillings correspondence that Fasthosts have so far failed to show us, and an apology for the delay in disclosure.

- A retraction and/or correction of any false or misleading statements issued/relayed by Fasthosts to the press regarding the account closure, and an apology for same.

- A fair offer of compensation for all parties inconvenienced by that closure.

- An additional fair offer of compensation for the inconvenience and stress caused to myself, Clive Summerfield and Craig Murray and for the damage done to our reputations by the action (and inaction) of Fasthosts *and* for any false or misleading statements made regarding the account closure and this matter in general.

In the interests of transparency, we request that all of the above (with the exception of the Schillings correspondence itself) be addressed via a public statement to be published in this section of Fasthosts' website:

On that final request for compensation, a lot of detail will have to wait until the timeline is published, but for now we can say that we felt greatly restricted in what we could say on this matter at the time due the removal of our primary communication devices and the further complication of Fasthosts still being in possession of a large amount of our data (and their initial insistence that we move it with the equivalent of a bloody teaspoon). Fasthosts either sought to take advantage of this situation, or failed to fully communicate the exact nature of some aspects of this case to/via their PR department for reasons unknown. Either way, the message quickly spread in some quarters that we had repeatedly refused or failed to co-operate with Fasthosts over the relevant legal threats, and this simply isn't true.

We expect the response to be fairly widely-read by many opinion-makers in the field of personal web publishing, so it would also be in Fasthosts' interests to take this opportunity to also reassure current and future resellers and end-users by donning a a full-body cilice *and* outlining any changes or improvements they plan to make to their procedures when handling threats of legal action. Currently, the most popular line of thinking is that the safest way to handle matters is to host outside of the UK; therefore, we feel that Fasthosts have a unique opportunity here to help not only themselves, but the UK web hosting industry in general.

[UPDATE (26 Sep) - The deadline passed with no response from Fasthosts. The timeline had to be published with some gaps, and you can read all about it right here.]

Why we're here

Bloggerheads now has new hosting, but it will take a while to adapt the MT platform to the new server. This special weblog has been set up on a platform so I can address this matter in a more timely fashion than would be possible with a complete restoration of the original MT platform.

Because of the nature of the initial take-down comment moderation is on and only those registered with may comment.