Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel & More Join CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving Personalized Gift Drive!

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel, Mike Allred, Sergio Aragones, David Petersen, Greg Rucka, and Matt Wagner join Alan Moore and more than 20 other comics masters in supporting the CBLDF this holiday season by signing and personalizing graphic novels to the comics fan in your life as part of the CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving holiday gift drive!

When you support the CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving drive between now and December 12, The Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation will make a contribution of $2 for every donation and gift order placed on the CBLDF’s website. In addition, they will contribute $10 for each new membership and $5 for every renewing membership made from now until December 31! With every gift you order from CBLDF, you’ll get an exclusive card featuring Will Eisner’s The Spirit that tells them your gift helped do good for comics!

Creators participating in the personalization drive include: Jason Aaron, Mike Allred, Sergio Aragones, Alison Bechdel, Chris Burnham, Cliff Chiang, Howard Cruse, Evan Dorkin, Neil Gaiman, Rebekah Isaacs, Chip Kidd, Paul Levitz, Larry Marder, Alan Moore, Terry Moore, David Petersen, Dave Roman, Greg Rucka, Jeff Smith, Raina Telgemeier, Brian K. Vaughan, Matt Wagner, and Brian ...

Ending the Culture of Impunity

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

November 23rd marks the 3rd anniversary of the Amptaun massacre, the day on which 58 people, including 32 media workers, were murdered in the Philippines while traveling in a convoy with the family and supporters of a local politician—the deadliest incident for journalists in recent history. In the last ten years, over 600 journalists have been killed worldwide, while still more have been intimidated, harassed, imprisoned, or tortured for exercising their fundamental right to free expression. In nine out of ten cases in which a journalist has been murdered, the killer has gone free.

What we are dealing with is a culture of impunity, a culture in which the powerful silence the powerless without consequences. When citizens and journalists face threats and attacks for exercising their right to free expression and the people responsible for these crimes are not held accountable, the result is a climate in which people are afraid to speak out, the hard questions go unasked, the powerful are not challenged, and criticism is stifled.

Impunity is not limited to murder: 40% of journalists who are murdered were threatened or intimidated first. And the victims are not limited to journalists: Activists, artists, bloggers, cartoonists, filmmakers, ...

Know Your Comics Censorship History!

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

The history of comics censorship is a sordid saga of misguided censors, self-imposed silence, criminal prosecutions, and suppression of free expression that led to the obliteration of thousands of careers, more than a few publishers, and even an entire country’s comics industry.

CBLDF blogger Joe Sergi has broken down some of the specific instances of comics censorship, from the attacks in on what is widely accepted as the first comic book — attacks that predate the comics code by almost 60 years — to a side-by-side visual comparison of how the Comics Code led to the nonsensical editing and revision of thousands of books.

Let’s take a quick stroll through comics censorship history…

Richard Felton Outcalt and The Yellow Kid

Many people know about the great comic book scare in the late ’40s and early ’50s. You know the one that started with individuals like Dr. Frederic Wertham and Senator Robert C. Hendrickson and ended with the creation of the now defunct Comics Code Authority. But what many people aren’t aware of is that comics had come under fire long before Dr. Wertham conducted his juvenile delinquency case studies in the Lafargue Clinic in Harlem, New York. This is a ...

Fears For Democracy Activists

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang have summoned pro-democracy activist Lu Gengsong for questioning, and searched his home, his wife said on Friday as at least two other dissidents have gone incommunicado.

"There are more than 10 [police here in my home]," Lu's wife, Wang Xue'e, told RFA at around 3.50 p.m. local time from her residence in the provincial capital, Hangzhouon on Friday. "They are searching our home."

"I think it's likely that they will victimize him again," she said, in an apparent reference to a further jail term.

Lu, a prominent rights activist, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for "incitement to subvert state power" in February 2008 by a Hangzhou court in a trial that lasted just 15 minutes.

Lu shouted "Long Live Democracy" as he was taken away from the courtroom, witnesses had said. Subversion charges are frequently used against critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"The police follow us every day," Wang said. "They work in shifts of six people; two to follow me, two to follow my husband and two to follow my daughter."

She said the family had been watched by dozens of police from Nov. 3-20, around the 18th ...

Campaign for Man Held Over Tweet

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Chinese netizens have launched a signature campaign for the release of a Beijing-based Twitter user, who is being held under criminal detention after he posted a humorous tweet about the recently concluded ruling Chinese Communist Party Congress.

Netizen Zhai Xiaobin was detained on Nov. 7 for “spreading false terrorist information,” after he posted an update on the online microblogging service "predicting" that more than 2,000 delegates at the congress would die and that only seven would survive, only to later die as well.

The joke relied on the plot of a well-known series of horror films.

The overseas-based China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said that Zhai was currently being held at the Miyun County Detention Center in a northern suburb of Beijing.

An employee who answered the phone at the detention center said he was unaware of Zhai's case.

"I don't know about this," he said. "You'll have to ask the departments that handle his case."


CHRD said that the public reaction to Zhai's detention, however, had prompted police to step up pressure on his wife.

"State security officials warned Zhai’s wife not to go online, and demanded that she hand over her cell phone and information about her ...

Child Deaths Reporter Held

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

A Chinese journalist who broke the story about the shocking death of five runaway boys in a dumpster in the southwestern province of Guizhou has "disappeared" after being forced into a vehicle by police, rights activists said.

Guizhou-based dissident writer Li Yuanlong, who has made a living as a cutting-edge freelance after leaving his job in state-run media, was taken away by police on the afternoon of Nov. 17 after he posted an online report with photographs on the discovery of the bodies of the boys two days earlier.

The news sparked an online outcry and led to the firing or suspension of eight officials and school staff for negligence.

The boys, aged 9 to 13 and all the sons of three brothers, died of carbon monoxide poisoning, apparently after burning charcoal inside the dumpster where they were taking shelter during a cold night in the Qixingguan suburb of Guizhou's Bijie city.

They were children of migrant parents, many of whom leave their children behind in their home areas due to difficulty in arranging adequate child care and schooling in their new employment areas.

"After Li was taken away by police that same afternoon, the human rights group for which ...

The First Amendment: A Reason to Give Thanks

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

This Thanksgiving, CBLDF takes a moment to give thanks for our biggest asset in the fight to protect free speech the United States: the First Amendment. Though we continually see challenges to free speech, the results are not as extreme as those seen in other countries. We take a look at a few of the challenges from around the world to remind us of what could happen without the protection provided by the First Amendment.


The Aseem Trivedi case brought a sharp focus to the free of speech movement in India. The cartoonist was arrested on sedition charges stemming from cartoons that criticize and expose corruption in India’s government. His arrest sparked protests from supporters, leading the government to promise a review of the charges against Trivedi. He was released on bail, and on October 12, the Maharashtra state government dropped the sedition charge on advice from the advocate general.

The general consensus, even among Trivedi’s detractors, is that Trivedi’s arrest is an abuse of the law. It led to a call for the removal of the sedition law from India’s Penal Code. Justice Markandey Katju, chairman of the Press Council in India wants to use the Aseem Trivedi case ...

Happy Thanksgiving from FIRE!

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

This Thanksgiving, FIRE is grateful for you. Happy Thanksgiving from FIRE!

In 2012, FIRE welcomed two new "green light" schools, providing freedom of expression for over 40,000 students; we saw the fall of another unconstitutional "free speech zone" in federal court; and we released an updated Guide that has already helped hundreds of thousands of students understand their rights. And we have continued to give help and support to hundreds of students and professors as they fight to stem the tide of censorship on campus.

Thank you for making all of our work possible.

Happy Thanksgiving,


Reform to Require Warrant for Private Online Messages Up for Vote, but Down on Privacy

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Currently, the Department of Justice argues it can read your private electronic messages, like emails and private Facebook messages, older than 180 days without a warrant due to an archaic distinction in the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Senator Leahy wants to change this and has scheduled a markup hearing next week. Months ago, he offered language clarifying that the government must obtain a warrant for all private messages; however, recently released bill language keeps the 180-day requirement for civil regulatory agencies like the FTC, SEC, and others. Even before the recent controversy over the newest language, we voiced our complaints about Leahy's bill because it was tied to eviscerating the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) and was threatened by Senator Grassley's proposed changes. If passed, the full bill will go to the entire Senate for a vote. These newest changes strike at the core of ECPA reform. We heartily support updating these outdates laws to better protect individual privacy, but updating ECPA should not come at such costs.

The VPPA provides the strongest protections for privacy under any federal law.  It requires users' "informed, written consent...given at the time the disclosure is sought" when a video service ...

Texas School Kicks Student Out of Magnet Program for Refusing to Wear “Smart ID” Tracking Badge

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

School officials for the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, have informed high school student Andrea Hernandez that she will be “withdrawn” from John Jay High School’s Science and Engineering Academy, effective Monday, November 26, because she objects to wearing a name badge signifying participation in the school district’s new “Student Locator Project.” The badges include tiny Radio Frequency Identification (“RFID”) chips that produce a radio signal, enabling school officials to track students’ precise location on school property. For Hernandez, a sophomore, the badges pose a significant religious freedom concern in addition to the obvious privacy issues.

Read more.

Jones Meant What it Said: EFF Urges Court to Stop Warrantless GPS Tracking

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

When the Supreme Court said in United States v. Jones that planting a GPS device on a vehicle is a physical intrusion that amounts to a Fourth Amendment "search," the government should have gotten the memo: the police have to get a probable cause warrant issued by a neutral magistrate before installing one of those devices on a car to track a person's location. Amazingly, that hasn't stopped the government from coming up with new ways to argue that it can use GPS devices to track people's movements without a warrant. So we teamed up with the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in an amicus brief filed last week urging a federal appeals court to reject these arguments.

In the case, United States v. Katzin, FBI agents installed a GPS device on a minivan without a search warrant to track the movements of three brothers suspected of committing a string of robberies. The trial court wouldn't let the government use the the GPS evidence to prosecute the brothers because the government violated the Fourth Amendment when collecting it. The government appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the agents didn't need to get a warrant to ...

Blogger Beaten on Leaving Court

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

A Vietnamese dissident blogger was beaten by police and violently herded into a truck on Wednesday after an appeals court upheld his six-year jail term for anti-state propaganda, his wife said.

Police beat Dinh Dang Dinh as he was led away from the courtroom to the prison truck after the hearing, Dang Thi Dinh said, criticizing the verdict as unfair.

“They opened only one of the doors of the truck’s double doors and pushed my husband through it. They even beat his head with clubs,” she told RFA’s Vietnamese service.

“I yelled aloud, ‘What kind of justice is this? … What kind of fairness and transparency is there here?’”

She was not allowed to talk to her husband and police restrained her and their two daughters as he was led away, she said.

“Police held me and my children as we tried to reach him,” she said. “There were hundreds of them in all kind of uniforms. They held me tight and I couldn’t struggle.”

It was not immediately clear why the police had beat Dinh, who had been sentenced in August for “conducting propaganda against the state,” a charge rights groups have said the one-party communist state routinely uses ...

Newsman’s Murder Probe Disputed

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

A provincial court in northeastern Cambodia on Wednesday concluded its investigation into the murder of an investigative journalist who had exposed corruption involving local elites, according to the man’s lawyer, but a local rights group said the probe was not far reaching enough.

Ratanakiri provincial court investigating Judge Luch Lao confirmed that military officer An Bunheng and his wife, known by her nickname “Vy,” were linked to the September murder of 42-year-old local reporter Hang Serei Oudom.

The suspects had been taken into custody a day after the reporter’s battered body was found in the trunk of his car. Police and a court prosecutor said they had found evidence linking them to the crime at the couple’s restaurant in Ratanakiri province.

Hok Phalla, the attorney representing Hang Serei Oudom’s family, said relatives expected the court to arrest additional suspects in the killing.

He said that according to other witnesses, there are “more suspects involved with the killing,” and called on the court to conduct a “proper investigation” before reaching a conclusion.

“The investigation seems to have concluded faster than usual," he told RFA’s Khmer service.

The provincial court had summoned 12 witnesses during the investigation, Hok Phalla said, and would ...

A Roundup of Recent Legal Scholarship on Student Rights

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Here are some of the most interesting recent law review articles touching on issues in students' rights:

  • Professor Dan Subotnik of Touro Law School has a retrospective article entitled The Duke Rape Case Five Years Later: Lessons for the Academy, the Media, and the Criminal Justice System, 45 Akron L. Rev. 883 (2012). This wide-ranging piece lays a large part of the blame for the Duke Lacrosse case at the feet of campus culture. With the dust settled, it is worth revisiting the case, and Professor Subotnik lays out the narrative well.
  • In the same issue, Carol N. Tran has a student comment: Recognizing an Academic Freedom Exception to the Garcetti Limitation on the First Amendment Right to Free Speech, 45 Akron L. Rev. 945 (2012). The article lays out some arguments for why Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), should not apply to academic speech. We have commented on Garcetti many times before, and agree that it does not apply to academic speech. In a sad irony for an otherwise useful comment, Tran does seem to think, wrongly, that student speech "does not have anything to do with scholarship or systematic learning." This is ironic ...

Funding Victory For Religious and Political Student Groups at Texas A&M

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

We're pleased to note an important victory for the free speech rights and freedom of association of religious and political student organizations at Texas A&M University. Thanks to a settlement (PDF) reached with Texas A&M, a lawsuit brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of the Texas Aggie Conservatives has ensured that religious and political groups at the public institution will enjoy the same access to student fee funding as other student groups.

ADF filed the lawsuit in federal court in June after Texas A&M denied the Texas Aggie Conservatives' request for funding to bring a speaker to campus. The university's stated reason for the denial was that funds "cannot be approved for recognized organizations with a classification of social and political issues."

Now, ADF reports, Texas A&M has agreed to treat such student organizations the same as all other groups when it comes to access to student fee funding, and the university will no longer bar them from obtaining funding for their activities and events. In addition, according to ADF, university policy will now include "specific criteria in evaluating funding applications, as well as an appeal process for groups denied funding."

We're happy to see this important ...

Give The Gift of The Freedom To Read – Join CBLDF!

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

This holiday season, The Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation is encouraging everyone who believes in the CBLDF’s important work protecting the freedom to read comics to become a member or give a gift membership in the organization.  When you do, they will contribute $10 for each new membership and $5 for every renewing membership made from now until December 31!

Every member of Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a vital contributor to our efforts to protect the First Amendment.  Your member dollars directly provide the support we need to offer expert legal defense, education, and advocacy for comics and the growing community of individuals engaging with them.  Membership in the CBLDF costs as little as $25 a year, and are tax-deductible in the year given.

At each level, CBLDF offers handsome thank you gifts for your membership, including a membership card by Cliff Chiang for all donors, as well as t-shirts, tote bags, prints,  button sets and other thank yous at other levels.  In addition to the CBLDF’s regular selection of thank you gifts, if you join or give a gift membership between now and December 31, we will send you, or the recipient of your gift a ...

Congress Shouldn’t Debate Copyright in a Reality-Free Zone

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Just a few days ago, an unusual thing happened in the halls of Congress: somebody made a case for a copyright policy grounded in reality. The Republican Study Committee (RSC) — an organization that represents more than two-thirds of all GOP Congressmembers — issued a report challenging longstanding copyright myths and offering ideas for potential reforms. Copyright reform advocates were quick to proclaim that the document, authored by RSC policy staffer Derek Khanna, marked a "watershed moment" that suggested rational copyright policy might be possible post-SOPA.

But if the document signaled a moment of clarity, it was a short-lived. Within 24 hours, the RSC had retracted the report, stating that it had been "published without adequate review." It's hard to imagine that the RSC hadn't also been subject to pressure from the legacy content lobby. After all, those same lobbyists seem to have an allergic reaction to evidence-based discussions of what is fundamentally an economic policy.

So what were the controversial opinions that had to be silenced before legislators might seriously debate them? Turns out they weren’t all that controversial. The report simply debunks some of the central tenets of Hollywood's copyright philosophy. For example, the report ...

Some Things Never Change: Governments Still Present Biggest Threat to Open Internet

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Some things change, but others stay the same. While the types of threats facing Internet users worldwide have diversified over the past few years, from targeted malware to distributed denial of service attacks, one thing has remained constant: governments seeking to exert control over their populations still remain the biggest threat to the open Internet.

Corporate Compliance

This is no more apparent than in the latest edition of Google's Transparency Report. As Dorothy Chou explains on Google's Public Policy Blog, government requests for both user data (see this Deeplinks post for more details) and content removal is on the rise. Content removal requests were stagnant for quite some time, notes Chou, but have spiked during the first half of 2012, during which there were 1,791 requests from government officials around the world to remove 17,746 pieces of content.

While the reasons for takedown requests are myriad, defamation is the leading cause for government ire, representing nearly 40% of all requests, followed by privacy/security, which Chou explains refers to "government requests to remove content under certain privacy laws as they relate to an individual or politicians/police," noting that such requests can come either from courts or other governmental ...

Homeland Security Wants to More Than Double Its Predator Drone Fleet Inside the US, Despite Safety and Privacy Concerns

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Despite renewed criticism from both parties in Congress that domestic drones pose a privacy danger to US citizens—and a report from its own Inspector General recommending to stop buying them—the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has indicated it wants to more than double its fleet of Predator drones used to fly surveillance missions inside the United States.

Yesterday, California Watch reported that DHS signed a contract that could be worth as much as $443 million with General Atomics for the purchase up to fourteen additional Predator drones to fly near the border of Mexico and Canada. Congress would still need to appropriate the funds, but if they did, DHS' drone fleet woud increase to twenty-four.

While many people may think the US only flies Predator drones overseas, DHS has already spent $250 million over the last six years on ten surveillance Predators of its own. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a division of DHS—uses the unmanned drones inside the U.S. to patrol the borders with surveillance equipment like video cameras, infrared cameras, heat sensors, and radar.

They say the drones are vital in the fight to stop illegal immigrants, but as EFF reported in June, the DHS Inspector General ...

IF Action Round Up, November 12-18, 2012

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

OIF sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. To subscribe to this list, visit For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit Below is a sample of articles from November 12-18, 2012.


Free Speech

The trouble with Virginia’s plates



You Can’t Say That on the Internet

‘And Then Came Tango,’ Gay Penguin Play, Canceled By Texas School District

Davis School District sued over flap about lesbian mothers book


Internet Freedom

Internet freedom remains US priority at UN conference

Game over for Lieberman cybersecurity bill – DeMint seeks to curb FTC’s antitrust authority – SAFE WEB reauthorization cleared

 … more articles after the break!


More Companies Are Tracking Online Data, Study Finds

Data privacy: Not a priority for marketers?

Trying to Keep Your E-Mails Secret When the C.I.A. Chief Couldn’t

Related: As CIA Chief Scandal Looms, Lawmakers Consider Tightening E-Mail Privacy

Related: FBI’s abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation

Related: Online Privacy Issue Is Also in Play in Petraeus Scandal

Related: US gets more Google user data than all other countries ...

PayPal Showing Signs of Censorship Once Again

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Is PayPal up to old tricks? Despite agreeing to lift a ban on serving publishers of erotic works earlier this year, author Amelia C. Gormley says the company refused to process payment on her commissioned book cover.

Gormley recently blogged about the experience: After sending payment to artist Kerry Chin for a commissioned cover illustration, PayPal sent Chin a notice on November 8, informing Chin that after a review of her account, the account would be “permanently limited.” Chin was locked out of her account and unable to review transactions. It has been reported and confirmed by Gormley that PayPal has since restored the account.

In response to reports that the trouble with PayPal could be over copyright, Gormley wrote another blog showing more of the message PayPal sent to Chin. The message appears to confirm that PayPal suspended the account for imagery they found objectionable, and Chin and Gormley further confirmed this by identifying which transactions were flagged. Two of the transactions were for the cover to Gormley’s erotic novel Acceleration. The cover features two men engaged in mild sexual activity, but shows nothing more than the top of one man’s buttocks. The other man is mostly clothed. ...

SUNY Oswego Victory Makes Media Splash

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Earlier this month, FIRE exposed a shocking case at the State University of New York College at Oswego (SUNY Oswego), where a student was suspended and ordered to vacate campus simply for writing emails. 

Alexander Myers, an exchange student from Australia, contacted three hockey coaches from other institutions, as research for a class assignment he was writing about SUNY Oswego men's hockey coach Ed Gosek. In his email, he wrote that "what you say about Mr Gosek does not have to be positive." The next day, Myers received a letter from SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley, which placed him on interim suspension and charged him with "disruptive behavior," on the grounds that SUNY Oswego policy prohibited emails that "defame, harass, intimidate, or threaten another individual or group."  

If you find his suspension outrageous, you're not the only one! Once FIRE broke the news, media outlets across the country picked up the story, calling much-needed attention to SUNY Oswego and its disciplinary practices. Here's a quick summary of the coverage:

Berkeley Student Calls on New Chancellor to Champion Free Speech on Campus

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

In The Daily Californian yesterday, columnist Jason Willick addresses an open letter to Professor Nicholas Dirks, the incoming chancellor for the University of California, Berkeley. In his letter, Willick notes the disturbing prevalence of campus censorship, linking to Greg's recent op-ed in The New York Times and last week's Wall Street Journal piece for several recent examples. Willick ends with a stirring call for the new chancellor to uphold Berkeley's historic tradition of free speech on campus:

One of your most important missions as chancellor, in my view, must be to ensure that UC Berkeley is able to sustain its reputation as an incubator of dissent and free expression, even as other universities restrict speech rights. I wish you the best of luck.

Well said, Jason. We hope Chancellor Dirks will heed this excellent advice.

ACLU Executive Director Delivers Blistering Critique of Campus Speech Codes

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

In an important speech about civil liberties on university campuses delivered last week to an audience at Tufts University, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero defended free speech on university campuses. As covered by Josh Weiner of The Tufts Daily, the lecture, titled "Sticks and Stones: Freedom of Expression and Political Correction," addressed a wide variety of ways free speech is threatened by universities. 

Romero said that his disdain for censorship, particularly on university campuses, stems from the fact that colleges and universities are places "where students foster many fresh ideas and where many landmark movements—including Occupy Wall Street, the anti-Vietnam War movement and much of the civil rights movement—originated before gaining momentum in the outside world." As Romero went on to argue, "That's why college life is so great. It's the incubator of those free ideas that will then germinate elsewhere." 

As a gay Puerto Rican growing up in the Bronx, Romero explained that he endured numerous encounters with hateful speech as a young man. Romero stated that "the effects of harmful and degrading speech are real" and gave him "many sleepless nights." But Romero is nevertheless an opponent of speech codes, saying that he finds them ineffective and ...

Journalism is Not Terrorism: Calling on Ethiopia to #FreeEskinder Nega

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

UPDATE November 22, 2012: According to news reports this morning, Eskinder Nega's appeal has been postponed until December 19th. A lawyer for another defendant noted: "As they [the Court] scrutinized our ground of appeal they found so many legal and factual irregularities." Judge Dagne Melaku has stated that the Court needs several weeks to review the "bulky" case file of evidence.

We're urging concerned individuals to use this delay to speak out -- please take the PEN America petition and show support for Eskinder on social media by using the hashtag #FreeEskinder and replacing your avatar.

* * *

Eskinder Nega, an award-winning journalist who has been imprisoned for over a year, appeared briefly in court two weeks ago to appeal the terrorism charges levied against him. Eskinder has unwaveringly denied the charges, maintaining that blogging about human rights abuses and democracy is not a form of terrorism. In July, Eskinder was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his reporting. Earlier this month, his appeal was cut short: according to one report EFF received from partners working on his case, Eskinder was not allowed to read his defense statement and the appeal was rescheduled to November ...

Let’s Close the Deal on a Treaty for Visually Impaired Persons and Persons With Print Disabilities

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

This week, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is hosting the 25th Session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR/25). The agenda is focused, as it should be, on finalizing a longstanding discussion: the need for an international instrument to protect the rights of visually impaired persons and persons with print disabilities. Copyright protections create barriers for people with disabilities, yet big publishers continue to block efforts to create exceptions to remedy the problem even as hundreds of millions of people would stand to benefit worldwide. In the US alone, those with print disabilities represent 30 million people. According to an estimate by the World Health Organization, there are about 285 million visually impaired people in the world, and 90% of those are in the developing world.

As we have noted before, there is a chronic lack of material in formats accessible to the world’s visually impaired and people with print disabilities. Visually impaired people face a “book famine” in which 95% of the books published in rich countries and 99% in poorer countries are never converted into accessible formats such as audio, large print, or braille. The fastest way to address this ...

New FIRE Video: Jonathan Rauch ‘In Defense of Being Offensive’

Monday, November 19th, 2012

“We can’t trust anybody in authority to make smart decisions for us about what’s the acceptable point of view.” So says author and Brookings Institution scholar Jonathan Rauch in FIRE’s latest video, “In Defense of Being Offensive.” Rauch presents a stirring and convincing defense of pluralism over what he calls “purism,” arguing that minorities benefit more under a society that values pluralism, including the right to offend others. Rauch concludes: “Is it a dangerous situation when someone can shut down the search for truth by saying ‘Oh, that offends me’? Absolutely.”

Trading Away our Digital Rights: More Nations Join TPP as the Next Round of Negotiations Approach

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The next round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations will take place from December 3-12 in Auckland, New Zealand, and it will be done with the same level of secrecy as the last 14 rounds. And like all of the previous rounds of talks, it will take place in a luxury venue, only this time in a high-end casino, that itself is embroiled in its own controversy over corrupt dealings.

As TPP talks trudge along with ever more Pacific nations participating in the meetings, our alarm over its intellectual property (IP) provisions has only grown. The IP language in this intricate trade agreement would harm users’ digital rights in profound ways, such as pressuring ISPs to become Internet cops and criminalizing the distribution of DRM-circumvention tools even for fair uses. It also attempts to protect temporary copies, against the logic of how the Internet works. The U.S. content industry has lobbied for this language just as they did with the SOPA and PIPA bills early this year. In doing so, they continue to demonstrate the same significant disregard for consumers as they did when they cooked up harmful provisions within those U.S. bills.

The TPP is one of ...

Problems with University Bias Policies and Attempts to Improve Campus Climate

Monday, November 19th, 2012

This fall, FIRE is writing a blog series about how schools can reform their problematic speech codes and earn a "green light" rating from us—a distinction currently awarded to just 15 of the more than 400 schools in our Spotlight database, but one we hope to be able to award to many more in the years to come. In this series, we are discussing common problems with campus speech codes, focusing on examples from schools that are just a few small changes away from earning a green light rating. So far, we have examined how universities restrict speech by mandating "civility," improperly broadening the definition of "harassment," restricting students' online expression, and placing undue restrictions on campus postings and on student protests and demonstrations. Today we wrap up this series with a discussion of overly broad policies on "bias" and "intolerance."

Universities frequently have the best of intentions when they enact policies on bias and intolerance. But since most speech that people would consider "biased" or "intolerant" is protected by the First Amendment, schools must find ways to improve the campus climate and provide support to affected students without infringing on other students' free speech rights.

At some ...

The Thomas Jefferson Center For the Protection of Free Expression 2012-11-18 20:46:10

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

The new Trader Joe’s has murals painted on its walls of some the landmarks of Charlottesville, including The Rotunda, Monticello, and The Community Chalkboard!

Greg Featured in ‘Wall Street Journal’ and on C-SPAN’s Book TV

Saturday, November 17th, 2012
FIRE is proud to announce that the "Weekend Interview" in today's issue of The Wall Street Journal features none other than FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, highlighting his career of fighting for free speech on campus. And tonight, Greg's speech on the themes of the book at Columbia University will be broadcast on C-SPAN's Book TV at 11 p.m Eastern time, as well as Sunday, November 25, at 7 p.m Eastern. Be sure to tune in!

Social Media, Internet Shutdowns are the Latest Weapons in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Days ago the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched Operation Pillar of Defense, its latest military operation against Hamas in Gaza, firing over one hundred rockets into the Gaza Strip in response to rockets targeting Israel. The attacks prompted two retaliatory rockets launched from Gaza, targeting Tel Aviv and its suburbs. While the rockets fly and casualties pile up, a parallel conflict is taking place on the Internet and social media.

On Wednesday, the IDF posted a video of what they claimed was the assassination of a senior Hamas Operative and followed it up with a Tweet from the @IDFSpokesperson account:

We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.

This, in turn spurred a reply from Hamas, via @AlQassamBrigade:

@idfspokesperson Our blessed hand will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)

This exchange prompted Brian Fung at The Atlantic to wonder if the war of words between Israel and Hamas violated Twitter’s of terms of service, which prohibits “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” Fung eventually concluded that the exchange did not constitute a violation of Twitter’s TOS, but Matthew ...

First Amendment Writes Deadline Extended

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Due to glitches in the on-line application form for First Amendment Writes, the deadline for entries in the poetry and songwriting contest has been extended to Monday, November 26.

Just One Week Left! Enter FIRE’s 2012 High School Essay Contest for Your Chance to Win $20,000 in Scholarship Prizes

Friday, November 16th, 2012

The deadline for FIRE's essay contest is quickly approaching. The last day for high school juniors and seniors to watch two short FIRE videos and submit their essays on why free speech is important on college campuses will be Sunday, November 25. We will be awarding nine scholarship prizes totalling $20,000, including a $10,000 scholarship for the first prize essay. Encourage the high school students in your life to apply today!

FIRE Essay Contest FAQs:

Who can enter the FIRE high school essay contest? 

Current high school juniors and seniors (graduating in the spring of 2013 or 2014) may submit an essay for consideration.

What is the deadline for entering?

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, November 25, 2012. Winners will be announced by December 21, 2012.

What is the essay question?

Why is free speech important at our nation's colleges and universities? Using examples from both videos, discuss how censorship of student speech is incompatible with higher education. Your essay should be 800-1,000 words.

How much is the winning scholarship award?

FIRE will award nine scholarship prizes totalling $20,000 to students who enter the 2012 contest. One $10,000 first prize, one $5,000 second prize, ...

Michigan State Reverses Decision Rejecting Free-Market Scholar’s Speech

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Here's today's press release

Michigan State University Logo

EAST LANSING, Mich., November 16, 2012—Michigan State University (MSU) has reaffirmed the First Amendment rights of student organizations this week after it wrongly denied funding to a student group. When the MSU College Libertarians were denied funding to bring bestselling author Tom Woods to speak on campus on the faulty basis that groups with "political agendas" were ineligible to receive student activity fee funding, the group contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

"The right to engage in discussion of public affairs is one of the most fundamental freedoms the First Amendment has to offer. Nowhere is this more important than in our colleges and universities," Robert Shibley, FIRE's Senior Vice President, said. "Luckily, MSU has remembered its obligations as a public university, and recognized the rightful place of the College Libertarians and other expressive groups in the marketplace of ideas."  

In September 2012, the College Libertarians, a recognized student organization at MSU, applied to the Associated Students of Michigan State University's (ASMSU's) Funding Board for $4,450 in funding to host a lecture by bestselling author and historian Tom Woods. The event, originally scheduled for November 8, was to provide, according ...

Greg on ‘Wall Street Journal Live’ This Afternoon—Watch Online!

Friday, November 16th, 2012

FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff will be appearing on The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Live web TV station this afternoon at 1:15 p.m. Eastern time. He’ll be discussing FIRE’s mission, its work, and the themes of his book, Unlearning Liberty. Tune in on your computer at, on your iPad, or on your Android device for WSJ Live’s OpinionJournal show this afternoon and catch Greg in action!

Google Transparency Report Shows Rising Trend of Government Surveillance

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Each year, Google receives thousands of demands from governments around the world seeking information about its users. People who use any of the search engine giant’s free online services – such as Gmail, YouTube, Google+ or Blogger – leave digital footprints behind, and information relating to their accounts is increasingly sought out by law enforcement agencies. To raise awareness about this, Google publishes a Transparency Report every six months documenting how many requests it received for user data, and from which countries. The practice was recently emulated by Twitter.

The United States Demands User Data More Often Than Any Other Country

The most recent report, disclosing information requests fielded in the six-month period ending in June of 2012, is in keeping with an alarming trend. On the whole, requests for user data are on the rise. In the first half of 2012, a total of 20,938 inquiries flooded into Google from government entities around the world. The requests pertained to about 34,614 accounts. (To get a sense of the big picture, check out this interactive map charting data requests by country.)

As with five out of the six previous data sets, the United States Government also submitted the highest number ...

IF Action Round Up October 29-November 11, 2012

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

OIF sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. To subscribe to this list, visit an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit Below is a sample of articles from October 29–November 11, 2012.



Surveillance Act Criticized, But Can It Be Fought?

Romney and Obama Campaigns Leaking Web Site Visitor Data

Agencies that use Google services at risk of data-mining, tech group says

Minneapolis police pushing for more license plate data privacy

Facebook unveils privacy education feature for new users

… and much more after the break!

Feds Ordered to Disclose Data About Wiretap Backdoors

Free apps pose hidden privacy, security risks, Juniper study warns

Surveillance and Accountability

Washington Post: Yes, We Need To Give Up Liberty For Security (commentary from techdirt)

Police allowed to install cameras on private property without warrant

Is Big Brother the New Normal? The Supreme Court Will Decide

Stingrays’ use to tap phones challenged

Privacy Isn’t Dead With Millennials, It’s Thriving

Privacy, Spectrum Among Top Mobile Issues

Supreme Court Weighing Genetic Privacy

Data collectors admit to lawmakers they ...

Fordham University Hits Bottom, Keeps Digging in Ann Coulter Disinvite Kerfuffle

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Over the past few days, FIRE has highlighted a disappointing situation at Fordham University. In brief: the Fordham College Republicans invited Ann Coulter to speak, public pressure mounted to rescind her invitation, Fordham University President Joseph McShane, S.J., while not cowing to the pressure to ban Coulter from campus, nonetheless denounced her views (and denounced the students for inviting her). Seeing which way the wind was blowing, the College Republicans disinvited Coulter shortly before McShane's denunciation went out. Here is a good account from one involved student.

FIRE's own Robert Shibley, in his second guest post on the topic at College Insurrection (you can read the first one to get up to speed) responds to a new statement from Fordham attempting to justify Father McShane's email, this time from Director of Communications Bob Howe. You can read Fordham's statement for yourself at the link, but here's an excerpt: 

Ann Coulter's propensity for slurs and hate speech is well-documented, and her (now cancelled) appearance couldn't pass without comment... [But t]o issue a statement on Professor Singer's philosophical, logical, and moral shortcomings would be overstepping the boundaries of academic discourse.

Robert dismantles Fordham's statement point-by-point. Check out the rest of the ...

Good Enough for Army, Navy, and Air Force; Too Hot for SUNY Maritime?

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

In a tragicomic display of the out-of-touch paternalism that is the hallmark of so many college administrations, the Dean of Students at the State University of New York Maritime College (SUNY Maritime) recently sent the following email to all students:

Greetings Students — 

With the recent production of college videos promoting the "Gangnam Style" song, we would like to be ahead of the curve and prevent any mishaps that would cause embarrassment to the college and/or you, the student. Please see the guidelines below, which are effective immediately. Please feel free to contact my office should you have any questions.

The guidelines include a prohibition on any videos containing any "inappropriate" or "indecent" materials and also require students to allow SUNY Maritime to use and even edit any student-made videos for its own promotional purposes. 

Needless to say, the university cannot—consistent with its First Amendment obligations—prohibit students from using their own time and resources to record "inappropriate" videos, whatever that means in application. (Despite the "maritime" name and its "regiment of cadets," SUNY Maritime is not a military school, and its students have the First Amendment rights of public university students.) 

But beyond the free speech issue here, this is ...

U.S. Copyright Surveillance Machine About To Be Switched On, Promises of Transparency Already Broken

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

The "Copyright Alert System" – an elaborate combination of surveillance, warnings, punishments, and "education" directed at customers of most major U.S. Internet service providers – is poised to launch in the next few weeks, as has been widely reported. The problems with it are legion.  Big media companies are launching a massive peer-to-peer surveillance scheme to snoop on subscribers. Based on the results of that snooping, ISPs will be serving as Hollywood’s private enforcement arm, without the checks and balances public enforcement requires. Once a subscriber is accused, she must prove her innocence, without many of the legal defenses she’d have in a courtroom. The "educational" materials posted for subscribers thus far look more like propaganda, slanted towards major entertainment companies' view of copyright. And all of this was set up with the encouragement and endorsement of the U.S. government.

One of the mechanisms that was supposed to ensure some degree of fairness was independent auditing of the P2P surveillance methods used to identify alleged infringers, and of the ISPs' procedures for matching Internet Protocol addresses to actual humans. But last month, the group set up to oversee the system - the Center for Copyright Information - ...

Utah Mom Sues to Return Book to Library Shelves

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

In Our Mothers' House cover

Earlier this year Patricia Polacco’s picture book In Our Mothers’ House, which depicts a happy and racially mixed family headed by two lesbians, was placed under restricted access in a Davis, Utah, School District elementary library. The book was segregated behind the library counter, where students could only access it with a signed permission slip from their parents. Now, a district parent is fighting back in a lawsuit seeking to have the book restored to open stacks.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is representing Tina Weber and her three children, who are students in Davis schools. In addition to returning the book to general circulation, the suit also seeks “a permanent injunction that would bar schools from restricting books based on an interpretation of homosexual themes and…declaratory judgments [from the court] stating the school district violated students’ First Amendment rights.”

The school district, meanwhile, apparently remains convinced it was justified in restricting the book after the parents of a Windridge Elementary kindergartner complained about it. A school-level committee initially moved the book to a different library section for students in grades 3-6, but the parents were not satisfied and started a petition to have it reviewed by ...

Parent Attempts to Have “Most Dangerous Game” Removed in Colorado School

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

New York City may have been on pause for a bit after superstorm Sandy, but censorship attempts were certainly not taking a break.

The mother of an 8th grader at Bromley East Charter School in Brighton, Colorado evidently lodged a complaint to the school’s administration and to the media about one of the most frequently taught short stories of all time: “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. For the handful of you who did not read this story in middle school, “The Most Dangerous Game” is a 1924 story that satirizes the big game safari hunting of the 1920s and is often used to teach a number of literary devices.

In a local news report, the parent was quoted as saying the story made her son “uncomfortable to read it and to think about killing someone else.”

Yes, well, isn’t that exactly the point?

Far from encouraging 14-year-olds to pick up their hunting rifles and head off to their own private homosapien gaming preserve, the story probes the irony of civilized human animals killing other animals for sport, or other humans in warfare. If the irony is too subtle for a student, they have a teacher right there to ...

Victory for Freedom of the Press at Ithaca College

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

In a victory for freedom of the press, Ithaca College President Tom Rochon announced this week that a restrictive media policy implemented early last month has now been rescinded. The controversial policy had required all student media outlets seeking to interview Ithaca administrators to route their requests through the college's Office of Media Relations. 

Writing about the policy last month, FIRE's Joe Cohn called the policy "misguided," observing that: 

Limiting student journalist access to administrators, deans, and department heads frustrates student media's ability to get unvarnished opinions and critical information. Policies like this one, therefore, threaten the very notion of a free press and defeat the principles embodied in the First Amendment.

President Rochon had sought to justify the policy by noting that it only applied when a student journalist sought comment on "college policies or developments." But as Joe wrote: 

If the college is only concerned that its institutional viewpoint is accurately expressed, it should simply designate individuals who are approved to speak for the institution publicly, so that it is clear that when others speak they are speaking for themselves as opposed to for the institution. Ithaca College's policy is too broad to accomplish the administration's ...

A Librarian’s Thoughts on Protecting Intellectual Freedom

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Last weekend, CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein attended the annual conference for the New York Library Association. Guest blogger Arthur Friedman attended the conference and shared his thoughts on the role of librarians in protecting intellectual freedom:

Saratoga Springs, New York, welcomed the New York Library Association for its annual conference this past week. On Thursday, the Association’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table provided a forum for CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein, Chris Finan with the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and Acacia O’Connor with the Kids Right to Read Project to discuss the state of the First Amendment in the 21st century.

Each presenter did an excellent job of describing the work of their organization and the battles that they have faced and continue to encounter. They noted that many instances of quasi-censorship go unreported, and the fight to preserve our access to ideas in new formats is ongoing. Brownstein used this forum to discuss the manga format and how it and the Japanese cultural norms that inform it are misunderstood. O’Connor spoke about the problems that typically arise in schools and how the censorship issues that these represent are usually hidden from view.

Although librarians did not always ...

Meet Greg Lukianoff and Virginia Postrel in LA!

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

On November 29 at 7 p.m., the Los Angeles Press Club is hosting an event to celebrate the release of FIRE President Greg Lukianoff's new book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. FIRE board member, former Reason editor, and noted author Virginia Postrel will give remarks, and food and drinks will be served. It’s free to attend, so we hope all FIRE fans in the area will come on out to meet Virginia and Greg!

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event. To learn more about Unlearning Liberty, visit To register to attend the event, visit

We Made It Through Sandy…

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

…with some minor scrapes.

This photo of NCAC’s block in the South Street Seaport in Manhattan was taken during superstorm Sandy. Our building was flooded with 5 feet of mucky saltwater, there was electrical damage and we’re still grappling with being displaced.

As we’re winding down the calendar year, and especially now after operating with no phones, limited e-mail and no access to our office infrastructure, we’d really appreciate your financial support.

We wouldn’t be able to do such great work — defending books, art and speech from the impulse to censor — without a little help from our friends and supporters.

Please make a donation to NCAC today:

Senate Defeats Dangerously Vague Cybersecurity Act—Again

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

With your help last summer we helped defeat Senator Lieberman's Cybersecurity Act. But for some reason, Senate Majority Leader Reid decided to call for another vote on the bill in the lame duck session today. After an hour's debate, the full Senate voted 51 to 47 against cloture for the Cybersecurity Act, meaning it can't move forward for a vote.

We've spent months going over the various faults in the bill—and of the faults in the other proposed Cybersecurity bills. We were particularly concerned because the Cybersecurity Act included overly vague definitions for key terms like "cybersecurity threat," "cybersecurity threat indicator," and even "countermeasures."

EFF believes in strong privacy and security for networked devices—that's why we champion technologies like Tor and HTTPS Everywhere. But we believe that legislation in the arena of cybersecurity should not provide broad, vague powers that allow companies to skirt existing privacy law.  

"We're looking forward to having a more informed debate about cybersecurity next session, and hope Congress will bear in mind the serious privacy interests of individual Internet users. We don't need to water down existing privacy law to address the challenges of cybersecurity," said Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien.


Robert Shibley on ‘College Insurrection’ on Fordham’s Ann Coulter Controversy

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley has a new piece at College Insurrection about Fordham University's condemnation of the College Republicans' now-rescinded speaking invitation to Ann Coulter, which we discussed earlier this week on The Torch

Robert's column focuses in particular on the Catholic university's strikingly selective outrage—as you may remember, the university president chose to condemn Coulter while remaining silent on the upcoming appearance of Peter Singer, who has stated that "killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all." Robert writes:

In the end, the only reasonable conclusion can be that [President] McShane and the Fordham administration have allowed their politically driven distaste for Ann Coulter to overcome their responsibility as academics to allow the marketplace of ideas to function as intended at Fordham.

The wisest and soundest course would have been to avoid wading into an unnecessary political debate, let both Coulter and Singer speak without commenting on their views, and trust Fordham's adult students to make up their own minds in an unfettered marketplace of ideas.

Belittling students who dare to invite a speaker to campus as a way to disincline them from expressing ...

Register Now for FIRE’s November Webinar: America’s Worst Speech Codes

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

What exactly are "speech codes," and what can you do about them? For our November webinar, FIRE Director of Speech Code Research Samantha Harris will give a rundown of some of the worst college speech codes she has encountered over the years at FIRE and explain how students, professors, and alumni have worked together to eliminate repressive speech policies on campuses across the country. FIRE webinars are free and open to all, so register now and join us next Tuesday

America's Worst Speech Codes
Tuesday, November 20
3 p.m. EST

register button

To prepare for the webinar, check out the speech codes at your alma mater by visiting