Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Federal Judge Rules NSA Program Likely Unconstitutional

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

nsa_eyeYesterday, a federal judge issued an order holding that the National Security Agency’s tracking and collecting cellphone “metadata” without a warrant is “almost certainly” unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment.

The court issued a preliminary injunction against the NSA’s tracking cellphone information of the named plaintiffs. This is the first serious legal fallout from the disclosures by Edward Snowden last summer about widespread government surveillance programs, including the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program. The order was stayed pending a likely appeal by the government. A similar case is pending in New York.

The decision also raises the question whether, if the decision is upheld on appeal, Snowden should be considered a whistleblower and given amnesty.

On that issue, the government’s position has not changed. According to the spokesman for the White House, “Mr. Snowden has been accused of leaking classified information and he faces felony charges here in the United States.” In contrast, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first reported on the program in The Guardian based on documents provided by Snowden, called the decision “a vindication” of Snowden’s view that the public was entitled to know about the existence of government activity that raises such serious constitutional questions.

The debate ...

Happy Nude Year! Lawsuit Forces Display of Nudes Until January 17

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Court settlement extends San Bernardino County Government Center exhibit, to compensate for time during which paintings had been removed.

Today NCAC and and the ACLU of Southern California were please to see the final court settlement that extends the exhibition time of three recently restored paintings at the San Bernardino County Government Center.

The extended display period will compensate for the time during which the works, by artists Armando Aleman and Efren Montiel Jimenez, had been removed.

We are pleased with the outcome not only because the work of Eften and Armando will have a chance to be seen, but because the case will give pause to public officials elsewhere when they decide to yield to some heckler’s veto and impose their prejudices on the whole community.

The paintings, which were part of an exhibit celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, were removed in September after a visitor complained they were “offensive”. NCAC and the ACLU-SC sent a public letter opposing the removal, reminding government officials of their First Amendment obligations, but there was no response.

The ACLU-SC eventually filed a lawsuit and, on December 4th, the County of San Bernardino conceded and restored the paintings. This final settlement guarantees the ...

Kids’ Right to Read Top Banned Books of 2013…Help Support Our Fight!

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Here they are: KRRP’s Top Victories of 2013. We are proud of our work in successfully battling these book challenges, but this effort can only continue with your continued support of the project. If you love these books, support us in this fight for the freedom to read today.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky /  Glen Ellyn, IL
District 41′s outgoing school board voted to ban Perks from middle school classroom libraries, with only one board member having actually read the book. Students and teachers didn’t know exactly what to do, but they knew they had to do something. With our help, a little push from Judy Blume, and after nearly two months of constant meetings and negotiations, the new board responded to local activists’ petition to reconsider the ban. When the board voted again, it was nearly unanimous (6-1), in favor of reinstating the book.

Absolutely True Diary… by Sherman Alexie / Yakima, WA
NCAC and KRRP went to bat for this book more than any other work in 2013, facing challenges in Montana, New York and two new cases in New Jersey and West Virginia. Though typically taught in 11th and 12th grades ...

Girls Against Boys: What’s Wrong With the (Latest) Beastie Boys Lawsuit

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

“Oh no!” said the email that went round the EFF office on Friday. Could it be true that the Beastie Boys had unleashed the legal hounds to shut down a parody ad that uses the group's classic misogynistic ditty, “Girls”? Surely not. As remix pioneers, the Beastie Boys are the veterans of many legal battles against copyright maximalists. The Beastie Boys aren’t copyright bullies, they fight those bullies. Right?

Wrong, at least this time. The Beastie Boys and Universal Music have indeed accused the video's creator, toy company GoldieBlox, of copyright infringement. Happily, GoldieBlox not only refused to be intimidated, it decided to go on the offensive, filing a complaint asking a federal court to declare that the ad was a lawful fair use.

It's unclear how strong the legal threats were—they aren’t attached to the complaint—but GoldieBlox is clearly worried not just about an infringement lawsuit, but any effort to abuse the DMCA to take down the video just as the holiday shopping season gets under way.

The Beastie Boys famously object to the use of their music in any advertising. Adam Yauch explicitly mentioned it in his will. Nonetheless, GoldieBlox should win on the merits. Here’s why.


Seven Tibetans Held in Crackdown Over Self-Immolation Protest

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Chinese authorities have detained seven Tibetans, including three monks, as they stepped up a security crackdown following the latest self-immolation protest against Beijing's rule in a Tibetan-populated county in China’s northwestern Qinghai province, according to sources.

The seven were accused of being involved in the Nov. 11 self-immolation death of Tsering Gyal, a 20-year-old monk from the Akyong monastery in Pema (in Chinese, Banma) county in the Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the sources said.

Three of those detained were from Akyong monastery, where Gyal burned himself calling for freedom for Tibetans and an end to Chinese rule.

“Recently seven Tibetans were detained on suspicion of involvement in the self-immolation by the late Tsering Gyal," a Tibetan with close contacts in the area told RFA's Tibetan Service.

"Details such as the names of the seven are not available due to a comprehensive security clampdown in Pema County," the Tibetan said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"However, their detention is certain and confirmed and they comprise three monks of Akyong monastery and four laypersons from the county."

Several other monks from the monastery have also been questioned.

Gyal's self-immolation had led to a security crackdown in Pema where, according to one ...

Free Expression, Surveillance, and the Fight Against Impunity

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Journalists, bloggers and others who speak out against the powerful risk terrible repercussions for their work. Around the world, they face physical intimidation, violent attacks, and even murder for speaking out.

When such crimes are committed against those who exercise their right to free speech, the perpetrators all too often go unpunished. Those who are meant to enforce the law turn a blind eye. The oppressors can act with absolute impunity.

Every November 23rd, free speech organizations around the world draw attention to these travesties of justice in a Day To End Impunity. The number of uninvestigated crimes and unsolved murders of journalists makes for depressing reading—as does the slow but inexorable increase in victims who are targeted for their online work. Since 1993, the Committee to Protect Journalists have recorded the deaths of twenty-nine online reporters who were murdered for their work. Seventeen of those crimes went unsolved and unpunished.

But in a digital world, it's not just crimes of physical violence that can chill speech. The spread of surveillance technology means that crimes against privacy can be used to intimidate or limit the work of free speech, too.

Investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova has been a constant irritant ...

Civil Society Groups Demand Transparency and User Protections in TPP

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Civil society groups are coming out in force against the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, following Wikileaks' publication of the “Intellectual Property” chapter. The leaked chapter confirmed our worst fears that TPP carries Hollywood's wishlist of policies, including provisions to encourage ISPs to police user activities and liability for users for simply bypassing digital locks on content and devices for legal purposes. Public interest groups and advocates are making a renewed demand for transparency in negotiations and ask that negotiators ensure users' interests are fairly balanced against those of Big Content.

As part of the Fair Deal Coalition, representing Internet users, schools, libraries, people with disabilities, tech firms, and others, we have sent an open letter to TPP negotiators and government leaders asking them to reject the restrictive copyright provisions as seen in the August 2013 leaked text. As they stand, the harmful proposals—set forth mostly by the U.S. and Australia—would limit the open Internet, access to knowledge, harm future innovation, and impose some of the worst features of U.S. copyright law on other countries, without the corresponding limits. In the letter, we ask that negotiators and government representatives stand for users' interests, and respect fundamental rights like due ...

Tibetan Monk Jailed for Seeking Independence, Backing Burning Protests

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

A court in western China’s Sichuan province has ordered a Tibetan monk jailed for four and a half years for seeking independence for Tibet and supporting self-immolation protests against Chinese rule, sources said.

Hortsang Tamdrin, a monk at Jonang monastery in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture’s Dzamthang (Rangthang) county, was sentenced by the prefecture’s Intermediate People’s Court after being held for almost a month following his detention on Oct. 24, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.

“He was sentenced for having committed actions aimed at ‘splitting the nation’ and for calling for the independence of Tibet,” Tsangyang Gyatso told RFA, citing contacts in the region.

“He was also accused of making public statements of support for self-immolation protesters and for promoting special recognition for self-immolators,” Gyatso said.

“Now he has been jailed for more than four years.”

Tamdrin’s age and the date of  his sentencing were not immediately clear.

Writer, social activist

A native of Tsang village in Dzamthang county’s Barma township, Tamdrin was a writer who established a “Compassion Foundation” and frequently worked to help orphanages, centers for the handicapped, and young monks belonging to different monasteries in the area, Gyatso said.

“He also ...

‘A Lot of My Gay Friends Want to Get Married’

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Shi Tou, a 43-year-old Beijing-based artist born in the southwestern Chinese city of Guiyang, talks to RFA's Mandarin Service about how she came out as a lesbian on a television show, fake marriages and attitudes to her sexuality in today's China:

I met a lot of lesbians during the 1990s, and we hung out together all the time, and shared a great deal, but I still felt that we had no way to be open about it...But I thought that was an unhealthy attitude, so when the producers of this program approached me [in 2000], I wanted to speak out on everyone's behalf, so people would know about us.

I was very direct about it [on the Hunan Satellite TV show, Getting Into Homosexuality]. I thought it was best to be honest about who I am, and that I shouldn't try to hide anything. Actually, it's less stressful that way.

I don't think [lesbians] are visible enough, because they're not present in our education, nor in the media. And when they are, it's always in a negative light, with no deep feeling portrayed. Most people don't really have an understanding of homosexuality because of the sort of discussions that take ...

Neil Gaiman Gets In The Spirit of Giving!

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Neil Gaiman made a recent visit to the CBLDF to fulfill the holiday wishes of our supporters and his fans by signing a bounty of items in time for the season of giving!  Visit the CBLDF’s Donation Center now to get your hands on books, prints and comics signed by Neil, including a very limited number of copies of CBLDF’s exclusive edition of The Sandman: Overture #1!

Mr. Gaiman is one of the CBLDF’s most active supporters.  He served on the Fund’s Board of Directors for more than a decade and is the founding co-chair of our Advisory Board.  Thanks to the support of the Gaiman Foundation, CBLDF has expanded our education program, which this year has brought the publications Raising A Reader! and CBLDF Protects Manga, as well as the news and resources you’ve come to look for on and in our weekly email newsletter.

Neil’s items support the CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving drive running now.  When you make a donation during this campaign,  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 ...

Nominate an International Champion of Free Expression!

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

freedomofexpressionawards2014-460This week, the Index on Censorship, an international organization that advocates for free expression around the world, opened up nominations for the 2014 Index Freedom of Expression Awards. Until December 6, you have an opportunity draw “attention to international champions of free expression and their causes…”

Cartoonists are some of the most influential and visible voices in political revolution, which frequently makes them the targets of censors and oppressive regimes. CBLDF has covered the struggles of several cartoonists over the past year, including Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, Palestitian cartoonist Fabi Abou Hassan, Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew, Toronto cartoonist Shahid Mahmood, Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, Egyptian cartoonist Doaa el Adl, and many more.

The Index on Censorship includes artists among the categories for which you can nominate a free speech champion. From the official press release:

The Index on Censorship Awards recognise original voices who are bravely and creatively challenging censorship today. Previous winners include education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and Belarus Free Theatre. The four categories are:

Journalist: Recognising courageous, determined, high impact investigative journalism.

Digital Activist: Recognising ground-breaking digital work, defending free expression online.

Advocate/Campaigner: Recognising those who have changed legislation, political climates ...

After Lawsuit, Eastern Michigan U. Agrees to Revise Unconstitutional Policy

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

In March, student organization Students for Life at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) enlisted Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF’s) help in suing the school after it denied the group funding based on its “political or ideological” views. ADF announced yesterday that EMU settled the case late last month, agreeing to fund all groups—including Students for Life—without consideration of the groups’ viewpoints.

ADF describes the lawsuit’s origins on its website:

In February, Students for Life at Eastern Michigan University applied for student fee funding to host a pro-life display on campus called the Genocide Awareness Project, a traveling photo-mural exhibit... . EMU denied the request because they deemed the photos of the aborted babies and the event as too controversial, biased, and one-sided.

As ADF notes in its complaint, EMU policy “prohibit[s] student fee funding for ‘political or ideological’ activities of student organizations.” According to the complaint, this policy was created in response to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Southworth v. Grebe (7th Cir. 1998), which the school interpreted as prohibiting the use of mandatory student activity fees for “political or ideological activities.” But in Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin v. Southworth (2000)...

The Innovation Act Is One Step Closer to Becoming Law

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Big news in patent reform: the Innovation Act, our favorite troll-killing bill, has cleared its first major political hurdle. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee resoundingly voted 33-5 to send the bill to the floor. Better yet, the amendment process added back in two pieces we worried were missing—demand letter reform and covered businessed method patent (CBM) review.

First, the good news: this bill is the best shot we've had at meaningful patent reform yet. Specifically, the Innovation Act is designed to target the patent troll problem, something Congress chose to entirely ignore the last time it addressed patents. It includes a provision that would, in certain circumstances, shift fees away to winning parties from the troll who brought the suit and lost. It would also require that trolls present the basic facts about their case the outset, such as who owns the patent and what products allegedly infringe it. It would allow consumers facing trolls to put litigation on hold while the suppliers and manufacturers of products and services at issue fight the fight at hand.

We believe simple common-sense reforms like these would go a long way toward restoring fairness in the system by giving defendants ...

Report Illustrates International Crackdown on Online Expression

Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Sherif Arafa cartoon

(c) Sherif Arafa

A new infographic from PEN, an international NGO that aids writers threatened with arrest, prosecution, or violence, shows that government repression of speech is increasingly focused online. PEN found 92 writers around the world currently imprisoned or in detention for something they published digitally — a figure that has more than doubled since 2008. But as anyone who follows CBLDF’s international coverage knows, it’s not just writers who face threats from authoritarian governments; it’s also artists, particularly political cartoonists.

While the Internet has enabled both artists and writers to share politically provocative work directly with audiences worldwide, authorities in many countries have caught on and instituted extensive monitoring of social media, as well as personal blogs and websites. In many cases, authorities can’t delete the offending content altogether because it is hosted outside the country, but they can block it locally and punish or intimidate the creator. Just last week, for example, Malaysian cartoonist Zunar lost an appeal of his 2010 arrest on suspicion of sedition. Even though most of his books are officially banned in his country, he manages to sell them online and also shares more timely cartoons via social media.

Here are some more ...

Open Letter to the UN General Assembly: Reject Mass Surveillance

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

The United National General Assembly should make clear that indiscriminate surveillance is never consistent with the right to privacy, five human rights groups wrote in an open letter to UN ambassadors on November 20th. The letter, signed by Access, Amnesty International, EFF, Human Rights Watch, and Privacy International, urges the General Assembly to approve a resolution on "The right to privacy in the digital age," that take a stand against the vast collection, interception and monitoring of personal data of innocent individuals both at home and abroad.

The text of the letter:

To All Member States of the United Nations General Assembly

Dear Ambassador,

The right to privacy is central to who we are as humans and is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It protects us from unwarranted intrusions into our daily lives, allows us to speak freely without fear of retribution, and helps keep our personal information, including health records, political affiliations, sexual orientation, and familial histories, safe. Indiscriminate mass surveillance, which tramples individuals’ right to privacy and undermines the social contract we all have with the State, must come to end immediately.

That is why we ...

The UN General Assembly Should Pass Strong Privacy Resolution on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

After heated negotiations, the draft resolution on digital privacy initiated by Brazil and Germany emerged on November 20 relatively undamaged, despite efforts by the United States and other members of the “Five Eyes” group to weaken its language. Although a compromise avoided naming mass extraterritorial surveillance explicitly as a “human rights violation,” the resolution directs the UN high commissioner for human rights to report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on the protection and promotion of privacy “in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance... including on a mass scale.” The resolution will ensure that this issue stays on the front burner at the UN. A vote on the resolution is expected in the next week.

The resolution would be the first major statement by the UN on privacy in 25 years, crucially reiterating the importance of protecting privacy and free expression in the face of technological advancements and encroaching state power.

“We are deeply concerned that the countries representing the ‘Five Eyes’ surveillance alliance –  the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom – have sought to weaken the resolution at the risk of undercutting their own longstanding public commitment to privacy and free expression,” the groups said in their letter.

In adopting this resolution, the General Assembly should take a stand ...

Threat of Honor Code Charges Causes Texas Student Group to Cancel Event

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

On Monday, the University of Texas-Austin (UT-Austin) chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) announced that it would host a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” event on Wednesday, during which volunteers for the group would wear a label stating “illegal immigrant,” and other students would have the opportunity to “capture” them for a $25 gift card bounty. The aim of the event, YCT President Lorenzo Garcia said, was to spark debate and promote conversation about immigration issues. The YCT chapter at UT-Austin is no stranger to using provocative tactics in order to get people talking about issues, having previously conducted an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” event (a well-known form of satirical protest against affirmative action).

Backlash was swift and came from all directions. Users on Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere began to decry the event as hateful and divisive, and several politicians chimed in to express their distaste for the planned event. The event’s Facebook page, now removed, also exploded with angry comments, as reported at The Huffington Post.

The First Amendment does not insulate speakers from being criticized or from suffering social consequences for their speech. Indeed, the remedy for “bad” speech is more speech. And to ...

U. of Montana Won’t Report Names of Faculty to Government for Missing Sexual Misconduct Training

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

The Missoulian reported earlier this month that the University of Montana (UM) will not report to the federal government a list of names of faculty members who do not complete training on sexual misconduct. The announcement breaks with the requirements set forth by the university’s May 9 agreement with the Departments of Justice and Education (also known as the “blueprint”). 

This is a positive and significant change from the resolution agreement provision that earned criticism from FIRE as well as UM faculty.

UM Legal Counsel Lucy France commented to the Missoulian:

“There was a concern in the resolution agreement that the university would provide names of people who completed or did not complete employee training,” France said. “DOJ has agreed that we don’t have to provide those names.”

France said the university instead will report compliance by sector, such as the College of Arts and Sciences, or other schools within the larger university.

The provision had stated (PDF), in relevant part:

[T]he University will provide the United States with the sign-in sheets of each employee by name and job title for each training required by Sections V.A, V.B, and V.C. of this Agreement, and a list ...

We’re TPP Activists: Reddit Asked Us Everything

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

As another of round of secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meetings began in Salt Lake City this week, EFF joined Knowledge Ecology International, Public Citizen, Techdirt, and Open Media, in a Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) to answer users' questions about the leaked TPP “Intellectual Property” chapter.

We answered questions, because representatives of the governments negotiating the text certainly weren't going to. Internet users expect to be able to engage and participate in deciding our policy priorities. We do not want regulations to be decided through back room deals with corporate interests—and the growing opposition against TPP reflects this. When a user asked how we plan on stopping this agreement, Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen said it best: “Our plan to stop the TPP is simple: tell people what's in it.”

We got dozens of great questions from users, ranging from people completely unfamiliar with the TPP, to copyright scholars who haven't been following the negotiations as closely as some of our TPP experts. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

User Osven asked:

In your opinion, what is the most important (or intrusive) part of the intellectual property chapter for ordinary citizens?

Is there anything ...

When Censorship Gets Ridiculous

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Things can get pretty serious over here at CBLDF. Whether it’s fighting to keep literature accessible in schools and libraries, or cartoonists literally fearing for their lives, censorship can have powerful negative implications.

Which is why, sometimes, it’s nice to take a step back to fathom just how ridiculous censorship can be. Luckily, humor-site has collected a list of the “The 5 Most Ridiculous Attempts to Censor Popular Cartoons.”

Did you know that not a single punch was thrown in the 1990s cartoon Spider-Man: The Animated Series? Apparently, over the course of five seasons, the only way Spider-Man could fight bad-guys was to wrestle them and tie them up. (And I never even noticed!) The producers set rules that stated characters “couldn’t throw punches, toss anyone through glass, put children in jeopardy, have anyone threatened by fire” (directives that uncomfortably parallel the Comics Code Authority guidelines of the 1950s). Character said “destroy” instead of “kill,” and rather than dying, Uncle Ben only moved to Canada. Other important restrictions included, “You may have a villain sent to jail, but you may NOT give him a bus ticket and send him to Florida.” Spare the children.

Apparently, in the 1980s, the U.K. was ...

‘Blueprint’ No More? Feds Back Away from New Campus Speech Restrictions

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Here’s today’s press release:

WASHINGTON, November 21, 2013—The federal government is backing away from the nationwide “blueprint” for campus speech restrictions issued this May by the Departments of Education and Justice. The agencies’ settlement with the University of Montana sought to impose new, unconstitutional speech restrictions, due process abuses, and an overbroad definition of sexual harassment and proclaimed the agreement to be “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.” 

But in a letter sent last week to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the new head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Catherine Lhamon, said that “the agreement in the Montana case represents the resolution of that particular case and not OCR or DOJ policy.”

“Assistant Secretary Lhamon’s clear statement that the Montana agreement does not represent OCR or DOJ policy—meaning it’s not much of a ‘blueprint’—should come as a great relief to those who care about free speech and due process on our nation’s campuses,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Colleges have been bewildered trying to reconcile their obligations under the First Amendment with the requirements of the ‘blueprint’—essentially an impossible task. OCR and DOJ now need to directly inform our ... Stands Up For Its Users, Goes to Court to Challenge DMCA Abuse

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

The abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's notice-and-takedown process to silence lawful speech is well-documented and all too common. Far less common, though, is a service provider that is willing to team up with its users to challenge that abuse in court.

That’s what's parent company, Automattic, Inc, did today and we couldn’t be more pleased.  Represented by Durie Tangri, LLP, Automattic has joined two lawsuits in federal court under Section 512(f) of the DMCA. Section 512(f) is the provision that allows users to hold people accountable when they make false infringement accusations. 

The suits respond to two particularly egregious examples of DMCA abuse. The first involved Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus. Their website, Retraction Watch, provides a window into the scientific process by documenting the retraction of scientific papers due to everything from honest error to falsified data. A disgruntled researcher allegedly copied portions of the Retraction Watch site onto his own site, claiming the work as his own, and then issuing a DMCA takedown notice against Retraction Watch. 

The second concerns Oliver Hotham, a student journalist living in the UK. An anti-gay-rights group called Straight Pride UK was incensed when Hotham had the nerve to publish ...

Introducing a Compendium of the Released NSA Spying Documents

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

The ongoing NSA leaks, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits and government declassification continue to bring vital information to the public about the the ongoing efforts of the NSA and its allies to spy on millions of innocent people. What started out as news detailing the agency's collections of users' calling records, phone calls, and emails now includes NSA's attack on international encryption standards and breaking into the data center links of companies like Yahoo! and Google. The news reports will continue to come and are often grounded in documents like PowerPoint slides, pictures, and internal government reports.

Because of the flood of information, we've decided to compile the documents in a chart that will serve as part of our NSA Spying resource. The chart attempts to compile all of the documents released by the newspapers and the government, with the exception of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders. It lists the date of publication, the original source and a short description of the contents.  The key documents will also be toggled on our timeline of NSA spying. Our NSA Spying resource was created last year and is intended to serve as a comprehensive public resource. It links to EFF's lawsuits challenging ...

Free Speech Advocates File Brief Supporting ‘The Dirty’ Defamation Appeal

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
EFF: Appeals Court Must Uphold Immunity for Websites That Host Third-Party Content

Cincinatti, Ohio - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of free speech advocates filed an amicus brief supporting's appeal of a defamation ruling that contradicts protections for website operators contained in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). In the brief, filed in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on Tuesday, the coalition argues that websites—even those that host offensive gossip—cannot be held liable for information posted by third parties.

The case centers around a 2009 message that a visitor posted to alleging that a teacher and a cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals had "slept with every" player on the football team. The subject of the post, Sarah Jones, then sued the site's operator, Dirty World LLC, and its editor and publisher, Nik Richie. A district court denied's claim of immunity under the CDA on the basis that the site "encouraged" defamatory content from third parties. A jury subsequently awarded Jones $338,000.

The ruling, if upheld, would have serious ramifications for free speech on the Internet. Since the passage of the CDA in 1996, courts have consistently held that ...

THE FIFTH BEATLE Steps Into the Spotlight for Free Speech!

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013


This week marks the release of The Fifth Beatle, a 10-year passion project for author and theatrical producer Vivek Tiwary. This book brings to light the untold true story of visionary manager Brian Epstein, a man who guided the Beatles into international superstardom but struggled his entire life with his own self-expression as he was forced to hide his homosexuality from his family and his peers.

Mr. Tiwary, a long-time supporter of CBLDF, wanted to use the release of The Fifth Beatle as an opportunity to help raise money and awareness for the right to read. To that end, he has offered to take part in our “Spirit of Giving” holiday campaign, during which he will personalize copies of The Fifth Beatle as part of an online “virtual signing.”

Tiwary has also donated for auction what is likely the most deluxe possible edition of The Fifth Beatle. This Ultimate Deluxe Edition consists of a hardcover of the groundbreaking graphic novel, and features a wraparound, textured cover and a section of bonus materials, such as Beatles and Brian Epstein memorabilia, artist sketches, and alternate covers, all in a special slipcase. The deluxe edition also includes material created for ...

SPLC Reports Worrying Numbers of Campus Newspaper Theft

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

The Student Press Law Center (SPLC) reported last week that October’s issues of The Crusader, Seward County Community College’s student newspaper, had disappeared suspiciously quickly off the newsstands. Some members of the SCCC community suspect the issues were stolen in order to keep readers—particularly prospective students—from reading about a recent drug bust on campus. And SPLC’s article includes disturbing statistics on how common bulk theft of college newspapers is:

This is the eighth newspaper theft reported to the Student Press Law Center so far this year. Twenty-seven thefts were reported in 2012.

As FIRE’s Azhar Majeed discussed here on The Torch during Free Press Week earlier this year, newspaper theft is often a manifestation of students’ “unlearning liberty,” as peers take action to silence each other.

Click over to SPLC’s website for additional statistics on newspaper theft, and check out FIRE’s resources for student journalists.

UPDATE: Looks like we published this entry too soon. Just this afternoon, SPLC reported the ninth newspaper theft of 2013: Every copy of Saddleback College’s newspaper the Lariat disappeared from newsstands last night.

UPDATE 2 (11/22/13): The hits keep coming. SPLC reported yesterday that more than 200 copies of Quinnipiac University’s The ...

Student Defenders of Persepolis Recognized by Illinois Library Association

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Students protest Persepolis banThe plaudits continue for Chicago high school students who loudly and effectively protested their school district’s muddled ban of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis last spring. At its recent annual conference, the Illinois Library Association presented this year’s Intellectual Freedom Award to the entire student body of Lane Tech College Prep High School, with special recognition for members of the 451 Degrees Banned Book Club. Three members of the book club were also previously named Banned Books Week Heroes back in September.

451 Degrees founder Levi Todd told the Chicago Tribune that the Persepolis ban turned out to be “kind of like a blessing in disguise” for the club, which has more than doubled in size since March. Todd said it was gratifying to see more of his peers taking an interest in intellectual freedom issues — a trend that ILA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee also said it wished to encourage by presenting the award to the students.

As soon as the bizarre Chicago Public Schools directive for principals to remove copies of Persepolis from classrooms and libraries became public knowledge in mid-March, Lane Tech students mobilized on social media and on the ground. They organized demonstrations and appeared on a local ...

Study of 11,000 Children Finds that Video Games Have Little Effect on Behavior

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

friendsgaming4newwebsiteinset_0Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that there is not a strong link between video games and violent behavior, video games are still cited as a cause of mass shootings and other violence. A recent study of 11,000 children by the University of Glasgow stands as further evidence that the link is fallacious.

In “Do television and electronic games predict children’s psychosocial adjustment? Longitudinal research using the UK Millennium Cohort Study,” scientists surveyed the mothers of more than 11,000 children. They examined the amount of TV the children watched and how much time they spent playing electronic games at age 5 and whether either had an impact on the children’s behavior as measured by conduct problems by age 7. The scientists found a small correlation between TV viewing and children’s behavior if the children watched three or more hours of television a day. They found no link between the use of electronic games and adverse behavior.

It bears repeating: The use of electronic games by 5-year-olds did not result in poor behavior by age 7.

Researchers did note that the exposure to electronic games in the sample population was quite a bit lower than the exposure to television, which might have been ...

Tell Us Why Free Speech is Important on Campus and Win $10,000 Scholarship!

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Free speech is important on campus. Tell us why, and you could win a $10,000 college scholarship! High school juniors and seniors planning on attending college are invited to enter FIRE’s essay contest. Winners will receive one of nine college scholarships worth $10,000, $5000, $1000, or $500. 

Do you know a high school junior or senior? Then send them this link——and encourage them to apply! 

To enter, watch two FIRE videos—Silencing U: Five Outrageous Cases of Campus Censorship and What Every Student Should Know Before Starting College—and write an essay answering the question: “Why is free speech important at our nation’s colleges and universities?”

To view the full contest rules and entry form, visit and email with any questions.

SUNY Oswego Inappropriately Cites FERPA in Refusing to Disclose Discipline Information

Monday, November 18th, 2013

The Student Press Law Center (SPLC) reported last Wednesday that the State University of New York at Oswego (SUNY Oswego) is denying requests from student newspaper The Oswegonian for information about conduct violations by Greek organizations, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is meant to ensure the privacy of students’ educational records, but colleges and universities often try to use the federal law to keep records hidden when those records contain potentially embarrassing information—even if releasing them poses no risk to students’ privacy. Oswegonian news editor Seamus Lyman claims that’s just what is happening at SUNY Oswego.

An editorial published in The Oswegonian earlier this month called for more transparency in Greek life on campus, arguing that the lack of information about the Greek system clashes with the school’s “semesterly anti-hazing emails” and other efforts to better the system. Students considering joining Greek life won’t know what they’re getting into without aggregated information about violations by Greek groups, the editorial argues, and students not involved in Greek life will remain unaware of the extent of problems in the Greek community.

In asking the school for its records, Lyman explained how SUNY Plattsburgh and other schools collect ...

Register for FIRE’s Free Webinar This Thursday

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Often, students want to stand up for free speech on campus, but they aren’t sure how to start. Students and FIRE supporters nationwide are invited to learn more about how to be a voice for student rights on campus by attending FIRE’s November webinar this Thursday: “Free Speech Walls and Beyond: Promoting and Defending the First Amendment on Campus,” featuring Peter Bonilla, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights and Defense Program. 

The webinar is free, and all are welcome. Please register in advance here, and log onto GoToWebinar at 3 p.m. EDT on Thursday, November 21 to attend. After the webinar, participants will have the opportunity to ask Peter questions in Q & A. 

Visit to see all of the webinars in FIRE’s Fall Webinar Series!

University of Wisconsin Regents Revise Systemwide Speech Code

Monday, November 18th, 2013

There is very good news for free speech at Wisconsin’s public universities: The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has revised a system-wide discriminatory harassment policy that previously contained language declared unconstitutional by a federal court. 

In April of this year, FIRE and two groups of University of Wisconsin (UW) faculty wrote to the Board of Regents urging them to reform Board of Regents Policy 14-6, which at the time was titled “Racist and Discriminatory Conduct.” That policy directed Wisconsin’s public universities to adopt policies against discriminatory conduct and offered sample policy language substantively identical to language struck down by a federal district court in The UWM Post, Inc. v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, 774 F. Supp. 1163 (E.D. Wis. 1991). The sample language in the old Policy 14-6 (PDF) included an overly broad definition of discriminatory harassment and examples of prohibited conduct including “‘jokes’ that demean a victim’s color, culture or history.”

Thankfully, the Regents took FIRE’s concerns and the concerns of UW faculty seriously and voted at their October 2013 meeting to adopt a revised version of Policy 14-6 that better protects the free speech rights of students and faculty at ...

Free Speech Matters 2013: Celebrating the importance of our mission

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Outside, a panorama view of the New Jersey skyline, reflected light twinkling on the east river; inside, talk of books, art, community, and censorship. This past Tuesday, NCAC celebrated its 39th year at our annual “Celebration of Free Speech and Its Defenders” benefit, honoring author Sherman Alexie and others for their commitment to free speech and expression.


Wilma Grey (left) joined by Kara Walker (center) and NCAC Director of Programs Svetlana Mintcheva

Also honored were Peter Workman, the late publisher of Workman Publishing and Wilma  Grey, Director of the Newark Public Library in New Jersey. Earlier this year, Grey displayed a controversial work by artist Kara Walker and fought for it to remain, uncovered, despite complaints and calls for removal from staff members and community members.

By allowing the art piece to remain in the library, Grey demonstrated that a single individual can make an impact in the fight for freedom of expression. Kara Walker herself presented the award to Grey at the event, commending her courage and aplomb in a challenging situation. (Why does Free Speech Matter to Kara Walker and Wilma Grey? Watch the video below.)

Paying special tribute to Workman, who passed away earlier this year, was ...

Apple’s Ban of Sex Criminals Series Reveals Inconsistent Enforcement of Policy

Monday, November 18th, 2013

sexcriminals3-coverEarlier this month, CBLDF reported on the ban of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals #2 from Apple’s ioS marketplace. On Wednesday, series artist Zdarsky announced via Twitter than issue #3 was similarly rejected based on undisclosed violations of Apple’s content guidelines. As well, Apple made the decision to retroactively remove issue #1, nearly two months after its original release date.

Apple’s terms of service currently state:

Apps containing pornographic material, defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “explicit descriptions or displays of sexual organs or activities intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings”, will be rejected.

Fair enough. Apple needs to limit their liability for distributing potentially offensive materials in these depressingly litigious times and is free to create structure defining what content is acceptable in their marketplace. Except they don’t — not consistently, anyway.

One read of the first two issues of Sex Criminals could easily clear the series of implied accusations of being pornography. Is it sexy? Yes. Is there nudity? Yes. Is it obviously intended to be the type of book you lock yourself in the bathroom with water running on full-blast? Probably not. The sexual imagery is beautifully drawn — artistic, playful, and ...

Jason Aaron, Jeff Lemire, & Rick Remender Join Spirit of Giving Personalized Graphic Novel Gift Drive!

Friday, November 15th, 2013

spirit of giving mascotJason Aaron, Jeff Lemire, & Rick Remender are the newest additions to CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving holiday gift drive, where creators personalize graphic novels for CBLDF donors.  The campaign includes Evan Dorkin, Paul Levitz, Larry Marder, Alan Moore, Terry Moore, Paul Pope, Jeff Smith, Vivek Tiwary, and Brian K. Vaughan who celebrate The Spirit of Giving this holiday season by signing and personalizing graphic novels for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund supporters!

When you support the CBLDF’s Spirit of Giving drive, 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!

By supporting the CBLDF you’ll be offering the best presents in comics, including graphic novels personalized to the fan in your life by comics masters. Don’t delay – this personalization offer ends on December 2!

Carl Gropper of the Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation says, “The CBLDF is as important today as when it was founded over 25 years ago. It was always important to Will Eisner, and the Foundation is thrilled ...

Brooklyn College supports free debate and academic freedom in midst of criticism

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Ben White speaks to members of the British Parliament in 2011

Ben White speaks to members of the British Parliament in 2011

Author and activist Ben White will speak at Brooklyn College today at an event entitled “Israel: Aparteid not Democracy,” organized by Students for Justice in Palestine. Nearly two dozen other campus and other groups are supporting the lecture, including — notably — the English, Political Science and Sociology departments. The talk is being organized as part of Right to Education week, a campaign which seeks to raise awareness of “issues facing Palestinian students, teachers and academic institutions” in Israel.

Unsurprisingly, White, the talk and its subject matter have provoked a now-familiar group of New York lawmakers who are criticizing the college for allowing the event. Among them, state Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz has written a letter to CUNY stating that “Publicly funded institutions do not have the right to spew hatred without permitting an equal response.” Pro-Israel attorney Alan Dershowitz has also called for a rebutting speaker and readily and oh-so-generously offered his own services.

We expressed our support for Brooklyn College today in a letter to college president, Professor Karen Gould (read here). The brouhaha surrounding White’s talk follows hard on the heels of calls to censor a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions panel ...

CBLDF Joins Coalition Questioning Constitutionality of Massachusetts Bill

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

friendsgaming4newwebsiteinset_0CBLDF has joined a coalition questioning the constitutionality of Senate Bill 168, a Massachusetts bill that targets video games. SB 168 calls for the study of various aspects of video games, including their benefits and potential educational application, whether they incite violent behavior or are addictive, and whether they should be regulated.

The bill targets violent video games in particular, raising concerns among free speech advocates. Government efforts to regulate violent expression have been repeatedly struck down, and the First Amendment rights of video games were affirmed in Brown v. EMA, so the bill’s emphasis on violent video games brings its constitutionality into question. Legal precedent affirms that the government cannot target protected expression because of content, and violent speech is one form of protected expression.

CBLDF joins the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, and TechFreedom in questioning the bill. The full comments follow.

Comments on Massachusetts Senate Bill 168

Get in the Spirit of Giving, and help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by getting personalized holiday gifts, making a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Cartooning Legends Rally to Protect Freedom to Read at CBLDF Benefit Brunch!

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Last Sunday, cartooning legends assembled at the Society of Illustrators in New York City to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Kids Right to Read program. Jeff Smith, creator of Bone and CBLDF board member, hosted the event. He welcomed CBLDF supporters and guests of honor, including Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell, Battling Boy author Paul Pope, Amelia Rules! creator Jimmy Gownley, The New Yorker cartoonists Liza Donnelly and Michael Maslin, and Beanworld author and CBLDF President Larry Marder. Everyone who attended this exclusive event enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon celebrating comics and the freedom to read.

Before enjoying original artwork in the Society’s galleries, guests were treated to the premiere of Smith’s new series, Tuki Save The Humans, which Smith read to live music. Pope took attendees on a personal tour of his Battling Boy art show, currently hanging in the Society gallery, while Donnelly and Maslin were on hand to talk about the dozens of illustrations from their extensive collection on view in the Hall of Fame gallery.

Following Smith’s reading and a Q&A, guests retired to the Society’s famed dining room to enjoy an extraordinary brunch alongside these comics ...

NCAC Staffers Share their Knowledge Around the Big City

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Last week, NCAC staff members spoke about on-going censorship issues in front of audiences in New York and beyond.

Svetlana Mintcheva at Photoplus Expo alongside ESSAM (center) and Steven Mayes

Svetlana Mintcheva alongside ESSAM (center) and Steven Mayes

NCAC Programs Director Svetlana Mintcheva participated in a panel on photography and censorship at the Photoplus Expo, held in New York City from October 23 – 26.The panel, entitled Your Picture is FORBIDDEN: Photography and Censorship Today, featured prominent artists and art supporters: controversial street artist ESSAM, photographer Steven Mayes, New York Times art critic Richard B. Woodward, and curator and collector W. M. Hunt.


Kids’ Right to Read Coordinator Acacia O’Connor spoke to groups of high school students last week about the recent controversy surrounding Rainbow Rowell’s book Eleanor & Park. The book is currently under challenge in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, where it had been selected as the Rock the Read Summer common read for 2013. Rainbow was also disinvited to speak to students there just weeks before she was slated to visit. Acacia was invited to speak remotely to students in St. Paul, where Rainbow was extended an invitation following the Anoka controversy.

And on Friday, November 1, Acacia addressed another group of students who had read Eleanor & Park: ...

Lebron v. National Railroad

Monday, November 4th, 2013

“Is It the Right’s Beer Now?” Michael […]

The post Lebron v. National Railroad appeared first on Thomas Jefferson Center.

TUSD’s Lift of Book Ban Draws Ire of Arizona Department of Education

Friday, November 1st, 2013
500 Years of Chicano History in pictures, one of the books removed from Tucson classrooms

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

After nearly two years of being banned from classrooms, the school board for the Tucson Unified School District voted to allow seven Mexican American Studies books back into classrooms as supplemental materials. The move received an immediate negative response from the Arizona Department of Education.

Alexis Huicochea with the Arizona Daily Star shared a statement released by the department:

“Given the prior misuse of the approved texts in TUSD classrooms, the Arizona Department of Education is concerned whether the Governing Board’s actions indicate an attempt to return to practices found to have violated Arizona’s statutes in 2011,” a statement released to the Arizona Daily Star said. “It is the department’s intent to monitor how such materials are used as well as all classroom instruction and to take appropriate corrective action if the district is once again violating the law.”

The school district ended the MAS program and removed seven titles in response to a 2010 law passed by the Arizona state legislature that prohibited instruction based on ethnic background. When faced with loss of funding due to violation of the law, TUSD elected to ...

Chinese Cartoonist Stands Up to Censors

Friday, November 1st, 2013
Wang Liming (Source: Reuters)

Wang Liming
(Source: Reuters)

China has long drawn fire for policies that lead to rampant censorship, whether government sanctioned or self-imposed. Recently, a cartoonist fell victim to the country’s crackdown on bloggers.

In the last few months, hunderds of people have been detained for “rumor-mongering” and dissent against the government. Earlier this month, cartoonist Wang Liming was taken into custody for forwarding a microblog post about a mother whose baby had starved in the wake of a flood.

Wang was released a day after he was taken into custody, but he was furious abou the detention. From Sui-Lee Wee with Reuters:

“I told (the police), ‘How can I be causing a disturbance? All I did was post a microblog’,” he told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday.

Wang said he was furious that the Yuyao government was not providing enough relief and was concealing the truth, so he posted a microblog on Tencent’s Weibo chat service. The Yuyao government later said on its official Weibo account that Wang’s posting was a rumour.

Like many in China, Wang has used Winnie the Pooh to depict China’s president, Xi Jinping. His images were among many that were deleted when Chinese ...

Dixie State Dean of Students Continues Throwing Spaghetti at the Wall

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Yesterday, FIRE released a new video on Dixie State University student Indigo Klabanoff’s push against the university after it denied recognition to her student organization because there are Greek letters (Phi Beta Pi) in its name. Dixie State administrators repeatedly told Klabanoff that campus clubs may not have Greek letters in their names because they would convey the image of a “party school.” Dixie State must be feeling the heat, because according to Utah’s Deseret News, Dean of Students Del Beatty is now claiming that the university has refused to recognize Phi Beta Pi because its name raises trademark and confusion issues. 

I guess Dixie State figures if it throws enough spaghetti at the wall, some of it is bound to stick.

Beatty claims that Phi Beta Pi is opening the door for potential legal claims against the school from both the national sorority Pi Beta Phi and a medical fraternity headquartered in Texas called Phi Beta Pi. Dixie State, however, is well aware that Klabanoff and Pi Beta Phi’s legal counsel exchanged emails and resolved any potential problems in August, after which the sorority’s representative thanked Klabanoff and wished her the best. Beatty should be aware of this ...

Last Day to BE COUNTED! Join CBLDF Today!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

becounted logoIn 2013, book censorship is on the rise. CBLDF is fighting back, but we can’t do it without you!

From the attempted ban on Persepolis in the Chicago Public Schools last spring, to the current controversy over the removal of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere in New Mexico, CBLDF is at the frontlines of protecting the freedom to read. In the past year, we sent dozens of letters of support in defense of comics and books of all kinds. We also participated in behind-the-scenes actions to protect the freedom to read, make, and sell comics.

This work is expensive and can only be done with the support of people like you. That’s why today we’re asking you to Be Counted and join the CBLDF today. If we can sign up 500 new or renewing members by today, October 31, we’ll have the money we need to continue our library aid projects in 2014. Please help us by becoming a member today.

When you join the CBLDF during our 2013 Be Counted member drive, we’ll be able to stand up to censorship and also help schools and libraries in your community by sending them copies of our education resources Raising A Reader ...

Three Lectures in Three Days with FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Over the next few days, FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn will be making his way along the West Coast to deliver three lectures, and FIRE supporters are invited to attend. The dates and locations are below! We hope to see you there!

If you are unable to attend one of these lectures, host a FIRE lecture at your school or attend one of FIRE’s fall webinars from your own home on your computer, smartphone, or tablet! 

Northwest Students For Liberty (SFL) Regional Conference at the University of Washington

When: 1:15 p.m., Saturday, November 2
Where: University of Washington, Johnson Hall, Room 102
Who: Sponsored by Students For Liberty (SFL)
Cost: Free and open to the public. Registration required

Stanford University

When: 12:00 p.m., Monday, November 4
Where: Stanford University, Old Union Building, Room 200
Who: Sponsored by Stanford in Government
Cost: Free and open to the public.

California Polytechnic State University

When: 7:30 p.m., Monday, November 4
Where: California Polytechnic State University, Building 180, Room 101
Who: Sponsored by Cal Poly College Republicans and the Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts
Cost: Free and open to the public.

Quinnipiac Administrator: Skimpy Nurse Costumes ‘As Offensive As Writing the “N-word” on a Blackboard’

Thursday, October 31st, 2013


Administrators at Quinnipiac University appear to have taken the crusade against insensitive Halloween costumes to a new level, according to an article in The Quinnipiac Chronicle:

“Costumes that exaggerate, stereotype, generalize a particular ethnic culture [or] gender, [are] insensitive,” Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Diane Ariza said.

This includes dressing up in “blackface, or as a Mexican, hooker, gangster or promiscuous nurse,” Ariza said. These costumes all have negative stereotypes attached to them and paint ethnicities or genders in a negative light, according to Ariza.

“It is as offensive as writing the ‘N-word’ on a blackboard or a chalkboard or a whiteboard in the dorms or in the residence halls,” she said.

Yes, you read that correctly: The university’s chief diversity officer just said that dressing up like a sexy nurse or a prostitute for Halloween is equivalent to scrawling a vicious racial slur on someone’s dorm room whiteboard. Now, I am admittedly a sample of one here, but as both a lawyer and a Jewish person, I can conclusively say that I would much rather encounter someone wearing a “sexy prosecutor” costume than encounter them drawing a swastika on my ...

Massachusetts Library Survey Reveals Challenges to Comics

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

truecomicsA recent exhaustive survey of challenges and bans of materials in Massachusetts public libraries has uncovered a few cases involving comics and graphic novels — as well as a major shortcoming in the state’s public records law, which allows libraries to dispose of complaint records as soon as a challenge is resolved.

The survey was conducted by Chris Peterson, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media and a board member of the National Coalition Against Censorship. After a previous Mapping Banned Books project using national data from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Peterson wanted to try to build a complete picture of book challenges and bans in his home state to see how it compared. The data compiled by OIF, while a valuable resource for librarians and other researchers, is admittedly incomplete because it relies on media reports and self-reporting from libraries. Peterson suspected there may have been many more cases that never made the news and were not reported to OIF, so he took advantage of the Freedom of Information Act and the state’s public records law to ask every publicly-funded school, municipal/regional, and prison library in Massachusetts for any documents ...

Shibley: Scary Times for Free Inquiry at Hampshire College

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

FIRE’s Robert Shibley takes to the pages of The Boston Herald today to comment on a recent controversy at Hampshire College, where students mounted a successful campaign to disinvite an Afrobeat band that had been scheduled to play a campus Halloween party. The reason for the cancellation? Check out Robert’s column for the answer. Let’s just say it’s more than trick than treat.

Using Graphic Novels in Education: Boxers & Saints

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Welcome to Using Graphic Novels in Education, an ongoing feature from CBLDF that is designed to allay confusion around the content of banned books and to help parents and teachers raise readers. In this column, we examine books that have been targeted by censors and provide teaching and discussion suggestions for the use of such books in classrooms.

“What is China but a people and their stories” – Gene Yang, Boxers p. 312

boxersaintsThis month, we take a closer look at Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang (First Second Books, 2013).

Boxers & Saints (First Second Books, 2013) was recently placed on the short list for the 2013 National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature — the second time a graphic novel has been nominated. (The first American Born Chinese, also by Gene Yang, was nominated in 2006.)

We highlight Boxers and Saints here for two reasons: first, in honor of its prestigious nomination; but even more importantly, because this two-book set illustrates the importance of understanding and analyzing conflict from multiple perspectives, in the hope of teaching and reaching greater understanding and tolerance.

Boxers and Saints’ double volumes revisit the Chinese Boxer Rebellion (1899-1900), sensitively ...

Columbus State CC Student Drops Lawsuit After Policy Changes

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Last month, I reported here on The Torch that Columbus State Community College (CSCC) had revised its policies to allow students and student groups to use the vast majority of outdoor space for expressive activities without notifying the school in advance. CSCC student Spencer Anderson, who had filed a lawsuit against the school on August 26 after he was prohibited from distributing flyers outside the school’s “designated areas for public speech and assembly,” has dismissed his suit in light of the policy revisions.

CSCC’s policy changes will go far in protecting student expression on campus. Students will now be allowed to publicly respond to current events and ongoing discussions without being delayed by an administrative process, and they may choose to voice their opinions in areas of campus where they can reach a large audience. FIRE commends CSCC for making this necessary change and Anderson for demanding that the college respect his First Amendment rights.