Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Free Speech Victory – Court Grants Preliminary Injunction in EFF’s Prop 35 Suit

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Late Friday, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit EFF filed with the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) that challenges the unconstitutional provisions in Proposition 35, a ballot measure passed by California voters in November that restricts the legal and constitutionally protected speech of all registered sex offenders in California.

EFF and the ACLU-NC filed the lawsuit the morning after Election Day, noting that although Prop 35 is ostensibly about increasing punishment for human traffickers, it’s beset with problems. The biggest was its requirement that registrants turn over a list of all their Internet identifiers and service providers to law enforcement. The court granted a temporary restraining order hours after the lawsuit was filed. And today, the court granted the preliminary injunction, finding we were likely to succeed in showing that Prop. 35 violated the First Amendment.

First, the court found that there was a clear chilling effect on speech because registrants would have to disclose their identity either before they speak, or within 24 hours after speaking somewhere online. Plus, without any safeguards to prevent the public dissemination of this online identification information — and the potential three-year prison term awaiting a registrant for failing to ...

U. of Denver Hides Behind Title IX to Justify Persecution of Veteran Professor

Friday, January 11th, 2013
Prof. Arthur Gilbert

Throughout the maddening case of veteran University of Denver (DU) Professor Arthur Gilbert, the DU administration has employed a "trust us" defense when questioned about its repeated, well-documented violations of Gilbert's rights to free speech, academic freedom, and due process. Gilbert was suspended from the DU campus for more than 100 days and found guilty of sexual harassment based on the content of his graduate-course lectures. DU has refused to consider the academic context of the case over the objections of FIRE, DU's Faculty Review Committee, the American Association of University Professors (both the national organization and the DU chapter), and DU's Faculty Senate, which in May 2012 decisively passed a resolution calling on DU to vacate its finding of sexual harassment against Gilbert. 

I blogged most recently about Gilbert's ordeal in November, after The Clarion, DU's student newspaper, was prompted to write an article on the case by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff's Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. For that article, DU Provost Gregg Kvistad would only comment that "this case is much more complicated than what the author describes." I wrote that he should be glad Unlearning Liberty ...

Rockefeller Bill Dead, But Not For Long

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Jay Rockefeller
(Source: The Washington Post)

When the 112th session of Congress ended on January 2, another thing ended with it: Jay Rockefeller’s (D – WV) bill mandating that the National Academy of Sciences investigate the effect of violent video games on children. However, like any good zombie, the bill won’t stay dead for long: Rockefeller plans to reintroduce it during this Congressional session, most likely at the end of the month.

Online gaming news site Polygon summarizes what Rockefeller wants investigated:

Specifically, the bill calls for the study to investigate:

Whether there is a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children.

Whether there is a connection between exposure to violent video programming and harmful effects on children.

In conducting their research, the group is asked to look into whether violent video games cause children to act aggressively or causes cognitive harm to children, has a disproportionately harmful effect on children already prone to aggressive behavior, has a harmful effect that is distinguishable from any negative effects produced by other types of media, according to the bill.

If passed, study would have to begin within 30 days, and the results would be due within ...

European Newspapers Seek Royalties for Linking and Citing to News Content

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Expanding copyright to allow rent seeking for linking would break the fabric of the Internet. Links and citations to articles do not infringe copyright, as links do not copy, distribute, or perform any copyrighted work. Despite some desperate assertions of the contrary, copyright protection of links is not enshrined in law. Newspapers, however, are pushing for legislation to support this dangerous claim, regardless of the implications it would have for free speech.

The Internet has changed the face of journalism by lowering barriers to mass publication and opening avenues for sharing and distributing news. But despite the new opportunities of a democratized media and citizen driven journalism, established journalistic institutions are struggling to adapt to the changing landscape of the news industry. While papers around the world are working to find new ways to make money and compete in the digital world, many experiments with varying subscription models have been so far unsuccessful. Staring down the barrel of vanishing revenues, some newspaper organizations have, for many years, resorted to aggressive enforcement of copyright ownership claims.

Newspapers across Europe in particular have sought to prevent third parties from linking to or displaying excerpts of their news content unless those sites ...

After 25 Years, the Cure for ‘Hazelwood’ is Free Speech on Campus

Friday, January 11th, 2013

 


Check out SPLC's new "Cure Hazelwood" bracelets!

According to a survey conducted by the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) and other press education groups at the National High School Journalism Convention last fall, more than 40 percent of student journalists and advisers said that "school officials had ordered them not to publish something." On The Huffington Post yesterday, Adam Goldstein from the SPLC shares this shocking statistic and points to a culprit: the Supreme Court's 1988 decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. Adam's piece laments the way Hazelwood has been used to censor an alarming (and growing) amount of student speech since it was handed down 25 years ago.

Although the defendants in Hazelwood were high school students, we at FIRE have seen how the Court's reasoning has spilled over into cases involving adult college students, with disastrous consequences for free speech on campus. Earlier this week, FIRE's Azhar Majeed highlighted Professor David Moshman's similar take on how the Hazelwood decision has hurt higher education. Adam mentions this problem, too, citing the "four Federal circuits [which] have applied ... Hazelwood to colleges—permitting even government-run graduate schools to censor the speech of adults because the school didn't like ...

Jaime Hernandez Launches CBLDF’s 2013 Membership Program!

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Celebrated artist Jaime Hernandez leads the charge to protect free expression for comics by creating the mascot for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s 2013 membership program!

CBLDF protects the freedom to read comics by providing legal aid, resources, and education in the service of protecting the comics community’s First Amendment rights.  Members provide the monetary foundation CBLDF needs to perform its important work, and this year every member is being rewarded with a membership card designed by Mr. Hernandez.  Members joining at higher levels will also be able to receive exclusive items featuring Hernandez’s striking art, including a member exclusive t-shirt, a limited letterpress print, and more!

Jaime Hernandez is best known as the co-creator (with brothers Gilbert and Mario) of the of the epoch defining masterpiece Love & Rockets. His characters Maggie and Hopey are among the most iconic characters in the history of independent comics.  This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Love & Rockets‘ debut, and CBLDF is proud to have Mr. Hernandez’s insightful take on Lady Liberty as the mascot for our 2013 membership program. When asked about why he created this extraordinary piece of art for CBLDF, Mr. Hernandez stated simply, “It’s pretty ...

WATCH: Awesome Teen Films About Book Censorship

Friday, January 11th, 2013

It’s that time of year — yesterday we announced the semifinalists for the 2012 Youth Free Expression Film Contest and we couldn’t be more excited.

Reasons why we’re excited:

1. Theme: Banned Books. This year’s films asked students to respond to the prompt “You’re Reading WHAT?!?” and talk about attempts to censor teens’ reading choices – something dear to our hearts.

2. Great entries. There are twelve semifinalists because so many of the films were so great we had a really tough time narrowing them down.

3. STELLAR JUDGES. Our judges this year are an impressive bunch. For starters:

Sherman Alexie. You may remember him from such books as the oft-challenged The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Cecily von Ziegesar. You may remember her from that book that’s now a hit TV series: Gossip Girl.

Tasha Robinson. You know The Onion A.V. Club? She’s their national associate editor.

Kirby Dick. You may have heard of the Oscars…This filmmaker is currently up for Best Documentary for The Invisible War.

 

Stay tuned – every day we will be posting one of the semifinalist videos for your viewing pleasure. Check out our film contest page to learn more and to ...

California Attorney General Releases Mobile Privacy Recommendations

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Today the California Attorney General released "Privacy on the Go," [pdf] a report of privacy recommendations for players in the smartphone ecosystem focused on mobile app developers. These guidelines continue a push from the Attorney General to extend privacy protections from the online world onto the smaller screens of our mobile devices, kicked off by an agreement last year to incorporate app privacy policies into the six largest mobile "app stores." 

EFF applauds this important step forward, and congratulates the California Attorney General on a thorough and clearly written explanation of the importance of mobile privacy and how developers can deliver. It's true that as technology changes, the specific needs and guidelines for companies will need to adapt. We could well see a time when these principles do not adequately protect the rights and needs of consumers. However, right now these principles represent a huge step forward — going beyond existing law in a way that improves transparency, accountability, and choice for users of mobile devices.

From the report:

With their expanding functionality, mobile devices are subject to the privacy risks of the online world and to some that are unique to the mobile sphere. Their small screen ...

Leftists Protest Website Closures

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Around 200 prominent left-wing Maoists penned an open letter to China's new leaders on Thursday, complaining about the closure of many of their websites since April.

The closures came shortly after the fall of former Chongqing ruling Chinese Communist Party chief Bo Xilai, whose political campaigns in the city have been likened to the turmoil and violence of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution.

One of the letter's authors, Sichuan-based activist Liu Jinhua, said the aim of the letter was to put pressure on the new leadership under president-in-waiting Xi Jinping to make changes in policy.

"This is illegal," Liu said, in reference to the closures of left-wing websites including "Utopia" and "Mao Flag" in the wake of Bo's ouster on March 15.

"It doesn't just violate the Constitution; it violates recent [government] policy," he said.

"The liberal faction does things better than the leftists," Liu added. "The leftists make a fearsome noise but they are slow to act."

Swift action

He said the closure last week of the website of pro-reform magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu had resulted in swift action by those who ran it.

"They moved immediately," Liu said, in an apparent reference to media interviews given by editorial staff and ...

Paper Publishes as Standoff Ends

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

A cutting-edge Chinese newspaper that has been at the heart of a row over political censorship in recent days was back on sale on Thursday, as propaganda officials and senior editors appeared to have agreed on a deal following several days of strikes and protests.

The Southern Weekend newspaper, known in Chinese as Nanfang Zhoumo, was published as normal on Thursday, although some editions were incomplete, and some outlets received their copies late.

"It is definitely coming out on time," said an employee who answered the phone at the paper's Guangzhou-based headquarters on Thursday. "I don't have anything to report; everything is normal."

Hong Kong media reported that a small number of protesters were escorted away from the paper's offices by police, following a shouting match between anti-censorship protesters and left-wing activists.

The full edition of the paper appeared in Beijing, with a cover story on the aftermath of a fire in an orphanage in the central province of Henan, while some sellers in Guangzhou told Reuters they hadn't received it yet.

Two sections of the paper -- dealing with land issues and reform -- were missing from the version on sale in Shanghai, however.

Journalists at the paper, which ...

Google to N. Korea: Open Net

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Google chairman Eric Schmidt said Thursday he had prodded North Korea to allow its citizens to access the Internet, after wrapping up a controversial trip to the isolated country.

Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. who led the delegation, said that he had expressed concern about North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and called for “fair and humane treatment” of an American citizen held in the hardline communist state.

Speaking to reporters at the Beijing airport at the end of their four-day trip to Pyongyang, Schmidt and Richardson said they had toured computer facilities, met with scientists and software engineers, and urged officials to allow greater access to the Internet.

Web access is restricted to the country’s super-elite and the government maintains its own intranet.

Schmidt said that if the Internet was not open to the public, North Korea would “remain behind” the rest of the world.

"As the world becomes increasingly connected, their decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world, their economic growth, and so forth and it will make it harder for them to catch up economically.”

“We made that alternative very, very clear,” he said.

Richardson said that ...

Tibetan Language Classes Closed

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Authorities in China’s Sichuan province have banned Tibetan language and culture classes taught informally by volunteers to Tibetan students during their winter break, angering local residents who had sought to promote Tibetan national and cultural identity to their children, according to a local source.

The ban covers at least one township in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, with similar bans in place at monasteries in at least two counties in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

The program in Ngaba was initiated last year in the Muge Norwa township of Zungchu (in Chinese, Songpan) county, a man living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan service.

“Local Tibetans welcomed the project. But this year, unfortunately, Chinese authorities objected and shut it down,” the man said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Students then gathered to be taught in the courtyard of a private home, but this too was stopped.”

“This has caused strong resentment within the local Tibetan community, and participants in the classes are disappointed at having been deprived of an opportunity to learn their own language and culture,” he said.

Scores jailed

China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting national and ...

Copyright Vampires Attempt to Suck the Lifeblood Out of Fair Use Video

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Update: On January 10, YouTube informed Jonathan McIntosh that his video had been reinstated. The copyright "strike" appears to be removed from his account. YouTube did not wait for the DMCA's 10 to 14 day waiting period to expire, choosing to stand up for its user and putting a stake in this disappointing abuse of the takedown process.

For the past three months, video remix artist Jonathan McIntosh — a self-described "pop culture hacker" whose mashups have been viewed well over 6 million times — has been forced to take time out of making new works in order to address a much less exciting problem: bogus DMCA takedown notices. False accusations of infringement have taken one of his most widely cited videos off of YouTube, rendering it inaccessible through the most popular medium available. (An HTML5 popup version remains available on McIntosh's site).

This video no longer available due to a copyright claim from Lionsgate.

The video, a commentary on representations of gender roles in popular media titled "Buffy vs Edward: Twilight Remixed," has quite an impressive set of fair use credentials. For one thing, a whole host of major publications favorably reviewed the short film — ranging from the LA Times to the Boston Globe to Slate to Vanity Fair. ...

Wear a sweater vest on Sunday, Jan. 27, in support of intellectual freedom!

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

“Sweater Vest Sunday” encourages reporting of challenges to library materials

ALA Midwinter 2013 attendees – and all fans of intellectual freedom – can take a stand for the freedom to read (and for fashion!) by participating in Sweater Vest Sunday! All day on Sunday, January 27, 2013, help spread the word about the importance of reporting challenges to library materials by wearing a sweater vest to your meetings, lunches, programs, and special events. On site in Seattle, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) staff and volunteers will be passing out stickers and postcards to Midwinter attendees. And at 2:45 p.m. at the ALA Member Pavilion (booth 1650) on the exhibit floor, everyone is invited to a group photo of librarians showing off their sweater vests!

Defend the Freedom to Read: It's everybody's job!

Defend the Freedom to Read: It’s everybody’s job!

Those unable to attend Midwinter are encouraged to participate virtually by tweeting photos of themselves in sweater vests to @oif using the #sweatervestsunday and #alamw13 hashtags, adding photos to the ALA Midwinter 2013 Flickr stream, pinning a Challenge Reporting Campaign poster on Pinterest, and “attending” the Sweater Vest Sunday Facebook event.

Sweater vests and the challenge reporting campaign

In 2011, the Office for Intellectual Freedom ...

A New Year, a New FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization, But the Same Old Secret Law

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

As 2012 came to a close, Congress reauthorized the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) for another 5 years. Yes, the same FAA under which the government conducted unconstitutional surveillance; the same FAA for which the government refuses to estimate the number of Americans who have been spied on; and yes, the same FAA that has been interpreted in substantial ways within secret court opinions. 

However, in the debate leading up to the reauthorization, Senator Jeff Merkley sponsored a straightforward amendment, with bipartisan support, that would have provided the public with a greater understanding of the FAA and the government’s interpretations of the law. Here’s a picture of the Senator, with a not-so-subtle visual aid describing the effect his amendment would have.

The amendment was a measured nudge towards greater transparency: it would have required the government to either declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions, or provide unclassified summaries of those opinions; or, even failing that, just give a progress report on the status of trying to declassify FISC opinions. Despite outspoken advocates for FAA reform like Senators Merkley, Wyden, Udall, and Paul, the Senate voted down the Merkley Amendment, 54-37.

Want to see what Senator Merkley was ...

NEVERMIND: CT Community Cancels Plan to Destroy Violent Media

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Southington town hallLast week we told you about a community organization in the town of Southington, Connecticut, that planned to collect and burn violent video games and other entertainment media. But yesterday, after much coverage from blogs and the press, SouthingtonSOS announced that it will not go ahead with the plan due to “logistical details.”

In a press conference covered by gaming site Polygon, group members did not say whether those logistical details included the multitudes of gamers across the nation who were hatching plans to turn in bargain bin or unwanted games in exchange for $25 entertainment vouchers, which were to be donated by a member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Spokesman Dick Fortunato said that the actual destruction of games was rendered unnecessary because SouthingtonSOS had already accomplished its main goal:

We succeeded in our program. Our mission was to create strong awareness in Southington for parents and families and citizens and children. And we accomplished that. Our other objective was to promote discussion of violent video games and media with children and with the families at the home. And we’ve accomplished that in spades.

Whatever the real reason for the cancellation, we at CBLDF are relieved that ...

Celebrated Children’s Book Author Jennifer L. Holm Joins CBLDF Board of Directors

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Jennifer L. Holm
(Photo credit: Amy Friedman)

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is pleased to announce the addition of bestselling author and three-time Newbery honoree Jennifer L. Holm to its Board of Directors.  Best 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 joins the CBLDF board with the intention of helping the organization advance its work protecting the freedom to read comics, especially in the youth and education spaces.

When asked why she is joining the board, Holm says, “The freedom to be able to read what you want is as vital as breathing. CBLDF has always been on the front lines of keeping comics where they belong — in the hands of readers.  I’m proud to be a part of an organization that defends the First Amendment every day.”

Most immediately, Holm will be taking an active leadership role in advancing the organization’s kids’ right to read activities, including speaking on behalf of CBLDF at youth-focused events and developing new tools about using comics and addressing challenges for parents and educators.  “Comics are such a wonderful medium for introducing younger ...

ACLU to White House, Dept. of Ed: ‘Comprehensive’ First Amendment Guidance Needed

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent President Barack Obama 320 pages worth of recommendations for his second term. The expansive document covers a broad range of civil liberties and civil rights executive branch recommendations, including a number of First Amendment issues. Although much of the list relates to issues outside of FIRE's mission, one recommendation in particular caught our attention. In a section titled "Guidance for Public Schools on the First Amendment," the ACLU recommends that: 

The Department of Education should issue comprehensive guidance for public schools on their obligations under the First Amendment to include speech and religion, and how these obligations interact with anti-discrimination laws. This should include (a) more clearly drawing the line between the limited cases of constitutionally protected "pure speech" and unprotected bullying and harassment that can rightly present a violation of federal anti-discrimination law if they go unchecked...

FIRE agrees wholeheartedly that the Department of Education—specifically, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR)—should again provide clear First Amendment guidance to public institutions. As FIRE's work demonstrates all too well, too many public colleges and universities currently struggle to meet their dual obligations to maintain discrimination-free educational environments while ...

112th Congress Finished Its Term By Taking Away More of Your Privacy, In The Worst Possible Way

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

The 113th Congress was sworn into office last week and will start regular business later this month. They’ll have a huge, and perhaps unprecedented, slate of Internet related legislation in the next year, including potentially taking up a dangerous new Internet surveillance bill—which we will detail in the coming days and weeks.

But before they do, they should take a lesson from the 112th Congress on how not to conduct business. In their final official week of existence—and the cover of holidays—the 112th Congress used underhanded and undemocratic tactics to pass two bills that have terrible effects on your online privacy.

Back in November, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed important reform to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the main privacy law governing email. The law, which was written in 1986 before the world wide web even existed, allows all sorts of things that make no sense today, such as letting the government get emails over 180 days old without a warrant.  

But the bill came with a caveat: to get it out of committee, the Senators attached a Netflix supported amendment which would weaken the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), that would make “frictionless” ...

Amid Further Lawsuits, A Federal Anti-SLAPP Law Is Sorely Needed

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Free speech has very strong protections in the United States. Not only do we have laws like CDA 230 that allow review sites like Yelp to exist, but we also have very strong defenses ingrained both in our Constitution and in our statutes. Unfortunately, there are aspects of the legal system that are easily abused; people too often use lawsuits to intimidate others and stifle their speech.

One recent example took place in Virginia over the past few months. Jane Perez wrote a negative review on Yelp of a contractor she had hired. In the review, Perez claimed Dietz had damaged her home and allegedly implied he had stolen her jewelry. Claiming injury to his reputation, the contractor, Christopher Dietz, sued Perez for $750,000 and sought a preliminary injunction, which would have removed the review from Yelp even before a court deemed it true or false.

What Dietz did is known as a SLAPP, or a strategic lawsuit against public participation. These lawsuits usually use claims of defamation and demands of exorbitant amounts of money in order to stifle speech. Slightly over half of the states have anti-SLAPP laws on the books. These laws give individuals a ...

Vice President to Meet with Entertainment Execs About “Culture of Violence”

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Vice President Joe Biden
(Source: www.whitehouse.gov)

In the midst of talks regarding gun control, the government has taken steps to address a “culture of violence” that many have blamed for the recent spate of gun violence. According to an article in Variety, Vice President Joe Biden has invited the leaders of various entertainment and video game businesses to Washington DC to address concerns over violent media.

Despite a lack of scientific evidence that violent video game use and other violent media cause violent behavior (and a lot of evidence to the contrary), many political figures have called for regulation of the video game industry, from mandatory ratings systems (the current video game rating system is voluntary) to California’s failed attempt to restrict the sale of violent video games to minors. Most recently, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D – WV) introduced a bill mandating that the National Academy of Sciences investigate the effect of violent video games on children.

Variety reports on the meetings with Vice President Biden, making predictions about who could be in attendance:

The White House hasn’t released a list of industry reps who will be present, but it’s expected to include the heads of ...

Get your tickets for FTRF’s Jan. 26 Jamaica Kincaid event in Seattle

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Kincaid, Jamaica (c) Kenneth Noland (temporary use for SEE NOW THEN)The Freedom to Read Foundation is pleased to present author Jamaica Kincaid as the featured speaker at its annual banned/challenged author event in conjunction with the 2013 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle.

Kincaid is an award-winning writer originally from Antigua. Her books include At the Bottom of the River, Annie JohnThe Autobiography of My MotherMy Brother, and Mr. Potter. Her 1990 short novel Lucy was challenged in 1994 at a Pennsylvania high school as “most pornographic.”

There will be a wine & dessert reception immediately following Ms. Kincaid’s talk.  She will be signing copies of Lucy and her forthcoming novel, See Now Then.  Copies of each book are available to attendees for an additional donation when purchasing their tickets.

This event is open to the public.

Sponsored by Macmillan.

Event Information

Time: 7:30-10:00 p.m. (Doors open at 7:00)

Location: Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Ave. (a short walk from the Convention Center)

Reception to follow with refreshments.

Suggested donation: $20.00 General • $15.00 FTRF members • $10.00 students/reduced income

Questions? Contact Jonathan Kelley at jokelley@ala.org or call (800) 545-2433 x4226.

Greenwald: Banning ‘Hate Speech’? What Could Go Wrong?

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Commentator and attorney Glenn Greenwald penned an excellent blog entry last week for The Guardian (UK) on the danger of banning hate speech. 

Greenwald's piece is prompted by an issue outside of FIRE's purview—he's critiquing fellow Guardian contributor Jason Farago's praise for Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France's Minister of Women's Rights, who recently called upon Twitter to censor anti-gay and racist speech in accordance with French hate speech laws. But even though Greenwald isn't discussing student speech on American campuses, his sharp warning against granting the majority and the state the power to define what expression may and may not be voiced is important and necessary. Here's a representative excerpt: 

That's what always astounds and bothers me most about censorship advocates: their unbelievable hubris. There are all sorts of views I hold that I am absolutely convinced I am right about, and even many that I believe cannot be reasonably challenged.

But there are no views that I hold which I think are so sacred, so objectively superior, that I would want the state to bar any challenge to them and put in prison those who express dissent. How do people get so convinced of their own infallibility that they want to ...

David Moshman on ‘Unlearning Liberty’ and 25 Years of ‘Hazelwood’

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Writing in The Huffington Post, University of Nebraska professor (and free speech advocate) David Moshman looks back at the 25 years since the Supreme Court's decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988). In Hazelwood, the Court held that educators at the high school level do not violate the First Amendment when they regulate student speech and expression "in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns." Hazelwood, 484 U.S. at 273. 

Hazelwood, as Moshman writes, marked a significant departure from the Court's previously friendly jurisprudence toward student and faculty speech rights: 

In 1988, American students and teachers at all levels of education had enjoyed 19 years of strong First Amendment protection since the Supreme Court's 1969 ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines that "neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." They shed those rights, the Court now ruled in Hazelwood, at the classroom door.

Tinker, ruled the Hazelwood Court in a 5-3 decision, applies only to "personal expression that happens to occur on the school premises." In a major victory for government ...

Kuwaiti Court Jails Two Men in Two Days Over Tweets “Insulting the Emir”

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

In the last two days, Kuwaiti courts have issued back-to-back 2-year jail sentences to Twitter users for allegedly insulting Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah. The first verdict was issued on Sunday against 26-year old Rashid Saleh al-Anzi over a Tweet he made to his 5,700 followers in October, that the court said, “stabbed the rights and powers” of the Emir. Al-Anzi has been sentenced to two years in prison and is expected to appeal.

The second verdict, issued on Monday, handed an identical 2-year jail sentence to Internet activist Ayyad al-Harbi, who has over 13,000 followers on Twitter, two months after his arrest and subsequent release on bail. Al-Harbi’s lawyer, Mohammed al-Humidi, has stated his intention to file an appeal. "We've been taken by surprise because Kuwait has always been known internationally and in the Arab world as a democracy-loving country," Humidi told Reuters. "People are used to democracy, but suddenly we see the constitution being undermined."

In both cases, it is worth noting, the sentencing was based on the individual's perceived intent to insult the Emir, rather than actual insults directed at him. On Twitter, users are showing their solidarity with the two activists using the ...

Commentary: Is Google Like Gas or Like Steel?

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
Bruce D. Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and co-director of the Thomas Jefferson Center’s First Amendment Practice Clinic, co-authored an op/ed in the New York Times about government regulation of Google.

Student Paper Notes That Even After Litigation, University of Cincinnati Earns a ‘Red Light’

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The University of Cincinnati (UC) had a bit of a rough year in 2012 in terms of upholding its First Amendment obligations and respecting student free speech. The university was sued by students from the campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) for restricting their political speech and expressive activity pursuant to UC's unconstitutional free speech zone. (The students had some help from FIRE and the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, of course.) The students ultimately won a major free speech victory in federal court, securing a permanent injunction against the university's continued maintenance and enforcement of that policy.

Hoping for better results in 2013, UC student newspaper The News Record highlighted the university's remaining speech codes and its status as a "red light" institution in an article published on Sunday. News Record reporter Benjamin Goldschmidt observed that in earning an overall red light, UC joins approximately three-fifths of the 409 colleges and universities FIRE rated for our most recent annual speech code report, released in December. On what this means for the state of free speech on campuses nationwide, he quoted our Samantha Harris:

"For the fifth consecutive year ... this percentage has dropped," said Samantha Harris, ...

IFAction Round-Up, December 17-31, 2012

Tuesday, January 8th, 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 December 17-December 31, 2012.

We at OIF give a hearty welcome to our new OIF News intern, Bradley Compton, and another round of thanks to outgoing intern Erin Sommerfeld for all her help!

 

Privacy

FTC releases landmark update to child online privacy laws

Senate GOP objects to considering FISA bill, calls for vote on House version

Newspaper sparks outrage for publishing names, addresses of gun permit holders

When the cops subpoena your Facebook information, here’s what Facebook sends the cops

Q&A: Erasing Your Video-Viewing History

Schools help students scrub their digital footprint

 

Free Speech

Pundits And Politicans Very Quick To Blame Video Game & Movie Violence For Newtown

EFF Helps Freedom of the Press Foundation

Anonymous Plans to Form Human Shield to Protect Sandy Hook Funeral Goers From Westboro Baptist Church

North Carolina: Make Fun of a Teacher, Go to ...

Political Cartoonists in Egypt Face Growing Attacks

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

“Another 11 September” by Amr Okasha

There is perhaps no singular instance that better describes the increasing pressure felt by political cartoonists in Egypt than the case of cartoonist Doaa El-Adl and Naguib Sawiris, the owner of Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, who are being sued by the National Centre for Defence of Freedoms for drawing and publishing a cartoon the Centre claims is insulting of the prophet Muhammad.

According to Luiz Sanchez of the Daily News Egypt, “The cartoon depicts Adam and Eve standing beneath an apple tree on a cloud. Before them stands an Egyptian man with angel wings and a halo, who declares the couple would have never been expelled from heaven had they voted in favour of the [constitutional] referendum.” Critics of Egypt’s new constitution, which was approved in the referendum, have argued that it unfairly favors Islamists.

The lawsuit was filed by Khaled El-Masry, the Secretary-General of the Centre, with the charge of blasphemy, and accused Sawiris of “abusing freedom of speech to insult people and their traditions. [...] Naguib Sawiris is a Christian, but the people working at his newspaper are Muslims and it should not be allowed.” He further declared that “the portrayal of ...

The State of Free Speech on Campus: Amherst College

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

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 (a list that actually includes 11 schools, since two—Claremont McKenna College and Vassar College—are tied for the #10 spot). Before the new year, we told you about speech codes at Williams College. Today, we kick off 2013 with a discussion of the state of free speech at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Like Williams, Amherst receives a "yellow light" rating from FIRE, because several of its policies could too easily be abused to punish protected speech. Although Amherst is a private institution, it promises (PDF) its students "the assurance of the full exercise" of "[t]he right to engage in the free exchange of ideas." As a result, students attending Amherst would almost certainly expect to have the same expressive rights as their counterparts at Massachusetts' public colleges and universities. Several of the college's policies, however, infringe on those expressive rights.

We turn first to the College Council Statement on Sexual Harassment (PDF), found in the college's Student Handbook. The statement defines sexual harassment, in relevant part, as: 

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests ...

Sensitive Material and Classroom Discussion

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

A recent article in the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida deals with the controversy surrounding a professor at Florida Atlantic University, James Tracy, who teaches a class on conspiracy theories. Professor Tracy made some waves recently when he suggested on a private, non-university blog that the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut did not happen in the way that has been described by media and government officials.

As one can imagine, this has led to questions from media and the public, to which FAU has wisely responded that Tracy is not speaking for the university (it is indeed obvious from the blog entries that he is speaking for himself) and that the blog is not affiliated with the university (also obvious). Professor Tracy certainly has the right to speak his mind on topics of public concern, and given that he teaches a class called "Culture of Conspiracy," discussing such conspiracy theories would seem to be germane to the topic of his class as well.

In the article, I was quoted thusly:

Robert Shibley, an official with the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said Tracy is well within his rights of free speech, especially when teaching a ...

Is It Time For Courts To “Rethink” Protected Speech?

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed piece, James P. Tuthill, an attorney and lecturer at the UC Berkeley School of Law, suggests that the United States needs “a cultural shift in what is regarded as ‘protected speech’ under our First Amendment.”

Tuthill says that events such as the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting are directly traceable to unregulated violent content across all forms of entertainment media.

“We have to grasp that this isn’t 1789, when the only ways to communicate were in person or in print. The First Amendment must be adapted to today’s media environment. We need to do three things:

1. Regulate violence in media: Congress should grant either the FCC or the Federal Trade Commission the authority to regulate violence and cruelty in all entertainment media forms, regardless of the means of transmission: music, games, television, cable TV and the Internet.

2. Rate violent content: Either the FCC or the FTC should adopt the FCC’s definition of violence from its 2007 report: “any overt depiction of a credible threat of physical force or the actual use of such force intended to physically harm an animate being or group of beings.” The FCC or the FTC then should adopt mandatory ratings for ...

A Legislative Victory for Student Rights in Michigan

Monday, January 7th, 2013

On December 28, 2012, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the state's new Internet Privacy Protection Act (IPPA), prohibiting employers and educational institutions in the Great Lakes State from demanding that employees and students provide them with access to personal Internet and social media accounts. 

Michigan joins Delaware, New Jersey, and California as the fourth state in the U.S. to enact legislation protecting students' right to privacy online. Maryland and Illinois have similar laws that apply in the employment context, but not in the context of higher education.  

With a few notable exceptions, Michigan's IPPA bans educational institutions from requesting that students or prospective students grant the institution access to "personal internet accounts," like Facebook, MySpace, private email accounts, and Twitter. This prohibition forbids universities from requiring disclosure of passwords, or from requiring that they be permitted to monitor those accounts. The new law also prohibits educational institutions from "Expel[ling], disciplin[ing], fail[ing] to admit, or otherwise penaliz[ing]" those who fail to grant access to their personal Internet accounts. 

Violators of this law are guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine. Plus, the IPPA allows students or prospective students to sue universities for ...

Library Director Who Banned NEONOMICON Defends Decision

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Late last year, after several months of deliberation, Alan Moore’s graphic novel Neonomicon was removed from the Greenville County, South Carolina, public library system based on a unilateral decision by library director Beverly James. The ban went against a recommendation from the library’s own content review committee, as well as a letter of protest from CBLDF and other intellectual freedom organizations. Now, in a new article from local paper The Greenville News, James is attempting to justify her action as one that was made only after careful consideration, despite her personal view that the book is “disgusting.”

Neonomicon, a Lovecraftian horror story that won the Bram Stoker Award, was challenged in June 2012 by Carrie Gaske after her 14-year-old daughter checked it out from the adult section of the library. Gaske says that she did look through the book before allowing her daughter to read it, but “[i]t looked to me like a murder mystery comic book; to me, that’s a child’s book.” After her daughter asked her to explain an unfamiliar word, Gaske took another look and found that it contained rape, violence, and racism. She asked that the book be removed from the collection, and ...

‘Grand Forks Herald’ Calls for University of North Dakota to Revise December’s Speech Code of the Month

Monday, January 7th, 2013

On Sunday, the Grand Forks Herald published an editorial calling on the University of North Dakota to revise its speech-restrictive "harassment" policy, which earned the "honor" of being named our Speech Code of the Month for December 2012

The policy's overbreadth is striking, defining "harassment" (PDF) to include speech that causes a group or individual "unwelcome attention," "humiliation," "ridicule," or even just "offense." Under the specific terms of the policy, merely "ignoring an individual at work or study" may be harassment. Making matters worse, the policy also notes that harassment may include "unacceptable behavior affecting the dignity of an individual that appears or feels offensive, demeaning, intimidating or hostile." Of course, the vast majority of such speech is protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, UND's policy contains no objectivity requirement, meaning that the most unreasonably oversensitive students or faculty members on campus essentially wield a veto over speech. 

The Herald's editorial explains the problems with UND's policy and argues that being named Speech Code of the Month is a "distinction that should make lovers of academic freedom burn with shame." We fully agree—and we hope that UND heeds the Herald's call for reform.

California Supreme Court Says Grocer Must Allow Union Pickets on Private Property

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Union members can picket privately owned walkways in front of stores, but other protesters, handbill distributors and petition-signature collectors may not, the California Supreme Court ruled.

In the case that pitted Ralphs Grocery Co. against United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8, the justices on Thursday struck down an appellate court opinion that found two state laws that protect labor pickets as unconstitutional. In its ruling, the majority of the state high court noted that privately owned areas in front of stores do not constitute public forum for any type of free-speech activity, but peaceful labor activities related to that retailer are permitted under both state and federal law.

Laws rightfully single out labor-related content for special protection under free speech laws because labor is part of an economic situation, the court said. Picketing outside the employer’s premises is an intrinsic part of a labor relationship and free speech, the court said. ”Therefore, it is well settled that statutory law—state and federal—may single out labor-related speech for particular protection or regulation, in the context of a statutory system of economic regulation of labor relations, without violating the federal Constitution.”

Read the full article here.

Read the Court’s Opinion here.

Connecticut Town To Destroy Video Games And Violent Media

Friday, January 4th, 2013

1948 comic book burningIn the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, a community organization in the nearby town of Southington is organizing a buyback program to collect video games, DVDs, and CDs deemed to be violent. According to gaming site Polygon, after the collection on January 12, the media will be “snapped, tossed into a town dumpster and likely later incinerated.” Organizers from the group SouthingtonSOS say that their goal is only to start a conversation between parents and children about virtual violence, and the burning is “just a possible outcome.”

For many others, however, the impending destruction recalls the past incineration of all kinds of creative works, from Beatles records to — of course — comic books, that some adults thought had a negative influence on youth. In reality, there is no proven link between gun violence and video games, but that has not stopped lawmakers and media commentators from trying to blame them for virtually every mass shooting by a young male since the Columbine massacre in 1999. Of course, this requires ignoring the fact that millions of people around the world, of all sexes and ages, play and enjoy a wide spectrum ...

Time Lapse of Artist’s Latest Free Speech Wall Mural

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Artist Sam Welty was in Charlottesville yesterday, braving the cold weather to create another stunning mural on the Community Chalkboard. See it come to life in the video below.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Md. Delegate Proposes Limiting First Amendment to Protect Second

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Republican Delegate Pat McDonough held a press conference on Dec. 28 and announced plans to introduce three gun-related bills in the Maryland state legislature. According to the delegate’s press release, the first of these, called the “Gun Owner Privacy Act,” is intended to “prohibit newspapers and other publications from printing personal or private information about firearm owners.”

In a telephone call with City Paper, McDonough, whose 7th District includes parts of Baltimore and Harford counties, said that the bill was intended as a response to suburban New York newspaper The Journal News’ publication of publicly available data—including personal information—on gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties in New York.

When City Paper asked McDonough if the bill intended to “limit the First Amendment in order to protect the Second,” he responded: “That’s a good way to put it.”

Read the full article here.

Ken Paulson of the First Amendment Center weighs in on the Maryland proposal, and the New York actions that prompted it, here.

Va. Supreme Court Rejects Censorship of Online Consumer Reviews

Friday, January 4th, 2013
The Virginia Supreme Court has overturned a preliminary injunction against a Fairfax woman who is facing a $750,000 defamation lawsuit for her negative reviews on Yelp and Angie’s List.A Fairfax County Circuit Court had previously ordered Jane Perez to remove some claims she made in her negative reviews of a D.C. contractor who performed work on her home and barred her from repeating those accusations in future posts.

But on Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court found the preliminary injunction was not limited to a prescribed period, was not justified and the contractor, Christopher Dietz, had adequate remedy by suing for damages.

The ACLU and Public Citizen filed the appeal of the preliminary injunction on behalf of Perez late last month, saying it was unfair for the Fairfax court to suppress Perez’s First Amendment rights and it violated Virginia law.Read the full article here.

Student’s Arrest for Doodles Echoes 2004 CBLDF Case

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Shortly after the Newtown shootings, a New Jersey high school student found himself in juvenile detention because of doodles in his notebook. This arrest has a disturbing familiarity for CBLDF: In 2004, we helped successfully clear a high school student who had been unjustly arrested and prosecuted for the poetry he wrote.

Last week, CBLDF reported on the arrest of the New Jersey student, who was arrested for the possession of explosive materials after police searched his home in response to a complaint from high school officials about doodles of weapons in his notebook. Sadly, this type of case is not new. In 2004, CBLDF helped rally an all-star roster of authors — including Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison, Greg Rucka, Peter Straub, Michael Chabon, J.M. Coetzee, and more — to the defense of George T., a California student who was unjustly convicted of making a criminal threat based on the content of poems he wrote and shared with a classmate. Thanks in part to the efforts of CBLDF and the community of organizations and authors who spoke out on George T.’s behalf, the California Supreme Court overturned the conviction.

George T. was new to his high school when he ...

Speech Code of the Month: Auburn University at Montgomery

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Another year, a dozen more ridiculous speech codes. To kick off the new year, FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2013: Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM). 

AUM's Policy Regarding Harassment and Discrimination of Students (PDF) prohibits harassment, which at AUM includes "jokes or other graphic or physical conduct relating to a student's race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability or veteran status." After years of writing this monthly feature, I often feel like a broken record, but I will keep repeating myself so long as universities continue not to understand: a public university bound by the First Amendment cannot simply prohibit offensive jokes! As the U.S. Supreme Court has held, "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989). 

As  one would hope that someone in the AUM administration would surely know, harassment in the educational setting actually has a specific legal definition: it is conduct "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the ...

2012 in Review: Internet Censorship & the Acronyms We Love to Hate

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

With the new year upon us, two things become painfully apparent in concluding 2012 sans post-apocalyptic bedlam: 1) the Mayans seem to have preferred tequila breaks over finishing their calendaring duties, and 2) there are no more excuses justifying willful blindness to any of the damage done during the last twelve months.  No, we’re not talking about the 10 lbs. you packed on since Thanksgiving, but more along the lines of extremist legislative proposals by lawmakers across the globe, particularly in the area of Internet regulation.

Recently, the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (“ITU”) culminated its World Conference on International Telecommunications (“WCIT”) in Dubai.  The WCIT, comprised of almost 200 nations, was called for sole purpose of ratifying the ITU’s Telecommunications Regulations, which were drafted in 1988 to address interconnection between international telephone/telegraph networks.  This year’s update, however, went off the rails a bit when some world leaders viewed the conference as an opportunity to gain government control over Internet operations.  Countries like China, Russia and Middle Eastern nations lobbied for proposals that would allow member countries to regulate a broad range of Internet governance options that are currently under the authority of international third party ...

‘Augusta Chronicle’ Editorial: ‘Free Speech Still in Peril’

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

According to a New Year's Eve editorial in The Augusta Chronicle (Ga.), "Free Speech Still in Peril," censorship is alive and kicking on American university and college campuses, despite the clear mandate of the First Amendment. Highlighting FIRE's work, the editorial explained: 

Even [with the First Amendment], our free speech rights often are in peril. Lamentably, some of the most active battlefields in continuing struggle to retain the right of free speech are on college campuses. The political correctness movement has led over the years to restrictive, and quite obviously unconstitutional, speech codes aimed at eliminating speech that offends someone, particularly those deemed to be in protected classes. 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (www.thefire.org), for instance, features a "speech code of the month" - last month, the speech code from the University of North Dakota, which is so vague that, as FIRE puts it, "is so vague that students have no way of knowing whether their speech or expression might inadvertently run afoul of the policy." 

While preventing harassment, racism and sexism is an important goal, it's still constitutionally dubious to outlaw "offending" people. 

I couldn't agree more. Thanks, Augusta Chronicle editorial staff, for ...

SPX Contributes $10,000 To CBLDF, Raising A Total of $25,000 For Free Speech!

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

The CBLDF is honored to acknowledge the contribution of $10,000 from the Small Press Expo, a non-profit organization that hosts the iconic art comics festival every September.  The SPX contribution, coupled with the $15,000 the CBLDF was able to raise at this year’s event brings the total fundraising generated by the convention to $25,000 placing the show second only to Comic-Con International in San Diego as the Fund’s most meaningful fundraising event of the year.

SPX Executive Director Warren Bernard says, “With censorship in many forms affecting the comics community, the strength of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is more important then ever. The CBLDF is one of the main bulwarks against those who see a non-existing evil in the works of comic creators and is a champion of the great cause of the right of  free speech the First Amendment of the Constitution grants to all of us. SPX is committed to supporting the CBLDF and looks forward to doing so in the years to come.”

The Small Press Expo (SPX) is a registered 501(c)(3) that was created in 1994 to promote artists and publishers who produce independent comics. SPX hosts an annual festival that provides a forum ...

2012 in Review: Blackout Protests Against Blacklist Bills

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

As the year draws to a close, EFF looks back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2012 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.

Coming into 2012, the Internet community was looking down the barrel of very dangerous legislation that would have created legal structures to silence legitimate speech in the name of curbing online "piracy." A House bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), had been debated, amended, and looked to be on the fast track for legislative approval. 

That all changed on January 18. An historic "Blackout Day" protest, loosely coordinated by a coalition of public interest groups, startups, tech companies, and thousands of different websites, resulted in millions of emails and tens of thousands of calls to legislators. As sites across the web turned out their virtual lights at once, an important but otherwise arcane copyright bill became front-page news—and impossible for the content lobby and their favorite legislators to sneak past the public.

There were plenty of reasons to be concerned. After all, Congress has ...

2012 in Review: Encrypting the Web with HTTPS

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

As the year draws to a close, EFF is looking back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2012 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.

Given the alarming expansion of state-sponsored surveillance, it can be hard to find reasons to be optimistic about individuals' ability to avoid being watched on the web. Yet the continued rise of HTTPS is a beacon of hope for thwarting many types of surveillance, and we are pleased that the positive trend of HTTPS adoption continues apace with some big steps forward in 2012.

HTTPS encrypts the connection between your browser and a website so that your communications cannot be snooped on or altered by attackers on your local network, by your ISP, or by governments. HTTPS is not a silver bullet against all surveillance, as it does not protect against attacks that target your personal computer (such as malware), attacks that target the website you are visiting (such as a government-compelled disclosure of your web-based email), or attacks that merely aspire to determine the parties of the communication without analyzing the ...

2012: The Year in Censorship

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Now that 2012 has wrapped up and we’re taking our first steps into 2013, let’s pause a moment to take a look at the path behind us. As we look at some of our top censorship stories from 2012, it’s apparent that our important work defending the First Amendment rights of the comics community is far from done. 2012 was a banner year for CBLDF, with huge victories, but a surge in new challenges reminds us that the fight against censorship is never done. 2013 will likely prove to be our most crucial year yet, and we have a long way to go before comics are truly safe from censors!

Ryan Matheson’s True Story of Defending Manga – In His Own Words

Ryan Matheson — a manga fan who was cleared of charges of importing child pornography, which Canadian authorities brought against him because of the comics on his laptop — joined CBLDF at New York Comic Con to share his moving story. Keep reading…

NEONOMICON Banned in South Carolina

The library director of the Greenville, South Carolina, public library system removed Alan Moore’s award-winning Neonomicon despite a content review committee’s recommendation otherwise and opposition from CBLDF and partner organizations. ...

‘Times-Picayune’ Laments Poor State of Free Speech on Louisiana Campuses

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Writing for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, James Varney draws attention to the poor state of free speech at colleges and universities in the state of Louisiana, where, of eight institutions rated by FIRE, seven currently earn a "red light" rating and the eighth earns a "yellow light." As Varney writes, this places Louisiana among the worst states in the country when it comes to the prevalence and severity of campus speech codes.

Varney makes a number of astute observations about the harms created by schools deciding to maintain and enforce speech codes. Among them:

These speech codes are infuriating on two levels. On the one hand, First Amendment restrictions are anathema to a place devoted to nurturing, discoveriHng and exploring ideas. Certainly there can be no robust discussion when students and faculties are either worried of veering off some approved, often fluid line, or crossing a line none of them realized had been drawn.

It is a creepy environment indeed when administrators and, too often, some student leaders decide what ideas are verboten on campus. Nevertheless, such intellectual chicanery has been going on for decades. Surveying what he called, "the pall of orthodoxy on the nation's campuses," back in ...

Censoring Speech? There’s an Admin for That

Monday, December 31st, 2012

The Wall Street Journal this weekend featured an in-depth look at administrative bloat in the University of Minnesota system, where (as in many places in academia) the ranks of administrators are growing far more quickly than those of faculty or students. As authors Douglas Belkin and Scott Thurm write:

Many of the newly hired, it turns out, were doing little teaching. A Wall Street Journal analysis of University of Minnesota salary and employment records from 2001 through last spring shows that the system added more than 1,000 administrators over that period. Their ranks grew 37%, more than twice as fast as the teaching corps and nearly twice as fast as the student body.

Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example. The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says. It's part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.

What are all these new administrators doing? Well, it sure isn't reading or applying the Constitution, as ...