Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Oh, Canada: Free Speech Wall Vandalized by Carleton University Student

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
Carleton University students writing on the SFL free speech wall

Yesterday, Carleton University student Arün Smith wrote a note on his Facebook page boldly proclaiming "President Runte, I Tore Down That Wall." In his long tirade, Smith admits that he tore down a free speech wall set up by the Carleton Students For Liberty and gives his reasons for doing so. Now, Carleton is located in Canada, and generally FIRE does not comment on international free speech issues unless they have impact here at home. However, what happened at Carleton is part of a pattern we see so often here in America that we can't help but draw the parallel.

Students For Liberty is a small-l libertarian organization that engages students on college campuses. One of the activities popular among their chapters is erecting free speech walls—a wall with a blank sheet of paper on which students can write whatever they want. The Carleton group wanted to give students a chance to express themselves freely, something that SFL believes is essential to liberty. 

Canada is obviously not bound by our First Amendment or our legal history and has its own laws and traditions when it comes to freedom of speech. FIRE nevertheless has seen more than our fair ...

Post-Newtown, “Zero Tolerance” for Student Expression

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

If you want to express your thoughts, your feelings, your grief, your pain, or your opinions through poetry or art, you best wait until you’re old enough to vote.

Click here to watch interview

Click here to watch interview

In December, a  16-year-old high school student in New Jersey was arrested and thrown in juvenile detention just days before Christmas because of a drawing. According to news reports, the drawing depicted a glove with flames coming out of it. This alarmed a teacher and led to a search of the boy’s home, where police discovered a number of machine parts and chemicals which “could be combined to make a bomb.”

No news outlet has reported just what chemicals those were or how common they might be. The teen’s mother told a local Fox news site that her son collects old things, disassembles them and builds projects with them.

In San Francisco, 17-year-old Courtni Webb was nearly expelled over a poem she wrote in response to the tragedy in Newtown. She did not turn the poem in as part of an assignment, rather it was discovered in her notebook by a teacher, who then turned it over to the school’s administration.

“The meaning of the poem is ...

1,000 Foxconn Workers Strike

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Around 1,000 workers at a Beijing factory belonging to Foxconn, maker of Apple's iPhone, walked out this week amid a dispute over end-of-year holiday privileges and bonuses, a company manager said on Wednesday.

"It was on the 21st and 22nd, and the numbers were at their largest [on Tuesday]," said a manager surnamed Liang at the Foxconn factory in Beijing's Daxing district.

"There were ... 1,000 workers involved in the strike, but there are more than 10,000 employed through the whole factory."

The strike comes after a series of labor incidents at Foxconn's factories in recent years, including a string of worker suicides.

The company, which is the world's largest contract maker of electronic goods, has been slammed for poor working conditions and mistreatment of employees at its China facilities, but says it has spent heavily to improve conditions and to raise wages.

Overtime ahead of Spring Festival

Liang said the workers were angry at being expected to work overtime ahead of the Chinese New Year, known in mainland China as the Spring Festival, when hundreds of millions of people make the trip home to celebrate with their families.

"They were unhappy with the overtime situation which is very bad, ...

Reddit ‘Gaymers’ Fight to Protect Online Forum from Bogus Trademark Claims

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
EFF and Perkins Coie File Petition to Cancel Registration of 'Gaymer' Trademark

San Francisco - A group of Reddit "gaymers" are fighting to protect the name of their online forum after a website operator managed to register the term as a trademark and then claimed the group's Reddit forum infringed his trademark rights. In a petition filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today, the group asks the USPTO to cancel the "gaymer" trademark registration so that people around the world can continue to use the word without interference.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the law firm Perkins Coie represent the Reddit gaymers – members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community who have an active interest in video games. The group was spurred into action after blogger Chris Vizzini – who registered the trademark after creating a website targeting the gaymer community at – sent a cease-and-desist letter complaining about the long-running subreddit group called r/gaymers.

"This registration should never have been granted," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "Gaymer is a common term that refers to members of this vibrant gaming community, and we are happy to help them fight back and ...

California Student Suspended for Newtown Poem

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Courtni Webb

Remember the 16-year-old from New Jersey who was arrested last month after a teacher reported his notebook doodles of “what appeared to be weapons?” Now the same sort of hypervigilance on the part of school officials has caused another teen in San Francisco to be suspended and possibly expelled from school for her private creative expression — this time for a poem containing the lines “I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger.”

Courtni Webb, a 17-year-old senior at Life Learning Academy charter school, frequently expresses her feelings through poetry in a private notebook. But last month, a teacher found the notebook and noticed Courtni’s poem expressing empathy with the feelings of alienation and anger that may have driven Newtown shooter Adam Lanza. The poem read in part:

They wanna hold me back
I run but still they attack
My innocence, I won’t get back
I used to smile
They took my kindness for weakness
The silence the world will never get
I understand the killing in Connecticut
I know why he pulled the trigger
The government is a shame
Society never wants to take the blame
Society puts these thoughts in our head
Misery ...

Newark Public Library Reverses Course, Uncovers Controversial Artwork

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

The painting that caused such a ruckus at the Newark Public Library is uncovered again, viewable by all, and the controversy around it gone.

Last month, several library staffers complained about the drawing, claiming that it was appropriate. They made such a fuss that it was covered up a day after being hung in the second-floor reference room.

The huge drawing was done by Kara Walker, a renowned African-American artist whose themes deal with race, gender, sexuality and violence. This piece shows the horrors of reconstruction, 20th-century Jim Crowism and hooded figures of the Ku Klux Klan.

The controversial part depicts a white man holding the head of a naked black woman to his groin, her back to the viewer.

Library director Wilma Grey didn’t think displaying the drawing was a problem, but she covered it with fabric after people complained — so all could take a breath and think this over. Walker wasn’t happy about doing it, neither was Scott London, a longtime art collector who loaned the piece to the library.

“I thought we were past that,’’ he said. “I was surprised.”

Since then, there has been a powwow. The shroud is gone and everyone can see it now.


Director Kathryn Bigelow Responds to the Political Critics of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time.

This is an important principle to stand up for, and it bears repeating. For confusing depiction with endorsement is the first step toward chilling any American artist’s ability and right to shine a light on dark deeds, especially when those deeds are cloaked in layers of secrecy and government obfuscation.

Read Kathryn Bigelow’s statement in full.

Dalian Tries PX Activists

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Authorities in the northeastern port city of Dalian have put on trial six activists who campaigned against a major petrochemical plant in the city, charging them with "libel" and "concocting false information."

Qiu Jie, an activist who campaigned against the city's controversial PX plant during a popular environmental protest movement that saw mass demonstrations in August 2010, stood trial at the city's Pulandian District Court on Friday, his wife Jiang Yingfeng said on Tuesday.

Qiu and five other activists and petitioners were charged with "deliberately concocting false information to terrorize the public," and with "libel," Jiang said.

She said the trial had been ended prematurely by the judge, who warned the defendants that high-ranking officials were pushing for a result in their case, and called on them to confess.

So far, Qiu has denied the charges, Jiang said.

"The judge called in the lawyers and told them to have their clients confess, because someone higher up was impatient for a verdict," she said.

"The charges were dictated by the leadership," she said. "The judge even said that they could issue a verdict without a court hearing."

"When we approached the judge for an explanation, he wouldn't give us the time ...

EFF Fights for Passenger Rights in GPS Vehicle Surveillance

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
When Law Enforcement Tracks Cars, Both Passengers and Drivers Deserve Privacy Protections

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the high court of Massachusetts today to protect the rights of passengers in cars that law enforcement are tracking with GPS surveillance technology, arguing that both the driver and the passenger of a car have legal standing to challenge the collection of sensitive location data gathered by the GPS devices.

In Commonwealth v. Rousseau, police obtained a search warrant to install a GPS device on a car owned by a suspect in a number of arsons throughout the state. Ultimately, the owner of the car and his frequent passenger – Rousseau – were charged with a number of crimes, but both moved to challenge the search warrant. They argued that the police had made material misrepresentations in obtaining the search warrant, and as a result the GPS evidence should be excluded from the trial.

Although the trial court agreed that police had misrepresented the facts in order to get the search warrant, it upheld it anyway. Additionally, the court found that Rousseau had no legal ability – or standing – to challenge the GPS evidence because he was merely ...

KC Johnson to Journalists: Stop Presuming Guilt

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
KC Johnson

For nearly two years now, FIRE has been one of the leading critics of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR) April 4, 2011 "Dear Colleague letter" (DCL). 

As Torch readers know, the DCL issued sweeping new mandates to colleges and universities accepting federal funding (virtually all of them, public or private) to reduce the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct on campus. Those that do not heed OCR's directive risk a federal investigation and the loss of federal funds. 

Supporters of the mandate often argue that our colleges and universities are plagued with sexual assaults on campus, which occur without repercussion. This argument is often bolstered by news articles on allegations of sexual misconduct. 

This past Saturday, Brooklyn College Professor KC Johnson, a critic of OCR's misguided mandate, blogged about the carelessness with which many media outlets write stories sexual assault on campus. He wrote

In the N&O [the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer], reporter Gloria Lloyd likewise declines to use the phrases "alleged victims" or "accusers," and instead reports as fact that 66 rapes occurred. 


The title of a Huffington Post article by Tyler Kingkade is "University Of ...

Philanthropy Roundtable Reviews ‘Unlearning Liberty’

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff's Unlearning Liberty has earned the attention of yet another impressive publication-this one in the world of philanthropy. Philanthropy magazine is a publication of The Philanthropy Roundtable, a widely respected organization dedicated to "helping donors advance liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility in America and abroad." In the latest issue of Philanthropy, Managing Editor Evan Sparks writes an excellent review of Greg's book and encourages readers to speak up about rights abuses on campus:

[I]f alumni, trustees, or donors bring up free-speech concerns, administrators are more likely to listen. Donors who care about an atmosphere of free and open learning would do well to inquire about the free-speech bona fides of the colleges they support.

We couldn't agree more. Pick up your copy of Unlearning Liberty (all royalties go to FIRE) and arm yourself with the truth about the state of liberty on campus, so that you can join FIRE in taking action against the illiberal policies and practices taking place all too often at schools across the country.

KOTAKU Takes a Look at 25 Years of Research on Violent Video Games

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
Obama signs gun control recommendations

Obama issues gun control recommendations

After the violence in Newtown — and really, any violent mass shooting these days — it didn’t take long before pundits were blaming violent video games for the violence. As happened with comic books in the 1950s, video games have become a scapegoat for deeper societal problems.

Senator Jay Rockefeller proposed a bill mandating that the National Academy of Sciences research the effect of violent media on children, and President Obama himself asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the relationship between violent media and actual violence to the tune of $10 million dollars in taxpayer money. These calls for more research come despite the fact that previous studies do not support the existence of a strong link between violent media and violent behavior.

In the wake of President Obama’s directive to the CDC, Jason Schreier with Kotaku took a balanced look at 25 years of research on video game play. He reviewed dozens of studies and journal articles from 1984 to present in a comprehensive look at video game research.

In particular, Schreier examined Craig A. Anderson et al’s “Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in ...

New Burning; Monks Jailed

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

A young Tibetan father of two set himself on fire and died Tuesday in protest against Chinese rule in a Tibetan-populated area of Gansu province, according to sources, while four monks in a neighboring province have been jailed for up to 10 years over alleged links to previous self-immolations.

Twenty-six-year-old Kunchok Kyab torched himself near the Bora monastery in the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture's Sangchu (Xiahe) county at noon in the third Tibetan self-immolation protest this month, a Tibetan in the area said.

Chinese authorities immediately took away his body and local Tibetans threatened to protest if they did not return it to his family.

"I have seen Kunchok Kyab's body being carried away by the Chinese police," a Tibetan living near Bora monastery told RFA's Tibetan Service.

"The local Tibetans demanded that the body be returned to their custody and if they [the authorities] don't return it, the Tibetans threatened to stage a sit-in protest in front of the local police station," the Tibetan said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Photo of Kunchok Kyab.

Kunchok Kyab, fondly called Kunbai by relatives and friends, protested against Chinese "repressive" rule as most other self-immolators had, according to a ...

‘Star-Ledger’ Columnist Shreds Montclair State’s Treatment of Joseph Aziz

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Last week, we celebrated the vindication of Montclair State University student Joseph Aziz's free speech rights, after he had been suspended for violating an unconstitutional gag order imposed on him by the university for making negative social media comments about another student. This victory for the First Amendment was long overdue, and we at FIRE were certainly glad that the university's administration reversed course. However, as Paul Mulshine writes in The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, all is not necessarily well, and the case raises many questions about the attitude toward free speech at Montclair State. 

In a stirring op-ed that ran yesterday, Mulshine asks why a public university funded by taxpayer dollars would find it acceptable to place this type of restriction on a student's expression, to begin with: 

Nonetheless Joseph Aziz, a 26-year-old grad student from Weehawken, was issued an order by the university telling him to keep away from the woman and to refrain from commenting further on the matter. The latter is what we in the journalism business call an "unconstitutional prior restraint." Robert Shibley of the Foundation on Individual Rights in Education calls it that, too.

"They simply told him you're not allowed to talk ...

How You Can Report a Library Challenge to ALA

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Like CBLDF, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom is a resource that librarians can call upon for help when facing a book challenge. The OIF maintains a confidential database of information about library challenges, which helps them identify the most frequently challenged books. For the most part, they gather this information from news reports and librarians. However, if the challenge doesn’t make the news or an individual doesn’t report the challenge, the OIF misses an important piece of information that might help them protect books from future challenges. To help raise awareness about the importance of reporting book challenges, the OIF posted a short video on how librarians can inform them of book challenges:

Remember, if you have a First Amendment emergency, CBLDF should be your first call (800-99-CBLDF) — we’re ready to help the comics community face challenges from book bans to legal cases and more!

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!

Guest Memo: Copyright in Malaysia and the Fight For a Positive International IP Agenda

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

We asked leading digital rights activists who have been involved in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations to discuss copyright law and their advocacy work in the countries where they are based.

This week, Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International explains recent changes to Malaysia’s copyright law, and his current work in pushing for positive global standards that would protect the rights of users against abusive copyright policies. Jeremy is the Project Coordinator for Intellectual Property and Communications. He is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Malaysia's copyright law changed last year with the Copyright (Amendment) Act 2012, and the changes were a mixed bag. On the positive side, the existing fair dealing exception to copyright—the more narrowly defined counterpart to "fair use" in US law—was broadened, and a specific exception for temporary electronic copies was added. But in exchange, infringers are now liable for much tougher penalties, including six-figure statutory damages. Tougher protections for digital locks are included too, including a crackdown on the sale of circumvention devices - though unlike in the US, you are free to break a digital lock that restricts you from exercising your fair dealing rights.

Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International
Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International

There were some copyright changes that ...

EFF Urges Court to Protect Transformative Uses and Permit News Search Engine

Friday, January 18th, 2013
AP Argues for Dangerously Narrow View of Fair Use in Battle Over News-Tracking Service

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal judge today to protect fair use of news coverage and reject the Associated Press' (AP's) dangerously narrow view of what is "transformative" in a copyright court battle over a news-tracking service.

In Associated Press v. Meltwater, AP claims its copyrights are infringed when Meltwater, an electronic news clipping service, includes excerpts of AP stories in search results for its clients seeking reports of news coverage based on particular keywords. In its argument, AP asks the court to accept an extraordinarily narrow view of fair use – the doctrine that allows for the use of copyrighted material for purposes of commentary, criticism, or other transformative uses – by claiming that Meltwater's use of copyrighted excerpts cannot be "transformative" fair use unless they are also "expressive." In an amicus brief filed today, EFF argues that AP's theory would restrict the use and development of services that allow users to find, organize, and share public information.

"There are lots of examples of important fair uses that wouldn't fit under AP's cramped definition of a 'transformative' use," said EFF ...

Montclair State ‘Trolling’ Case Garners International Attention

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Montclair State rescinded its suspension of Joseph Aziz for violating an unconstitutional gag order last night. After FIRE first made the case public on Monday, the university has been under intense pressure from local, national, and international media outlets. Here's a recap of some of the case's coverage:

Coverage from before the suspension was rescinded:

Twitter Headers to Flaunt Your Love of Internet Freedom

Friday, January 18th, 2013

We created some digital shwag to celebrate Internet Freedom Day — the one year anniversary of the Internet-wide blackout protests that killed the censorship bills SOPA and PIPA. Below are two images designed to be used as Twitter headers. Download the images and try them on your Twitter profile today. Everyone who sees your profile will instantly recognize you as a proud member of the larger EFF community and the movement that helped defeat SOPA.

Make sure to click each image to get the full-size version for download. We'll have more Twitter header options available in the future, so keep an eye here on the EFF blog for updates.

Update: Here are some more, now with muted colors.

How to Protect Your Privacy from Facebook’s Graph Search

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Earlier this week, Facebook launched a new feature—Graph Search—that raised some privacy concerns with us. Graph Search allows users to make structured searches to filter through friends, friends of friends, and strangers. This feature relies on your profile information being made widely or publicly available, yet there are some Likes, photos, or other pieces of information that you might not want out there.

Since Facebook removed the ability to remove yourself from search results altogether, we've put together a quick how-to guide to help you take control over what is featured on your Facebook profile and on Graph Search results. (Facebook also has a new video explaining how to control what shows up in Graph Search.)

What's public on my profile?

Click on the lock in the top menu bar, and under "Who can see my stuff?" click "View As." This will take you to the public view of your profile. Here you can see exactly what information, photos, and posts are available to the public. If there's anything you don't want the whole Facebook universe to be able to see, you can change individual settings to hide particular items.

How do I hide my general information?

Go to your ...

The Creepy Details of Facebook’s New Graph Search

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The famed technology writer Steven Levy starts his long-form history of Facebook's newest product—Graph Search—by describing it as a feature that "promises to transform its user experience, threaten its competitors, and torment privacy activists." Though it takes quite a lot to torment us these days, Graph Search does raise a few eyebrows.

The new feature allows users to use structured searches to more thoroughly filter through friends, friends of friends, and the general public. Now one can more easily search for "My friends who like Downton Abbey" or "People in San Francisco, California who work at Facebook." Facebook then returns a list of individuals whose public or shared aspects of their profile match the search terms.

Now there's nothing inherently wrong with being able to look at information that is either public or has been chosen to be shared. Yet this new search allows strangers to discover information about you that you may not have intended them to find. 

There's a difference between putting information out there for anyone to find and putting information out there to be searched and sorted. If you walk down a crowded public street, you are probably seen by dozens of people—but it ...

Victory: Montclair State Rescinds Suspension of Student for Social Media Comments

Friday, January 18th, 2013

There's great news out of Montclair State University in North Jersey today! Here's our press release: 

NEWARK, N.J., January 18, 2013—Montclair State University has rescinded its suspension of student Joseph Aziz for violating an unconstitutional gag order that the university imposed on him after he made comments on social media. University President Susan A. Cole revoked the semester-long suspension in a letter to Aziz yesterday evening, three days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) exposed Montclair State's punishment to the public.

"While Montclair State never should have issued its unconstitutional gag order in the first place, we commend President Cole for acting swiftly to end the situation once it became public," said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. "Since this unwarranted suspension prevented Mr. Aziz from attending any classes, we expect that Montclair State will make accommodations to ensure that he can get into the classes he needs as soon as possible. We also expect that the university will make sure that this unjust punishment does not appear on his records."

Aziz's ordeal stemmed from comments he made to a YouTube video regarding the weight of a male and female student with whom he disagreed politically. In ...

Pennypacker & The Pussycat: Political Cartoon Censorship in 1903 Pennsylvania

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Polly Got a CrackerA recent snippet in Comic Book Resources’ column “Comic Book Legends Revealed” brought to our attention a 1903 tale of attempted cartoon censorship and political intrigue in Pennsylvania. We’ve found some more background info in an article by Steven Piott from the journal Pennsylvania History, and we hope that our readers will find it as interesting as we did!

In 1902, a judge by the delightfully cartoonish name of Samuel Pennypacker was nominated as the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. At the time, the state Republican Party was tightly controlled by U.S. Senator (and Pennypacker’s distant cousin) Matthew Quay, who handpicked candidates and appointees at all levels of government. Although it was widely suspected that Pennypacker was only a Quay puppet, the man himself naively believed that he had won the nomination on his own merit. At a campaign speech in Philadelphia, he puffed that “it may well be doubted whether ever before in the history of American politics such an event [as my nomination] occurred.” Unsurprisingly, his arrogance was mocked in an editorial cartoon by Charles Nelan of the Philadelphia North American newspaper, who depicted Pennypacker as a parrot clutching the nomination in one talon and preening before ...

A Year After SOPA, A Look At The Next Five Battles For Internet Freedom

Friday, January 18th, 2013

One year ago today, Internet users of all ages, races, and political stripes participated in the largest protest in Internet history, flooding Congress with millions of emails and phone calls to demand they drop the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—a dangerous bill that would have allowed corporations and the govenrment to censor larger parts of the Web.

But the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and the fight for Internet freedom continues.  Here’s a look at the top five issues SOPA activists should focus on next:

Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership: After the historic collapse of SOPA, the content industry has claimed it wants to shy away from anymore excessive legislation that could potentially censor the Internet. Instead, it has turned its attention to the international stage. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, better known as TPP, is the latest multilateral trade agreement carrying abusive copyright provisions that the United States, on behalf of Hollywood and major copyright-holding interests, is forcing onto citizens of other countries.

Unfortunately, the treaty is being negotiated in complete secrecy and with no democratic oversight, so we don't even know exactly what these countries have been debating. Fortunately, drafts of the agreement have leaked, and it's at ...

President Recommends Yet More Research on Video Games, Violence

Friday, January 18th, 2013
Obama signs gun control recommendations

Obama issues gun control recommendations

Yesterday, President Obama issued his list of recommendations for Congress and executive actions he plans to take in order to address gun violence in the United States. As anticipated, video games received only a minor mention in the 13-page document, even though Vice President Biden devoted an entire day to meetings with entertainment industry representatives last week. Among the recommendations for concrete actions such as banning high-capacity clips, closing the “gun show loophole” for background checks, and ensuring access to mental health care for all, is a call for yet another study to find out if playing video games leads to violent behavior:

The President is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and scientific agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence…. The CDC will start immediately by assessing existing strategies for preventing gun violence and identifying the most pressing research questions, with the greatest potential public health impact. And the Administration is calling on Congress to provide $10 million for the CDC to conduct further research, including investigating the relationship between video games, media images, and violence.

Assuming Congress approves the additional CDC ...

The Copyfight’s Next Stage: We All Speak Up Together

Friday, January 18th, 2013

January 18, 2012 ranks among the most momentous days in the recent history of the copyright reform movement. Who can forget the blackout protests against SOPA and its Senate counterpart PIPA? That day's actions boasted unprecedented scale, which included dozens of companies, thousands of websites, and millions of users acting together to defeat dangerous legislation. But the date also marks another, less cheerful event: exactly one year ago today, the Supreme Court released its decision in Golan v. Holder, a ruling that remains a disaster for the public domain. (You'll remember that in Golan, the Court upheld a law that took millions of works by foreign authors that were previously in the public domain and put them back under copyright protection.)

That single day in 2012 demonstrates the real dangers copyright policy poses to users, consumers, and creators and — at the same time — just how far we've come in fighting back. (Though, to be clear, we still have more work to do.)

Golan harkens back to an earlier era, sparked by the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act — sometimes known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act — and the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act. Like the earlier Eldred v. Ashcroft...

What the FBI Doesn’t Want You To Know About Its "Secret" Surveillance Techniques

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The FBI had to rewrite the book on its domestic surveillance activities in the wake of last January’s landmark Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones. In Jones, a unanimous court held that federal agents must get a warrant to attach a GPS device to a car to track a suspect for long periods of time. But if you want to see the two memos describing how the FBI has reacted to Jones — and the new surveillance techniques the FBI is using beyond GPS trackers — you’re out of luck. The FBI says that information is “private and confidential.”

Yes, now that the Supreme Court ruled the government must get a warrant to use its previous go-to surveillance technique, it has now apparently decided that it’s easier to just keep everything secret. The ACLU requested the memos under the Freedom of Information Act — which you can see FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann waving around in public here — and the FBI redacted them almost entirely.

Though the FBI won’t release the memos, we do have some information from other sources on the surveillance techniques federal agents are already using. And for the most part the ...

EFF’s Initial Improvements to Aaron’s Law for Computer Crime Reform

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The death of our friend Aaron Swartz has resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of grief, along with a strong commitment to use this tragedy to make some of the change Aaron wanted to see in the world.

At EFF, Aaron's death created two imperatives on issues that are close to our hearts. The first is to continue his work to open up closed and entrenched systems that prevent ordinary people from having access to the world’s knowledge, especially the knowledge created with our tax dollars. More on that soon.  

The second imperative is to attack the computer crime laws that were so horribly misused in the prosecution of Aaron. That is the focus of this post.  

In the spirit of Aaron’s commitment to transparency, this process should be as open as possible and so we’re showing our work earlier than we otherwise would. We’re still working on this and our initial thoughts are incomplete and subject to revision. Please join the conversation and let us know what you think and if you have other proposals or changes to the language.

So with that caveat, here are our initial suggestions to update the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ...

Montclair State Wrongly Cites Anti-Bullying Law to Justify Student’s Suspension

Thursday, January 17th, 2013
Montclair State Logo

The case of Montclair State University student Joseph Aziz—who has been suspended from the university as the result of unflattering social media comments he made regarding a fellow student—began making the news yesterday, with several articles appearing in the New Jersey/New York region and even a spot overnight on Fox News Channel's Red Eye.  

So far, however, Montclair State has remained largely silent on the matter, issuing only the following brief statement

This matter concerns a student disciplinary matter, and the University does not comment upon individual student discipline because of the responsibilities imposed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.  The University acted in accordance with its Student Code of Conduct which complies with the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, and other applicable federal and state regulations. 

While this statement confirms many of FIRE's stated concerns about the impact of anti-bullying legislation on protected speech (more on that later), it is first important to note that New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABBR) is not even applicable here, for two reasons.

Here's the relevant text from the law [PDF]:  

C.18A:3B-68  Adoption of policy by public institutions of higher education.  

28. ...

Surveillance Camp: Mapping Strategies to Counteract Online Spying in Latin America

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

This is the first in a series of posts mapping state surveillance challenges in Latin America and lessons learned at EFF’s State Surveillance Camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.

What happens when you place a mix of journalists, technologists, human rights lawyers, digital rights activists, and victims of surveillance from around the world in a room to map the problems of electronic surveillance? What emerges is a complicated story made up of a number of complicated stories. Each participant brings a particular expertise to bear on the larger surveillance puzzle. Taken as a whole, these voices paint a portrait of state surveillance that is far more contextual and diverse than most people could imagine.  More than anything else, what one learns is the critical role that context—the unique political histories and conflicts, socio-cultural expectations, and surrounding foreign and national policies—plays in shaping how state surveillance programs and practices are being carried out. This includes who can be surveilled and the ability of citizens to challenge surveillance. In spite of these disparate conditions, some surveillance practices are common to Latin America and continue to reappear amidst very different contexts.

With this in mind, at the end of last year, EFF organized ...

Jennifer L. Holm Talks CBLDF

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Jennifer L. Holm
(Photo credit: Amy Friedman)

CBLDF was delighted last week to announce that celebrated children’s author Jennifer L. Holm was joining our Board of Directors, and Holm took a moment out of her busy schedule to talk to Graphic Novel Reporter‘s John Hogan about CBLDF and her plans for her tenure as a board member.

Holm is a bestselling author and three-time Newbery honoree who is well known in the comics world as the co-author with her brother Matthew Holm of the popular young readers graphic novel series Babymouse and Squish. She joined the CBLDF to help advance our work protecting the freedom to read comics, especially for younger readers.

In the interview with Graphic Novel Reporter, Hogan wasted no time asking Holm about what her mission as a CBLDF board member:

I see my mission as helping to open the lines of communication between librarians and educators and parents to talk about the importance of graphic novels as a literacy tool and help them to understand the medium. Comics are frequently misunderstood and challenged, which is why CBLDF is a partner in the Kids’ Right to Read Project. My aim is to help create more ...

Harvard Yard? Harvard Square? Censorship Will Find You Everywhere

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

You can say things in Harvard Square that you can’t say in Harvard Yard. So goes the mantra with which Harvey Silverglate chose to open up his Forbes online review of FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. But as the FIRE co-founder and current chairman of the board of directors points out, Greg’s book demonstrates that “we are entering an era of our own creation where the anti-liberty culture in Harvard Yard (part of the university) is dictating a similarly unfree culture in Harvard Square (part of the City of Cambridge).”

Harvey’s review charts the unfortunate and dangerous trend on college campuses that finds students and faculty members subjected to repressive policies and programs with which long-time Torch readers are all too familiar. But Harvey goes further, pointing out that the long-term effects of campus censorship are so perverse and pervasive that no institution is safe from its consequences, not even the judicial branch of the United States government:

Students, who get accustomed to the administrative tyranny that marks the vast majority of colleges, universities and graduate schools today, don’t have much adjusting to do when they gain, ...

Frequently Challenged Alexie Novel Stays on District Reading List

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is no stranger to library and school challenges, and it survived another one this week in the author’s home state of Washington. The West Valley School District Instructional Materials Committee in Yakima, Washington, reviewed the book and voted to keep it on grade 11 – 12 reading lists.

The book had been approved as supplementary reading for grades 11 – 12, but had not been approved for grade 10, where it had been part of the mandatory reading curriculum for the last three years. A district teacher raised concerns over profane language in the book after her daughter read it, arguing that the community lacks the diversity to understand the use of a racial slur. The review committee found that the merits of the book outweighed the use of profanity, ruling that the book would remain on grade 11 – 12 reading lists.

CBLDF has helped defend the book in other schools, most recently by joining the Kids Right to Read Project in writing a letter in defense the book in a Springfield, Massachusetts, school district. Alexie himself is a staunch supporter of the freedom to read, arguing that ...

A Bit of the Future Was Lost with the Tragic Death of Aaron Swartz

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
My latest op-ed for Forbes online is one that I wish I didn’t have to write. It’s about the recent suicide of Aaron Swartz, who co-created the RSS blog syndication specification when he was 14 (if you don’t know what that means, trust me: it means he was a prodigy) and later became instrumental in well-known online endeavors like Reddit and Creative Commons. In my op-ed, I explain how several of the issues that FIRE regularly deals with—namely, college overreactions to any challenge to the existing order—played a part in this tragedy. America can’t afford to lose any more geniuses to needless and heedless authoritarianism, on campus or beyond.

Greg and ‘Unlearning Liberty’ Featured in ‘Liberty Law Talk’ Podcast

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
In the latest 'Liberty Law Talk,' Richard Reinsch sat down with FIRE President Greg Lukianoff to discuss Greg's book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Among the many topics explored in the 30 minute interview are why Greg chose Unlearning Liberty as the book's title, the Supreme Court's disappointing 2010 ruling in CLS v. Martinez, and the rarely-discussed "Dissenting Statement" in Yale University's 1975 Woodward Report (PDF). Greg also ventures to explain why there hasn't yet been a legal challenge to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter. Visit the Library of Law and Liberty's website to check out the interview, which can be downloaded for free or streamed online.

Sweater Vest Sunday Q&A

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

By popular demand, below are the answers to all of your Sweater Vest Sunday questions – including the burning question, “Why sweater vests???”

Q.  What exactly is the point of Sweater Vest Sunday?

  • To raise awareness – specifically among librarians, library workers, library trustees & Friends, and library supporters– about the importance of reporting challenges to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF).  Recent surveys confirm that upward of 75% of all challenges to library materials are never reported. Our goal is to increase the number of challenges reported to OIF and to spread awareness about the services and support OIF provides. Please visit for more information on why reporting challenges is so important, and how the reporting process works.
  • By participating in Sweater Vest Sunday, you can spark important conversations about the reality of censorship in libraries today and show solidarity with those librarians who have faced difficult censorship challenges. Wear your heart on your sleeve(less)!

Q.  When and where is Sweater Vest Sunday?

  • Sweater Vest Sunday, will take place Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, in conjunction with the ALA 2013 Midwinter Meeting in Seattle.
  •  At 2:45 p.m. at the ALA Member Pavilion (booth 1650) on the exhibit floor, ...

‘Star-Ledger’ Reports the Latest at Montclair State University

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
In an article published this morning, New Jersey's The Star-Ledger examines FIRE's recent case at Montclair State University and reports on student Joseph Aziz's ongoing struggle to return to campus. As FIRE explained in our press release Monday, Aziz was suspended and barred from campus for violating an unconstitutional gag order placed on him by school administrators. In comments to the Star-Ledger, Aziz explains that he was shocked by the school's punishment, warning fellow students that his case is unfortunate proof that the "basic rights that we have come to expect as Americans" are often at risk on campus.

For more on this case, including the response from Montclair State administrators, visit The Star-Ledger.

Veep’s Violent Media Debate Leading Nowhere

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Biden meets with game reps

This week, President Obama is expected to issue a list of recommendations for Congress and executive actions that he may take in an attempt to prevent mass shootings similar to the one that happened in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14. These recommendations will be based on findings compiled by Vice President Joe Biden, who has been meeting with advocates for gun rights and mental health treatment, victims of gun violence and — inexplicably for many — representatives from the entertainment industry. As with virtually every mass shooting by a young male, violent media, particularly video games, have been blamed for inspiring the gunman to act. But is there actually any link between video games and violent behavior? And can the government even do anything to regulate games? Read on for a roundup of some of the recent articles and blog posts on this subject from around the Web.

Last week, Biden held a series of separate meetings over three days with representatives of the National Rifle Association and three sectors of the entertainment industry: movies, music, and video games. The NRA cited a 2009 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics as proof that “a culture that glamorizes violence bears ...

FTRF statement on Davis County, Utah book reinstatement

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Reblogged from Freedom to Read Foundation Blog.

Yesterday, the Davis County, Utah, Public School system announced that it would be re-instating the book “In Our Mothers’ House” to school library shelves. While a final settlement of the case brought by the ACLU of Utah has not been reached, it is a most welcome development!

Here is the Freedom to Read Foundation’s official statement on the reinstatement and our role in the case:

The Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) welcomes the news that author Patricia Polacco’s “In Our Mothers’ House” is back on the shelves of the Davis County Public School system libraries without restrictions.   As the only organization whose main purpose is to defend the freedom to access information in libraries, FTRF sees incidents such as this one – in which access to information is blocked due to viewpoints expressed therein – as particularly troublesome.

While not directly involved in this suit, FTRF provided ACLU attorneys with expert advice and resources as they worked to develop the case.  FTRF appreciates the work of the ACLU of Utah and the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project on the case and we send particular thanks to the plaintiff who made the ...

Utah School District Returns Book to Library Shelves

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Thanks to a Utah mother and the ACLU of Utah, In Our Mothers’ House, a children’s book featuring a racially diverse family led by lesbian parents, is back in the Davis, Utah, elementary school library without restriction.

Earlier this year, the school district removed the book and placed it in restricted access after the parents of a kindergartener complained. The book was initially moved to the section of the library designated for grades 3 -6, but the parents started a petition for further review. The school district review committee voted 6-1 to move the book behind the counter, ruling that the book violated a state law that banned curricula from “advocating homosexuality.”

The ACLU of Utah represented school district parent Tina Weber in suing to return the book to general circulation. They successfully argued that the book did not represent instructional material and was therefore not in violation of the state law.The book has been returned to district shelves without restriction.

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!

IFAction Round-Up, January 1-13, 2013

Wednesday, January 16th, 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 1-January 13, 2013.



Six states outlaw employer snooping on Facebook

Editorial: Next privacy issue for Florida? Police drones

Bush-Era Wiretapping Case Killed Before Reaching Supreme Court

Blowback From Publication Of Gun Owner Data Continues — Threats, Lawsuits And Rejected FOIA Requests

Is Broadband Internet Access a Public Utility?

Obama OKs Netflix-to-Facebook Sharing as E-Mail Privacy Reform Falters


Censorship and Free Speech

Connecticut Town Will Collect, Destroy Violent Games [Southington]

Related: CT Town Schedules, then Cancels Good Ole Fashioned Video Game Burning

Google concedes defeat in China censorship battle

Pentagon bans Towleroad,  AMERICAblog sites for being “LGBT.” Coulter, Limbaugh ok

… much more below the break!

The Age of Surgical Censorship [Iran]

Survey Says: Parents Concerned About Media Violence

Top video game publishers meet with Biden on gun violence

Anonymous seeks to make DDoS attacks a legal form of protest


‘Free Speech Off the Table’ at Georgetown University

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The Hoya, the Georgetown University Newspaper, logo

Georgetown University's student newspaper, The Hoya, ran a staff editorial today criticizing the university's use of "free speech zones." According to the paper, Georgetown held a student activities fair over the weekend at which officially recognized student groups were given space to set up tables and recruit new members. Unrecognized groups, on the other hand, were relegated to the free speech zones at Red Square or the Leavey Center.

The Hoya's editorial is notable for several reasons. First and foremost, it is extremely heartening to see the staff of a student newspaper speak out collectively in support of greater free speech rights on campus. Student advocacy is often one of the most critical elements in bringing about change on campus, so FIRE is glad to see that Georgetown students are concerned about their free speech rights.

Second, Hoya staffers recognize the hypocrisy displayed by Georgetown and so many other private schools when they promise free speech and then instead deliver an overly restrictive environment. They write:

In general terms, Georgetown's speech policy points to the right values: the university as a forum for discourse, free speech as a priority of the academic community and tolerance for individual or ...

Catherine Sevcenko Joins FIRE Staff

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

FIRE is pleased to welcome our new Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow, Catherine Sevcenko. Catherine graduated magna cum laude from George Mason School of Law after a career as a Foreign Service Officer. After law school, she clerked on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs and spent a year at the U.S. Supreme Court as a Fellow.  She also worked for Steptoe & Johnson, LLP and the Department of Justice. Most recently, she was interim executive director for the U.S. Chess Center, a non-profit in Washington, D.C. that teaches chess to children. 

Catherine is also an adjunct professor of appellate writing at George Mason School of Law. 

Catherine lives outside of Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children, one of whom attends a "green light" college. She also works with raptors and other wild birds as an apprentice wildlife rehabilitator.

Join us in welcoming Catherine to FIRE!

Move by Tucson School Board May Mean Overturn of Book Ban

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

500 Years of Chicano History in pictures, one of the books removed from Tucson classrooms

Last week, the Tucson school board voted to rescind an objection to “culturally relevant coursework” as part of a plan to desegregate district schools. The move means that the district’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program may be reinstated, and with it, books that were forcibly removed from classrooms may be returned.

Nearly a year ago, CBLDF joined a coalition of free speech advocates, writers, and artists to decry the dissolution of Tucson’s award-winning MAS program, which the district ended in response to Arizona state legislation that declared the courses illegal. In ending the program, the school district removed several books by Mexican American and Native authors from classrooms.

The program was ended despite independent audits that found that the program led to higher academic achievement. A recent article in The Huffington Post describes the legislation that led to the demise of the MAS program and the conservative politicians behind it:

The Arizona legislature passed a law in 2010 targeted at Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program that criminalized courses that teach ethnic solidarity rather than individuality. Conservative Arizona politicians, led by then-State Sen. John Huppenthal ...

Illinois State Must Make Clear Aspirational Nature of ‘Speech Code of the Month’ Policy

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Illinois State University

In an article published Friday on the website for WJBC radio ("The Voice of Central Illinois"), Illinois State University (ISU) pushes back on FIRE's decision to name one of its policies our Speech Code of the Month for September 2012. While we appreciate the university's attention to this important matter, its response is misguided and should be corrected here.

The policy in question, found in ISU's Code of Student Conduct (PDF), is titled "To Be an Illinois State University Student." It sets forth a list of "non-negotiable values" at ISU, including "civility," "an appreciation of diversity," and "individual and social responsibility," and further provides:

These values are the hallmark of the University, and will be protected diligently. Each person has the right and ability to make decisions about his or her own conduct. Just as importantly, each person has the responsibility to accept the consequences of those decisions. When individual behavior conflicts with the values of the University, the individual must choose whether to adapt his or her behavior to meet the needs of the community or to leave the University. (Emphasis added.)

As our Samantha Harris wrote in naming this policy our Speech Code of the Month in ...

UC Davis Update: Panel Rejects Finding of Academic Freedom Violation Against Professor

Monday, January 14th, 2013
UC Davis Professor Michael Wilkes

Last year, FIRE reported on the case of University of California, Davis medical school professor Michael Wilkes, who alleges that he faced retaliation from the university over comments made in a column he co-authored for the San Francisco Chronicle. Last spring, the Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility of the UC Davis Academic Senate found that the university had gravely violated Wilkes' academic freedom. UC Davis promised an investigation after the Senate passed a resolution unanimously calling on the university to apologize to Wilkes and retract all threats against him. Among other occurrences, Wilkes was informed in a letter from UC Davis Health System Counsel's David Levine that he could face legal liability for allegedly defamatory comments in the column. Background on this case is available at our case page.

As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports today, however, a panel convened by the university has rejected Wilkes' and the Senate's claims that he had been retaliated against in violation of his academic freedom. A two-page "Findings of Fact" document (PDF) offers little depth on how the panel reached its conclusions, but sums up its findings by stating: 

The review committee concludes that there ...

Unconstitutional Gag Order at Montclair State Leads to Student’s Suspension

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Here's today's press release:

NEWARK, N.J., January 14, 2013—Montclair State University has suspended a student for violating an unconstitutional gag order placed on him by school administrators. Joseph Aziz was suspended and barred from campus effective January 2, as the result of unflattering social media comments he made regarding a fellow student on a politically charged YouTube video. Following an unsuccessful appeal, Aziz came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

"Insensitive jokes are a fact of life, especially when political disagreements are at issue. Just ask New Jersey Governor Chris Christie," said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. "That's no excuse for Montclair State to shred the First Amendment by engaging in prior restraint."

Aziz's ordeal stemmed from weight-related comments he made to a YouTube video regarding a male and female student with whom he disagreed politically. (The male student features prominently in the video.) While the comments have since been deleted, they were apparently reported to Montclair State. On October 9, 2012, Aziz was issued a "University No-Contact Order" (UNCO) that forbade him from having any contact with the female student. In a letter informing Aziz of the UNCO, Montclair State Coordinator of ...

In the Wake of Aaron Swartz’s Death, Let’s Fix Draconian Computer Crime Law

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Outpourings of grief and calls for change continue to flood the Internet after the suicide of Aaron Swartz, only 26 years old.

Aaron was one of our community's best and brightest, and he acheived great things in his short life. He was a coder, a political activist, an entrepreneur, a contributor to major technological developments (like RSS), and an all-around Internet freedom rock star. As Wired noted, the world will miss out on decades of magnificent things Aaron would have accomplished had his time not been cut short.

Over the past two years, Aaron was forced to devote much of his energy and resources to fighting a relentless and unjust felony prosecution brought by Justice Department attorneys in Massachusetts. His alleged crimes stemmed from using MIT's computer network to download millions of academic articles from the online archive JSTOR, allegedly without "authorization." For that, he faced 13 felony counts of hacking and wire fraud (pdf), which carried the possibility of decades in prison and crippling fines. His case would have gone to trial in April.

The government should never have thrown the book at Aaron for accessing MIT's network and downloading scholarly research. ...

RIP, Gordon Lee

Monday, January 14th, 2013

The CBLDF is sad to note the passing of Gordon Lee, owner of the Rome, GA comic book store Legends.  Lee successfully stood up to false charges of distributing harmful to minors materials in a case that CBLDF managed from 2005 through 2007. Lee passed Sunday afternoon following complications from a series of strokes.  He was 54 years old.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein says, “This is very sad news.  Gordon showed an admirable strength of character in my dealings with him.  He withstood not only the extreme stress of answering the false charges that local prosecutors brought against him, but a tide of negative public opinion in the comics community because of the allegations he faced.  Gordon could have pleaded out at any moment, and saved himself and his family the pain of going through the legal process.  He didn’t because he knew he was innocent of the charges he faced, and he wanted to fight back so other retailers didn’t need to face a case like his.  In the end, he was vindicated — the charges were dropped, the tide of public opinion turned, and no other case like it has been brought against a retailer since then.  ...

Farewell to Aaron Swartz, an Extraordinary Hacker and Activist

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Yesterday Aaron Swartz, a close friend and collaborator of ours, committed suicide. This is a tragic end to a brief and extraordinary life.

Aaron did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way. His contributions were numerous, and some of them were indispensable. When we asked him in late 2010 for help in stopping COICA, the predecessor to the SOPA and PIPA Internet blacklist bills, he founded an organization called Demand Progress, which mobilized over a million online activists and proved to be an invaluable ally in winning that campaign.

Aaron Swartz at CCC

Other projects Aaron worked on included the RSS specifications,, tor2web, the Open Library, and the Chrome port of HTTPS Everywhere. Aaron helped launch the Creative Commons. He was a former co-founder at Reddit, and a member of the team that made the site successful. His blog was often a delight.

Aaron's eloquent brilliance was mixed with a complicated introversion. He communicated on his own schedule and needed a lot of space to himself, which frustrated some of his collaborators. He was fascinated by the social world around ...