Disclaimer of interest: This Web site is hosted at NearlyFreeSpeech.net, and I intend to keep it this way for the foreseeable future.
Long story short: a web site hosted by NearlyFreeSpeech.net publishes the contact details of people involved with DEFRA’s badger cull. The people involved with the badger cull begin receiving death threats. An injunction is granted forbidding the publication of these people’s personal contact details.
The injunction is extraordinarily wide-ranging. It forbids “persons unknown” (i.e. anyone) from disclosing the personal details of anyone related to DEFRA’s badger culling, anywhere in the world. As far as I can work out, this is so indiscriminate that it means that a person working for DEFRA, organising the badger culling, could be sent to prison for contempt of court for giving their own telephone number to a friend.
Flagrantly disregarding the free-speech defences built into U.S. law, the Treasury Solicitor has now written to NearlyFreeSpeech.net, host of one of the offending websites, and effectively threatened to put the company out of business with legal fees if it does not censor this web site.
The trouble is that death threats for any semi-public figure are virtually a fact of life these days. Along with stalking, creepy emails about the sender’s penis size and weird obsessive forums, anyone who has been on the internet for more than five years will know that death threats are bandied around like germs on a bus. A large proportion of people on the Web will have, at some point, received death threats. This doesn’t make it alright, nor does it mean that anyone should have to put up with them.
The most baffling thing is the threat towards the web host. It is the technological equivalent of going to someone’s estranged mother, placing a revolver to her forehead and demanding that she pull the garrotte around her son’s neck herself.
And death by legal bullshit is far more painful than death by strangulation or gunshot.