Can Kazakhstan Use the United States Legal System to Attack Free Speech?

laikrastis-respublika-63491024By Juliya Ziskina

The government of Kazakhstan has pursued one of its fiercest critics, the newspaper Respublika, with lawsuits and threats for fifteen years. But despite blocks, bans, and overwhelming distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, Respublika continues to publish on its websites, which critically report on the country’s affairs and provide a forum for discussion from the relative safety of servers hosted in the United States. Because Respublika’s site is blocked in Kazakhstan, the news service also posts its articles to third party sites, including its Facebook group.

Earlier this month, the Kazakhstan government had a major setback in its attempt to use the U.S. legal system to attack Respublika. A federal judge in California rejected Kazakhstan’s demand that Facebook turn over information about users associated with Respublika’s account on the social media site. The judge found that Kazakhstan lacked the appropriate judicial authorization to pursue such discovery, rejecting Kazakhstan’s claims that its Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) lawsuit gave it free rein to obtain information about its critics. The CFAA is a federal anti-hacking statute that prohibits unauthorized access to computers and networks and was enacted to expand existing criminal laws to address a growing concern about computer crimes. It also allows civil actions to be brought under the statute as well. Continue reading