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back to article Twitter won't unmask racist Frenchie unless US judge says so

Twitter has told a Paris court it will not name an anonymous French tweeter unless a US judge orders it to do so. Alexandra Neri, a lawyer for San Francisco-based Twitter, said the social network was bound by American law and would not divulge the information at a hearing this week. The French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) is …

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Anonymous Coward

"We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

B*ll*cks. Unless they pretend "not to operate" in UK, France, etc. They adhere to US law in their state of registered address. The rest of the world gets le trois doigt salute, two fingers (UK style) or a whole hand crossed at elbow "Antonio Banderas style" gesture.

If they adhered to French, UK, etc law it would have been possible to get an injunction French, UK, etc court and get the information (provided that the account is registered in France or accessed from France). "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it". Google, Ebay, etc also thought that having a "Californian only law applies to our terms of service" can work worldwide. French and German courts taught it the exact meaning of "operate in a country" so it now knows very well what does that mean. It is simply a matter of time until they do that to Twitter and it will not be pleasant (or cheap).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

One rule for them (Facebook) another rule for the others (Kim Dotcom)?

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Meh

People have opinions, it's not a crime.

There are so many people who spout nonsense and talk crap that we have to or end up having listened to it in our daily lives. Usually we just roll our eyes and move on.

Publish crap and nonsense on Twitter someone gets offended and then jumps up on to the bandwagon and wants to punish, jail or make an example of the fool.

In real life you'd put your argument against the crap, tell the person they are a prat, move on and have nothing more to do with them. That's the way to deal with it.

Having an opinion is not a crime however idiotic misguided or stupid or offensive your opinion is.

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Re: People have opinions, it's not a crime.

Racist remarks are not opinion, they're an offence. You shouldn't be allowed to get away with it online any more than your should in public.

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@AC 07:40 Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it".

Do you remember when Yahoo gave the identity of a Chinese man to the Chinese authorities, because he had made a statement that was critical of the Chinese government. Well, that act was illegal in China, so the man was treated very harshly. In Thailand, you can be imprisoned for any criticism of the monarchy. Do you think Twitter should obey Thai court orders to reveal identities of users who criticise the Thai monarchy?

So, try to learn from history. Twitter is a US company and will give out user information only if ordered to do so by a US court order. If you don't like or agree with the general principles of US law, in terms of what is an 'offence', then use a service based in your own country, or one who's laws you agree with.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

Time to put these "fair two-way" extradition treaties to the test...

If a US company aids and abets a computer based crime, and then adds insult to injury by brazenly flouting due process, then an extradition request must be made against its management.

Go get 'em team frogslegs!

...oh, what, those "fair two-way" extradition treaties are all a lie aren't they? Merde.

Up yours stinking surrendermonkeys.

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Anonymous Coward

"operate in a country"

What is meant by "operate in a country" anyway? I think Google & Ebay were performing financial transactions (i.e. business) in those countries so the courts waded in.

If twitter is simple accepting sign-in from all over the world, they don't have the same issue. Sure, the courts could order a Pirate Bay style blockade on the ISPs, but are they going to go so far when the majority of tweets, however banal, are perfectly legal?

Having said that, the USA courts are no strangers on imposing their flawed rules on the rest of the world...

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Re: People have opinions, it's not a crime.

@Lars

Strange isn't it, in the real world you probably would call them a pillock, shake your head and walk off. Online, people shake their head and then move to the most convenient complaint form, OR if it really offended them, they might share a link so that others can be equally offended.

There are a lot of people in today's world, who seem to believe they have the right to decide what is and isn't offensive and try their best to have that speech censored, often whilst crowing about free speech themselves. Look at the Daily Fail's campaign against Jack Whitehall and various other comedians for a non-illegal UK example.

What we need, is for someone to show common sense in a high profile case - I can see why the plaintiff may have found this offensive, however I find his choice of clothing quite offensive to my sense of style. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that offense is subjective so can't easily be judged or measured in advance. Requiring a defendant to do so would un-necessarily curtail freedom of speech - Be a long, long time before it happens (if ever) though.

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Re: People have opinions, it's not a crime.

Racist remarks are not opinion, they're an offence. You shouldn't be allowed to get away with it online any more than your should in public.

That's the whole point. The internet is not "in public". You have to decide what to read, and you can turn it off. It is of course possible that the complainants were forced to use Twitter and follow specific people, in which case they should sue whomever is forcing them. In any case, this all has nothing to do with racism or Twitter, and everything to do with self-righteousness.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: People have opinions, it's not a crime.

"Racist remarks are not opinion, they're an offence. You shouldn't be allowed to get away with it online any more than your should in public."

But we all have EVERY RIGHT to voice our own thoughts and opinions, no matter how vile we may think they are. I would defend that right, even if I was being defamed. Can't have it both ways.

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Re: @AC 07:40 "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

@Frank ly: don't kid yourself - the west is just as bad in many respects.

Telcos are being sued in the US by the DoJ by using their legal right to challenge NSLs (being accused of breaking the law by complying with it - that's a new one on me). Thanks to the likes of the PATRIOT Act the US thinks it can do pretty much what it wants. I just hope they never turn their attention towards you since they don't even seem to bother with the nicety of court orders.

As far as the UK is concerned I seem to recall an entire episode involving a tweet to do with blowing up an airport that was taken far too seriously. Add to that injunctions being made to stop publications of photos in the UK - *cough*Ned Rocknroll*cough* - despite those photos being publically available for over two years on facebook and you end up with court orders looking like a bit of a joke.

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Re: People have opinions, it's not a crime. @Ben Tasker

The point about the Daily Mail undermines your opening paragraph. All it takes is one Daily Mail journalist to get "offended" and suddenly Offcom has hundreds of complaints by people who never witnessed the original broadcast or weren't offended until the Mail told them they should be.

My personal position is that people have a right to offend, but not to incite hatred of violence.

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Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

"They adhere to US law in their state of registered address. The rest of the world gets le trois doigt salute, two fingers (UK style) or a whole hand crossed at elbow "Antonio Banderas style" gesture."

But that's how it should be IMHO. It's a US company and a US site, why should they be concerned with the laws of every which part of the word from where some punter may have connected to them? What if the aliens from Alpha Centauri would have an account with Tw@tter? Should the Centaurian law apply?

It would have been another matter if they'd used tw@tter.fr site - that part of their operations should be subject to French law and no other.

Of course, in the ideal world a CEO of a UK based online gambling company should not be going to jail in the US because some Americans broke their American law against paying to any gambling company not owned or controlled by the US Mafia gambling online. But that would mean expecting too much from the Land of the Free, wouldn't it?

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WTF?

Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

"B*ll*cks. Unless they pretend "not to operate" in UK, France, etc."

They don't. Are you forgetting how a website works? YOU connect to THEM wherever their servers are based. Its like saying a US phone company should follow French laws simply because someone in france uses its system on a long distance call. Besides that - its not physically possible for a company to operate the same service consistently under the laws of every country since some laws may be mutually exclusive.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: People have opinions, it's not a crime.

Fascinating definition of what "public" means.

So you could say "Oh, shouting racists remarks on Trafalgar Square is not doing it in public, after all, people who don't want to hear them can easily choose another way".

And not seeing the racism in the issue is downright suspect.

Sadly, in the end, I agree. I think people who defend free speech in China, Iran, and other places, should be jumping in now, and defend free speech everywhere.

Defending free speech is not defending people who say things you agree with. That's easy. It's defending people who say things you find nauseating.

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Black Helicopters

"Fair" two-way extradition treaties...

I can certainly understand why the apparent "leverage"/inequity in the US/UK special relationship seems abusive. Even as an American, I would tend to agree with you, based on what little I have read about it (solely in non-US press, mind).

However: as an American, I have to say this doesn't even register on my list of concerns. I'm far more concerned about the trajectory of our imperial presidency that started with FDR. Today, we have a President who asserts the right to perform extrajudicial executions of US citizens he doesn't like (by drone). We have a judiciary that upholds this, including the President's assertion that he can keep secret the rationale about why he can/has "legally" killed citizens at his whim, without allowing them recourse to the courts. Furthermore, we now allow the President to suspend habeas corpus; we have national security letters that bypass the judicial warrant system; and just yesterday the VP asserted that the President could implement gun control via executive order: ie. creating law without Congress.

So, I sincerely apologize if my government is bullying your government. I wish this were the worst injustice caused by my government, but instead we seem hell-bent on erasing rights that have been part of our heritage since the Magna Carta.

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Shufflemoomin : @Re: People have opinions, it's not a crime.

Wrote - "Racist remarks are not opinion, they're an offence."

Then it becomes a matter of opinion what is a racist remark. Many fanatics demand that anything they do not agree with is racist - if there is a non-white person in the scene in any function whatsoever, which these days in the UK is just about everywhere.

Someone in my trade union (Unison) criticised the leadership committee as "Like the three wise monkeys - seeing, hearing and saying no evil" - a pretty standard bit of political flak and a well-used phrase one would have thought. But the committee contained one black member who complained that this remark was "racist" and extracted a formal apoplogy from the critic!

One wonders why it was the black member who raised the complaint.

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Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

They have this thing called freedom of speech in the good old USA, don't hold your breath trying to extradite someone with anything to do with The First Amendment

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Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

What's with all the mock outrage. It's funny how most commentards are for privacy and companies not divulging user information, but US bashing always takes priority. As was mentioned in the article, the user may not even live in France. Why should French courts have jurisdiction?

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Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

Kim Dotcom was willing to help US authorities if they used the legal protocols required. They never did. Besides which the man is still presumably innocent. Do you mean to say you haven't been following hisstory on here?

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Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

They also have fat ***ish lawyers.

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Re: @AC 07:40 "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

Doesn't really work though does it. If I as a law abiding person decided to use your logic not use twitter that doesn't stop a tw@ using it. To be fair your half way there, if Twitter don't to be taken to court in France it should block access to anyone based in France

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@Roadkill

Nits:

The imperial presidency started well before FDR. Some trace the socialist problem to Wilson, others to the other Roosevelt, some even to Lincoln. You are correct that by FDR it was certainly under way, and only committed socialist/communists deny it. If you are sticking strictly with "imperial" that goes back to at least Andrew Jackson who used the office to destroy the National Bank (perhaps a good thing, perhaps not) in defiance of Congress.

The drone issue is a mixed bag. If the American is in foreign territory and known to be helping the enemy, that is engaged in subversion against the US, I have no problem dropping a drone on him. The presumption of innocence only goes so far, and it's right out the window when war starts.

Presidents have ALWAYS had the power to suspend habeas corpus. Washington himself suspended it during the Whiskey Rebellion, which he put down with US troops. Moreover, this is an assertion of suspending habeus corpus for foreign agents, a claim I find specious at best. He isn't routinely suspending it for US citizens who aren't known to be acting as foreign agents.

The Constitution also allows for the creation of "other courts" which is essentially what the national security letter system is. It may be being used to liberally, but that is an issue separate from the authority of Congress to create such an alternate system.

I concur that executive orders have been used too much, and the example you site is particularly egregious. I will note however that progressives/socialists/communists have long been at work undermining that right and the courts have generally supported this. The history goes all the way back to Miller, a case that if a lower court today were to treat the defense the way SCOTUS treated the defense in Miller, the presiding judge would be subject to a STERN rebuke and even possibly disciplinary action from the Bar. Such is the way of dictators and their sycophants who will rule when a free people refuse to hold their government accountable. We failed miserably on that count in the last election.

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@Arclight

You and others are quite missing the point. Twitter is by definition the ULTIMATE opt-in, non-public forum. You MUST sign up for a twitter account. After that your MUST sign up to receive the allegedly offensive material. Opt out at either point and there IS no offense.

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Re: @Arclight

Not missing anything. "Incitement to racial hatred' does not require me to see it or be offended by it , and is nothing to do with my hurt feelings:

deliberately provoking hatred of a racial group

distributing racist material to the public

making inflammatory public speeches

inciting inflammatory rumours about an individual or an ethnic group, for the purpose of spreading racial discontent.

Post "Purple people, fight for your rights and go out and kill all green people" on Twitter, and its not whether someone who is green is going to read it and be upset, your inciting someone else to carry out that crime

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Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

"If a US company aids and abets a computer based crime, and then adds insult to injury by brazenly flouting due process, then an extradition request must be made against its management."

A crime where? France where the compainants are? America where Twitter is? or Iran where hating Jews is a national past time?

Welcome to the legal murk that is the internet. This whole effort is a total waste of time. Odds are the person who made the comments isn't even in France. Even so can you prove the person accused made the comments or did someone do it because he didn't secure his wireless? Was it done from a wireless hotspot? Did a hacker frame him?

Thousands upon thousands of dollars wasted on blood sucking lawyers and years later these idiots will realise they were trolled and there is SFA they can do about it.

Someone called you a bad name. Harden the F up cause there is nothing you can do about it.

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Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

"But that's how it should be IMHO. It's a US company and a US site, why should they be concerned with the laws of every which part of the word from where some punter may have connected to them? What if the aliens from Alpha Centauri would have an account with Tw@tter? Should the Centaurian law apply?"

But that isn't how it works is it? Remember the French porn site, circa 2001 that had its site pulled because a Texan court deemed the content illegal in that state? That case shook up, not only the porn industry, but the internet at large as it was clear that ALL websites have to comply with US laws (as you noted re online gambling). The converse isn't true. US sites only have to comply with US laws, and can ignore regional laws as they choose.

The question should be, why should every other website have to comply with US laws and regional ones, when US website only have to obey US laws?

I believe the term is double standards.

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incitement

Arclight, “incitement to racial hatred” as you defined it above is not illegal in the US; such hate speech would fall under First Amendment protection, including that anti-green-people post. To be unconstitutional, that post would have to be proven to be intended to, and likely to, cause an imminent breach of the peace. Advocacy of purple people killing all green people is protected speech here if either such an intent or such a likelihood is not provable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "We adhere to the laws of the countries in which we operate."

Quote: Time to put these "fair two-way" extradition treaties to the test...

If France had them in the first place. Why do you think Roman Polanski resides in France.

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Re: incitement

But it is illegal in the UK. If the person that posted that message is based in the UK Twitter shouldn't be invoking US law to protect him. As I said, and this is actually backed up by the Texan court order Re: online gambling, they have made their site accessible within the UK. If they don't want to be subject to UK law then they should make some effort to block people from the UK using it.

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Re: People have opinions, it's not a crime: Shufflemoomin

You are quite correct. People should indeed be able to speak their opinions in public just as easily as they can online. Anything else is an illegitimate restriction on free speech.

No-one has a right not to be offended.

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Re: incitement

Arclight, I’m not familiar with that Texan court order; which case is it a result of?

As a thought experiment, imagine a racist purple billionaire hiring a skywriter to deliver his anti-green-people message in the sky above St. John in the US Virgin Islands. The message is so large that it is visible from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Is your viewpoint that the billionaire would be subject to being charged with incitement to racial hatred (presuming that that is also an offence in the BVI), since no effort was made to prevent it from being visible in Tortola? Or would it be the pilot who would be subject to the charge? Or the company that made the oil that was used to create the smoke of the skywriting? Or the airplane manufacturer?

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I wouldn't suggest that anyone from Twitter try visiting France

They might well end up sleeping a hotel with better locks on the door than they were expecting. The French judge might well decide that when they are in the US they're allowed to follow US law, but when they are in France they're his.

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Stop

To use a quote

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" - Evelyn Beatrice Hall (in her biography of Voltaire, not Voltaire himself)

Unless people are inciting others to break the law in their writings or libelling a particular person or company then free speech should apply. I don't agree with what is being said, but they should be free to say it.

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Anonymous Coward

Le Twit

Le fail

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Who the hell cares what a nameless, faceless idiot has to say?

Honestly, people, grow up. Stop giving losers like this a platform ... it's not like they have a RealLife[tm] following or anything.

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Re: Who the hell cares what a nameless, faceless idiot has to say?

Apparently some people do, and will expend considerable effort to seek them out.

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#freedomofspeech

#twitterareplonkers

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If this case gains sufficient traction in France......

The government there certainly has ways and means to extract reasonableness from Twitter.....

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Freedom of Speech vs Freedom to speak freely

Can everyone get over the fact that Freedom of Speech is NOT the same as being able to say whatever you like, to whoever you like, at any time, about anything.

As an extreme example, trying standing up and a crowded theatre and shouting 'Fire' repeatedly. You will get heavily fined and probably locked up even assuming no one got trampled to death as a result of your actions.

Similarly, libel laws are not contrary to Freedom of Speech - try tweeting that a few Tory peers are kiddy fiddlers and see if you can claim freedom of speech as a defence.

For a more nuanced example, there is a difference between:

"I think the Royal family should be killed" as a general musing,

and

"I think you should go and kill the Royal family" to a group of militant anti-monarchists.

In other words, intent (or implied intent) is everything. That isn't to say that recent examples of heavy handed policing haven't been ridiculous, and luckily the guy who jokingly suggested that he was going to blow up East Midland Airport finally got some common sense justice. But please don't suggest that Twitter, Facebook et al are innocent conduits merely providing an outlet for the 'right' to Free Speech.

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Re: Freedom of Speech vs Freedom to speak freely

Try shouting "THEATER!" in a crowded firehouse ... You'll only do it once.

Stupidity SHOULD hurt!

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Re: Freedom of Speech vs Freedom to speak freely

And in other news...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/01/10/anonymous_ddos_free_speech/

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Re: Freedom of Speech vs Freedom to speak freely

I've been in a crowded theater when someone shouted Fire!

No one was injured. No one even moved.

And after he did, Penn noted he had just exercised his Constitutional right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

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shouting, fire, &c.

Tom 13, as I’m sure that Penn (and you) know, falsely shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater in these USA is constitutional — unless it causes a panic, in which case it isn’t.

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WTF?

meh

I don't know anyone, myself included, who uses twitter.

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Anonymous Coward

Operating in a country

If they take adverts from French companies paid for in Euros, then if you ask me they're operating in that country and should obey their laws. Not difficult.

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Volte-face

Anonymous Coward, if a French-owned and -published magazine with some US subscribers accepted advertising from US companies paid for in dollars, would that French publishing company be operating in the USA?

Would your answer change if that advertising were paid for in euro? If it were paid for in yen, what rôle should Japanese law play in the publisher’s operations?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Volte-face

If that magazine was then shipped to customers in the US, then yes they would (which is functionally the same as 'publishing' a website there surely?).

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Re: Volte-face

Anonymous Coward, would you still consider the publisher to be operating in the USA if the US companies’ advertising were paid for in euro rather than dollars? What if it were paid for in yen? What if the US companies were non-profit charities, and the publisher included their advertising in the magazine gratis?

I agree that publishing a magazine is generally analogous to publishing a Web site, but I disagree that that example demonstrates operating in the USA. If the acquisition of an overseas customer were sufficient to consider a company to be operating in the customer’s country, then that company’s operations would be subject to corporate taxation not only where their products are manufactured, but also in every country where they have customers. Since Fromage et Vin would not be bound to file corporate tax returns in the USA solely because they acquired their first US subscriber, that wouldn’t be sufficient to be considered as operating in the USA.

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