Richmond Journal of Law and Technology

The first exclusively online law review.

Month: March 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

Blog: Banned from the Web: Is the Internet Really a Human Right?

by Catherine M. Gray, Associate Manuscripts Editor


Just before Valentine’s Day, a Racine County Circuit Court judge banned a Wisconsin resident from using the Internet for thirty months.1 Jason Willis, a thirty-one year old resident of Waterford, created a Craigslist ad requesting “nude male suitors” using his neighbor’s picture and address.2 As one might imagine, Willis’ neighbor “Dawn” was shocked when several men arrived at her door, one wearing only a trench coat.3 In banning Willis from the Internet, Judge Allen Torhost declared, “[i]f you want to drive drunk, you’re not allowed to drive. To me, a public availability of the internet [sic]—to use it the way he did—is unconscionable.”4

But did Judge Torhost’s violate Willis’ human rights? A 2011 United Nations report declared “that disconnecting people from the internet [sic] is a human rights violation and against international law.”5 While the report focused on the United Kingdom and France’s efforts to block individuals accused of illegal file sharing and countries who would block Internet access to “quell political unrest,” it calls into question whether Judge Torhost’s decision in some way violated Willis’ fundamental rights in modern society.6 In the United States, higher courts than Judge Torhost’s have declared banning an individual from the Internet is an appropriate remedy.7 Nevertheless, there is a question of whether, in a society and work industry so intrinsically linked to the Internet, banning an individual from being online constitutes a human rights violation. Will the individual be able to secure and maintain employment? Does the answer to that question really matter?

Despite the United Nations’ assertion that the Internet is a human right, I’m inclined to agree with Judge Torhost and the Eleventh Circuit here. Recently, Miranda Barbour admitted to killing more than twenty individuals across the United States, lured to their deaths through Craigslist.8 The use of the Internet for the purposes of harassment, child pornography, and even murder does much to counter the U.N.’s argument for a human right to the World Wide Web. In these cases, I see little wrong with banning convicted offenders from using the Internet, even permanently. Part of being a productive, contributing member of society is acting responsibly, and Judge Torhost got it right when he likened use of the Internet to driving. The Internet, like the driving, is a privilege, not a right, and abuse of a privilege means it’s revoked.



1 Cody Holyoke, Judge: Waterford man ‘banned from Internet, Today’s TMJ4 (Feb. 11, 2014),

2 Taylor Berman, Man Banned From the Internet for Sending Naked Men to Neighbor’s Home, Gawker (Feb. 13, 2014, 10:08 AM),

3 Id.

4 Id. 

5 David Kravets, U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right, Wired (June 2, 2011, 2:47 PM),

6 Id., see also Greg Sandoval, U.K. embraces ‘three strikes’ for illegal file sharing, CNET (Apr. 8, 2010, 8:35 AM),

7 United States v. Dove, 343 F. App’x 428, 430 (11th Cir. 2009) (upholding the defendant’s lifetime ban from the Internet as a condition of supervised release following a conviction for “traveling in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illicit conduct with a person under the age of 18 years, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b), (f)”); see also David Kravets, U.S. Courts Split on Internet Bans, Wired (Jan. 12, 2010, 5:11 PM), 

8 John Bacon, Accused Craigslist killer claims more slayings, USA Today (Feb. 17, 2014, 12:32 PM),



Blog: Facebook’s Continuing Privacy Policy Battle: Parents Concerned Over the Use of Children’s Information in Advertisements

By: Jasmine McKinney, Associate Manuscripts Editor   

By now, most of us probably know that Facebook is no stranger to lawsuits.  Just a mere two years ago, Facebook was involved in a class-action lawsuit where the social networking giant was found to have used members’ images without their permission in advertisements commonly called “sponsored stories”.[1]  Facebook users involved in the suit reported that Facebook had used their personal images shared on the website for various commercial activities.[2]  Though at the time users had no choice to opt out of being featured in sponsored stories, they could configure their privacy settings to share information with only certain people.[3]  The suit that was settled in 2012 cost Facebook a whopping $10 million.[4]


Fast-forward to today and throngs of people are still up in arms over Facebook’s lackadaisical privacy policies.  The settlement has yet to take effect due to the large number of appeals making their way through court.  However, under the settlement, Facebook agreed to change its privacy policies so that Facebook users between the ages of thirteen and eighteen could indication whether their parents were also Facebook users and give the parents control over the use of their children’s ‘likes’ and comments for advertising purposes.[5]  For children whose parents were not Facebook users, the site promised to opt their children out of social advertising until age eighteen.[6]  Still many are unsatisfied.


Now, a group of parents as well as child advocacy and privacy groups are asking a federal appeals court to throw out the 2012 settlement with Facebook over the website’s use of children’s images in these advertisements or sponsored stories.[7]  The plaintiffs and other public interest groups claim that despite the 2012 action, Facebook still uses children’s images without the proper authorization.[8]  Though parents have the ability to ask Facebook, to remove an image used in advertisements on the site, many still believe Facebook should ask for permission first.[9]  Plaintiffs in the case claim that Facebook’s practices continue to violate laws prohibiting the use of a minor’s image without parental permission in several states, including: California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.[10]


Scott Michelman, a lawyer for the nonprofit group Public Citizen argues that Facebook is currently exercising a backwards approach to privacy concerning it’s younger users.  “The default should be that a minor’s image should not be used for advertising unless the parent opts in.  Putting the burden on the parent to opt the child out gets it exactly backward.”[11]  Another group known as the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood has also concluded that the previous settlement offers little protection to children and has taken the same stance as Public Citizen on the issue.[12]


Over the years, Facebook has continued to emphasize that its takes the privacy of its users seriously, but many may question how this can be true given the company’s history of frequently making changes to its privacy policy (some of which have not always been the best in terms of privacy).[13]  The safety of minors online is undoubtedly an important issue and the result of this new suit is bound to show Facebook’s true stance on protecting the privacy of its younger users.

[1] Cecilia Kang, Parents Resume Privacy Fight vs. Facebook Over Use of Children’s Images in Ads, Washington Post (Feb. 13, 2014)

[2] Hayley Tsukayama, Facebook Settles Sponsored Stories Suit for $10 Million, Washington Post (June 18, 2012)

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Vindu Goel, More Pressure on Facebook to Change Its Policy of Using Users’ Images and ‘Likes’ in Ads, The Economic Times (Feb. 13, 2014)

[6] Id.

[7] Kang, supra note 1.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Goel, supra note 5.

[12] Id.

[13] See (explaining Facebook’s decision to remove the “Who can look up your Timeline by Name? setting)

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