In a bizarre battle between two corporate superpowers, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania has filed a motion for contempt against Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg for failure to produce documents and logs identifying an individual Facebook user. The individual, known as Jose Antonio Gutierres Garcia, maintains a popular pro-Jehovah’s Witness Facebook
The case was initiated on October
However, Facebook failed to yield to the subpoena, which has resulted in an ongoing war over compliance. After multiple attempts by Watch Tower to force Facebook to deliver personally identifying documents and logs, attorney Polidoro wrote a three-page letter to Judge Seibel on January 24th, 2019, requesting a pre-motion conference along with sanctions against Facebook for its “willful disregard” of the court order.
Among the demands enumerated in the January letter, Polidoro asked the Judge to penalize the defendant, Facebook, a sufficient daily monetary fine as a punitive measures for non-compliance.
Watch Tower’s anticipated Motion for Contempt will petition this Court to:
1) direct Facebook to produce the documents sought by the DMCA Subpoena immediately, or at such later
time as the Court may direct
2) sanction Facebook in an amount to be set by this Court for each day after the determined compliance deadline that Facebook fails to comply with this Court’s order, and
3) for such other and further relief as this Court may deem just and proper.[letter from polidoro to judge Seibel 1.24.19]
The irony of Watch Tower’s attorneys demanding monetary fines for failure to produce documents is not lost on the readers of JW Survey or the public at large. In multiple California child abuse lawsuits filed by the Zalkin Law Firm, Watchtower of New York (the property-holding corporation of Jehovah’s Witnesses) has been sanctioned for its refusal to turn over a database of documents revealing the extent of its child abuse epidemic.
In the case of Osbaldo Padron versus Watchtower, the court imposed a $4,000 per day fine on Watchtower for its non-compliance. The fines accrued for more than a year before Watchtower settled the case in a private agreement with the plaintiff.
On January 29th 2019, Watch Tower of Pennsylvania futher argued its case by issuing a Memorandum of Law in Support of its Motion for Contempt against Facebook, Inc.
On page four of the Memorandum, Watchtower attorney and church elder Polidoro writes:
“ARGUMENT FACEBOOK SHOULD BE HELD IN CONTEMPT AND ORDERED TO COMPLY WITH THE DMCA SUBPOENA”
“This Court can and should hold Facebook in contempt for its failure to fully comply with the properly-issued DMCA Subpoena served by Watch Tower. First, upon receipt of a DMCA Subpoena, 17 U.S.C. § 512(h)(5) directs that service providers “expeditiously disclose to
The complaint escalates in intensity on page 6, declaring:
“Facebook’s complete disregard of the judicial process raises the concern that the evidence sought by Watch Tower has been, or will soon be permanently lost. Service providers typically retain user activity logs
Facebook’s blatant disregard of this Court’s authority and the judicial process warrants an order of contempt and a requirement to produce the information required by the subpoena immediately or by a deadline to be set by the court. If Facebook again fails to comply with the subpoena, the Court should order that Facebook pay a fine in an amount to be set by the Court for each day that it fails to comply with this Court’s order.” –
[bold, italics ours]
The January 29th
Watch Tower issues over 40 additional subpoenas
During the course of research into the Watchtower battle with Facebook over alleged copyright infringement, JW Survey has uncovered dozens of documents and cases filed by Watch Tower’s principle attorneys since 2017, all targeting individuals who have posted photos, publications, or videos on numerous social media and web sites, hosted largely inside the United States.
Watch Tower’s chief strategy includes scouring the internet for “infringing” materials, which include, but are not limited to photos, documents, and videos which Watch Tower has produced using an all-volunteer workforce.
Once located, Watch Tower’s attorneys determine whether the individual behind the offending account is an “apostate.” If they believe the person might be connected to insider leaks, or if they have posted already-leaked information, Tower attorneys initiate DMCA takedown measures.
Watch Tower does not stop at DMCA content removal, however. Their legal team next files a DMCA subpoena to identify the alleged infringer/s in an attempt to obtain all personally identifying information related to the individual who posted on one or more social media or web sites.
In the Facebook case cited here, Watch Tower’s subpoena includes the following language:
“YOU ARE COMMANDED to produce at the time, date, and place set forth below the following documents, and electronically stored information, or objects, and to permit inspection, copying, testing, or sampling of the material:”
“All identifying information, including subscriber registration information, the name(s), address(es), telephone number(s), any electronic mail addresses associated with the infringing Facebook account displaying the name, “Jose Antonio Gutierrez Garcia (Gran Muchedumbre)”, and any logs of Internet Protocol addresses including time stamps used to access the subject account or to upload the artwork available at the following URLs :”
[URLs provides on
The language above has been replicated in more than 40 unique cases launched by Watch Tower since 2017, with subpoenas being handed out like candy to a litany of social media and web site providers. The organizations include following:
- Microsoft One Drive
- Go Daddy
- Sound Cloud
- Digital Ocean
In the majority of cases, Watch Tower has achieved its legal intentions by bullying social media sites into compliance, forcing them to turn over the personal details of members, who for the most part are ill-equipped to oppose the legal machine of a multi-billion dollar religious corporation.
There are however exceptions to the pattern of DMCA takedowns, followed by exposure of the “alleged infringer.” The Facebook case here cited is one of two cases where non-compliance has resulted in an excessive show of legal force by Watchtower. In the Facebook case, it is not clear whether Facebook has intentionally opposed the subpoena issued by Judge Seibel, or if the subpoena was misdirected and overlooked by Facebook.
Either way, Watch Tower’s blazing-guns response has made it clear they mean business and will stop at nothing to expose anyone deemed a threat to its religious corporation.
Watch Tower’s Legal Department
The orchestrated attacks on the “infringers” have become a driving passion for Watch Tower’s legal department, located primarily in its Patterson New York complex. Already laden down with an abundance of child abuse cases and other legal concerns, Watch Tower has allocated its top attorneys to this issue, including their legal Overseer Phillip Brumley, along with Paul Polidoro and Mario Moreno.
Polidoro is most noted for his appearance before the Supreme Court of the United States in the 2002 case of Watchtower Bible and Tract Society versus Village of Stratton Ohio, where Watchtower won the right to
Brumley, like many of the other members of the Jehovah’s Witness legal department, is a congregation elder. His education was paid for by Watch Tower, with the intent of grooming him to oversee Watch Tower’s expanding global legal departments.
In a 1991 speech, Brumley discussed the legal wranglings of Watch Tower and stated that apostate Witnesses have never prevailed against the organization in a court of law. Brumley said:
The cases against apostate infringers
However, the recent cases do not represent the first time Watch Tower has initiated legal action against a web site. In 2005, the religious organization filed suit against the owner of watchtower.ca, demanding $100,000 (Canadian) and compliance with a detailed list of demands, including the surrender of the domain and all information posted on the site.
The legal bullying tactic worked, and the case was settled out of court, with Watch Tower taking control of the domain.
More recently, the legal fires have been re-ignited with the appearance of dozens of web sites and social media accounts devoted to creating transparency and exposing the internal practices and documents of the Jehovah’s Witness organization.
Most members are largely unaware of the secret Elder’s Manual, Branch Organization guidebook, and the hundreds of Body of Elders’ Letters used to manage the internal affairs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Among the sites attacked by Watch Tower are AvoidJW.org and the site you are reading now, JW Survey. On February 23rd and February 27th 2018, both sites received lengthy, threatening letters from Watch Tower’s legal department demanding that they cease and desist the dissemination of material they consider copyrighted. They do not regard the use of their material on web sites or on video platforms “fair use.”
YouTube has been hit the hardest by Watch Tower’s repetitive subpoena warfare, particularly since 2017, when multiple sensitive videos were leaked to the public from numerous sources. Among those videos were the infamous “Pillowgate” info-videos, where two high-ranking Jehovah’s Witness Branch Committee members explained the intricacies of pillow-humping and various masturbation techniques found to be practiced by both male and female members of Watch Tower headquarters.
Masturbation is defined by Jehovah’s Witnesses as “self-abuse” and is banned by the religion.
Another popular YouTube channel under attack is the Kevin McFree “Dubtown” program, featuring stop-motion Lego videos satirizing the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
Watch Tower took exception to this channel in June of 2018, when the show featured a small clip of the upcoming July 2018 JW Broadcasting episode. This Lego video was released before Watch Tower had the opportunity to unveil its own broadcast, propelling the legal department even deeper into the ongoing apostate witch hunt.
Court documents in the Kevin McFree case reveal that Watch Tower claims that this satirical video has done “irreparable damage” to their organization.
The anonymous owners of Kevin McFree have challenged Jehovah’s Witnesses in court, issuing a motion to quash Watch Tower’s subpoena. This infuriated Watch Tower’s legal department, which has hired the services of Cohen, Liebowitz
Watch Tower has expressed serious concern over the length of time taken by any of the media organizations to comply with the subpoenas, arguing that service providers will delete user logs after a specific period of time, rendering Watch Tower unable to litigate against anonymous accounts which may have been closed or abandoned by their owners.
While Watchtower continues its quest to expose apostates and litigate against the numerous platforms which host content, new sites have emerged which currently have immunity to Watch Tower’s legal threats.
It seems that Watch Tower can easily obtain an order from a judge to identify a Facebook or YouTube user, but when the content is hosted outside of the United States, the problem becomes much more complex.
Enter Faith Leaks
While many countries comply with DMCA takedown requests, there are a number of web hosts in countries not governed by DMCA law, and those demands go largely ignored.
One such organization which appears to have worked out the legalities of posting leaked content is the Truth and Transparency Foundation, the creators of
According to the Truth and Transparency Foundation site:
“The TTF was founded in November 2017 by two ex-Mormons, Ryan McKnight and Ethan Gregory Dodge. Prior to that, they worked together to launch the website MormonLeaks. Their efforts and success would soon cause them to expand their whistleblowing and transparency efforts to all religions, forming FaithLeaks”
Faith Leaks made headlines in 2018 when they published secret documents obtained from an anonymous source, documents which revealed the extent of sexual abuse and the corresponding cover-up inside several Jehovah’s Witness Congregations in the Northeastern United States. The leak came to be known as the Palmer Leaks.
Faith Leaks currently hosts thousands of Jehovah’s Witness documents and policy letters, which have been submitted to their organization by anonymous sources. Thus far, Watch Tower has been unable to prevent Faith Leaks from publishing these documents, hosted in unknown locations.
The future of Watch Tower’s continued quest to identify the individuals posting and leaking documents and videos is unclear. There is a war between those who wish to exercise transparency and freedom of speech, and the religious organization which believes it is entitled to identify anyone who would publish its works, which are produced by unpaid Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For the most part, the leaked documents are presented on platforms in which there is no monetary gain, but Watch Tower approaches the matter as if they are being irreparably harmed.
Warnings have been issued to Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses or current Witnesses who leak information – warnings which express the dangers of posting information
In multiple court documents, Watch Tower claims that it is not seeking draconian sanctions against the subjects it calls “infringers”- but facts indicate otherwise. In the above referenced “Palmer Leaks” case, Watch Tower’s sister corporation, Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, enforced the immediate disfellowshipping of the person accused of stealing, then leaking child abuse documents from more than one congregation.
Disfellowshipping is as draconian as it gets.
As of today’s date, February 20th, 2019, Facebook has still refused to comply with the subpoena issued to Facebook on October 18th, 2018.
Just today, a Notice of Appearance was filed with the Southern District of New York, in which the court was notified that the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP has been engaged to represent Facebook. JW Survey will provide updates as soon as they become available.
Reasons for non-compliance include:
- Facebook attorney John K. Roche states that Watch Tower’s initial DMCA subpoena did not correctly identify the URL of the Facebook user, but instead only provided his name and the links to the objectionable content.
- Roche states that on November
9th2018, Facebook emailed their objections to the subpoena to the incorrect email address for Paul Polidoro. Roche claimed that Polidoro’s email address appeared to end with “iw.org” instead of “jw.org”, thus sending their response to an unknown or non-existent domain.
- Facebook claims to have physically mailed their objections to Watch Tower on January
11th2019, but Watch Tower attorney Melanie Jean-Noel advised attorney Roche that she never received Facebook’s mailed documents.
- Facebook’s November 8th letter to Watch Tower Attorney Paul Polidoro stated that “Your subpoena is not issued from a court with subpoena power over Facebook.”
HoweverFacebook proceeded to explain the conditions under which it would comply with the subpoena, contrary to the lack of jurisdiction issue.
Facebook’s claim that a significant factor involved the submitting of documents to the incorrect email address raise several questions, given the fact that Facebook had already admitted to dealing with at least three other Jehovah’s Witness cases, and likely knew that all Watch Tower domains end in “jw.org” and not “iw.org.”
Secondly, email communication is not the accepted standard among attorneys for sending documents responsive to subpoenas. While email is used for some communications, they must be backed up with certified mail or other trackable courier methods, such as Federal Express.
Court Documents Filed February 21st 2019
Now Available on the Cedar’s Channel: Subpoena Warfare