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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    my house
    Posts
    5

    Ethical/Legal Issue - Opinions Please

    Hi All,

    I've been lurking here for almost a year but have had little reason to post as yet. I find myself sitting on a legal/ethical issue and would appreciate any and all input.

    A site has recently appeared on one of my servers that contains neo-Nazi material. While I do respect people's right to have and to speak their opinions (even ones as abhorrent to me as these), I don't allow such material on my servers and that is clearly spelled out in my TOS. I plan to terminate the account and delete the site. That's the easy part.

    Here's the dilemma. The site is in Polish and the account holder is from Poland. Before I made a determination on the content of the site I asked a friend (who lives in Poland) to take a look and make sure that Google translate had given me a "correct enough" understanding of the material. He confirmed my suspicions. He also pointed out that such material is illegal in Poland and that the site owner could be prosecuted. He asked me to report him to the authorities via a web page, along with IP information, etc.

    The material is legal in the US (I am in the US as is my business and as are all of my servers). So... am I allowed to report the site owner to foreign authorities? Are there privacy laws that prohibit it? If I am not allowed then the ethical dilemma (should I report him?) is a moot issue. Opinions would be greatly appreciated as to my legal rights and responsibilities, and as to what I should do.

  2. #2
    This is kind of sticky, and one I would consult an attorney about.Personally, (I'm no lawyer), but since he is technically hosting it offshore from himself, I don't think you could report him, since it's legal for it to be on US based servers.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    The PitLane
    Posts
    2,874
    To me:

    Legaly you must consult an appropriate lawyer/atterny [could cost an arm & a leg]

    Moraly ! aghhhhhhhhhhhh

    Business[money] wise, you must loose him

    Suggestion:

    1. Keep away from lawyers [in this instance unless absolutely forced to].
    2. Give client 48 hours to remove site or account will be instantly terminated
    for breach of your TOS
    3. [after doing 2. above] Say to you polish chum, 'thanks for the help/advise, tell him the action you have taken, add that as you are from the US, you feel it would be better for your Polish chum to report 'the site' to the Polish authorities.

    Hope that might stimulate your grey matter into thinking a little 'outside the box'

    Good Luck.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Winnipeg
    Posts
    198
    Your friend in poland should be the one doing the reporting, not you. Since the information is legal in the US (even if morally reprehensible), you really should keep out of it.

    Since you are a US citizen, you would technically report this issue to US authorities. And if they would consider this a non issue then there's nothing you can do. If you start tracking down every government agency that you might need to do in order to carry out business you could find yourself wasting a whole heck of a lot of time.

    The question of "Am I allowed to report them" is probably answered by a resounding yes. I can't see any reason why you couldn't report them to their local authorities. Legal issues would prevent you from giving away their personal information until a court order was received. The Polish authorities would probably ask the FBI to send you a notice or writ of some type to keep your end legal.

    Two years ago I was contacted by the FBI to investigate one of my customers and had an excellent chat with them. However I told them to cover my butt I wouldn't give them any personal info or logs until I received a court order. A few hours later I received a faxed order from the RCMP and I gladly sent the required information along. This issue has to do with something that is illegal is almost every country in the world, so legality was not in question here.

    My opinion would be to TOS them and be done with it, but keep their info just in case you are contacted.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    my house
    Posts
    5
    Paying a lawyer for advice on this would surely be costly and lead to a grey area of law. Cooperating with US law enforcement is simple. If they have a warrant or a subpoena (which is easy to get when the law is violated) I turn over the info. It's happened a couple of times.

    I think the simplest and safest approach is to just dump the guy and make no report. I have no obligation to Polish law enforcement. On the other hand, as a private citizen I can make the report and not divulge any "private" information. If I am asked to produce it, I will politely tell Polish authorities that I will produce the information in response to any legitimate requests from US authorities (which probably will never come).

    Thank you all for your answers and for being a "sounding board". I appreciate it greatly.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    300
    It's my understanding that you are to adhere to the country you are operating in, not the customers. i would not do anything, I'm sure that if it were a big enough problem someone would have already reported it locally.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    KS
    Posts
    35
    Personally, I would dump the site for TOS violiations and leave it at that. If you have dumped the site already, what would there be to report?

    To me, there are some implied ethical considerations with that reporting at all - seeking out prosecution for a client based on information you'd not have without the client/host relationship for laws that you are not subject to (and he may not be for sites outside his country) is reaching. I wouldn't want to put myself in that position.

    I understand you find his views highly distasteful. I do, too. But I find breeching confidentiality and restriction of free speech (by government, not you) to be distasteful as well.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    4,552
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim O View Post
    Hi All,

    I've been lurking here for almost a year but have had little reason to post as yet. I find myself sitting on a legal/ethical issue and would appreciate any and all input.

    A site has recently appeared on one of my servers that contains neo-Nazi material. While I do respect people's right to have and to speak their opinions (even ones as abhorrent to me as these), I don't allow such material on my servers and that is clearly spelled out in my TOS. I plan to terminate the account and delete the site. That's the easy part.

    Here's the dilemma. The site is in Polish and the account holder is from Poland. Before I made a determination on the content of the site I asked a friend (who lives in Poland) to take a look and make sure that Google translate had given me a "correct enough" understanding of the material. He confirmed my suspicions. He also pointed out that such material is illegal in Poland and that the site owner could be prosecuted. He asked me to report him to the authorities via a web page, along with IP information, etc.

    The material is legal in the US (I am in the US as is my business and as are all of my servers). So... am I allowed to report the site owner to foreign authorities? Are there privacy laws that prohibit it? If I am not allowed then the ethical dilemma (should I report him?) is a moot issue. Opinions would be greatly appreciated as to my legal rights and responsibilities, and as to what I should do.
    I would terminate his account, and explain to him how it's cut and dry that sites like his are not to be hosted on your servers. I wouldn't report him to the authorities, as it's not affected you in any way, except put your ethics on the line. You might cause more problems then it's worth if you report him. That's just my opinion though.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Posts
    73

    Cannot believe you have to ask about reporting....

    Concerning your TOS, of course, you can do whatever you wish to do.

    As to reporting legal activity here to a foreign government, I don't think you should even have to ask.

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. " --Amendment I to the Constitution of the United States of America.

    Thank God we do not live in a thought-police state.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    106
    Your TOS is your TOS. If he has found himself in breach of that for some reason, then let him know.

    If you just don't want to risk "confrontation" or retribution, then you could simply tell him "I'm sorry but we are no longer able to serve customers from your area due to billing issues", and give him X days to find a new provider before disconnection. Maybe it's just me, but having the Polish skinheads out for me doesn't sound very nice.
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