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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Animal Liberation | Education & Student Activism
UC threatens lawsuit - wants Stop Cal Vivisection site removed
UC tries to squash first amendment rights in an effort to keep their animal research secretive.
So a message concerning our website (http://www.pixelexdesign.com/stopcalvivisection) was received on May 7th from Dreamhost because they were contacted by officials of UC Berkeley, saying that the page for the new lab and the vivisector pages have to be taken down. Dreamhost actually responded to them asking about what legal issues there were with the site, and the UC used some old court decision to justify it to dreamhost. they also stated they want all of that info taken down by 10 a.m. pacific time monday morning or else they will 'refer to their legal counsel'
Response to Dreamhost:
"Hi, we did just read the May 7th email. i would like to thank you for contacting them, and then contacting me about this issue, because the last site the campaign had up (on freewebs.com) was taken down with no warning whatsoever.
However, I do have some issues with the UC's argument on why the information should be taken down. pixelexdesign.com has put up this information as part of the campaign against the animal research at UC Berkeley so people can express their concerns in a legal manner and exercise their First Amendment right to protest at the workplaces and homes of the individuals conducting the research. We realize that the issue is mainly because of home addresses of the researchers being posted, but demonstrating at the homes of researchers (while staying within all local ordinances) is not meant to harass or intimidate any researcher or their families.
To quote the message from UC Berkeley: "The posting of such personal and work location information in this context clearly endangers these members of our academic community and associated individuals." This is a point on which we disagree, because we do not see how the posting of this information "clearly endangers" the researchers, especially since they have received legal demonstrations at ther homes and workplaces, which are not meant to endanger them in any way. The only thing the campaign against the animal research at UC Berkeley has endangered is the secrecy of these highly questionable experiments, and it is clearly evident that the UC does not like this exposure and is therefore using anything they can to stop the campaign.
It also appears they are attempting to distort current legislation to get the information taken down. in their message they referenced "Government Code section 6254.21" as a reason the information should be taken down and stated that it "protects public officials, such as University employees, and their families from the possibility of intimidation and harassment in their private homes". I have read that Code right off of the http://www.oaklandcityattorney.org website and while I do see it makes a clear reference to public officials such as attorneys and judges, I would be very interested to hear how UC Berkeley stretches the Code to cover University employees. However, in part G of section 6254.24 (section 6254.21 tells the reader to go to this section to see the definition of public safety official), it does define a public safety official as a "Nonsworn employee who supervises inmates in a...local detention facility" though. Perhaps UC Berkeley is using this definition as proof that the Code covers the researchers, as they imprison, supervise and then kill 40,000 animals every year. While it appears I am being sarcastic in stating this, if it was that wording that UC Berkeley is using to cover researchers, I would like to see them publicly announce and defend that.
I also have read the information UC Berkeley sent on "Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists (9th Cir.
2002) 290 F.3d 1058, 1074." and have quoted one section and responded to it below the quote.
"Alleged threats should be considered in light of their entire factual context, including the surrounding events and reaction of the listeners. Id. at 1075. Thus, where posting information about individuals has had the effect of inciting violence or harm, subsequent posting can be an unlawful, unprotected threat. Id. at 1079. Those are exactly the circumstances here. University of California faculty and staff whose names and home addresses have been posted have been subject to attacks, vandalism, home invasions, and even targeted for bombings."
I do not see how those are 'exactly' the circumstances, because according to news reports, while criminal acts have targeted researchers at other UC branches, most notably UCLA with attempted bombings of property and what has been apparently deemed as a home invasion against a UC Santa Cruz researcher (although according to news reports, this was an attempted home invasion and no activists stepped foot inside the home), the type of activity promoted by the campaign against UC Berkeley is legal. While the illegal actions they referred to were related to the University of California, it appears the UC is attempting to use those events to justify the removal of information of researchers at the entirely different branch of the University of California, UC Berkeley. The home addresses and the other information in question on the site is only of UC Berkeley researchers, not researchers at other University of California branches.
If they are still demanding the information is taken down because of these apparent legal issues with it, perhaps a disclaimer could be added to the website specifically stating that the information is provided for legal use only, because it has been for legal use only since day one.
once again, thank you for your time on this issue. I look forward to your response,"
This is the message that was sent to Stop Cal Vivisection from Dreamhost
From: "DreamHost Abuse/Security Team" ..
Date: Wed, May 7, 2008 4:51 pm
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We have received a couple complaints from UC Berkeley regarding your site, here:
Here is the original complaint:
Re: Take down request -- Inappropriate personal information posted by
DreamHost Web Hosting customer website "pixelexdesign.com"
The following letter has been sent via US mail. We are now forwarding it
The "pixelexdesign.com" site, a customer of DreamHost Web Hosting, is enabling the publication of endangering personal information on pages entitled "Meet the Vivisectors at UC Berkeley!" and "New Vivisection Lab at UC Berkeley." The web pages are posted at:
The material includes personal home addresses and home phone numbers for individual researchers and for another University employee, work locations with specific room numbers in buildings on campus and work phone numbers for the researchers and a number of other University employees, and also company contact information for project contractors. The posting
of such personal and work location information in this context clearly endangers these members of our academic community and associated individuals.
Therefore, we request that your company immediately take whatever level of action is necessary to remove the material in question, up to and including disabling the entire site if required.
This request is also made in light of Government Code section 6254.21 which protects public officials, such as University employees, and their families from the possibility of intimidation and harassment in their private homes, by prohibiting the kind of publication of home addresses undertaken on the "pixelexdesign.com" website.
Your cooperation in this important matter will support efforts to enforce legal and appropriate use of the Internet. Absent immediate confirmation that you agree to take down this inappropriate personal information, my Office will be referring this matter to our legal counsel for their action.
Shelton M. Waggener
Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
University of California, Berkeley
Upon asking them for more information on the legal justification for their request to remove the content, they also sent us:
As you are no doubt aware, statements may be unlawfully threatening even if they do not contain an explicit threat. Rather,
"Whether a particular statement may properly be considered to be a threat is governed by an objective standard -- whether a reasonable person would foresee that the statement would be interpreted by those to whom the maker communicates the statement as a serious expression of intent to harm or assault."
Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists (9th Cir. 2002) 290 F.3d 1058, 1074. "Alleged threats should be
considered in light of their entire factual context, including the surrounding events and reaction of the listeners." Id. at 1075.
Thus, where posting information about individuals has had the effect of inciting violence or harm, subsequent posting can be an
unlawful, unprotected threat. Id. at 1079.
Those are exactly the circumstances here.
University of California faculty and staff whose names and home addresses have been posted have been subject to attacks, vandalism, home invasions, and even targeted for bombings. For example, the Stop Vivisection web page advertises a planned night-time "vigil" at the residence of one faculty member whose home has been subject to multiple attacks by groups
of masked vandals shouting threats, pounding on his door, and breaking windows. It is well known that web postings of the
sort on the "Stop Vivisection" web site result in such unlawful conduct. They therefore constitute unlawful threats.
We would appreciate if you could respond to us as soon as possible to let us know what your position on these legal arguments are.
Thanks for your understanding and prompt cooperation in this matter.
- DreamHost Abuse/Security Team