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Anti-gay group gets WordPress to censor its own views

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Traditionally, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (or DMCA) is invoked to protect intellectual property, targeting illegal uploads of music, films, etc. But in the case of Straight Pride UK, a British club extolling “equal heterosexual rights,” it was a bit more complicated.

It all began when student and blogger Oliver Hotham contacted the group—which contends that straight people are now an oppressed minority and “celebrates” that sexual orientation—as a freelance journalist. He asked a few questions about Straight Pride’s views and agenda, to which they replied with a poorly written document titled “press release.”

Hotham published the material from this document on his WordPress blog. He also noted which questions had been ignored, even after a follow-up email. The post got traction on Reddit and elsewhere—and finally found its way back to Straight Pride, which promptly took legal action to wipe their own incoherent opinions from Hotham’s blog. A threatening email from their press officer, Nick Steiner, read:

It has been brought to my attention that you have published the email that I sent you to, you did not state this in your email request, nor you did have consent to do this.

I therefore request that you take down the article that you have placed on your blog.

You have 7 days in which to do this, failing this I shall submit a DMCA to WordPress to have it removed.

Hotham understandably figured this was a bluff: How would a public activist group, even one based on hate, intolerance, and a misguided sense of supremacy, actively try to suppress information they willingly gave to a self-identified journalist, in a “press release,” no less? It’s not as though that material was even copyrighted in the first place.

WordPress didn’t see it that way, however. As Hotham explained:

"[W]ithin a few days WordPress caved to them without question, removing my article and telling me if I tried to publish it again I’d be suspended, but that I could challenge the takedown of my article. I responded that yes, I very much would like to, and was emailed a form I’d have to fill in. One of the requirements was that I 'consent to local federal court jurisdiction, or if overseas, to an appropriate judicial body'."

The Guardian reported that despite this swift capitulation on shaky grounds, the powers that be at WordPress found the takedown notice to be an abuse of DMCA. "We think this was a case of abuse of the DMCA and we don't think that taking it down was the right result," Paul Sieminski, general counsel for WordPress parent company Automattic, told the Guardian. "It's censorship using the DMCA." He added: "We can't verify that the complainant actually owns the copyrighted information – we rely on the fact they sign their complaint and verify, under penalty of perjury, that they own the copyright."

Still, the blogging platform doesn’t look nearly as stupid as Straight Pride UK itself, whose grammatically nightmarish and backward ideas about civil rights are already plastered all over their website for the world to see. For example, here’s a bit from a section titled “Our Aims”:

"Homosexuals have more rights then [sic] others, they also have 'special rights' which trump others, cause problems for faith organisations, hotels, alike, heterosexuals must have rights to refuse, it is not 'homophobic' or 'bigoted' it is a persons right to without fear of being silenced or abused."

Strangely enough, the entire campaign seems to boil down to the idea that straight people should also be allowed a “pride” parade—though exactly who would want to participate in such a thing is unclear: The group had garnered about 50 likes on Facebook until someone snatched the Straight Pride UK name and modified their slogan from “It’s great to be straight” to “It’s great to be stupid.”

After securing the removal of the article from WordPress—as well as any mention whatsoever of their name or existence—Straight UK promptly overplayed their hand, trying to force Hotham to remove the post he wrote describing the above legal machinations, sending the following tweets:

Could you please take that down @OliverHotham we have contacted @wordpressdotcom Thanks, Nick

— Straight Pride (@StraightPrideUK) August 12, 2013

Your not a official journalist @OliverHotham – If you could remove it please or I can ask @wordpressdotcom to. Thanks, Nick

— Straight Pride (@StraightPrideUK) August 12, 2013

Hotham’s story was picked up once again in a show of solidarity: Both his original article and the follow-up piece were shared around the Web. The latter has still not been taken down from Hotham’s blog, and in fact, Straight Pride UK’s Twitter account appears to have been hacked by the same people who took over the Facebook page. It now boasts a rainbow background, along with a new bio:

[Straight Pride UK] was a worldwide voice for those practising homophobia & bigotry, who were just being plain idiots and are thirsting for attention!

Unfortunately for them, they got it.

Photo by Kellie Parker/Flickr