Johannesburg High Court rules on Facebook defamation

The innocuous looking case of H v W which was handed down in the South Gauteng High Court on 30 January 2013 is anything but. Judge Willis’ 30 page judgment recognises the harm a Facebook post can do to a person’s reputation and throws the weight of the Court behind the person defamed (and who can afford the legal fees).

Update: Here are a few thoughts which are partly a summary and partly what I think is really interesting about this case. Be sure to read the post itself, though, there is a lot to unpack in this case.

Back to Wits with Aaron and Ashley-19

The innocuous looking case of H v W which was handed down in the South Gauteng High Court on 30 January 2013 is anything but. Judge Willis’ 30 page judgment recognises the harm a Facebook post can do to a person’s reputation and throws the weight of the Court behind the person defamed (and who can afford the legal fees).

What the judgment says

Background

Judge Willis’ judgment begins with some background information (the names of the parties were redacted to prevent further harm). W (the “respondent”) published an open letter to H (the “applicant”) on Facebook “for public consumption” which included the following paragraph:

I wonder too what happened to the person who I counted as a best friend for 15 years, and how this behaviour is justified. Remember I see the broken hearted faces of your girls every day. Should we blame the alcohol, the drugs, the church, or are they more reasons to not have to take responsibility for the
consequences of your own behaviour? But mostly I wonder whether, when you look in the mirror in your drunken testosterone haze, do you still see a man?

Judge Willis continues and explains that –

The applicant is an insurance broker who is separated from his wife. The respondent had been a close friend of the applicant. This friendship extends back from the time before the applicant married his wife. In terms of a Deed of Trust, the applicant and his wife had jointly appointed the respondent to be the guardian of their three minor children in the event that both the applicant and his wife died or became incapacitated before their children attained their majority. The applicant had provided the respondent with guidance in starting her current business venture. The respondent had lent the applicant money to tide him over certain financial difficulties.

The applicant and his estranged wife are engaged in a divorce action. The applicant’s estranged wife is presently residing with the respondent. The applicant’s wife left him to stay with the respondent on 14 January, 2012. The applicant pays for the children’s medical aid, extra mural classes, stationery and a full time tutor to assist them. The three minor children born of the marriage between the applicant and his estranged wife are Z, born in 1997, M, born in 1999 and C, born in 2001. These minor children have been residing with the applicant for the last few months. The two minor daughters are both ‘friends’ on Facebook with the respondent. A ‘friend on Facebook’ is a ‘term of art’ to which I shall later refer. The applicant and the respondent were friends on Facebook but, consequent upon the applicant’s wife leaving him and moving into the home of the respondent, the applicant has ‘defriended’ the respondent.

The applicant complains that the posting in question publishes information which portrays him as:

(i) A father who does not provide financially for his family;

(ii) A father who would rather go out drinking than caring for his family;

(iii) A person who has a problem with drugs and alcohol.

The applicant’s attorney, in her letter dated 28 February 2012 addressed to the respondent, referred to the possibility of a claim for damages. The respondent claims that she posted the posting not to defame the applicant but in order for the applicant to reflect on his life and on the road he had chosen.

The law the Court relied on

The lawyers involved in the matter conducted what appears to be fairly substantial research on the law on defamation online and with reference to Facebook. Judge Willis relied fairly heavily on two academic articles by –

The Court quoted extensively from Roos’ article, largely as a means to understand Facebook and its mechanics. Although reliance on Roos’ article and her explanation of how Facebook works may not be integral to the judgment, it is unfortunate. Roos appears to have a fairly limited understanding of how Facebook and its privacy settings work and this gives the impression that activity on Facebook is unavoidably more public than it need be. One example of this is Roos’ explanation of Facebook’s primary privacy options:

In Facebook there are three privacy settings to choose from for information other than the user’s name, profile picture, gender and networks. Users can choose to make other information visible to “everyone”, or to “friends of friends”, or to “friends only”. It is important to recognise that a “friend” on Facebook is someone you have listed as a “contact” – such persons are not necessarily friends in real life.

Users can control their visibility to some extent by using the privacy settings to make personal information available only to friends, and of course by limiting the number of friends or contacts they add to their networks. In general, however, most users give out an extraordinary amount of information.

The last part about people sharing a lot of information is true, of course, but what Roos missed is that users can also share fairly selectively using Facebook lists which stand apart from the default “Public”, “Friends”, “Friends except acquaintances” and “Only me”. To be fair to Roos, though, her article was published in 2012 and Facebook’s privacy controls have changed since then and, in many respect, have become somewhat more secure in some respects, and have eroded protections like users’ privacy by obscurity. That said, she made a few good remarks about what I see as privacy’s contextual nature:

In the context of SNSs, one could argue that subscribing to an SNS and completing your profile information is similar to appearing in a public place. The Internet is a very public place, and Facebook clearly warns subscribers that their privacy cannot be guaranteed. However, in my opinion the privacy settings that one choose, should also be taken into account when considering whether a person has really chosen to disclose his or her information to an indeterminate number of persons. If you chose to reveal your personal information to “Friends Only” and if you limited the number of friends that you added, it could be argued in my opinion that you did NOT choose to reveal your information to an indeterminate number of persons. You have, in fact, revealed your personal information to a limited number of people. If one of your Facebook Friends then further discloses personal information that was provided by you in these circumstances, I would argue that you should have a delictual claim for infringement of privacy.

Roos made another important point to bear in mind when considering whether a person’s right to privacy has been infringed is similar to a defamation analysis (and which Judge Willis touched on in his judgment):

It should also be remembered that the wrongfulness of an infringement of privacy is negated by the presence of a ground of justification. Neethling identifies the following traditional grounds of justification as relevant to the right to privacy: necessity, private defence, consent to injury, and performance in a statutory or official capacity. Another ground of justification which is relevant to privacy is the protection of legitimate interests, including the public interest.

In the context of SNSs, consent is a particularly relevant ground of justification. Whenever the user discloses personal information on his webpage, he or she consents to the publication of that private information. However, in order to be valid the consent must meet certain criteria.

She then went on to discuss the parameters of the consent required to justify a privacy infringement. Essentially, consent must be informed although in light of the Protection of Personal Information Bill, we can adopt the Protection of Personal Information Bill’s defintion of “consent” as –

any voluntary, specific and informed expression of will in terms of which permission is given for the processing of personal information

Unfortunately Roos’ understanding of Facebook’s privacy controls and how it works, generally, is limited as expressed by her article and Judge Willis has accepted her explanation as a complete and accurate exposition of privacy on Facebook. This will likely, and unfortunately, colour future Court judgments regarding Facebook privacy issues. One inaccurate statement is Judge Willis’ understanding that –

Accordingly, although one can control one’s own Facebook profile but there is no method, within the Facebook system itself, by which one can control what other people place on their profiles about
oneself and who can look at that.

This is not really correct. Users have the ability to exercise a fair amount of control over whether other users can post their personal information and tag them (Roos seems to have largely misconstrued how tags can be restricted and controlled by the person being tagged).

After exploring Twitter briefly, Judge Willis turned to established case law in South Africa including authority for the proposition Roos expressed that a privacy infringement can be justified in a similar way that defamation can be justified and a more recent Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in the 2004 Mthembi-Mahanyele v Mail & Guardian case which, according to Judge Willis –

affirmed the principle that the test for determining whether the words in respect of which there is a
complaint have a defamatory meaning is whether a reasonable person of ordinary intelligence might reasonably understand the words concerned to convey a meaning defamatory of the litigant concerned

The Court, in the Mthembi-Mahanyele case set out the test for defamation as follows (and cited a 1993 case in the then-Appellate Division of Argus Printing and Publishing Co Ltd v Esselen’s Estate) –

The test for determining whether words published are defamatory is to ask whether a ‘reasonable person of ordinary intelligence might reasonably understand the words . . . to convey a meaning defamatory of the plaintiff. . . . The test is an objective one. In the absence of an innuendo, the reasonable person of ordinary intelligence is taken to understand the words alleged to be defamatory in their natural and ordinary meaning. In determining this natural and ordinary meaning the Court must take account not only of what the words expressly say, but also of what they imply’

Referencing one of the justifications for (or defences to) defamation, namely that the defamatory material be true and to the public benefit or in the public interest, Judge Willis drew an important distinction that is worth bearing in mind –

A distinction must always be kept between what ‘is interesting to the public’ as opposed to ‘what it is in the public interest to make known’. The courts do not pander to prurience.

The Court moved on to explore another justification, fair comment. In order to qualify as “fair comment” –

the comment “must be based on facts expressly stated or clearly indicated and admitted or proved to be true”

The person relying on this justification must prove that the comment is, indeed, fair comment and “malice or improper motive” will defeat this justification or defence, regardless of its demonstrably factual nature. In this particular case, the Court found that W acted maliciously and she was unable to prevail with this defence.

The Court’s finding

Flowing from the Court’s finding that W’s Facebook post was defamatory and unlawful, Judge Willis considered a procedural issue. H instituted proceedings on motion, which means that H used an expedited approach relative to the more conventional trial action and sought a court order requiring W to remove the post and stop posting about H (the very simplied and incomplete version). Normally an applicant instituting motion proceedings would be asked to explain to he Court whether there is “an absence of similar protection by any other ordinary remedy”. W’s legal team pointed out (as respondents frequently do) that H could have sued her for damages (monetary losses) through a trial action.

Judge Willis considered this argument and took a pretty important step in developing the common law that governs these sorts of proceedings. He said the following:

It is in respect of the remedy where infringements of privacy take place in the social media that the common law needs to develop. The social media form a subset of the electronic media but are not coextensive with it: the social media are all part of the electronic media but not all the electronic media are social media. The electronic media were, almost certainly, beyond the imagination of the court when Setlogelo v Setlogelo was decided in 1914. Not only can items be posted and travel on the electronic media at a click on a computer in a moment, in an instant, at the twinkling of an eye, but also they can, with similar facility, be removed therefrom. This can also be done at minimal cost. The situation is qualitatively different from the scenario where newspapers have been or are about printed in hardcopy and distributed. The law has to take into account changing realities not only technologically but also socially or else it will lose credibility in the eyes of the people. Without credibility, law loses legitimacy. If law loses legitimacy, it loses acceptance. If it loses acceptance, it loses obedience. It is imperative that the courts respond appropriately to changing times, acting cautiously and with wisdom.

He went on to explain that –

[t]he historical reluctance of the courts to interdict publication in the media has its roots only in the issues relating to technology and economics that arise from ‘stopping the press’ but also a concern about the social consequences of stopping the free flow of news and information. This concern about the ‘chilling effect’ of court orders on freedom of expression has been manifested in the case of National Media Limited v Bogoshi recently decided in the SCA.

This is an interesting perspective. Just as social media accelerates the rate at which people can share (and remove) their thoughts, it also addresses the courts’ concerns about ordering that defamatory materials be removed from these social services because the costs involved are minimal. Ironically, though, litigation remains a pretty costly exercise so this must also factor into litigants’ cost analysis. For the courts, though, it would seem that the social Web removes an obstacle to judicial activism when it comes to defamation. Of course it isn’t just about the economics involved, courts will continue to assess the relative value of one party’s right to freedom of expression when weighed against the other other’s right to dignity, for example. As Judge Willis points out –

resolving the tensions between every human being’s constitutionally enshrined rights both to freedom of expression and to dignitas is all about balance. In the case of Le Roux v Dey Freedom of Expression Institute and Another as amici curiae) the Constitutional Court emphasized the need to take into account the context in which a publication occurs.

W’s advocate attempted to argue that H could take the matter up with Facebook itself as a violation of its terms and conditions but Judge Willis wasn’t convinced. He didn’t feel there was anything before him to “assure me that Facebook would comply with such a request”. He further noted James Grimmelmann’s argument that “it is better for the courts to focus on users rather than Facebook itself if intrusions on privacy are effectively to be curbed”. Essentially, “if one wants to stop wrongdoing, it is best to act against the wrongdoers themselves”.

Media reports about this case referenced the orders H sought against W which included a prohibition on W “posting any information pertaining to the applicant on Facebook or any other social media”. Judge Willis refused to grant this order as he said he has “no way of knowing for certain that there will be no cicumstances in the future that may justify publication about the applicant”. I think he made the correct decision there and this means that these complaints will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis with careful consideration of each case’s merits.

The Court also refused to grant orders placing W under arrest if she fails to comply with the order and that the Sheriff of the court be ordered to remove the offending post. Instead W was ordered to remove the posts and pay H’s costs. As a practical matter, Judge Willis made the following point:

Those who make postings about others on the social media would be well advised to remove such postings immediately upon the request of an offended party. It will seldom be worth contesting one’s obligation to do so. After all, the social media is about building friendships around the world, rather than offending fellow human beings. Affirming bonds of affinity is what being ‘social’ is all about.

A few more interesting points

Judge Willis went on to deal with public figures and the prospect of having to deal with a flurry of relatively minor complaints after this judgment.

With respect to public figures, he pointed out that while they enjoy a right to privacy, “[t]here is legitimate public interest in the affairs of public figures” and this means that they may not enjoy the same degree of protection as citizens not in the public spotlight when it comes to defamation online. As Judge Willis put it –

Trenchant commentaries on the performances of politicians as politicians, entertainers as entertainers, musicians as musicians, artists as artists, writers as writers, poets as poets, sports stars as sports stars will generally pass legal muster, even if posted in the social media. When it comes to freedom of expression in South Africa, there are oceans in which to swim and upon which to sail as freely as the wind blows.

When it comes to the prospect of being inundated by defamation claims (my words), the Court referenced the National Media Limited v Jooste case and Judge of Appeal Harms’ comments that –

the question of whether private facts are worthy of protection is determined by reference to ‘ordinary or reasonable sensibilities and not to hypersensitivities’.

Similarly, Grimmelmann has referenced the legal maxim de minimis non curat lex which Judge Willis translated as “the law is not concerned with trivia”. Ultimately, the cost of litigating, even when it comes to motion court proceedings of this nature, will stem the flow of applications to court. Litigation remains a costly exercise and this cost may not always be warranted, regardless of how hurtful the comments may be. This is especially so in the context of motion court proceedings where courts tend not to grant damages as relief because of how these motion court proceedings work.

Lastly, the judgment didn’t deal with another complication: the infamous Streisand Effect. This phenomenon kicks in regardless of your entitlement to protect legitimate rights. It has the ability to effectively negate the practical value of a court order such as the one Judge Willis granted and should always be carefully considered and weighed up against the risks in any matter. There are going to be cases where it is better to walk away and focus on damage control and other cases where it is worth risking the phenomenon and going to court. A critical factor will be whether the legal advice you take is adequately informed about not only the law but the social Web dynamics to form a better risk assessment before you pull the trigger.

This case is an important one. It advances the law dealing with social Web issues and, if it is upheld or applied by other (and higher) courts, it will change the tone for how courts will deal with issues like online defamation and privacy.

Regulators: Hands off the social Web

Two recent events have sparked debates about whether the social Web should be censored: the first is the recent civil unrest in London and the second is a recent report in the Sunday Times about a racist calling himself “Eugene Terrorblanche” publishing a deeply disturbing photo on Facebook (it turns out this is an old story but relevant nonetheless).

Riots in Greece (Dec 2008) Tear Gas

When faced with these sorts of social network abuses, its sometimes tempting to ask whether these social services are somehow inherently bad for allowing themselves to be abused like this. The short answer is “no” and that these services typically take action against the offending material or account where the use falls foul of their terms of service or is otherwise illegal. Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities contain the following use restrictions:

Safety

We do our best to keep Facebook safe, but we cannot guarantee it. We need your help to do that, which includes the following commitments:

  1. You will not send or otherwise post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook.
  2. You will not collect users' content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission.
  3. You will not engage in unlawful multi-level marketing, such as a pyramid scheme, on Facebook.
  4. You will not upload viruses or other malicious code.
  5. You will not solicit login information or access an account belonging to someone else.
  6. You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
  7. You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
  8. You will not develop or operate a third-party application containing alcohol-related or other mature content (including advertisements) without appropriate age-based restrictions.
  9. You will follow our Promotions Guidelines and all applicable laws if you publicize or offer any contest, giveaway, or sweepstakes (“promotion”) on Facebook.
  10. You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.
  11. You will not do anything that could disable, overburden, or impair the proper working of Facebook, such as a denial of service attack.
  12. You will not facilitate or encourage any violations of this Statement.

Twitter’s Rules contain the following restrictions:

Content Boundaries and Use of Twitter

In order to provide the Twitter service and the ability to communicate and stay connected with others, there are some limitations on the type of content that can be published with Twitter. These limitations comply with legal requirements and make Twitter a better experience for all. We may need to change these rules from time to time and reserve the right to do so. Please check back here to see the latest.

  • Impersonation: You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others
  • Trademark: We reserve the right to reclaim user names on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those user names. Accounts using business names and/or logos to mislead others will be permanently suspended.
  • Privacy: You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.
  • Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.
  • Copyright: We will respond to clear and complete notices of alleged copyright infringement. Our copyright procedures are set forth in the Terms of Service.
  • Unlawful Use: You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.
  • Misuse of Twitter Badges: You may not use a Verified Account badge or Promoted Products badge unless it is provided by Twitter. Accounts using these badges as part of profile pictures, background images, or in a way that falsely implies affiliation with Twitter will be suspended.

Google+’s content policy contains similar restrictions. The point is that these social services contain mechanisms in their terms of service which prohibit users from using their services of these sorts of uses and to remove the content in question or delete the user’s profile where these rules are infringed.

Neutral tools and misinformed assumptions

Notwithstanding these infrastructural barriers to improper uses of these services, governments and regulatory bodies have raised the possibility of regulation of the social Web as a response to what they may regard as offensive or inappropriate use of these social services. In the United Kingdom, the British government mooted the possibility of restricting access to social services like Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry’s messaging services which were apparently used by rioters to co-ordinate their activities. The challenge with Blackberry’s services, in particular, is they are purportedly encrypted and that has frustrated numerous governments seeking to spy on their Blackberry-using citizens. The desire to censor or restrict these services because they may have been used by criminal elements in the United Kingdom is short-sighted and doesn’t take into account the beneficial uses of these services.

The Guardian published results of a study of Twitter usage during the London riots recently. Not surprisingly, the study’s findings revealed that the perception of these social services primarily as tools for criminals was overstated.

Analysis of more than 2.5m Twitter messages relating to the riots in England has cast doubt on the rationale behind government proposals to ban people from social networks or shut down their websites in times of civil unrest.

A preliminary study of a database of riot-related tweets, compiled by the Guardian, appears to show Twitter was mainly used to react to riots and looting.

Timing trends drawn from the data question the assumption that Twitter played a widespread role in inciting the violence in advance, an accusation also levelled at the rival social networks Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger.

The study revealed that Twitter, for example, was used to organize responses to the rioting and to co-ordinate a clean-up. In other words, the victims of the violence used Twitter to organize themselves and a response to the same criminal activity which similarly relied on these services to propagate. Restricting access to these services may stifle criminal activity but it may also stifle beneficial uses of the services.

Locally, the Sunday Times article sparked various debates about the disturbing photo of the apparent right winger. One of the debates focused on how the photo and the story first broke in 2008 and was hardly the news the Sunday Times portrayed it as. The Sunday Times came under criticism for making much of an old story and yet these critics have glossed over two serious issues: the photo was still available on Facebook 3 years after it was first noticed by the media and the photo still depicts a very disturbing image of a white man enthusiastically posing over the apparent body of a black boy with his rifle as if the white man hunted him. Irrespective of whether the photo is real or a fabrication, the message the photograph should most certainly concern us for various reasons. It touches on old racial tensions which are very much alive and well 17 years after South Africa adopted a broad democracy based on fundamental rights such as equality and dignity.

The photograph also suggests that these same racial tensions are not just the domain of an older generation but have been handed down to a younger generation on both sides of the growing racial divide. We see it in this photograph and we see it in Julius Malema’s rhetoric. These are some of the real issues we should be concerned about, not which publication published the story first or whether the photograph may have been fabricated (if the photograph is an accurate portrayal of what it appears to portray, it is an even more graphic illustration of these issues).

Regulation and censorship

Riot squad

Another debate which this story’s renewed publicity has sparked is a similar one to the debate underway in the United Kingdom: should the social Web be regulated, censored, to address improper uses of these services? The chairperson of the South African Human Rights Commission, Lawrence Mushwana, recently released a statement suggesting that the social Web should be regulated. According to the Citizen, reporting on this –

Mushwana said even though there was no doubt that social networking sites played an important role in promoting the right of freedom of expression it was clear that practical ways should be found to ensure they were used appropriately.

One of the issues raised was individuals’ ability to hide behind pseudonyms and relatively untraceable profiles and post offensive material or even conduct criminal activity using these social services (social services like Google+ and Facebook take a firm stand against pseudonyms and this has proven to be controversial). The SAHRC has apparently had to close numerous files because people suspected of human rights abuses have been unable to locate and hold accountable. One stark example of this is the young man depicted in the photograph the Sunday Times published. While that is certainly a concern, it is also important to point out that the call for assistance in identifying this individual was made, in part, using the social Web. The link to the article was published on the Sunday Times website and was disseminated using Twitter and Facebook links alongside the article almost 800 times on Twitter and over 3000 times as I write this. These numbers don’t take into account how often the story’s link was shared on Twitter and Facebook directly or even on other social services ranging from email to the relative newcomer, Google Plus.

Mushwana’s chilling call for regulation ignores the fact that the law in South Africa already prohibits incitements to violence and hate speech, to name two features of these two stories. The right to freedom of expression specifically excludes its application to incitement to violence and hate speech. Criminal activities co-ordinated through social services, the phone or word of mouth are equally illegal and punishable. I also believe that just as with content piracy, criminals intent on abusing social services to further their criminal activities will find other ways to do this if current channels are simply cut off. What happens then is that the very people who would otherwise be empowered by these social services to resist our society’s harmful elements will be deprived of an accessible, powerful and effective set of tools. What governments and regulators should rather do is find better ways to make use of these services to harness crowd wisdom to monitor and combat the social Web’s abusers. One example of where British police have started doing this is publishing surveillance photos of the looters to Flickr and asking citizens to identify them so the police could arrest the suspected looters.

Legally speaking, there may be compelling grounds to argue that depriving citizens of the use of these social services may unreasonably infringe citizens’ rights to dignity, freedom of association, not to mention the right to freedom of expression. We have a fairly robust recognition for the value of these rights in our constitutional jurisprudence and limiting the scope of our rights is not a small matter. The Constitutional Court in the matter of S v Mamabolo (E TV and Others Intervening) stated the following:

Freedom of expression, especially when gauged in conjunction with its accompanying fundamental freedoms, is of the utmost importance in the kind of open and democratic society the Constitution has set as our aspirational norm. Having regard to our recent past of thought control, censorship and enforced conformity to governmental theories, freedom of expression — the free and open exchange of ideas — is no less important than it is in the United States of America. It could actually be contended with much force that the public interest in the open market-place of ideas is all the more important to us in this country because our democracy is not yet firmly established and must feel its way. Therefore we should be particularly astute to outlaw any form of thought control, however respectably dressed.

In policy terms, the question how far this sort of regulation goes also arises. Censoring criminals using social services is a relatively easy choice but what happens when the people using these services are legitimately protesting an unpopular government or policies designed to erode human rights. We have seen several examples of the former in the Middle East and north Africa this year and examples of the latter here in South Africa when the government introduced legislation which would substantially erode freedom of the press, for instance.

The law is developed enough to deal with these sorts of issues even as the tools used to commit these misdeeds become more widespread and versatile. The social Web introduced us to a new paradigm but that paradigm doesn’t just apply to marketing initiatives, the social Web amplifies social conventions and empowers previously disadvantaged people who lacked the means to express their voices. The social Web is not inherently good or bad and regulatory frameworks exist alongside contractual frameworks established by these social services to recognise and combat abuses like hate speech and incitements to violence. What governments and regulators are forced to contend with is a fundamental shift of the power dynamics between them and citizens but those shifts can have profoundly beneficial implications for the same citizens those regulators seek to protect. Where citizens find themselves subject to tyranny, they have resorted to these tools to combat that tyranny. As the old adage goes:

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.


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