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New York Times Blocks British Users From Terror Story

  • Reuters, Thursday, August 31, 2006 11:45 AM
Earlier this week, The New York Times admitted that it had blocked British Internet users from seeing a story on the investigation into a suspected plot to blow up airliners traveling between Britain and the United States. Why? British courts are required to punish media companies for publishing material that judges say could influence jurors and prevent subjects from receiving a fair trial. It's interesting to think that the Times, an American publication, was worried about being charged with a violation of British law. These are the blurry lines we deal with on the Web today: It's almost impossible to keep information from foreign outlets from reaching readers worldwide. China manages to do this by re-routing all communications in the country through government servers, but even in China, so-called "banned" information--anything that casts the government in a negative light--still slips through the cracks. When they clicked on the Times headline, British users received a notice that read: "On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of nytimes.com in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial." Interestingly, British papers London Times and the Daily Mail also published details of the article earlier this week, but a government source told Reuters that no injunctions had been taken out against the newspapers. British courts do not mess around: They've imposed heavy fines on publications that breach social law, and even put editors in jail. This was the first time The New York Times had ever blocked a targeted segment of its user-base from seeing a story, and it isn't likely to be the last. A loss of ad revenue notwithstanding, it's better to be safe than sorry. Now that we're in the digital age, British courts may want to revisit that law

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