Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Watch “Redacted” A Short Teen Film About Book Censorship

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Sarah Grabman and Evan Horowitz submitted their whimsical reflection on how the censoring impulse can even seep into your own head and self-perfection. This 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!

It’s Time for Transparency Reports to Become the New Normal

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

When you use the Internet, you entrust your thoughts, experiences, photos, and location data to intermediaries — companies like AT&T, Google, and Facebook. But when the government requests that data, users are usually left in the dark. In the United States, companies are not required by law to alert their users when they receive a government request for their data. In some circumstances, they are explicitly prohibited from doing so. As part of our ongoing Who Has Your Back campaign, EFF has called on companies to be transparent by publishing their law enforcement guidelines and statistics on government requests for user data.

When we first launched Who Has Your Back in 2011, only Google published the number of demands it had received for user data, ranging from subpoenas and warrants issued by courts to written requests from law enforcement. Since then, several more companies have stepped up, including the ISP Sonic.Net, cloud storage providers SpiderOak and DropBox, as well as social media companies such as LinkedIn and Twitter (which published its latest transparency report on Monday). These reports have provided an invaluable source of information about the extent of law enforcement access to private data, and we commend these companies for collecting ...

Twitter’s New Transparency Report Shows Increase in Government Demands, Sheds Light on Copyright Takedowns

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Yesterday, Twitter released its second semi-annual transparency report, which details the numbers behind every user data demand, censorship order and copyright takedown request that the micro-blogging site received in the second half of 2012.

As with Google’s transparency report last week, there was a clear increase in government demands for user data, with the United States leading the way by far. Censorship requests from around the world also increased. In addition, the report shed valuable light on the copyright takedown procedure that also often results in undue censorship.

With their respective reports, Twitter and Google are leaders in a positive new trend of sharing information that sheds new light on just how government surveillance and censorship works. It should be a model for other companies, including Facebook, Skype, and cell phone carriers.

Let’s take a deeper look at the information Twitter provided:

Data Demands

Just like Google admirably did last week, Twitter not only gives us stats for how many requests for user data each country makes, but also breaks down what type of requests they receive from the United States government. Since Twitter now tells whether information was obtained by search warrant—which requires probable cause and a ...

Facebook Graph Search: Privacy Control You Still Don’t Have

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Facebook's Graph Search has certainly caused quite a stir since it was first announced two weeks ago. We wrote earlier about how Graph Search, still in beta, presents new privacy problems by making shared information discoverable when previously it was hard—if not impossible—to find at a large scale. We also put out a call to action—and even created a handy how-to guide—urging people to reassess their privacy settings.  

By locking down your privacy settings, you can help prevent your information from appearing in searches run by strangers and protect your friends from showing up in results. (We've updated the how-to accordingly.) But even when you've set all your settings to "Friends" only, it turns out you can still appear in strangers' search results.

Some unwanted search results are through your associations with—and are therefore solely controlled by—your friends and family. This violates the principle of control of the Bill of Privacy Rights for social network users, and we urge Facebook to fix the problem by letting people opt out.

Actual Facebook Graph Searches

One notable blog that has been making rounds on the Internet is Tom Scott's Actual Facebook Graph Searches. Scott has compiled a number of unnerving—and in ...

UPDATE: Hayden Barnes Trial Underway in Georgia; New Video with Attorney Bob Corn-Revere

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Hayden Barnes

UPDATE, 1-30-13: Today, FIRE is pleased to release a new video interview about Barnes’ case with noted First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine and Barnes’ lawyer.  

Nearly six years after he was expelled from Valdosta State University (VSU) for peacefully protesting the planned construction of parking garages on campus, former VSU student Hayden Barnes will finally be able to press the merits of his case in court. Yesterday, trial began in Barnes's civil rights lawsuit against former VSU President Ronald Zaccari, the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia, and other VSU administrators. 

The trial will be conducted in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division. It follows both a 2010 federal district court order denying, among other motions, Zaccari's motion for summary judgment based on a "qualified immunity" defense, and a 2012 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upholding that denial. (Qualified immunity is generally given to government officials unless they should know that their official actions are unconstitutional.) The trial will determine whether Zaccari's decision to expel Barnes was reasonable and, if not, whether Barnes is entitled to ...

The Gulf States: Shared Geography, Shared Culture, Shared Oppression

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

An article in this week’s Economist describes a scenario in which—following the destruction of a mall’s kiddie dinosaur display by the country’s morality police—Saudi Arabia’s Twitter users quick make a hashtag go viral, building off one another’s jokes and mocking some of the country’s most archaic laws.  As the article notes, many of the jokes mocked the morality police themselves, such as one in which a Twitter user quipped: “They worried that people would find the dinosaurs more highly evolved than themselves.”

This is Saudi Arabia in the age of new media.  With so many Twitter users (according to the Dubai School of Government’s Arab Social Media Report, Saudi Arabia comes in second in the region to Turkey at nearly 350k users), Saudis wishing to mock their government officials on the site benefit from strength in numbers. Not so in neighboring Oman, for example, which has an estimated 6,500 users, or Bahrain, where Twitter users number around 58,000.

This matters because, in the countries that comprise the “Gulf States,” citizens are increasingly taking to social media to air their grievances against government officials, and are also increasingly being arrested, detained, or harassed for it, as we’ve noted in the ...

International Privacy Day: Anti-Surveillance Success Stories

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

January 28 marks International Privacy Day. Different countries are celebrating this day calling attention to their own events and campaigns. This year, EFF is honoring the day by sharing some advocacy strategies utilized by human rights advocates and activists from Argentina, the UK, Canada, and the United States, that have helped to defeat overreaching surveillance proposals that threaten civil liberties.

As we’ve continued to report, states throughout the world are demanding private data in ever-greater volumes—and are succeeding at getting it. They are obtaining detailed logs of our entire lives online, and they are doing so under weaker legal standards than ever before. Several laws and proposals now afford many states warrantless snooping powers and nearly limitless data collection capabilities. These practices remain shrouded in secrecy, despite some private companies’ attempts to shine a light on the alarming measures states are taking to obtain information about the populace.

These are some of the biggest success stories we have seen:

Success Story: Turning the Tide Against Online Spying

What: Online surveillance legislation put on hold after mass public opposition.
Where: Canada
Who:, CIPPIC, and the Internet
Lessons Learned:

  • Innovative social media campaigns can fuel public interest.

  • Whenever possible, build ...

Critical Fixes for the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

In the wake of Aaron Swartz's tragic death this month, EFF has been working with a coalition of legislative staffers and experts on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to finalize a proposal for changes that would make major improvements to the law. We've written a series of posts outlining our ideas as they've developed, but that analysis has built on the foundation of the intricacies of the law. Here are the three areas of the CFAA that we've zeroed in on. We believe it's critical to fix them immediately.

No Criminal Exposure for Violating Private Agreements or Duties

Violations of contractual obligations like a website's terms of service must not be the basis for criminal charges. The original "Aaron's Law" proposal from Rep. Zoe Lofgren focused exclusively on this issue, and was based on a bi-partisan bill first introduced by Senators Franken, Lee and Grassley. In two recent cases, federal circuit courts have decided that simple violations of computer use policies and duties of loyalty are not criminal activities. Rep. Lofgren has asked for those holdings to be codified into law, and we agree.

Put simply, there should be no criminal penalties for violating the fine print ...

Controversial Artwork Back on Display in Newark Library

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Moral Arc of History

A controversial charcoal drawing that was covered up for more than a month is back on display in the Newark, New Jersey, public library. Kara Walker’s work “The Moral Arc of History Ideally Bends Towards Justice But Just As Soon As Not Curves Back Around Toward Barbarism, Sadism, and Unrestrained Chaos,’’ which is on loan from New York City resident Scott London, was covered with a cloth last month after a few library employees complained.

Walker’s piece, the title of which alludes to a phrase often used by Martin Luther King, Jr., depicts some of the injustices that continued to be visited on African Americans after they were freed from slavery following the Civil War. The drawing includes a lynch mob and a burning cross, but what has generated controversy is the depiction of a sexual assault in which a white man holds the head of a nude black woman — misidentified as a slave in some sources — to his groin.

Newark Library director Wilma Grey initially arranged for the drawing to be displayed in the reference room. Although she personally felt that Walker’s piece was “meant to evoke some kind of emotion that says all of these terrible ...

You’ll Never Guess What Dirty Dirty Book this Teen is Reading

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Kids these days! Daniel Boyle and Grace vanKan tell a story of enlightenment for our 2012 Youth Free Expression Project Film Contest.

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

Funding Threats as a Censorship Tactic Against Student Newspapers

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Free Press Week

In celebration of Free Press Week, FIRE is taking a look this week at the law surrounding student newspapers and other media outlets on college and university campuses, as well as the common issues they face in exercising their freedom of the press.

One such issue is universities' use of the threat of denial of funding as a way to censor student newspapers. Unfortunately, we see this all the time at FIRE, despite the fact that such punitive action in response to the content or viewpoints expressed in a student publication is a clear violation of the paper's First Amendment rights (for public universities) and a violation of the school's own commitments to free speech (for most private universities). 

Last year at the University of Memphis, for example, the student newspaper The Daily Helmsman saw its student activity fee allocation slashed by one-third (from $75,000 to $50,000) in direct response to the paper's content. Not only did the university's Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) vote to reduce the paper's funding, several SAFAC members—including student government members and university administrators—boldly told the paper's editors that the move was due to growing displeasure with its content. As we informed ...

Speaker’s Son Rejects Links

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Prominent Burmese businessman Toe Naing Mann, founder of local telecom group Redlink, on Monday rejected suggestions his company enjoyed a "business partnership" with former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Thein Tun, who is under house arrest over investigations into corruption.

He also dismissed any notion that his business was linked to his father, Shwe Mann, who is the powerful Speaker of Burma's lower house of parliament.

Toe Naing Mann has been accused by some activists of being a crony capitalist. Redlink, a wireless service provider, has a big market share in the telecom sector, which is largely the monopoly of the ministry, controlled by Thein Tun until last week.

"Yes, I am the son of U Shwe Mann, but I am running Redlink Communications for my family as a business, which is what I believe I am good at, being a young entrepreneur," Toe Naing Mann told RFA's Burmese Service.

"We have a family relationship as a father and a son but, U Shwe Mann is not linked to Redlink Communications."

Shwe Mann, a former general and third-in-command of the military junta that ceded power in 2011, is now a major campaigner for reforms. President Thein Sein, who was less ...

Bring Back Self-Criticism

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about self-confidence, piling error upon error, until it is repeated so often that it seems like truth. We need to get at the source. It originated in a speech given last year by Li Changchun, one of the nine members of the former Politburo standing committee, and it was he who first proposed this theory of consciousness and of self-confidence.

For all its rambling length, the speech basically makes two points: firstly, that the Chinese Communist Party, in taking it upon itself to liberate humanity, made a world-changing, historic choice, and therefore is in possession of a clear theory of consciousness and of self-confidence. Secondly, that the Party has produced a string of remarkable achievements, precisely because of its reliance on these theories.

This is a text jam-packed with poor reasoning. Firstly, why does a desire to liberate humanity and change the world on the part of A [the Party] add up to a clear theory of self-confidence and consciousness, but when B wants to [do the same], their theories of self-confidence and consciousness are shown to be confused?

Secondly, he says that [the Party]'s achievements grabbed world attention, and took place ...

Is It Illegal To Unlock a Phone? The Situation is Better – and Worse – Than You Think

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Legal protection for people who unlock their mobile phones to use them on other networks expired last weekend.  According to the claims of major U.S. wireless carriers, unlocking a phone bought after January 26 without your carrier's permission violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) whether the phone is under contract or not. In a way, this is not as bad as it sounds. In other ways, it's even worse.

What changed? The DMCA prohibits "circumventing" digital locks that "control access" to copyrighted works like movies, music, books, games, and software. It's a fantastically overbroad law that bans a lot of legal, useful, and important activities. In what's supposed to be a safety valve, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress have the power to create exemptions for important activities that would otherwise be banned by the DMCA. In 2012, EFF asked for - and won - exemptions for jailbreaking or rooting mobile phones to run unapproved software, and for using clips from DVDs and Internet video in noncommercial vids. Consumers Union and several smaller wireless carriers asked for an exemption for unlocking phones. The Copyright Office granted their exemption too - but sharply limited the window to ...

CDA 230 Success Cases: The Ratingz Network

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Continuing our series of posts about the importance of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230), we spoke with John Swapceinski, co-founder of the Ratingz Network, which runs over a dozen review sites. Swapceinski got his start in the rating business when he founded in 1999, a site for college students to review their teachers (which he sold in 2005). In 2004, he started RateMDs to let people review doctors, and in 2005 he co-founded LawyerRatingz, RealEstateRatingz, VetRatingz, and more as part of the Ratingz Network.

As Swapceinski put it, the rating of professional services was "a niche that a lot of bigger companies had historically stayed away from." Negative reviews can draw legal threats, and such threats can deter innovation. Such sites, however, are protected by CDA 230 for this very reason. The law protects intermediaries from being liable for third-party content—a necessary protection for review sites to exist.

After negative reviews about a Florida law office were posted on LawyerRatingz, the firm went after Swapceinski's company. EFF, armed with CDA 230, represented LawyerRatingz, and the opposing firm backed down.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and the Ratingz sites.

I'm the founder ...

Celebrate Free Press Week with FIRE and the SPLC

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Free Press Weekly!

This week, FIRE is teaming up with the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) to highlight the free speech rights of student journalists, who are far too often a target for campus censors. Here are a few ways you can celebrate Free Press Week with us: 

  • Check out for information on the most common forms of press censorship and links to tons of helpful resources for student journalists.
  • Register for our FREE webinar, "Press for Freedom: Stand Up for Student Journalists on Campus," featuring FIRE's Azhar Majeed and SPLC's Adam Goldstein this Wednesday, January 30 at 4 p.m. EST!
  • Tune in to The Torch all week for blog posts explaining the most common forms of student press censorship.
  • Join the discussion this week on Facebook and Twitter. We will be using #FreePress!
In his opinion in Grosjean v. American Press Co., Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland wrote that "A free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to fetter ourselves." 297 U.S. 233, 250 (1936). I hope you will join us this week in celebrating the important role student publications play in the marketplace ...

Police Quiz Sex Tape Reporter

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Police in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing are putting pressure on a whistle-blowing journalist to hand over incriminating sex tapes exposing a local member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, after 10 city officials were reportedly fired in connection with the scandal.

Beijing-based investigative journalist Zhu Ruifeng, who runs the whistle-blowing website Supervision by the People, published a five-year-old video last year, showing Lei Zhengfu having sex with an 18-year-old female while he was Party secretary of Chongqing's Beibei district.

The tape was one of several formerly held in the Chongqing police department vaults and was leaked by an insider, who has already been detained by police.

Lei was removed from his post after the 36-second video clip went viral online, sparking widespread outrage on China's popular microblogs, where users often vent anger about official excesses and abuse of power.

Threatened with arrest

Chongqing police visited Zhu's home in Beijing on Sunday, and questioned him at a Beijing police station, threatening him with arrest if he refused to hand over the remaining sex tapes still in his possession, Zhu said on Monday.

"Yesterday at about 6:00 p.m., five police came knocking on our door and told me to open ...

Lenz v. Universal: This Baby May Be Dancing To Trial

Monday, January 28th, 2013

After years of litigation, it appears Stephanie Lenz may have a chance to tell her story to a jury. Back in 2007, you’ll remember, she posted a video to YouTube of her children dancing and running around in her kitchen with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” playing in the background. A few months later, Universal Music Corp. used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's rapid-fire takedown process to get the video removed from YouTube, claiming that it infringed copyright law. With help from EFF and Keker & Van Nest, Lenz fought back. She filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to hold Universal accountable for misrepresenting that her fair use video violated copyright law. Late last week, Judge Jeremy Fogel issued a ruling in the case that sent contradictory signals on the future of fair use under the DMCA.

The good news: The ruling provided further affirmation, if it were needed, that the DMCA does not give copyright owners the right to simply take down content without first considering fair use. Of course, that was already the law. But last week’s ruling also clarified that that "consideration" means making an actual legal determination. Universal had argued that it was enough to consider ...

Surveillance Camp: Privatized State Surveillance

Monday, January 28th, 2013

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

In December 2012, EFF organized a Surveillance and Human Rights Camp in Brazil that brought together the expertise of a diverse group of people concerned about state electronic surveillance in Latin American and other countries. Among other concerns, participants spotlighted the many ways in which the private sector is increasingly playing a role in state surveillance. Here are a few examples:

Voluntary Agreements Between Law Enforcement and Private Companies

Often law enforcement agencies will approach companies asking for voluntary disclosure of information for investigative purposes. Those requests may look and sound more like threats, with a great deal of moral pressure applied on the companies.

This voluntary assistance remains out of the public eye and shrouded in secrecy, as notification of state access is never given to the individual concerned, is not codified in law, and is not clearly disclosed in the company's terms of service or user agreement. Currently there is minimal, if any, oversight over such voluntary cooperation, so the scope of assistance provided is not well-documented.


Canadian ISPs have jointly decided to ...

High-Fiving A Million Angels: Debating the NYTimes Video Game Debate

Monday, January 28th, 2013

This weekend, the New York Times featured comments on the debate over violent media in its Sunday Dialogue segment. The letters were written in response to one penned by Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

A couple of the responses were thoughtful and incisive; others, not so much. Here are the highs and lows…


From Chris Ferguson, associated professor of psychology and communication at Texas A&M:

“…as media violence has become more prevalent, societal Violence, including youth violence, has declined to 40-year lows…

…Together, the evidence paints a picture pointing away from, not toward, media violence as a contributor to societal violence. We know that after societal tragedies, it is common to blame media in a cycle of moral panic. We know that advocacy groups, though well intentioned, are often a part of those moral panics. So too, unfortunately, are some scholars.”

From Gabe Rottman with the ACLU:

“Censorship, especially in the name of protecting children, is never surgical. It will always limit the legitimate free speech rights of adults and, in this case, children. Consequently, it must be resisted.”

From Murray Forman, associate professor of media and screen studies at Northeastern University:


Teen Film: Controversial Books Help Us Learn and Grow

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Rebecca Onstott 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!

Student Spotlight: Best of 2012

Monday, January 28th, 2013

From left to right: David Deerson, Morgan Freeman, Alex McHugh

FIRE's Student Spotlight series highlights campus activists who are working to promote student rights at their schools. To kick off 2013, we would like to recognize four students who made significant strides for free speech on their campuses in 2012. Hopefully, their stellar examples will inspire more students than ever to get involved in free speech efforts this year: 

Chris Morbitzer '12, University of Cincinnati

With help from FIRE, Chris Morbitzer and his student group, the University of Cincinnati chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, took their university's unconstitutional free speech zone to federal court in 2012—and won decisively.

David Deerson '13, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

After former FIRE intern David Deerson and his campus group drew national attention to UNC's free speech issues during Constitution Week 2012, they got some welcome news: UNC substantially revised its problematic policies to improve from a "red light" to a "yellow light" rating. David plans to keep up his efforts until UNC is a "green light" institution.

Morgan Freeman, Sam Houston State University

In 2012, SHSU student Morgan Freeman found herself in the middle of a national free speech controversy when a professor at Sam Houston State censored her group's ...

Loyalty Oaths No Diploma in AZ

Monday, January 28th, 2013

A group of Arizona lawmakers want to require students to recite a loyalty oath to the U.S. and its Constitution before they can graduate high school. They are sponsoring House Bill 2467 in the Legislature. If passed, it would make the loyalty oath a prerequisite for graduation from any public high school in Arizona starting with the 2013-14 school year.

Read full story.

Watch “Waking,” a 4-minute Dystopian Look at a World Without Books

Monday, January 28th, 2013

A world with no great books is a black and white dreary bore, says Eden Taylor Ames in her film. Eden encourages us to shed our blinders in 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!

Light-gun Games Too Dangerous for Massachusetts Rest Stops

Monday, January 28th, 2013

(Source: Kotaku)

After the parents of a 12-year-old boy complained, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation decided to remove arcade games that utilize light guns from state-run rest stops.

Parents Andrew and Tracy Hyams spoke with The Boston Globe about their objection to the light-gun games:

“People have the freedom to have whatever video games in their own homes that they want,” Hyams said. “We were struck by walking into a [state-owned] rest stop within an hour’s drive of Newtown and seeing and hearing a life-sized, mounted machine gun on a video game.”

The couple felt that such games had no place in public rest stops, and the state Depart­ment of Transportation agreed. After receiving an ­e-mail from the Hyams, the Massachusetts agency removed nine violent games from service plazas in Charlton, Ludlow, Lee, and Beverly.

In defending the decision, Transportation Secretary Richard Davey cited much of the same inaccurate rhetoric that has dominated the discussion of video games in wake of the Newtown shootings:

“Bottom line is I think there isn’t a person who doesn’t ­believe that there isn’t too much violence in our society, and games can glorify that,” Davey said. “A video game in a public space ...

TOSBack Hackathon: How to Make a Rule Contribution

Monday, January 28th, 2013

This is a re-posting of a guide by TOSBack developer Jimm Stout

TOSBack is an open-source project that aims to assist users around the world by tracking the changes to Terms of Service (TOS) and other policies on the web, but we need some help to bring it back to life! We are hosting a hackathon at Campus Party Brazil later this week to give the project a healthy revamp. The project uses Rails and we'd love people to contribute code. But if you aren't a Rails developer, you can still contribute by submitting rules and letting us know which policies are important to you. This is a developers' guide for submitting new policies for TOSBack to crawl. If you want to get started as quickly as possible, you can scroll down to the "Putting it all together" section below.

The code is hosted on Github:

What you will need

* A browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari)
* A text editor to like TextEdit/TextMate (Mac), Notepad (Windows), or Emacs (all platforms) to modify the XML files.
* Make sure you have these installed in order to test your rules:
   * Git and a Github account.
   * Ruby 1.9.3 ...

Happy Sweater Vest Sunday!

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Check out the #sweatervestsunday feed on Twitter for some fantastic photos. Visit the Q&A we posted last week.  And most importantly, remember to let us know about challenges to library materials!

Blogger Held, Put in Mental Ward

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

Vietnamese authorities have arrested a blogger critical of the government and thrown him into a mental institution in the latest move to curtail dissent in the one-party Communist state, a rights group said Saturday.

Le Anh Hung was taken away from his workplace on Thursday morning by security officials and his friends later discovered that he was interned in a mental institution in the capital Hanoi, according to the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.

The 40-year-old blogger had in the past been subjected to repeated interrogations, threats, and harassment by the police over his writings denouncing instances of corruption and power abuse among top-level ruling Communist Party and government officials.

"Six secret security agents held Le Anh Hung at his workplace in [northern] Hung Yen [city] on Thursday morning and told his boss they needed to see him about 'matters concerning temporary residence papers,'” a statement by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights said.

"They then forced him into their car and took him away without any explanation. He was later found to be interned in the 'Social Support Center No. 2' in Ung Hoa, Hanoi, a center for mentally ill."

When his friends tried to visit him on ...

Pentagon Reverses Some of Its Censoring of a War Book

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

The New York Times reports that the Defense Department security office has reversed itself, at least in part, on its claim that passages of the 2010 book,  “Operation Dark Heart.”  Written by Anthony Shaffer, a retired Army officer who described his work as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan, the book was initially cleared for publication by the Army, but then the Defense Intelligence Agency objected, asserting that the manuscript contained classified information. The Pentagon then spent nearly $50,000 to buy and destroy the entire 10,000-copy first printing of the book, before allowing a second printing with 433 passages blacked out. Mr. Shaffer later filed a lawsuit challenging the deletions.

The new review by the Defense Department concluded that 198 of the supposed secrets were now “properly declassified” and could be printed after all. Read more.

FIRE is Hiring Two New, Full-Time Staffers! Apply Today!

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Do you have a passion for freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience? If so, FIRE has two new job openings that will allow you to work full time defending these essential qualities of liberty and dignity on college campuses. Check out the two exciting opportunities below and apply today!


Program Associate, Campus Freedom Network

FIRE is seeking a dynamic, hard working program associate to coordinate FIRE's campus outreach programs. This position will be responsible for recruiting students and faculty members to FIRE's network through conferences, social events, and new media; maintaining and engaging FIRE's network of campus contacts; overseeing FIRE's Summer Internship Program for undergraduate students; and planning FIRE's annual student summer conference. 

The successful candidate will have excellent writing skills, a good work ethic, exemplary planning and organizational skills, and an ability to handle dynamic, challenging, and changing situations.

This position is ideal for an individual who seeks to work with students and faculty to help execute FIRE's mission.  

To see this full job listing and to learn how to apply, visit this link.

Assistant to the President

FIRE is seeking an energetic and entrepreneurial person to join our ...

‘Set the Microblogs Alight’

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Amid an an anti-corruption campaign launched by China's incoming president Xi Jinping, Fan Songqing, a high-ranking official in the Guangzhou municipal parliament, recently pledged to declare details of his and his family's assets.

Beijing-based journalist Gao Yu, a former deputy editor of the cutting-edge Economic Weekly newspaper who advocates for press freedoms and once served a seven-year prison sentence for "publishing state secrets," explains why she doesn't think much of Fan's promise:

Declaring isn't the same as publishing. Declaring is an internal, bureaucratic thing, and his assets will be taken to be however much he says they are. What's more, there are rules about what gets announced publicly.

It depends what is being publicly announced; whether it's the assets of the entire family, or whether there are are limits on what gets made public. For the time being, I don't even have access to the details of this declaration.

Gao said the fact that a single official had offered to reveal his wealth carried little meaning for China's struggle with rampant official corruption as a whole:

He is claiming to be so poor, but that doesn't mean that everyone is like him. That's why the public wants a sunshine law ...

The State of Free Speech on Campus: Swarthmore College

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Swarthmore College Logo

This winter, FIRE is presenting a blog series on the state of free speech at America's top 10 liberal arts colleges, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. So far, we have covered speech codes at Williams College and at Amherst College. Today, we will discuss speech codes at U.S. News' third-ranked liberal arts college: Swarthmore College.

Swarthmore is the first school in this blog series to receive a red-light rating, which means that it maintains at least one policy that both clearly and substantially prohibits what would otherwise be protected expression. Although Swarthmore is private, its Student Handbook promises "to ensure that the College does nothing that would tend to diminish free expression or compromise principles of academic freedom in the vigorous and often contentious examination and criticism of ideas, works of art, and political activity that marks Swarthmore College." But the very same Student Handbook contains speech codes that violate that promise.

We turn now to the first of Swarthmore's two red-light policies, the school's Sexual and Discriminatory Harassment Policy and Procedures, which is found on the website of the College's Equal Opportunity Office. The policy starts off well, defining hostile environment ...

Chongqing Journalist Freed Early

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Authorities in the southwestern city of Chongqing have released from jail a top journalist jailed by ousted former city chief Bo Xilai.

Gao Yingpiao, who had written critically of Bo's policies and was sentenced secretly to three years' imprisonment by a Chongqing court in 2010 for "endangering state security," was released on Sunday, his wife Li Danxin said.

"He is out a bit early, and his health is OK," Li said in an interview on Friday.

She said the family was unsure of whether Gao's release was the result of Bo's removal from office on March 15 and subsequent investigation for graft and involvement in the murder of a British businessman.

"We can't say yet," said Li, who only announced Gao's prison sentence in public last April after Bo's removal from office. "We haven't really even adjusted yet, and we haven't talked about it yet."

Gao had already served more than 26 months of the jail term, which was likely the result of a series of blog posts he had made on the popular social media site QQ during 2009 that were highly critical of Bo's high-profile, populist policies.

Lawyers involved in anti-crime campaigns in Chongqing during Bo's tenure have ...

Tales From the Code: The Near Extinction of Sheena

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The comic books of the Golden Age represented little more than escapism for millions of readers. And no one provided escape better than Sheena Queen of the Jungle, whose exotic adventures and good girl art titillated male readers and spawned an entire genre of Jungle Girls. However, Sheena, a hunter who defeated every challenge she faced in the jungle, soon found herself among the hunted as the anti-comics crusaders turned their sites on the Jungle Girls.

I recently visited the National Zoo with my daughter for a FONZ charity event. (That’s Friends of the National Zoo and not Arthur Fonzerelli from Happy Days). At this event, we saw a listing of all of the animals that have become extinct or are close to extinction. There was groups like the Blue Antelope, North African Elephant, and the Red Gazelle, which will never be seen again, as well as other endangered species such as the Mountain Zebra, the Pygmy Chimpanzee, and the Lowland Gorillas, which may yet be saved.

Being a comic geek, seeing all of these magnificent endangered creatures led me to think about fictional residents of the jungle that were nearly made extinct in the 1950s: Jungle Girls. This week, we talk about ...

VIDEO: Unlock the Books for All the Read!

Friday, January 25th, 2013

A person or group of people shouldn’t limit what others can read and see, Naomi Clements expresses in her film. Naomi 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!

Suspended Student Poet Allowed Back to School

Friday, January 25th, 2013
Life Learning Academy

Life Learning Academy, San Francisco

We have a quick update on Courtni Webb, the San Francisco high school student who was suspended from school last month after a teacher found a poem that mentioned the Newtown shootings in her private notebook. According to a blog post from the National Coalition Against Censorship, Courtni’s suspension was lifted yesterday and she has been allowed to return to class at Life Learning Academy, a public charter school.

The school’s original overreaction apparently stemmed from its laudable curriculum of nonviolence, but the expectation that students should never have or express thoughts of anger or other negative emotions is an egregious misapplication of nonviolent theory. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., the two titans of that philosophy, both agreed that anger is natural and even necessary to bring about change in society. In his 1929 autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi wrote: “I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world.”

And in his famous “Letter from Birmingham ...

Today’s Featured Teen Film: Speaking Out and Shutting Down Censors

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Sometimes those with authority are the ones telling you a book isn’t appropriate, other times the voice of the censor is internalized. David Raygoza explores a battle over a good book in 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!

To learn more about famed banned author Judy Blume, check out Censorpedia.

Entries for Scripps Howard Awards in Journalism Now Being Accepted

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The Scripps Howard Foundation honors the best work in journalism with its Scripps Howard Awards, which offers $175,000 in prizes in 17 categories. The deadline to enter 2012 work is Thursday, Jan. 31; winners and finalists will be announced during a webcast March 14 at 2 p.m. EST; cash prizes and distinctive trophies will be awarded May 9 in Naples, Fla. Go to for more information or to enter.

A Victory for Colombia: Constitutional Court Strikes Down Draconian Copyright Expansion Bill

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Good news hails from Colombia today, where the Constitutional Court has struck down a sweeping copyright enforcement law because Congress had fast tracked the bill and overstepped various legislative procedures. The Court also ruled on the constitutionality of the law itself, over provisions on the retransmission of TV content and signals over the Internet as well as its language on technological protection measures (TPMs, also known as DRM). The law, nicknamed Ley Lleras 2, was passed to implement copyright enforcement obligations from the Colombia-US free trade agreement. Colombians and civil society groups, however, have been arguing that this law violates the right of education and culture because it would dramatically restrict access to knowledge online.

The law would have set forth copyright regulations that went even beyond the requirements of their trade agreement with the US and had many negative consequences for Internet users' rights to free expression and privacy. Ley Lleras 2 would have banned the circumvention of digital handcuffs that restrict copying and other uses of works, and also prohibit the creation and distribution of tools to circumvent TPMs, even if the end use is legal. While the Colombia-US FTA only requires punishment for "willful" criminal infringers, ...

Activists Held As Delegates Meet

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Authorities in major Chinese cities have tightened security in recent days, holding a prominent activist at an unknown location, as the country's municipal law-making bodies meet ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

Hubei-based rights activist Liu Feiyue has been incommunicado since last week after being taken away by police ahead of the provincial parliamentary session, his friends and family said on Thursday.

Liu, who runs the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch group, was taken away by police last Friday, his friend and fellow activist Shi Yulin said, adding that he had been called in "for a chat about social stability" to his local police station.

"He called me in a huge hurry at about 5.00 p.m. on Friday, and just managed to say a couple of short sentences before he was cut off," Shi said.

"He said he was being taken to a hotel by state security police to be held under house arrest, and that I should carry on with the work of Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch," he said.

"He said it was because of the parliamentary sessions, and then the line went dead."

Shi said he had himself been targeted by police, who seemed worried about ...

Join EFF at Campus Party Brazil for a Hackathon on TOSBack

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

EFF, TOS;DR and Campus Party Brazil are Teaming Up for a Liberty-Enhancing Hackathon

At the end of January, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and TOS;DR are helping to organize a hackathon at Campus Party Brazil.  We're asking the Campuseros to help us relaunch a popular online tool: TOSBack. TOSBack is an open-source tool that benefits people around the world – but it needs work before we can relaunch it.

Campus Party Brazil happens between January 28th and February 3rd 2013, at the Anhembi Parque Convention Center, in Sao Paulo - Brazil. Updates about the content, registration and agenda are available on the official website.

About TOSBack

What if you signed up for an email service that promised not to share your private data with the government without telling you first… but then the website changed that policy? Would you ever know that change occurred?

Probably not. That’s why we came up with TOSBack.

TOSBack (from the acronym TOS, "Terms of Service") is free software that automatically tracks the terms of service of many popular web sites (as well as other policies, like privacy policies) and generates detailed summaries of the changes between versions. This helps researchers understand how ...

Mitch Daniels, in First Week as Purdue President, Talks Freedom of Opinion and Inquiry

Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Mitch Daniels

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels may have declined to run for President of the United States last year, but he has nevertheless landed a presidency of his own—that of Purdue University. And as Inside Higher Ed reports, he's already made a splash in his first week on the job, with an open letter (PDF) to the Purdue community. Of interest to FIRE and its supporters is his acknowledgement of this criticism of higher education:

Diversity is prized except in the most important realm of all, diversity of thought. The academies that, through the unique system of tenure, once enshrined freedom of opinion and inquiry now frequently are home to the narrowest sort of closed-mindedness and the worst repression of dissident ideas.

Admittedly, Daniels is merely saying at the opening of his letter that this is a common criticism of academia. But he later makes it clear that, in his opinion, a concern for open inquiry is in fact core to how a university must function. Daniels explains:

Open inquiry — A university violates its special mission if it fails to protect free and open debate. It is the wellspring of advancing knowledge and the rationale for academic freedom. No ...

Press for Freedom: Stand Up for Student Journalists on Campus

Thursday, January 24th, 2013
FIRE and SPLC Join Forces!

In honor of Free Press Week, FIRE and the Student Press Law Center are teaming up to host a FREE webinar to discuss student press rights on campus next Wednesday, January 30. Attorneys Azhar Majeed from FIRE and Adam Goldstein from SPLC will be on hand to answer questions about the First Amendment rights of student journalists.

What does the Supreme Court have to say about student journalism? Can free student newspapers be stolen? What should you do if your school charges $1,000 for a simple Freedom of Information Act request? We will have the answers to these questions and many more in this interactive session. 

Whether you are the editor of your campus newspaper or you run a personal blog, this webinar will help you stand up for your rights as a member of the Fourth Estate. Sign up today to join us!

FIRE & SPLC Present
Press for Freedom: Stand Up for Student Journalists on Campus

Feat. Azhar Majeed (FIRE) and Adam Goldstein (SPLC)

Wednesday, January 30

4 p.m. EST 

Register today!

Are Textbooks All Fact? A Teen’s Response to Textbook Censorship

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Watch Nathan Water’s video on textbook censorship, a book banning for the modern era. Nathan 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!

To learn more about textbook censorship, check out

Be A Valentine’s Hero! Give A Personalized Gift Benefiting CBLDF!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

This Valentines Day, surprise your sweetie with a signed or personalized gift that protects the freedom to read!  From now until February 4th, the CBLDF is offering our donors the opportunity to receive graphic novels personalized by Brian K. Vaughan, Craig Thompson, Brian Wood, Cliff Chiang, Terry Moore, Jeffrey Brown, and Paul Pope!

On top of that, we also have excellent gifts signed by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, 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 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

Check ...

What Do Teens Think About the Mexican-American Studies Ban?

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Watch this awesome video by Gio Garcia, a student in Tucson, and find out! Gio 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!

New reports out about the dissolution of MAS in Texas indicate that the program might very well return, fingers crossed!

Facebook ban for sex offenders is overturned by 7th Circuit

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

The ABA Journal reports that a federal appeals court has overturned an Indiana law that bars most registered sex offenders from using social media that is accessed by minors.

The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the law “broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors,” report the Indianapolis Star and the National Law Journal. The court ruled (PDF) on Wednesday.

The law bars certain sex offenders from using social networking sites, instant messaging services and chat programs if they know minors are also allowed access. Facebook and Twitter are among the social media that are off limits to sex offenders under the law.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented a John Doe plaintiff who had been convicted of child exploitation in the class action suit challenging the Indiana law.

ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk told the Indianapolis Star that the social media ban was overly broad. “It would even bar someone who was convicted 40 years ago from participating in a Twitter feed with the Pope,” he said.


So, what do you think? Did the 7th Circuit get it right?

Google Releases Transparency Report Showing US Surveillance Requests Up 33% in the Last Year

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Two Out of Every Three US Demands to Google Come Without A Warrant

This morning, Google released their semi-annual transparency report, and once again, it revealed a troubling trend: Internet surveillance around the world continues to rise, with the United States leading the way in demands for user data.

Google received over 21,000 requests for data on over 33,000 users in the last six months from governments around the world, a 70% increase since Google started releasing numbers in 2010. The United States accounted for almost 40% the total requests (8,438) and the number of users (14,791). The total numbers in the US for 2012 amounted to a 33% increase from 2011. And while Google only complied with two-thirds of the total requests globally, they complied with 88% of the requests in the United States.

Admirably, Google expanded their transparency report this time around, providing more detailed information about what kind of requests they get from the US government—specifically the type of requests they get under the main email privacy law in the US, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

EFF has long criticized ECPA for not providing email with the same warrant protection as the Fourth Amendment gives ...

DePaul University Investigating Vandalism of Group’s Pro-Life Display

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
Depaul University Logo

Fox News Radio and other outlets are reporting an unfortunate and, as Gina's blog of earlier today shows, all too common instance of student-led censorship. At DePaul University, the campus chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (with university permission) erected a pro-life display consisting of 500 small blue and pink flags. As Fox reports, "The flags represented the number of unborn children aborted every day." 

When YAF members went to check on their display toward the end of the day, however, they found that some DePaul students had taken the liberty of getting an early start on cleaning up the grounds. That, of course, is me being mock-charitable: Students unwilling to tolerate the display's pro-life message had torn up the flags and dumped them in trash cans around campus, as photos show

For the moment, at least, DePaul seems to be taking the matter seriously. As Fox reports:

"They had been thrown and stuffed into various trash cans outside the library," Edwards said. "If this happens on the largest Catholic university campus in our nation — it can happen anywhere."

University spokesperson Cindy Lawson told Fox News they are investigating the vandalism and are attempting to find out ...

Part 2: EFF’s Additional Improvements to Aaron’s Law

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

In our first post, we presented some initial thinking about how to fix the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and wire fraud law in light of the tragic prosecution of Aaron Swartz. 

Now we present part two: suggestions to address the CFAA's penalty structure.  The CFAA, which is the primary federal computer crime law, allows for harsh punishments and makes too many offenses felonies. The statute is also structured so that the same behavior can violate multiple provisions of the law, which prosecutors often combine to beef up the potential penalties. 

So once again we're showing our work, even as we continue to tinker. And again, would like to thank ACLU, CDT, and Jennifer Granick of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society and others who helped us draft these proposed changes, although given the press of time, we still don’t have endorsement from anyone but EFF yet. Please do join the conversation, let us know what you think, and tell us if you have other proposals or suggestions for changing the language.

Here's a summary of our proposal.

1) Clarifying Unauthorized Access 

We suggest revising the concept of unauthorized access to a computer, which is a ...