Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

An Open Letter to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz Regarding the Ongoing Controversy at Brooklyn College

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Borough President Markowitz: 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and academic freedom at our nation's colleges and universities. We write today to express our concern about recent statements made by elected officials that threaten the academic freedom of the City University of New York's Brooklyn College.

At issue is an event at Brooklyn College scheduled for February 7 and titled "BDS Movement Against Israel." (BDS is an acronym for "boycott, divestment, and sanctions.") The event is co-sponsored by Brooklyn College's political science department as well as at least one student group, Students for Justice in Palestine, and features two speakers, Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, who are well-known proponents of the BDS movement.

As you know, several New York city and state lawmakers have responded with calls for Brooklyn College to cancel the event, or, failing that, for the political science department to withdraw its sponsorship. These requests have in some cases been accompanied by threats to the public funding of Brooklyn College and CUNY. An example of this is found in a ...

Trolls and Tribulations

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Patent trolls — companies that assert patents as a business model instead of creating products — have been in the news lately. This is hardly surprising, given that troll lawsuits now make up the majority of new patent cases. And the litigation is only the tip of the iceberg: patent trolls send out hundreds of demand letters for each suit filed in court. At EFF, we have been following this issue closely and are working hard to bring reform to fix the patent mess.

The recent news is not all bad. Just last month, for instance, online retailer Newegg won a long and hard-fought battle against a particularly egregious troll. To its credit, Newegg has a policy of never settling with patent trolls. So, after Soverain Software LLC, a company that sells no products but claims to own online “shopping cart” technology filed suit, Newegg took the case all the way to trial in the Eastern District of Texas. It lost that trial — but it lost for a strange reason: the judge refused to let Newegg argue to the jury that the patent was obvious (if a party can prove that a patent was obvious at the time it ...

IFAction Round-Up, January 14-February 3, 2013

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. Click here to subscribe to this list. For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit the IF Action archive. Below is a sample of articles from January 14 –February 3, 2013.

In case you missed them, here are some of the news stories that hit immediately before, during, and after the ALA Midwinter Meeting!

Privacy and Cybersecurity

Facebook’s Bold, Compelling and Scary Engine of Discovery: The Inside Story of Graph Search

Rights Group Reports on Abuses of Surveillance and Censorship Technology

Scientists Discover How to Identify People From ‘Anonymous’ Genomes

Student Expelled for Hacking After Investigating Security Hole

In a French Case, a Battle to Unmask Twitter Users

US Sentencing Commission site down, Anonymous claims responsibility (Updated)

Hackers in China Attacked The Times for Last 4 Months


Censorship and Free Speech

Library board keeps controversial book in teen section (Effingham, IL)

Obama calls for study on video-game violence

Lomas Hill School Officials: Publicly Apologize to Cecilia Hernandez for Unfair Dismissal After Showing “Milk”

Can One Word Condemn a ...

Can the FCC Create Public "Super WiFi Networks"?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The Washington Post boldly led a front-page story last weekend with the claim: "The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month."

Let's get one thing straight: the government is not creating its own "super WiFi network", but its plans will indeed make awesome new WiFi networks possible. Technically, what the FCC is actually trying to do is increase the amount of open spectrum that is available for WiFi networks of all sorts—and for other "unlicensed" uses. This is a very good idea. Increasing the amount of unlicensed spectrum will lead to better functioning routers, tablets, laptops, and smartphones—and to a host of other new products in the marketplace. It will enhance the quality and supply of extremely useful open wireless networks, but it will also increase the quality of (somewhat less efficient) password-locked WiFi networks as well.

Leaving spectrum open was a necessary historical step for the creation of WiFi in the first place: all of the popular 802.11 devices and standards we use at home, work, and other places—as well ...

Pro-Life Student Group Files Suit Against Oklahoma State University

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) announced last week that Cowboys for Life, a pro-life student organization, has filed a First Amendment suit against Oklahoma State University (OSU). The lawsuit, Cowboys for Life v. Sampson, filed on January 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, alleges that two OSU policies are unconstitutional and that the school engaged in viewpoint discrimination by restricting the group's speech on campus.

According to the suit and a report in The Oklahoman, Cowboys for Life requested a space near the OSU student union to set up a pro-life display with materials provided by an outside organization, Justice For All, on October 24–26, 2012. OSU denied its request, citing concerns over "the declining condition of OSU's three Library Lawns as of Spring 2012." However, the Office of Campus Life had already approved several other events for the same space in the 2012–2013 school year, including an event during the same week as the group's planned event—clear evidence of a double standard. 

The group elected to cancel this display and move forward with two other planned events for the same week, a smaller display and a table at the "Chi-O Clock," ...

Podcasting Community Faces Patent Troll Threat; EFF Wants to Help

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Another day, another patent troll. Or so it seems. The threat of the patent troll is not new—we’ve written about it time and again. But the troubling trend of suing downstream users and content providers really makes us mad. First it was the app developers, then those who scan documents to email. Now, the latest outrage: podcasters. Yes, really. And EFF wants to help organize those facing the threat so that we can gauge the size of the problem and hopefully help people find counsel and a way to work together in response. 

First, some background. A company called Personal Audio is claiming that it owns a patent that covers podcasting technology and has sent podcasters letters, demanding that they pay Personal Audio to use the technology. As with many patents, this one is dangerously broad and vague, allegedly covering, well, any and all podcasting. Just take a look at this language:

Apparatus for disseminating a series of episodes represented by media files via the Internet as said episodes become available…

Of course, as with most software patents, this one fails to explain how that “apparatus” would actually work, apparently letting its owner make the ridiculous claim that ...

EFF Joins 24 US Civil Society Groups in Demanding a Baseline of Transparency in TPP Negotiations

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

With every coming round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—a trade agreement that carries intellectual property provisions that could have hugely harmful consequences for the Internet and our digital rights—the Office of the US Trade Representative has continually whittled away at any remaining opportunity for the public to have input into the drafting process. The TPP has been under negotiation for three years and the opaqueness has only worsened.

EFF has therefore joined a diverse coalition of civil society organizations and public stakeholders to send a letter to Barbara Weisel, the lead US trade negotiator for the TPP, to clearly outline our baseline demands for transparency and increased civil society engagement in these secretive backdoor meetings.

Our demands include that the schedule of the meetings be published well in advance to allow ample time for civil society representatives to organize travel and accomodations near the negotiation venue; that we be granted access to the venue itself (which we were denied in the last round in Auckland, New Zealand); and that a requirement be made to hold stakeholder presentations and tabling events at a time when official negotiations are not in session. These "stakeholder" events are ...

Another Senator Blames Video Games for Violence

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013


Senator Charles Grassley

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-KY) wasn’t the only senator to blame video games for gun violence last week. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) claimed during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that “[there] are too many video games that celebrate the mass killing of innocent people — games that despite attempts at industry self-regulation find their way into the hands of children.”

The Hill reported on Grassley’s comments, during which Grassley mentioned Call of Duty: Modern Warfare specifically because Anders Behring Breivik, the Norway mass shooter, cited the game as a training tool. During his statement, Grassley asked, “Where is the artistic value in shooting innocent civilians?” He further stated that he shared Vice President Biden’s disbelief in manufacturer claims that video games do not have an impact on real world violence.

Scientific evidence does not support Grassley’s (or Vice President Biden’s) conclusion. The Washington Post‘s Max Fisher recently looked at the statistics related to gun violence in the countries with the highest rate of violent video game usage and found that the United States was a statistical outlier in a trend that actually shows a slight decrease in gun violence as per capita video game usage increases. ...

Final settlement reached in Davis County

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Cross-posted on the Freedom to Read Foundation Blog.

A final settlement was reached last week in the Davis County, Utah book removal case. In addition to returning the book In Our Mothers’ House unrestricted to school library shelves, the school district agreed not to remove or restrict access to any library books based on Utah’s ban on having “instructional materials” that contain “advocacy of homosexuality.”

In their blog post on the settlement, the ACLU gave a hat tip to FTRF:

“We received invaluable assistance from the Freedom to Read Foundation, which helped provide resources for challenging the restriction and identifying expert witnesses who could testify about how In Our Mothers’ House was well within the mainstream of children’s literature and that the school’s decision to restrict access to the book violated bedrock principles of school library science.”

Click here to read the full settlement.

Our congratulations to the plaintiffs, the ACLU, and to all those in the district whose First Amendment rights were in jeopardy.

Speech Code of the Month: Wesleyan University

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
Speech Code of the Month logo

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for February 2013: Wesleyan University.

Although Wesleyan is a private university, it claims to value free speech. Its Student Handbook states that (PDF) "Academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students, and the general well-being of society. Free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of these goals." Moreover, the handbook also contains a statement (PDF) on the "Responsibility of the University to Its Members" which explicitly provides that

It is the responsibility of every member of the University to respect the rights and privileges of all others in the University as enumerated below.

1. Freedom of assembly, speech, belief, and the right of petition ....

The university's speech codes directly contradict these statements by placing substantial restrictions on students' expressive rights. Most notably, the same policy that obligates the university and its members to respect the right of free speech also requires "every member of the University" to refrain from 

[A]ctions that may be harmful to the health or emotional stability of the individual or that degrade the individual or infringe upon his/her personal dignity.

This provision infringes on protected speech ...

Rebooting Computer Crime Law Part 2: Protect Tinkerers, Security Researchers, Innovators, and Privacy Seekers

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

In the wake of social justice activist Aaron Swartz’s tragic death, Internet users around the country are taking a hard look at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal anti-hacking law. As we’ve noted, the CFAA has lots of problems. In this three-part series, we'll explain these problems in detail and why they need to be fixed. In part 1, we described the kinds of innocuous activites that are terms of service violations and therefor could be deemed criminal.

As Congress discusses Aaron's Law, it will debate how the law should treat users who work their way around technical measures aimed at identification, tracking, or preventing interoperability with other programs or services. Right now, the law is written in a way that treats those folks as criminals just the same as those who bypass access barriers in order to steal information or commit other malicious acts. The current draft of Aaron’s Law, posted on Reddit by Rep. Lofgren on February 1, goes part of the way to fixing this, but not all the way yet.

Of course, companies are free to use technological measures to serve their business purposes, such as efforts to try ...

The Orphan Works Problem: Time to Fix It

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Can Congress embrace and enact sensible copyright policy? Four years ago, for a brief shining moment, it seemed the answer might be yes, as various interested stakeholders rallied around long-overdue legislation that would have helped to fix the orphan works problem.  Orphan works are those whose owner cannot be located. Consequently, those who would like to use and share these works may hesitate to do so out of fear that they could later be found liable for copyright infringement because they didn’t get permission.  In 2008, a variety of interested parties managed to come up with a way to limit that liability.  It wasn’t perfect, but it represented real progress.

Sadly, that effort collapsed, thanks in part to a vigorous FUD campaign.  In the past several months, however, momentum started slowly building once again toward a solution. Last spring, scholars, librarians and activists gathered in Berkeley, California, to discuss possible solutions. Shortly thereafter, the Copyright Office asked the public to weigh in.  Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge responded, as did many others.

Consider the following examples under the current system: 

  • A library has a vast archive of photos and music from the Depression Era. It would ...

22 Activists Sentenced to Prison

Monday, February 4th, 2013

A court in Vietnam on Monday sentenced 22 activists to jail terms ranging from 12 years to life in prison for “aiming to overthrow” the one-party communist government, according to rights groups and relatives of the accused who condemned the lengthy jail terms.

The verdict against the members of the little known group, Hoi Dong Cong Luat Cong An Bia Son, was delivered by a court in Phu Yen province following a five-day trial and marks the latest in a series of harsh punishments by the government as part of a crackdown on dissent.

The group, whose name translates as the Council for the Laws and Public Affairs of Bia Son (a provincial mountain),  is led by 65-year-old Phan Van Thu and is considered a terrorist organization by Vietnamese authorities, who say it has several hundred members and branches in a number of central and southern provinces.

Nguyen Tan Xe, the father of defendant Nguyen Thai Binh, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that his son and the other group members on trial had all received varying lengths of jail time.

“They handed out sentences to all of them,” Xe said. “One person was sentenced to life, while the others received [a ...

NYC Lawmakers Threaten Brooklyn College Over Controversial Forum

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Brooklyn College

The last few days have seen controversy brewing over a planned event at Brooklyn College. The planned February 7 event, titled "BDS Movement Against Israel" and co-sponsored by several student groups as well as Brooklyn College's political science department, is slated to feature Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti, two proponents of the push to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (hence the "BDS" shorthand).  

Particularly controversial has been the political science department's co-sponsorship of the event—which some have criticized as constituting an official endorsement of the event and the views of its speakers by Brooklyn College. Political Science Chair Paisley Currah has released a clarifying statement promising that "We welcome—indeed encourage—requests to co-sponsor speakers and events from all student groups, departments, and programs." Currah further writes that "[e]ach and every request will be given equal consideration." The college, meanwhile, has firmly defended the department's academic freedom, with spokesperson Jeremy Thompson telling the New York Post that 

As a university, we are committed to academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. We don't tell student groups or academic departments what topics they can or cannot discuss. 

(Glad to hear this positive attitude towards academic freedom, since that hasn't always ...

CBLDF Signs Letter Protesting Video Game Ban in NJ Library

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Last Friday, the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter to the Paterson Free Public Library in Paterson, New Jersey, to protest a new policy that bans the playing of certain video games, in particular first-person shooters, on library computers. CBLDF is one of the organizations that signed the letter, which argues that the video games are protected by the First Amendment and cannot therefor be censored by officials at the library.

The letter takes library officials to task for subscribing to the same unsupported views that led to video game bans in Massachusetts, a presidential recommendation and proposed bill mandating research on video games and violence, and the fallacious claim by one senator that video games are a “bigger problem” than guns. NCAC writes in their letter:

The library has not offered any sound justification for removing access to specific games. Instead, according to published reports, librarians are taking this action to “prevent our kids from learning these behaviors.’’ This assumes that viewers will simply imitate behaviors represented in fictional settings without any independent mental intermediation, a proposition that is palpably false and that the library implicitly rejects by offering access to all sorts of internet sites ...

Rebooting Computer Crime Law Part 1: No Prison Time For Violating Terms of Service

Monday, February 4th, 2013

In the wake of social justice activist Aaron Swartz’s tragic death, Internet users around the country are taking a hard look at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal anti-hacking law.  As we’ve noted, the CFAA has lots of problems. In this three-part series, we'll explain these problems in detail and why they need to be fixed. 

Here is the CFAA's greatest flaw: the law makes it illegal to access a computer without authorization or in a way that exceeds authorization, but doesn’t clearly explain what that means. This murkiness gives the government tons of leeway to be creative in bringing charges. 

For example, overzealous prosecutors have gone so far as to argue that the CFAA criminalizes violations of private agreements like an employer’s computer use policy or a web site’s terms of service. Thankfully, some federal courts have recognized the absurdity of this argument, but Congress needs to fix the law to make it crystal clear.  Vague laws are dangerous precisely because they give prosecutors and courts too much discretion to arbitrarily penalize normal, everyday behavior.  

So, under the government’s theory, what innocuous activities could the CFAA criminalize? Here are a few things that could ...


Monday, February 4th, 2013

Today is the last day to order a signed or personalized gift and get it in time to surprise your sweetie on Valentine’s Day! CBLDF is offering you the chance to get graphic novels personalized by Brian K. Vaughan, Craig Thompson, Brian Wood, Cliff Chiang, Terry Moore, Jeffrey Brown, and Paul Pope for your nearest and dearest comics fan!

We also have excellent gifts signed by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Howard Cruse, and an amazing assortment of fragrances from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. To cap it all off, every donation supporting CBLDF as part of this drive will include an exclusive gift card featuring art from SAGA by Fiona Staples! You can check out the entire collection here.

Your donation to CBLDF doesn’t just get you the best romantic gift for the comics fan in your life, it also helps protect the freedom to read. Contributions to CBLDF allow us to provide expert legal defense for First Amendment emergencies, respond to challenges to comics in libraries, and create important tools to support the rights of kids, parents, and adult readers to have access to the full range of comics.  To learn more about our important work, please visit ...

EFF to Supreme Court: Blanket DNA Collection Violates Fourth Amendment

Monday, February 4th, 2013
Law Enforcement Should Not Gather Genetic Information Without a Warrant

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the Supreme Court Friday to block DNA collection from everyone arrested for a crime, arguing that law enforcement must get a warrant before forcing people to give samples of their genetic material.

EFF's amicus brief was filed Friday in Maryland v. King – a case challenging a law in the state of Maryland that requires DNA collection from all arrestees, whether they are ultimately convicted of a crime or not. Maryland officials claim that DNA is necessary for definitive identification, but they do not use the sample to "identify" the arrestee. Instead, they use the sample for other investigatory purposes – retaining and repeatedly accessing the wealth of personal information disclosed by an individual's genetic material despite lacking individualized suspicion connecting the arrestee to another crime. This violates the Fourth Amendment.

"Your DNA is the roadmap to an extraordinary amount of private information about you and your family," said EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. "It contains data on your current health, your potential for disease, and your family background. For government access to personal information this sensitive, the Fourth Amendment requires ...

No, Mob-Rule Censorship Is Not Free Speech

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The Young Americans for Freedom pro-life display at DePaul University

At the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) website, the organization posts a nice response from DePaul University President Dennis Holtschneider in response to the recent vandalism of the campus YAF chapter's pro-life display. Holtschneider assures YAF president Kristopher Del Campo that a thorough investigation of the vandalism is being conducted. He also acknowledges that the vandalism is "deeply upsetting in that your and your fellow students' opportunity to give voice to your beliefs was unacceptably stifled by other students." That's right.

I had planned on ending this blog entry right there. Then I read to the bottom of the page, to the comments, where "Maria" had posted a reply arguing that removing the flags was also an act of free speech.  

I would just like to point out that taking down the flags was just as much of an act of freedom of speech as putting them up were. I think for a man (Kris) to push his views on a college campus, where many women do not believe a man has any right to say one way or another what to do with their bodies, he got what he deserved. The students showed their right to activism ...

February Student Spotlight: Danielle Susi & ‘The Quad News’ Staff

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

'The Quad News' staff

FIRE's Student Spotlight feature recognizes students who are doing outstanding work to promote individual rights on their campuses. In honor of Free Press Week, we have a special Student Spotlight for February: Danielle Susi, the Senior Managing Editor of The Quad News at Quinnipiac University. 

Back in 2008, students working for the Quinnipiac campus newspaper, The Quinnipiac Chronicle, were frustrated by QU administrators' efforts to muzzle the paper, including an absurd demand from President John Lahey that the paper not publish articles online before they were in print. In the face of these threats to a free press, the student editors decided to form a new, independent student news source online: The Quad News. Almost five years later, the website is still publishing campus news daily. 

As The Quad News celebrates five years on campus, I asked Danielle to talk about her experience as a student journalist and tell me what advice The Quad News staff has for other students who want to stand up for press rights on campus. You can read her full interview on the Student Spotlight page

Congratulations to Danielle and The Quad News staff! Check back on The Torch next ...

Jury Finds Former College President Personally Liable for $50,000 in Victory for Student Rights

Friday, February 1st, 2013
Here's today's press release from FIRE:

ATLANTA, February 1, 2013—A federal jury today found former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald M. Zaccari personally liable for $50,000 for violating the due process rights of former student Hayden Barnes in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari. In May 2007, Zaccari expelled Barnes for peacefully protesting Zaccari's plan to construct two parking garages on campus, calling a collage posted by Barnes on his personal Facebook page a "threatening document" and labeling Barnes a "clear and present danger" to VSU. Barnes first came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help in October 2007.

"College administrators have been blatantly and willfully violating student rights for decades, but they have far too often dodged personal responsibility. Not so today," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "We hope this serves as a much-needed wake up call to college administrators that it's time to start paying close attention to the basic rights of their students."

"After five years, I finally feel vindicated. This is a victory for me but it's also a victory for students everywhere," said Barnes. "I hope that other college administrators take heed and see that violating students' rights can ...

The Unique Free Speech Challenges Facing Student Satire and Humor

Friday, February 1st, 2013

As we wrap up Free Press Week, we take a look today at the unique challenges that college students face when engaging in satire and humor on campus, from humor magazines and editorial cartoons to satirical flyers and blogs. Like newspaper theft and denial of newspaper funding (which we have already explored this week), this is an issue that FIRE has seen time and time again on university campuses over the years.

For any number of reasons, parody, jokes, and satire-whether in print or otherwisetend to rankle students and university administrators alike as few other forms of expression do. Consequently, student humor is often the target of calls for campus censorship and punishment. This despite the fact that, as FIRE has argued many times, parody, jokes, and satire exist precisely to challenge, to amuse, and even to offend. To witness, in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46 (1988), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the First Amendment protects even the most outlandishly offensive parodyin that case, a satirical advertisement suggesting that the Reverend Jerry Falwell lost his virginity in a drunken encounter with his mother in an outhouse. With respect ...

Aaron’s Law 2.0: Major Steps Forward, More Work to Be Done

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Representative Zoe Lofgren has posted on Reddit a modified draft of Aaron's Law, a proposal to update the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and wire fraud law in honor of our friend Aaron Swartz and to make sure that the misguided prosecution that happened to him doesn't happen to anyone else.  We're very pleased with the proposal's progress and we're hopeful about the future of this important bill.

EFF believes that any reform to the computer crime laws must have three crucial elements:

  1. Computer users must not face criminal liability for violating private agreements, policies, or duties.
  2. If a computer user is allowed to access information, simply doing it in an innovative way must not be a crime.
  3. Penalties need to be proportionate to computer crime offenses.

This draft bill works toward achieving the first two elements. 

The proposal meets our first goal by enshrining two recent decisions from federal appeals courts into the text of the CFAA. Those decisions said that running afoul of private computer-use policies and duties doesn't violate the statute. Aaron's Law would update the CFAA to exend that important precedent to the entire country, and that's great news. 

Aaron's Law attempts to reach our ...

Missouri Man Receives Three Years In Prison For Comics

Friday, February 1st, 2013

The Department of Justice has announced that Christjan Bee, 36, of Monett, MO was sentenced this week to three years in federal prison without parole, followed by five years of supervised release because of comics he possessed on his computer.  Last fall Bee pleaded guilty to possession of what the government characterized as a “pornographic cartoon, which depicted children engaging in sexual behavior.”  Prosecutors assert the material “is categorized as obscene and therefore illegal,” despite the fact that the material was not tried in court under the Miller obscenity test.  Bee pleaded guilty to possession of obscene material rather than stand trial under the original indictment of receiving child pornography.  He did not contact the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for assistance in his case.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein says, “At this time, little is known about the material Bee pleaded guilty to possessing.  Based on the government’s characterization of the material, I remain unpersuaded that it is legally obscene under the Supreme Court’s Miller obscenity test.  It is also distressing that Bee is being sent to prison for mere possession of obscene material, where there is precedent that the court’s power ‘does not extend to mere possession by ...

Three Things Students Can Do Now to Promote Open Access

Friday, February 1st, 2013

The open access movement is a long-standing campaign in the world of research to make scholarly works freely available and reusable. One of its fundamental premises is that the progress of knowledge and culture happens scholarly works of all kinds are widely shared, not hidden in ivory towers built with paywalls and shorn by harsh legal regimes.

Scholarly journal publishers currently compile research done by professors (for free), send articles out to be peer reviewed (for free), and distribute the edited journals back to universities around the world (for costs anywhere up to $35,000 each). Subscription prices have outpaced inflation by over 250 percent in the past 30 years, and these fees go straight to the publisher. Neither the authors nor their institutions are paid a cent, and the research itself—which is largely funded by taxpayers—remains difficult to attain. Skyrocketing costs have forced university libraries—even Harvard's, the richest American university—to pick and choose between journal subscriptions.

The result: students and citizens face barriers accessing information they need; professors have a harder time reviewing and teaching the state of the art; and cutting-edge research remains hidden behind paywalls, depriving it of the visibility it deserves.

The good news is that ...

College Paper Sparks Debate Over Social and Racial Commentary in Cartoons

Friday, February 1st, 2013

On January 24th, the editorial board of the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s student newspaper, The Badger Herald, decided not to run artist Vincent Cheng’s “Ya Boi, Inc.” comic strip for that day. Cheng’s strip (shown above) depicts a middle-aged man updating his musical “Likes” on Facebook based not on his actual interests but on their cultural value. After liking some “interesting” and classical music, the man decides he needs to add “some ‘mainstream’ artists that I surprisingly claim to sincerely enjoy.” The man does not actually know any mainstream artists so after pondering for a second, he asks himself, “What are the names of some black people?”

The Badger‘s Editor-in-Chief Ryan Rainey decided to not run the cartoon, a decision that was supported by his two chief advisers. Rainey’s decision was based on the possibility that UW’s campus would misinterpret the cartoon; he argues that “editors of college newspapers like the Herald, which has been at the center of many unnecessary and preventable campus-wide controversies before and throughout my time here, often have to take a lesser-of-two-evils approach to those ethical decisions.”

Rainey feels the risk was not worth it, explaining that “I did not feel like ...

First Amendment – 1; NFL – 0

Friday, February 1st, 2013


A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order Thursday sharply reducing the boundaries of the “clean zone” set up by the city for the upcoming Super Bowl game. The “clean zone” — which had included the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny — is an area in which only officially authorized vendors can sell souvenirs or other items. It also prohibits the display of unauthorized signs, banners and the like.

Creation of such “clean zones” is one of many actions the National Football League demands of cities hosting the Super Bowl. Similar zones are created for many other special events such as the Essence Music Festival and other major sports events.

Responding to a suit filed by the ACLU of Louisiana on behalf of two individuals, Judge Kurt Engelhardt ruled that the restrictions “may result in an infringement of plaintiffs’ rights of free speech.” He ordered that the restrictions on noncommercial speech be limited to the public areas around the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and New Orleans Arena.

The order essentially allows individuals to carry signs, flags and other previously prohibited media throughout the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny and the rest of the Central Business District, said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU.

Read ...

Barnes Verdict Expected Today

Friday, February 1st, 2013
Hayden Barnes (right) and Robert Corn-Revere (left)

A verdict in Barnes v. Zaccari is expected today. The jury began deliberations yesterday afternoon. The Valdosta Daily Times (Ga.) has more from inside the courtroom proceedings, highlighting Bob Corn-Revere's argument on behalf of former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes, who was expelled for peacefully protesting the planned construction of campus parking garages:

[Former Valdosta State University President Ronald] Zaccari was looking for any route he could find to dismiss Barnes, according to Corn-Revere, although no one, including the university police chief, found any information about Barnes that would classify the junior transfer as a threat.

"When Dr. Zaccari testified, he said Barnes was under-performing and doesn't know why he was ever admitted to the university," said Corn-Revere. "Why would Dr. Zaccari know that much about a single student. It's because he wanted a way to get rid of this particular student and had been spending large amounts of time analyzing Hayden's background and surveilling him.
When Barnes' grades began improving, Zaccari looked for other ways to get rid of him and began focusing on the e-mails and the political cartoon, said Corn-Revere. And on a day deemed the 911 of university systems, Barnes and Zaccari held ...

Banned Egyptian Graphic Novel Back on Cairo Shelves

Friday, February 1st, 2013

The banning of cartoons and graphic novels by the foreign regimes they criticize is an all-too-common story. So, it is always a welcome change to report a formerly banned work’s re-release. A once-banned graphic novel that criticized Hosni Mubarak’s government is now back on Egyptian bookshelves.

Magdy al-Shafee’s Metro is a noir tale of software developers struggling against a fundamentally corrupt economy and government under Hosni Mubarak’s regime. Published in a limited release in January 2008, it quickly gained notoriety when it was banned by the Egyptian government, and al-Shafee was fined for “infringing upon public decency.” Al-Shaffee vowed at the time to fight both the banning and the fine:

Shafee told Daily News Egypt that he was aware that sections of Metro — which contains limited content of a sexual nature — might offend some readers and that it was for this reason that a ” for adults only” warning was put on the front cover. Shafee added that the comic’s content does not mean that it should be removed from the market.

“It is unethical to suppress freedom of speech and take books off the market,” Shafee said. “This is about more than ‘Metro.’ If we stay ...

When the First Amendment Protects “The Love Sponge,” It Protects Us All

Friday, February 1st, 2013

A Tampa, FL jury has ruled in favor of radio DJ Bubba the Love Sponge Clem in the defamation trial brought against him by Todd ‘MJ’ Schnitt.

The jury of six people listened to about three hours of closing arguments and a rebuttal Wednesday morning before deliberations started.

Clem and his lawyers celebrated the verdict with a group hug.

“The First Amendment prevailed today. As unpopular as my speech is at times, it’s necessary for me and it’s necessary for you guys (the media),” said Clem, surrounded by his legal team outside the courthouse. “If this would’ve gone through it would’ve been a slippery slope.”

Schnitt sued Clem and the BTLS Radio Network for what he says were “highly offensive, insulting or fighting words and defamatory statements” made on-air in 2008 about him and his wife, Michelle.

“None of it was malice, none of it was intended to hurt- it was classic radio-war 101,” said Clem.

Read the rest of the article here.

Remembering Carolyn Forsman: Librarian, Jeweler, and Free Speech Advocate

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Carolyn Forsman, a former librarian who supported free expression by becoming an award-winning jewelry designer and creating pieces that celebrated the freedom to read, including her well-known “I Read Banned Books” bracelet, died on Jan. 19 in New York City following a short illness.  She was 69.

Forsman developed the “I Read Banned Books” bracelet in 2005 in conjunction with the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF).  The bracelet, which consists of tiles depicting the covers of challenged books, is sold in over 200 museum stores and independent bookstores across the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.

FIRE’s Top 3 Free Press Cases

Thursday, January 31st, 2013


Over the years, FIRE has repeatedly gone to bat for student newspapers and student journalists faced with censorship. That censorship came in many forms, ranging from newspaper theft, reduced support from student activity funds, and the firing of faculty advisors, to prior review and editorial control of content. Since it's Free Press Week, here, in no particular order, are three of the most egregious examples of free press violations from FIRE's case archives.  

1. Prior Restraint at Quinnipiac University

Prior restraint was the censorship tool of choice for administrators at Quinnipiac University (QU) from 2007 through much of 2008. Back then, the university prohibited the student editors of The Quinnipiac Chronicle from publishing news online prior to the same news appearing in print. The university president claimed that the policy was necessary so that he could read the news in print "before the external world hears about it." 

The policy didn't sit too well with the paper's editor-in-chief, Jason Braff, who then challenged the policy. The university responded by declaring that "student leaders, especially those in paid positions, are expected to generally be supportive of university policies." Then the administration took control over the selection ...

Greg & ‘Unlearning Liberty’ Featured in ‘Cato Daily Podcast’

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff talks about free speech on campus and his new book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, in today's Cato Daily Podcast.

Congress Will Battle Over Internet Privacy in 2013

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Last year, we saw more battles in Congress over Internet freedom than we have in many years as user protests stopped two dangerous bills, the censorship-oriented SOPA, and the privacy-invasive Cybersecurity Act of 2012. But Congress ended the year by ramming through a domestic spying bill and weakening the Video Privacy Protection Act.

In 2013, Congress will tackle several bills—both good and bad—that could shape Internet privacy for the next decade. Some were introduced last year, and some will be completely new. For now, here's what's ahead in the upcoming Congress:

Reforming Draconian Computer Crime Law

The Computer Fraud and Abust Act (CFAA), was one of the key laws the government used in its relentless and unjust prosecution of Aaron Swartz. Zoe Lofgren has proposed "Aaron's Law," which ensures that breaking a terms of service or other contractual obligation does not amount to a CFAA violation. Lofgren's reforms are a terrific start and will be introduced in Congress over the coming weeks. EFF has also proposed revisions to Lofgren's language and overall reform to the CFAA that reduces the draconian penalties and clarifies key definitions in the statute. The proposed reforms will go a long way in preventing a ...

LSU Med School Punts on Student Event about Pro Football Brain Injuries

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Image courtesy of 'The Huffington Post'

Dispiriting news is coming out of New Orleans, as The Times-Picayune is reporting the cancellation of a long-planned event co-sponsored by two student organizations at the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Medicine. The event, originally scheduled for today (three days before the Super Bowl), was supposed to have featured a lecture by former New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Kyle Turley to draw attention to the health and safety hazards arising from head injuries in professional football.  

The Times-Picayune reports: 

Fliers said the event was sponsored by the LSU Medical Student Association and a group called Ethikos. It was scheduled for Thursday afternoon on the campus of LSU's Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. School officials are refusing to comment on the cancellation.  

Turley said he had planned to introduce an as-yet unreleased film by Sean Pamphilon, the film producer who helped inflame the Saints bounty scandal with the release of an audio recording of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams directing his players to inflict pain and injury on their opponents -- the San Francisco 49ers.

Turley commented on the cancellation to the Times-Picayune:

"At the last minute they decide to pull the plug. They have ...

Senator Claims Video Games Are “Bigger Problem” Than Guns

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Lamar Alexander
(Source: The New York Times)

The Senate Judiciary Committee began holding hearings regarding gun violence on Wednesday. During a day of heated and frequently preposterous commentary, the most ridiculous statement came from Senator Lamar Alexander (R-KY), who told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that violent video games are a “bigger problem” than guns are.

When Todd asked Alexander whether he would support a universal background checks bill, Alexander responded with the following:

Chuck, I’m going to wait and see on all of these bills. I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people. But the First Amendment limits what we can do about video games, and the Second Amendment to the Constitution limits what we can do about guns.

And just in case Alexander’s statement seems too unbelievably obtuse to be true, there’s video:

Jason Linkins with the Huffington Post covered the story, writing about the frequent –and false — connection pundits make between video games and gun violence:

I was never too convinced by the argument: Video games, unlike the act of shooting up an entire school of children, were and remain popular, with… millions of people partaking in the escape. ...

“Banned”: An Impressive Claymation Video About Book Censorship

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Matthew Dunbar’s short film is one of our 2012 Youth Free Expression Project Film Contest semifinalists.

Like what you see? “Like” this video on YouTube and it could become our 2012 People’s Choice Award Winner!

Pics: TOSBack Hackathon Going on Now at Campus Party Brazil

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Recentemente, EFF está trabalhando com TOS;DR para hospedar uma hackathon na Campus Party Brasil, no Centro de Convenções do Parque Anhembi em São Paulo, Brasil. Novidades sobre o conteúdo, inscrição e agenda estão disponíveis no site oficial do evento. Abaixo algumas fotos do evento. 

Você está na Campus Party Brasil? Então mande um e-mail para o Pedro Markun para participar de nossa hackathon.

Nossa hackathon foi desenvolvida para melhorar o TOSBack, o software livre que automaticamente monitora os termos de uso dos sites mais populares. Você pode participar submetendo novas regras (veja o guia em Português aqui) ou ajudando no re-design.

Quero agradecer especialmente ao Pedro Markun (@Markun), Guilherme Otero (@GuiOtero), Cecilia Tanaka (@Cecilia_Tanaka), Jimm Stout (@JimmStout) e Hugo Roy @HugoRoyD) por tornar esse evento possível e um sucesso.

NOVIDADES: Nos últimos três dias, hackers e ativistas estão em São Paulo participando da Campus Party e têm trabalhado com a EFF e TOS;DR para melhorar a ferramenta de software livre do TOSBack. O TOSBack é um projeto de software liderado pela EFF para permitir a constante observação de alterações de Termos de Serviço. Essa ferramenta ...

Bye-Bye 30 Rock, A Show that Was Censored And Wouldn’t Shut Up About It

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

In honor of tonight’s series finale of “30 Rock,” a great show that had the balls to poke fun at NBC censors, everyone should play their “Censor It” game. The game shows lines from scripts and asks you, playing the Censor, whether such offensive and prurient material should make it on the air.

After that, why not sit down and watch/re-watch the episode “Standards and Practices” from Season 6, where Kenneth is promoted to head of the aforementioned department and Live Bleeps Tracy Jordan. Just a taste:

NCAC Defends Video Games in Massachusetts

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

(Source: Kotaku)

In the wake of the Newtown shootings and after receiving a complaint from one set of parents, the state of Massachusetts removed arcade games that use light-guns from state-managed rest stops along the Massachusetts Turnpike. In response, the National Coalition Against Censorship wrote a letter to Richard Davey, Secreary and CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, defending the games as constitutionally protected creative expression.

NCAC — a coalition of which CBLDF is a part and a frequent partner in our work defending comics and books — argues that the removal of the games opens the door to future acts of censorship, writing:

There is no legitimate state interest that could be asserted to justify removing specific games to appease the sensibilities of certain motorists. Moreover, by caving to the demands of one passer-by, the Department will inevitably invite others to register complaints about material they deem inappropriate. It is not a stretch to imagine someone demanding a ban on certain DVDs, magazines, or books.

The entirety of NCAC’s letter appears below. The removal of the games in Massachusetts is yet another example of how video games have been scapegoated as the cause of violent behavior, in ...

The National Coalition Against Censorship Takes Action Against Video Game Removal By MA Department of Transportation

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Yesterday the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter to Richard Davey, Secretary and C.E.O. of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, questioning the Department’s decision to remove a number of video games in rest areas along the Massachusetts Turnpike. Video games featuring a plastic “light gun” used to shoot onscreen game elements were removed from a number of rest areas after a visitor at one rest stop complained the games were “inappropriate.”

In the letter, NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that video games are protected speech under the First Amendment. Bertin called the state’s action to remove games because of an individual’s objection to content “constitutionally problematic.”

The letter went on to point out the precarious position the Department had put itself in by caving to demands for censorship. If the state is willing to remove video games from a public area because of a complaint, what else will it remove?

“Those who do not wish to play video games at rest-stops do not have to, just as those who do not wish to read a particular book or magazine do not have to.” Bertin wrote in the letter. “However, they do ...

EFF Beefs Up Legal Team with Two New Staff Attorneys

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

EFF is pleased to welcome our newest staff attorney, Daniel Nazer.  He joins our intellectual property team thanks to a generous donation from Mark Cuban, and will focus on an area of increasing importance in our digital world: patent reform.

As we’ve seen with patent controversy after patent controversy over the last year, software patents and their egregious misuse are hurting both technology innovators and technology users.  EFF’s work in this area is wide-ranging, from our Defend Innovation project, to our Patent Busting Project, to our long-standing involvement in patent litigation.  Daniel will bring key skills to our work, previously serving as a Residential Fellow at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.  He also practiced at Keker & Van Nest, LLP, where he represented technology clients in patent and antitrust litigation.  Additionally, Daniel is the author of The Tragicomedy of the Surfer’s Commons and Conflict and Solidarity: The Legacy of Jeff D.  We are so glad that Daniel has joined EFF in this important fight to fix the software patent system.

Also joining EFF recently is Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo.  But if it seems like Nate is an old hand here, that’s because ...

Surveillance Camp III: Expansion of the Security Industry in Latin America

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

This is the third in a series of posts mapping global surveillance challenges discussed at EFF’s Surveillance Camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Recently, we wrote about how companies throughout the world increasingly face political and legal pressures to assist governments in their surveillance efforts and the many ways in which the private sector is increasingly playing a role in state surveillance. In December 2012, EFF's Surveillance and Human Rights Camp in Brazil built upon this discussion and focused a spotlight on the privatization of public security, states funding surveillance initiatives, and the lack of quantifiable research on security markets in Latin America. Here is what we learned:

Many countries, especially in Central and South America, have witnessed the privatization of public security functions.  This is particularly true of those countries with a history of internal wars and military regimes, and later democratization. In these contexts, state security operations have sometimes been funded by governments (both international and national) and delegated to private sector companies.

Global studies researcher Otto Aragueta has argued persuasively that in Guatemala, “the transition to democracy produced a formal institutional reform of the security sector, which, in turn, allowed former military personnel to maintain informal mechanisms ...

VIDEO: When it Comes to Reading Books, Teens Can Speak For Themselves

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Often the books we find the most affecting, the most informative are the ones others want to ban or keep us from reading. Alexis Opper’s statement of youth power is one of our 2012 Youth Free Expression Project Film Contest semifinalists.

Like what you see? “Like” this video on YouTube and it could become our 2012 People’s Choice Award Winner!

Fears of New Crackdown on Monks

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Fourteen senior Tibetan monks have been detained and sent for “political reeducation” to a monastery in Tibet’s Nagchu prefecture, sources said, amid fears of a new crackdown on Tibetan religious leaders.

They were summoned by Chinese officials for a “meeting” on Jan. 14, and were taken into custody after leaving their monasteries, with their whereabouts at first unknown.

The monks—who come from the Sera, Drepung, and Ganden monasteries and the Jokhang Temple in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) capital Lhasa—are being held in Nagchu’s Penkar monastery, a Swiss-based Tibetan named Sonam told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday, citing sources with contacts in Tibet.

“The Chinese authorities called the monk leaders of the monasteries to attend a special meeting, and when they left their respective monasteries they were detained and taken away,” he said, adding, “The monks of the three monasteries and the Tsuklakhang [Jokhang] are very worried.”

“They fear this may be a repetition of the crackdown on the monk leaders [of the Lhasa-area protests] of 2008, and they are concerned about the possible intentions of the Chinese authorities.”

Daily religious activities in the Lhasa-area monasteries have been “adversely affected,” Sonam said.

Sonam identified the detained monks as Khenpo [Abbot] ...

Newspaper Thefts: A Pernicious Form of Mob Censorship

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

As part of Free Press Week, we have already taken a look on The Torch at universities' use of the threat of denial of funding to censor student journalists. Today, we look at another, and perhaps even more distressing, common issue that student newspapers and media outlets face: students silencing their fellow students by engaging in newspaper theft.

A problem that we have to write about all too often here at FIRE, newspaper theft is a particularly pernicious form of brute censorship on campus. It's mob censorship at its finest (or, more accurately, its coarsest), and it is yet another manifestation of college students having "unlearned liberty" over the years. While we shouldn't have to point this out, disagreeing with the viewpoint of a newspaper article, being offended by a student editorial, or feeling discomfort at the discussion of a topic does not give students the right to censor someone else's expression.

No one informed Vanessa Snow of this basic principle back in 2009. Ms. Snow, a student government official at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass Amherst), stole copies of the campus newspaper The Minuteman out of the hands of a student intending to distribute them. She ...

NCAC Film Contest Lets Kids Fight Censorship

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Each year, the National Coalition Against Censorship — a frequent CBLDF partner and organizers of the CBLDF-sponsored Kids’ Right to Read Project — produces the Youth Free Expression Project Film Contest. We recently came across the website for the 2012 semifinalists and found some pretty amazing youth-made videos condemning book banning.

In defending books by Mexican Americans, Huckleberry Finn, In Our Mothers’ House, Harry Potter, and more, a talented group of kids put together videos on the theme “You’re Reading What?!” The students’ videos advocate for the right to read, and the filmmakers frequently employing youthful enthusiasm and humor to reinforce their arguments against censorship.

Below is a video by Gio Garcia, discussing the dissolution of the MAS program in Tucson. You can view the rest of the videos here.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!


China Censorship ‘Not Improving’

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

China has one of the world's worst records on press freedom, with controls on state-run media and netizens showing no signs of abating, according to a new report Wednesday by Paris-based global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

China came in 173rd, seven places from bottom, up one place from last year compared to other countries, but RSF said it is "the world's biggest prison for Internet users," as the authorities step up the pressure on netizens over what they can see and what they can say online.

"Its prisons still hold many journalists and netizens, while increasingly unpopular Internet censorship continues to be a major obstacle to access to information," RSF said in its annual report published on its website.

By comparison, secretive North Korea came 178th, while Vietnam ranked 172nd in the 2013 Index of Press Freedom, outranked by Laos in 168th spot.


Anhui-based democracy activist Zhang Lin said he felt the pressure on political and human rights activist in China had barely let up since the once-in-a-decade leadership transition at the 18th Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party last November.

He said a dispute over heavy-handed government censorship of the New Year editorial in the ...

Vietnam Deports Democracy Activist

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Updated at 4:20 p.m. EST on 2013-01-30

Authorities in Hanoi have freed an American pro-democracy activist of Vietnamese descent detained for nine months on charges of subversion, official media said Wednesday.

Nguyen Quoc Quan, 59, was released and deported home following international pressure, including from Washington, rights groups and his lawyer said.

Quan, a member of the Viet Tan Party—a U.S.-based opposition group outlawed in the one-party communist state—was arrested on April 17 last year on arrival in Vietnam and charged with terrorism for allegedly trying to disrupt the anniversary of the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam conflict.

However, four months later, the Vietnamese government amended the democracy activist’s charges from terrorism, under Article 84 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, to subversion, under Article 79, for merely being a member of Viet Tan.

Viet Tan has rejected Hanoi charges, saying it was an attempt to smear the group's peaceful activities.

Vietnamese media reported on Wednesday that Quan, also known as Richard Nguyen, had acknowledged his crimes but his wife rejected the claim.

"Quan admitted his crimes, asking for leniency so that he could go back to the United States and be with his family," the state-run ...

In ‘Forbes,’ Greg Lukianoff Dismantles Myth of the ‘Heroic Censor’

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Those who suppress the speech of others often see themselves not as censors but as noble individuals committing heroic acts in pursuit of justice. Last week Arün Smith, a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, destroyed a free speech wall set up by the campus' Students For Liberty group. This might seem like nothing new to regular readers of The Torch. But this particular case of vandalism stands out in one major way: Mr. Smith decided publicly to assume the mantle of "Heroic Censor" by congratulating himself in an open letter for acting on a "moral imperative" to protect "marginalized communities," as he put it.

In an op-ed published today on, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff explains why Smith, and all those who cast themselves ian the role of Heroic Censor, are simply wrong. While censorship in the form of vandalism in pursuit of some "moral imperative" might seem rational to this crowd, as Greg relates in his op-ed, it is not:

The romanticization of the censor is, at its heart, anti-rational. To Smith, it does not matter that the group sponsoring the free speech wall supported gay rights, including gay marriage, or that universities have traditionally been ...