How to make a complaint and/or claim under the British Data Protection Act re the BlockBot team - blog by Gurdur


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How to make a complaint and/or claim under the British Data Protection Act re the BlockBot team
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Posted 28-Mar-2015 at 04:07 PM (16:07) by Gurdur

If you are resident in Britain, the Data Protection Act, 1998, and small-claims-court proceedings, can often be an easy and cheap way of stopping someone from misusing your data. That applies to the present situation with the BlockBot, if the Blockbot team have appended false allegations about you to their blacklisting of you on their BlockBot list, including with your real name or any clear connection to your real name. A similar avenue of redress exists in Ireland too. Here is some official information about the Data Protection Act 1998 (UK); here is an official page on first steps to making such a complaint under that Act.

Making a claim for compensation of any kind is a different matter. It involves several intermediary steps in requesting false claims be taken down or corrected, and in possible official mediation proceedings. Initial information about making a claim for compensation under that with what is called the small-claims court in England and Wales (a different proceeding existing in Scotland) can be found here and here. You are best served by consulting with a solicitor before making such steps to claim compensation, and also making sure you have covered all steps essential to a good outcome, such as contacting the offending group first (here, the BlockBot team, especially James Billingham, @oolon). You can also telephone the Law Society (UK) on 0207 2421222 for information about solicitors who will act for defamation cases.

While there has been much talk of transferring the control and ownership of the BlockBot to a different admin team, James Billingham (@oolon), the original owner and co-admin of it, has very recently re-affirmed in practical terms control over it. Since he lives in England, he is liable under the Data Protection Act and under British court proceedings. See below for details.

Be aware: it is difficult to sort out what has really happened in the ongoing proceedings between James Billingham (@oolon) and Sam Smith (@MHWitchfinder). However, it looks as though Billingham may have been making false claims of harassment in an attempt to stop people from emailing him to request the removal of false, defamatory claims about them in the BlockBot files 8which mostly consist of Storify entries, but also included the automated responses from the BlockBot's previous second Twitter account, @TrollOrNot). Therefore keep all contacts with Billingham factual and focused solely on requesting the removal of such false claims. If he makes false claims of harassment, then simply calmly note your responses with the UK police, and carry on as the Data Protection Act, the small-claims advised steps, and as your solicitor all recommend. Should Billingham in fact make false claims in any such attempt to evade his responsibilities as the person in control of BlockBot official pages (see below), then it will look the worse for him should it in fact come to actual court proceedings.

Damion Reinhardt (@D4M10N) made a blog post on his site on March 22. On March 23 or thereabouts, James Billingham (@oolon) posted a comment there in reply. In that comment, Billingham wrote: "Hence I agreed to host on", meaning that Billingham still as of around 23 March 2015 has full control over the BlockBot official pages, and is apparently able to make practical decisions on content on the BlockBot site without first consulting others. A screen-capture of that comment is below. It is entirely possible that ownership and full practical control over the BlockBot may be transferred to someone say in the USA, meaning that redress under British law becomes almost impossible. However, from Billingham's recent comment, that has not happened yet. If you plan to undertake any proceedings, speed would be indicated.

Do not be fooled by comments from James Billingham or other BlockBot team members. If, under the British Data Protection Act, you request they take down some false claim about you such as a tag in one of their Storify entries, and they refuse, telling you to contact itself, then simply document their refusal and consider your next steps under British law for redress. Billingham and other BlockBot team members have long shown a contemptuous and evasive attitude towards others, most especially anyone about whom they've made false claims. Do not be swayed by any false claims about British law made by Billingham; he seems quite ignorant as well as deliberately unhelpful. He may well try to cite @Popehat at you, as he has done to others. This is ridiculous as Popehat, as an American lawyer, has no relevancy to British law or proceedings under that at all. Simply undertake all the steps advised by the Data Protection Act site, and if seeking compensation the steps advised by your solicitor and the official British legal advice sites. Document everything, and stay factual.

Do not be swayed by appeals to emotion. If someone has made claims which are in practice false and defamatory, then the claims are false and defamatory. Whether the courts find the claims to be legally defamatory and actionable would be a matter for the courts to decide, not for any BlockBot team member or any other flamer to pontificate or decide upon.

There has been some attempted flaming that taking legal action against Billingham or the BlockBot team is somehow magically chilling free-speech. In a marvelous travesty of irony, M. A. Melby (@MAMelby, sinmantyx) made exactly that argument in a comment under @D4M10N's blog post, as well as on Twitter. It is of course laughably wrong. No-one is taking action against "critical speech". The only action being considered is against false, misleading and thusly defamatory claims.

Damion Reinhardt (@D4M10N) has himself attempted various arguments from emotion. He has first flamed anyone considering such action as having "delicate" feelings; this of course simply willfully ignores anyone whose career is or could be affected by false claims made by the BlockBot team. He has also proclaimed false claims by the BlockBot team as "an expression of personal distaste at worst"; in many cases, this is simply untrue. The BlockBot team have tried portraying their claims as being truthful, and not as mere expressions of distaste; some of their claims are wildly untruthful.

@D4M10N has also attempted to contrast what he himself does; what he does is completely irrelevant, since he is not a resident in Britain, and he himself keeps his Twitter account private out of fear. He has also claimed it is wrong of sceptics or anyone else to undertake such action, because somehow it is supposedly wrong since others have abused the British libel process to attempt shutting down far more valid speech. Again, this is simply irrelevant. Just because someone may have abused a procedure does not in itself render the procedure wrong.

On an ethical level, the BlockBot actions have been the actions of a tiny, irresponsible clique. No matter what their pretensions are, they are not above the law. A lot of claims made by BlockBot team members about those they have blacklisted are simply farcical. Many of those are not actionable. However, some of those claims are quite actionable. If you are affected, then consult a solicitor and undertake this suggested avenue for redress; it's a whole lot easier and cheaper than suing for libel.

One last note: Jubal Harshaw (‏@GRIMACHU) has, in a blog post of his own, written:
"With The Block Bot Checker taken down the defamatory statements are no longer viewable and the changes to The Block Bot’s front page altered, what remains appears to be ‘small potatoes’ ..."
The BlockBot Checker is up again, as a result of Billingham's own unilateral action. Some defamatory remarks still exist in the Storify entries made by BlockBot team members. The overall claims on the official BlockBot web-site pages have been extensively modified, apparently out of reaction to the proceedings undertaken by Sam Smith and others against those grossly misleading claims. However, should you be in the UK, and should there be still grossly misleading claims being made about you by the BlockBot team that could affect your livelihood or career, undertaking swift legal action as outlined above still remains at the moment a viable avenue for you.

Also see my other blog posts concerning the BlockBot.



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Comments are welcome! Please keep in mind if you are not registered that comments posted here to this blog post may take a while to appear - up to 16 hours after you post them, since they go onto a moderation queue and have to be individually approved, in order to stop spammers. The answer to the so-called "Random Question" is always "human".

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  1. Old Comment

    Broken links

    A couple of your links above, to the Block Bot website, are broken by having an html break appended to them.
    Posted 28-Mar-2015 at 09:05 PM (21:05) by Unregistered
  2. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar

    Broken links

    Originally Posted by Unregistered View Comment
    A couple of your links above, to the Block Bot website, are broken by having an html break appended to them.
    Thanks, fixed.
    Posted 29-Mar-2015 at 01:37 AM (01:37) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
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