Tuesday, September 25, 2007

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.]


beaubodor said...

Welcome back.

If you believe Fasthosts information that was released is potentially libelous to any party (and they have posted it on their site), could you not get them to take themselves offline with a strongly worded solicitors letter :)

Fidothedog said...

Glad to see that you are back up and running.

Tim said...

Hahahaha! No, not if it's a correction. Cheers for your comment, and for this.

Loving this too, BTW.

The Cartoonist said...

Great you're back. I'm looking forward to the next weeks - this is better than any Hitchcock movie. Hope we'll get a happy ending too.

Jherad said...

Good to see you back in action!

Shutter said...

Welcome to the Bloggers world where you are modestly (but not completely free) from showbiz lawyers and Russian gangstas thanks to the legal system of the Land of the Free and the home of the Brave and their wonderful (but ever so slightly trashed c/oMr A Gonzalez, Mr Yoo etc.,)Constitution and wonderful 1st Amendment.

As a result the article which Craig tells me is the origin of the complaint by the fat football fan published in 2005
- was re-posted the same day and has happily dwelt there ever since, untroubled by threats, legal or otherwise - along with some other and prior articles about Mr Umarov and the treatments he received from Mr Karimov's goons - plus sundry other remarks about Mr Usmanov.

Our view here is that to insist in pursuing redress, in writing or financially from Schillings / Fasthosts is pointless, exhausting and ultimately worthless.Retreive what you can with good grace inn the way of data files and move on.

Get on doing what you do best and attack the real villains from the relative calm and peace of distant Dubya's Disneyland.

Choose your battles.

PS - we will post details for others to direct them.

Life is just too fucking short.

Tim said...

"I choose the danger." - Leonard McCoy (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)


The alternative is to meekly accept the libel laws as they are and abandon any notion of hosting locally.

Jherad said...

I don't know - would you be able to make a difference to our libel laws? Hosting abroad won't shelter you, but it will shelter your ISP - which in turn forces opponents to confront you legally. I think a long-term campaign hosted abroad might work better. But then, I'm no expert.

Tim said...

We can try. Why waste a rare and beautiful cross-spectrum catalyst?

Jherad said...

Very true. I'm amazed at how 'cross-spectrum' this has become. Still getting ignored/misrepresented by the MSM though.

Perhaps a widespread campaign to get as many high-profile bloggers hosting abroad as possible would be a start. I've a feeling that the key to change is to have hosting companies themselves driving it. Give them a kick up the arse.

Matt Buck said...

Welcome back

Tim said...

I've a feeling that the key to change is to have hosting companies themselves driving it.

I have a similar feeling. Let's see what Fasthosts does with this opportunity first.

Mr Eugenides said...

Good to see that the disruption has been temporary, and - perhaps more to the point - so massively counterproductive.

RickB said...

You're not alone, solidarity blogmig@!

Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back. Ive attracted an audience of Spanish speaking bloggers to what's going on here, so if you can send me brief summaries to translate and spread around the Latinosphere, it'd be much appreciated.



Tim said...

Do feel free to remind me after we've published that timeline (which will probably require a summary anyway).

Thanks for spreading the word.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

I've missed most of this situation. But, is it not the fact that if Mr Usamov feels he was libelled, then is it not reasonable for a firm of litigators like Schillings to carry out instructions?

Bartholomew said...

There are too many bullies out there using libel threats to suppress free political discussion on the internet, thanks to duff UK libel laws. It would be nice if we could see some reform without somebody having to risk all their worldly goods. You and Craig Murray are both very brave, good luck with it.

Tim said...


I agree. Also, understanding of the inequalities here are complicated by other forms of online bullying that lead some victims to a point where they have no choice but to say; "Would you care to defend that statement in court?" or perhaps even refer matters to the police.

One key difference here is that Schillings haven't actually done anything but threaten legal action. But in the process they've unwittingly brought a great deal of publicity to a weak case, when their reputation as ruthless Rottweilers is key to their business. I'm betting that until recently they thought they were largely immune to blowback because of this; observe how many immediate reactions (including mine) involved focusing on this aspect as if it would be considered a negative quality by everybody.


I invite you to watch in the coming days, and keep an eye out for the details. Usmanov seems very reluctant to have his day in court.

Goonerholic said...

Thanks to you and Craig for turning a light on for some of us.