Tech trip: Amazon and neo-Nazi claims, Facebook and real names in Germany, Google and libel in U.K., anti-porn push in Iceland

• Amazon says it is investigating claims that security staff at its distribution centers in Germany wore clothing associated with the neo-Nazi  movement and intimidated temporary foreign workers. The claims — which include routine checks of workers’ bedrooms and frisking workers to check whether they took dinner rolls, according to the Independent — were brought to light by a documentary that recently aired on television. Amazon has denied hiring HESS Security, whose guards wore clothing that has been banned by the German parliament because of its neo-Nazi ties.

Amazon has more than 7,700 permanent workers at several distribution centers in Germany, according to the Telegraph.

The world’s largest online retailer has faced claims about working conditions at its other distribution centers, including in the United States, where the Seattle-based company has faced complaints and lawsuits about extreme pressure, heat in the warehouses and covering up work-related injuries, among other things.

• In other news in that nation, a German court has ruled that Facebook can continue to require real names when people sign up to join the social network. Germany’s privacy watchdog had said the ban on fake names violated Germany’s privacy laws and European free-speech laws, according to the Associated Press. But the court said that because Facebook’s European headquarters is in Ireland, Germany’s privacy laws don’t apply.

• On to legal action in the U.K., where an appeals court has ruled that Google must act more quickly to remove potentially libelous blog comments from the Blogger platform. A lawyer quoted by the Guardian calls the ruling a “blow” to Google and other platform providers, which have long tried to avoid being considered publishers, because the court is essentially holding them responsible for content on their sites.

The case involves a former local council candidate who sued Google last year over comments on a blog that called him a drug dealer and a thief, and the ruling this week overturned an earlier determination that the five weeks it took for Google to remove the offending comments were reasonable. The appeal regarding the libel claim itself was refused.

Google has been found to be responsible in other libel-related claims, including in Australia, where it was ordered to pay last year in a case in which it refused to remove search-result links that were allegedly libelous.

• And what week would be complete without a mention of online porn? There’s a push in Iceland to ban online pornography. If the effort becomes law, the Telegraph says Iceland would be the first Western democracy to try such a thing. Would such a feat be feasible? A political adviser to Iceland interior minister Ogmundur Jonasson said, “surely if we can send a man to the moon, we must be able to tackle porn on the Internet.” Birgitta Jonsdottir, member of the Iceland parliament, calls the effort “way off track” and says it has no chance of passing. She writes for the Guardian: “Introducing censorship without compromising freedom of expression and speech is like trying to mix oil and water: it is impossible.”

 

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