Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Freedom Not Fear: Argentina Edition

Friday, September 14th, 2012

NOTE: On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom Not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose various forms of surveillance. EFF is spending this week examining surveillance trends and spotlighting movements that have sprung up in opposition. You can follow our series here.

In Buenos Aires, Argentinian privacy activists have joined the Freedom not Fear Global Week of Action alongside with Freedom Not Fear events in Brussels, Sydney and Luxembourg. On Saturday, Sept. 15th, Fundacion Via Libre will host a workshop dedicated to training journalists and activists on secure communications: anonymous browsing, email and desktop encryption. Fundación Vía Libre is a civil rights advocacy group working to protect human rights, access to knowledge and due process in cyberspace. In the last few years, the Argentinean Foundation has campaigned against mandatory data retention regimes, opposed a mandatory biometric system, and promoted encryption technologies and the use of free software by the Argentinean government.

As Beatriz Busaniche of Fundacion Via Libre noted, the Argentinean government has enhanced its mass surveillance capabilities in the last few years:

“In the name of public security, Argentina has adopted State mass surveillance policies, including the heightened monitoring ...

Robert Shibley Blogs for ‘College Insurrection’

Friday, September 14th, 2012

FIRE's Robert Shibley has a new post for College Insurrection addressing recent comments made by University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler in favor of the arrest of the alleged director of the anti-Islamic film that has inflamed tensions in the Middle East. Earlier this week, in an op-ed for USA Today, Butler defended that argument while at the same time posturing herself as a strong supporter of the First Amendment. After all, she explained, "If there is anyone who values free speech, it is a tenured professor!" 

Unfortunately, as Robert's article details, Butler's position as a tenured professor doesn't give her quite the understanding of free speech one would hope for. Read more at College Insurrection!

Indian Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi Released on Bail After Arrest on Sedition Charges

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested on sedition charges stemming from his cartoons, which 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. Though bail was granted, Trivedi refused to leave jail until the charges were dropped.

Mumbai Police arrested Trivedi last Saturday on charges including sedition for insulting national emblems. He was placed in judicial custody until September 24. Lawyer Sanskar Marathe filed a petition with the court arguing that Trivedi should be released because the sedition charges against him were illegal. The court granted bail on Tuesday, but Trivedi refused unless the sedition charges were dropped.

Many of Trivedi’s supporters spoke out against his arrest. In their statement condemning his arrest and calling for his release, the Communist party of India said:

“His sin is that he sketched cartoons against corruption. Exposing corruption is sedition in the eyes of the law in our country. It is a shame.”

Reporters Without Borders called the arrest a “gross violation of freedom of expression and information by the Indian authorities.” Trivedi was released from jail on Wednesday after R.R. Patil, Home Minister of the Maharashtra state, vowed to withdraw the ...

TPP Trade Delegates Shut Out Internet Users’ Concerns as They Continue to Meet Behind Closed Doors

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Secret negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) continued this week in a golf resort outside Washington DC, and the process continues to be as secret and undemocratic as ever. TPP is yet another example of how the US entertainment and pharma industry are pressuring lawmakers to push forward overprotective intellectual property laws that will also put the Internet and its users at risk.

Last Sunday, EFF was at the negotiations to participate in the “stakeholder” events hosted by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). There were noticeably more organizations and companies present at the three-hour stakeholder tabling session than the last round of negotiations in San Diego.  

EFF had roughly 25 delegates and representatives come by the table to engage with us on our concerns with this agreement. We provided them with materials analyzing the agreement based upon leaked texts, and explained how the TPP would impact digital rights in their countries. The Stop the Trap coalition projected public comments on one of the walls of the large hotel conference room, while other stakeholders were protesting outside.

Maira Sutton and Carolina Rossini speaking to a delegate.

Carolina Rossini, EFF’s International Intellectual Property Director, spoke to negotiators ...

Timeline entry for 1993: Go Ask Alice

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature the year 1993 and “Go Ask Alice,” by Anonymous.

Go Ask Alice book coverIn 1993, “Go Ask Alice” was removed from the Wall Township, NJ Intermediate School library by the Superintendent of Schools because the book contains “inappropriate” language and “borders on pornography.” Responding to an anonymous letter, the superintendent ordered the book removed from all reading lists and classroom book collections. It was also removed from an English class at Buckhannon Upshur (WV) High School because of graphic language in the book. At the Johnstown, NY High School, “Go Ask Alice” was challenged as a required reading assignment because of numerous obscenities. Published in 1971, the book is presented as the diary of a teenage girl and details her troubled life, particularly emphasizing the reality and perils of teen drug addiction.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit

Meet Francoise Mouly, Bid On Art by Gilbert Shelton & Jeff Smith, & More At SPX!

Friday, September 14th, 2012

If it’s the beginning of Fall, that means it’s time for the annual pilgrimage to SPX, the annual festival that’s Mecca for all things art comics!   CBLDF will be there with a benefit auction, and a booth boasting signings by Francoise Mouly and Chris Ware’s new GN Building Stories!

SPX is a non-profit festival that raises money to benefit the CBLDF, and other charitable causes.  This year’s event boasts one of the best guest lists of any con: Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Los Bros Hernandez, Francoise Mouly, and literally hundreds of the brightest talents in literary and art comics working today.

Visit the CBLDF’s table at the main entrance doors and check out our huge assembly of gifts to thank you for your donation! 

New Yorker legend and Raw co-founder Francoise Mouly will be signing at our table on Saturday at 2:45 and Sunday at 1:oo.

We’ll have a limited number of copies of Chris Ware’s new GN Building Stories.  We also have signed & sketched copies of Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader & Son, graphic novels from all of the show’s special guests, the latest CBLDF t-shirt by Masterpiece Comics‘ scribe R. Sikoryak, and other terrific ...

Kansas Sculpture Targeted in Grand Jury Investigation Reveals Pattern of Bullying Businesses

Friday, September 14th, 2012

"Accept or Reject" sculpture

A sculpture depicting a partially-clothed woman snapping a picture of herself in an Overland Park, Kansas arboretum is drawing accusations from one local resident of “glorifying sexting,” and a petition against the work has now garnered enough signatures to trigger a grand jury obscenity investigation.

The sculpture, “Accept or Reject” by Yu Chang, is one of 11 sculptures recently donated by Chinese artists to the city-owned arboretum. It shows a headless and fragmented woman, breasts exposed, aiming a camera towards where her head should be. Proponents of the petition, including originator Joanne Hughes and state American Family Association director Phillip Cosby, claim that the statue is ‘sexting’ — sending naked pictures of herself via text message — even though she is using a camera and not a phone. Hughes and Cosby have availed themselves of a Kansas law whereby “citizens can initiate a grand jury investigation if they collect signatures from more than two percent of the county’s voters.” Grand juries do not determine guilt or innocence, but decide whether an indictment and full trial are warranted.

This strategy is not new to Cosby — in fact, he’s been determinedly using it without much success to try to bully businesses ...

Photo Essay: Postcards from the 2012 CFN Conference

Friday, September 14th, 2012

For the FIRE supporters who could not join us this summer at the 2012 CFN Conference, I wanted to share some of the best pictures from the weekend, which brought together more than fifty students from across the country to discuss free speech issues on campus. Be sure to check out the full conference photo album on FIRE’s Facebook page and read 2012 FIRE intern Yean Do’s excellent recap for a student’s perspective on the conference.

Photos by Tim Moyer Photography


Fight over FISA Amendments Act Moves to the Senate, as the House Passes the Broad, Warrantless Spying Bill

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to renew the dangerous FISA Amendment Act—which hands the NSA broad, warrantless surveillance powers over Americans’ international communications—for another five years. Sadly, the House refused to add any new oversight powers or privacy protections, despite ample evidence the NSA has used it to unconstitutionally spy on Americans. In fact, Rep. Lamar Smith, the bill’s co-sponsor, would not even allow any amendments to come up for a vote.

The 2008 law was originally passed to push the NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal under the rug. When the correct response was to strengthen American’s privacy protections, Congress instead severely weakened them. The FISA Amendments Act allows the NSA warrantless access to Americans communicating with a “target” overseas as long as the conversation deals with “foreign intelligence information”—a broad term that can mean virtually anything. Nor is the scope of an order narrow: one general court order from a FISA court potentially gives the NSA access to the communications of millions of people for a year. It’s the type of broad, untargeted search the Fourth Amendment was explicitly written to prevent.

Worse, we know the government has taken the powers given to them in ...

French Anti-Piracy Law Claims First Victim, Convicted of Failing to Secure His Internet Connection

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

According to news reports published earlier today, the French anti-piracy law has claimed its first victim. The individual, described by TorrentFreak as a “craftsman from a small village in eastern France,” was convicted of allowing his WiFi connection to be used to download songs without obtaining prior permission from the copyright owners. Under the three-strikes law in France, known as Hadopi1 this could leave the man liable for up to a 1,500 euro fine. He could also have his Internet connection shut off while still being forced to continue to pay for the connection (the so-called “double pain”). The court found the man guilty, settling on a 150 euro fine. Thankfully, the court declined to suspend his Internet connection. While we were heartened that the individual's Internet connection was not suspended, EFF condemns the ongoing application of Hadopi, which along with similar copyright legislation threatens our rights to access and publish content freely online. This ruling serves as further evidence that such three-strikes laws must be repealed.

The man explained to the court that he himself did not download the music. Rather, his soon-to-be-ex-wife downloaded Rihanna songs. However, as Guillaume Champeau of Numerama explained to TorrentFreak, just because the ...

Appeals Court Upholds $9,250 Per Song Penalty in Filesharing Case, Says Constitution Doesn’t Limit Penalties

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

The damages provisions of copyright law - up to $150,000 per infringed work without any proof of harm - are crazy. And according to the federal appeals court in Minnesota, the Constitution does not restore sanity. This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the original jury verdict against Jammie Thomas-Rasset: a $222,000 penalty for sharing 24 songs on a peer-to-peer network. That's $9,250 per song (for songs that sell for about a dollar at retail). Frighteningly, the court suggested that statutory damages awarded by a judge or jury don't need to have ANY connection to the harm actually suffered by a copyright owner.

The case of Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset has a long, convoluted history, including three different jury verdicts: one for $220,000, another for a staggering $1,920,000, and still another for $1.5 million. Last year, a federal judge reduced the last award to $54,000, calling the jury's verdict "so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable." The record companies did not agree, and appealed the judge's ruling to the Eighth Circuit. EFF filed an amicus brief, arguing along with Ms. Thomas-Rasset that copyright damages should be ...

Freedom Not Fear: Fresh Challenges Against Mass Untargeted Surveillance

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

NOTE: On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose various forms of surveillance. EFF is spending this week examining surveillance trends and spotlighting movements that have sprung up in opposition.

During the first-ever Freedom not Fear event in 2008, anti-surveillance activists in Berlin staged an action that AK Vorrat, The German Working Group on Data Retention, later described as “the greatest protest march against surveillance in Germany's history.” Peaceful protesters joined a two-kilometer long march supported by more than 100 civil liberties groups and other organizations, carrying signs with messages like, "You are Germany, you are a suspect,” and chanting, "We are here and we are loud because they are stealing our data!"

Protesters were taking to the streets to sound the alarm on a disturbing new trend. Instead of law enforcement policies targeting only individuals suspected of illegal behavior, the European Union adopted a Directive that compels EU countries to adopt laws treating all European citizens as suspect, by requiring mass and untargeted collection and storage of everyone’s communications data for possible use by law enforcement agencies. This data does not include records of what was ...

Rave Review of FIRE’s New Free Speech Guide in ‘Huffington Post’

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

University of Nebraska Professor David Moshman has published a glowing review of FIRE's newly revised Guide to Free Speech on Campus in The Huffington Post. We're most grateful for his kind words, and I encourage you to read his review in full.  

Moshman, the author of a worthwhile book on academic freedom, highlights many of the updated Guide's attributes, among them, the Guide's comprehensiveness, its grounding in both the law and in the history and moral theory of free speech over centuries, and its emphasis on free speech as a crucial element to maintaining a healthy democracy and society. He also praises the bipartisan group of supporters FIRE brings to the cause of defending free speech on campus-not least of them being former Attorney General Edwin Meese, III and former ACLU President Nadine Strossen, whose endorsements the Guide proudly carries.  

I could pick just about any paragraph from Moshman's piece out of a hat to highlight here. Rather than doing that, though, I'll leave Torch readers with Moshman's closing message: 

FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus is not just for students, however, and not just for Nadine Strossen and Ed Meese. It should ...

Timeline entry for 1992: Sex

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature the enormous controversy that erupted in 1992 over the book “Sex,” by Madonna.

Sex by Madonna book coverThe mylar-wrapped, spiral-bound book of photographs of the exhibitionist pop star Madonna in revealing and erotic poses raised challenges across the country soon after its release in October 1992. In Houston, TX, a group called Citizens Against Pornography mobilized efforts to have the book removed. The public library agreed to keep the book, but not allow it to circulate and to restrict in-library access to adults only. In Austin, TX, the county attorney told the library that to make the book available to minors in any way was illegal. In Mesa, AZ, the mayor ordered the library not to shelve the book. The Pikes Peak (CO) Library in Colorado Springs cancelled the library’s order after citizen protest. “Sex” was challenged at the Manchester (CT) Public Library, Des Moines (IA) Public Library, Champaign (IL) Public Library, South Bend (IN) Public Library and Topeka and Shawnee County (KS) Public Library. The St. Louis (MO) Public Library cancelled the library’s order after citizen ...

Peter Bonilla in ‘PolicyMic’: Ten Common Threats to Campus Free Speech

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

FIRE's Peter Bonilla has published a new two-part column for PolicyMic in time for the start of the school year. In these two pieces, Peter details ten common types of free speech violations seen on college campus, including exorbitant security fees, unconstitutional harassment policies, tiny free speech zones, to name just three. Peter warns students returning to campus to be vigilant in defending their rights. For more, visit PolicyMic!

Indy Greats Top CBLDF’s Original Art Auction at SPX!

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Original art by Gilbert Shelton, Jeff Smith, Peter Kuper, Jeff Lemire,  Jeffrey Brown, Peter Bagge, David Mack and more top the list at the second annual Jeff Alexander Memorial Art Auction happening this Saturday at SPX! Read on for full list and slide show.

Starting at 7:15, shortly after the convention closes at 7 in the main foyer entryway, the Jeff Alexander Memorial Art Auction continues the late SPX committee member’s passion for supporting the CBLDF’s important program work. This year we have gathered contributions from an incredible array of talent. In addition to original art, we also have rare prints by Frank Kozik, Paul Pope, and Charles Burns.  Also included are signed and sketched copies of Best American Comics 2010 and 2011, and even a complete HATE story layout script by Peter Bagge.  Come bid on Saturday night at 7:15 at SPX.


The full auction list includes


  1. BANANA, signed & numbered print Frank Kozik
  2. UNDERWATER WELDER original painting by Jeff Lemire
  3. GUITAR PLAYER original art by Gilbert Shelton
  4. PULPHOPE Print signed by Paul Pope
  5. JIMMY’S LAMP, full original story by Jason Shiga
  6. AMANDA PALMER Life Drawing by David Mack
  7. RASL original drawing by Jeff Smith
  8. BEANWORLD ...

Nipples: Facebook’s Least Favorite Body Part

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

What does it take to get The New Yorker banned from Facebook, even for a few hours? Apparently a couple of dots. On the front of a pair of female breasts, of course. Specifically, the following cartoon:

Facebook’s banning policies prohibit both “obvious sexual activity,” and “naked ‘private parts’,” which includes female — but not male — nipples. As The New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff points out, the real offense seems to be that one set of dots are on a cartoon woman, while virtually the same dots are on a cartoon of a man:

“But rather than fight the battle of the bulge, let’s point out, that while female nipple bulging, or F.N.B. for short, is a potentially serious problem, with as yet no known cure, it also has no known victims. That is, unless you count freedom of expression, common sense, and humor.”

Mankoff’s point seems to have stuck with a good many people, as Facebook eventually reversed their position:

“When something is as ridiculous as the misguided Facebook guidelines, the most effective remedy is ridicule,” Mankoff tells Comic Riffs. “Huge organizations such as Facebook are deaf to argumentation but derisive laughter makes their ears ...

New FIRE Video: ‘Steven Pinker on Taboos, Political Correctness, & Dissent’

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Several months back, it was my great pleasure to sit down and interview Harvard psychology professor and bestselling author Steven Pinker about his books, the crucial role dissent plays in keeping society sane, the special importance of free speech on campus, and the origins of political correctness. Professor Pinker is the author of The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of our Nature, and The Stuff of Thought. He is also a member of FIRE's Board of Advisors and, thanks to his boldness, insight, and elegant prose, one of my favorite authors.

In his most recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Professor Pinker discusses several FIRE cases. In this video he notes the irony that campuses, which rely on the open exchange of ideas more than any other institution, often restrict speech more aggressively than society at large. Pinker describes how the urge to censor is related to the "psychology of taboo," a topic he expanded upon back in 2010 when he, along with Harvey Silverglate and me, accepted an award on FIRE's behalf from Boston's Ford Hall Forum. 

During the interview, I got to ask him why a book like Better Angels, which ...

A Moroccan Political Cartoonist Discusses the “Red Lines” of Censorship

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Source: Cartoon Movement

Despite describing his native Morocco as being “like a chained human being and there is a giant mosquito drinking its blood,” and believing that “political cartoons have no impact on Moroccan policies,” political cartoonist Tarek Benbaba is still motivated to keep drawing, to keep offering political commentary because “by making cartoons I feel I am a positive person representing the truth from my own perspective. When people are exposed to the truth from different perspectives they can form a global view and get closer to what is happening more than if there is only one perspective of looking at things.” Having recently joined the political cartoonist blog, Cartoon Movement, Benbaba describes the hard life of political cartoonists in Morocco as one of knowing where the “red lines” of censorship exist in his country.

During a recent interview for Cartoon Movement, Benbaba paints a restrictive, sometimes hostile, but not closed environment for political cartoonists in Morocco. He tells Cartoon Movement that there are around thirty active political cartoonists working in his country, and that every newspaper has one in their employ, but that there are many more cartoonists working on their own and pushing their work through ...

Human Rights Bill Passed

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

American lawmakers have passed legislation tying U.S. aid to Vietnam to improvements in the protection of human rights in the one-party, Communist state.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2012,  which would make improvements in human rights a condition for increases in nonhumanitarian aid to the country.

It also adopted a resolution condemning what the House said was Hanoi’s abuse of vague national security laws used to silence dissent.

The legislation still needs passage by the Senate. The House has approved the bill twice in previous sessions, but it has died in the Senate.

The Rights Act, if adopted into law, would prohibit increased U.S. assistance over 2011 levels unless the U.S. President certifies that Hanoi has made significant gains in protecting human rights.

Republican Congressman Chris Smith, who authored the bill, said it is needed because Vietnam remains an “egregious violator” of human rights.

“Religious, political, and ethnic persecution continue and in many cases are increasing, and … Vietnamese officials are still laying out the welcome mat for forced labor and sex traffickers,” Smith said.

“It is imperative that the United States Government send an unequivocal message to the Vietnamese regime ...

Rohingya Can ‘Apply for Citizenship’

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Rohingyas born in Burma are eligible to apply for citizenship if at least two generations of their families have lived in the country, Immigration Minister Khin Ye said Wednesday, following criticism from international rights groups over the government’s discrimination of the minority group.

He said that those who met these requirements “have the right” to apply for citizenship in Burma, where many of them have lived in Rakhine state along the Bangladesh border for generations.

The Rohingya are regarded in Burma as immigrants from Bangladesh and referred to as “Bengalis” even though they have long lived in the country. The U.N. regards them as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

“Foreigners, like the Bengalis, have the right to apply for citizenship if they want to,” Khin Ye told RFA’s Burmese service, citing an amendment to the country’s constitution in 1982 during the rule of the former military regime.

“The requirements are that their grandparents and parents must have lived here and died here, that the applicant was born here and can speak the Burmese language, and that he or she wants to live here, among other things,” he said.

He maintained that the Rohingya, which he referred to as ...

YouTube Blocks Access to Controversial Video in Egypt and Libya

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

In an unusual move, YouTube announced today that it was blocking access to a video showing clips from "The Innocence of Muslims"—an anti-Islamic film that depicts Prophet Mohammed as a philanderer who approves of child abuse—after the film sparked violent protests in Egypt and Libya.

In a public statement issued by the company, Google-owned YouTube said:

We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere. This video—which is widely available on the web—is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries.

It is extremely rare for YouTube to restrict access to a video that, by the company's own admission, falls within its Terms of Service, without a valid court order. It is rarer still for YouTube to issue a public comment on the matter. YouTube may be subject to legal pressure in Egypt, where Google has offices that may render the company subject to Egyptian law, but it has no such offices in Libya. ...

Commentary: Rioters, not speech, to blame for violence in Egypt, Libya

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

In the United States, if a movie makes people mad enough to riot, we blame the rioters, not the movie. In much of the rest of the world, it’s the other way around. That’s the difference our First Amendment makes. And our government agencies should affirm as much

Read Brian Buchanan’s commentary in full.

Shibley: "Civil Discourse" Doesn’t Trump First Amendment

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

FIRE's Robert Shibley has a new column in The Daily Caller today in which he discusses the knee-jerk tendency for college administrators to mandate "civil discourse" and forget that they have an obligation to uphold the First Amendment. Robert writes:

What's wrong with ordering students to be polite? As it turns out, plenty. While politeness is a virtue, most everyone recognizes that sometimes it's not reasonable to expect it. For instance, what if your roommate turns out to be a racist? Must you remain polite and measure your tone as he drops casual references about how black people are inferior? What if someone down the hall is wearing a Che Guevara shirt and you're a Cuban student whose grandfather was executed by Guevara for "counter-revolutionary activity"? Or what if you're angry about the murder of a U.S. ambassador supposedly due to anger about film produced by some unrelated Americans? According to NC State's policy, there was no choice: you must remain "civil" in all these circumstances.

Robert's right on here. Though civil discourse might be something to encourage, it does not trump students' First Amendment rights afforded to them by the Constitution. Should civility be enforced? As Robert says, on ...

Mississippians Celebrate Free Speech on State Campuses

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Mississippi news outlets continue to celebrate the state's good record for freedom of speech on its flagship campuses, with both Ole Miss and Mississippi State listed among the top seven colleges for free speech on campus by FIRE. The Dispatch is the latest to remark upon the Magnolia State's high ranking for freedom of speech, with (of course!) an SEC football angle: 

As college football enters its third week, the Southeastern Conference continues its stranglehold on the national polls, claiming three of the top seven spots in two separate polls. 

But it turns out, the SEC has some other rankings to brag about this week.  

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its second annual list of Best Colleges for Free Speech, and FIRE's top seven list includes, you guessed it, three SEC universities.   

Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Tennessee–Knoxville may not be the poster children for SEC football, but they are at the top when it comes to the First Amendment.

Read on for more, including comments from Dean of Students Sparky Reardon (Ole Miss) and Dean of Students Thomas Bourgeois (Mississippi State) about how relatively simple changes cleaned ...

Churchill Loses in Colorado High Court; Next Stop, Supreme Court?

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a lower court's opinion (PDF) disposing of former University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) professor Ward Churchill's claims against CU, reports The Denver Post. FIRE has closely monitored Churchill's case for years. In 2005, FIRE wrote a letter to CU concerning Churchill's firing and issued an analysis of the university's report.  

The Colorado Supreme Court held the following:

First, we hold that the Regents' decision to terminate Churchill's employment was a quasi-judicial action functionally comparable to a judicial process. Hence, the Regents are entitled to absolute immunity concerning their decision to terminate Churchill. Second, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it ruled that Churchill was not entitled to the equitable remedies of reinstatement and front pay. Third, we hold that Churchill's bad faith investigation claim is barred by qualified immunity because the Regents' investigation into Churchill's academic record does not implicate a clearly established statutory or constitutional right or law.

As we have noted before, the most troubling aspect of the intermediate court ruling (PDF) was its analysis of immunity (i.e., who can and cannot be sued). The Colorado Supreme Court decision upholding this ...

Timeline entry for 1991: Of Mice and Men

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature challenges in 1991 to “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck.

Of Mice and Men book coverPublished in 1937, “Of Mice and Men” was the target of numerous complaints in 1991. The novella was challenged as curriculum material at the Ringgold High School in Carroll Township, PA because it contains terminology offensive to blacks. It was deemed “indecent,” removed, and later returned to the Suwannee, FL High School library. At the Jacksboro, TN High School, it was challenged for containing “blasphemous” language, excessive cursing, and sexual overtones. The book was also challenged as required reading in the Buckingham County, VA schools that year because of profanity. Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 and “Of Mice and Men” is one of his most widely-known and acclaimed works.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit

Journalist Found Murdered

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

A Cambodian journalist who exposed illegal logging and forest crimes involving the local elite has been murdered, police said Wednesday, after his battered body was found in the trunk of his car.

Hang Serei Oudom, 42, a reporter for the local Virakchum Khmer Daily newspaper, had been missing since Sunday afternoon and his body was found on Tuesday in northeastern Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province, said Ek Vun, the police chief for Balung City, the provincial capital.

Authorities are working to identify suspects involved in the murder of the reporter, who had recently written a string of stories about deforestation and timber smuggling in Ratanakiri, where logging and mining in recent years have taken a big toll on the environment.

“We have already collected the necessary evidence and we are investigating the case,” provincial governor Pao Ham Phan said.

Police also found the reporter’s camera and press card in the car, which was abandoned at a cashew plantation.

The Ratanakiri-based reporter had been beaten with sticks and had bruises on his head and other parts of his body, Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) provincial investigator Chhay Thy said.


The Club of Cambodian Journalists condemned the murder as a threat ...

Former OCR Attorney: ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter’s Preponderance Mandate ‘Unlawful’

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Today in College Insurrection, Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Attorney and former Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) attorney Hans Bader pens an impressive analysis of how his old office missed the mark when it threatened to strip colleges and universities of federal funding if they did not, among other things, lower the standard of evidence necessary to discipline students for sexual misconduct to the low "preponderance of the evidence" standard. 

Torch readers are likely familiar with the controversy, and Bader's piece is well worth a read for its clarity, adding additional arguments as to why OCR's April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" Letter  (DCL) is dead wrong. Bader explains:

The Education Department's reasoning for imposing a low "preponderance" standard on school disciplinary proceedings was that this "is the standard of proof established for violations of civil-rights laws" in lawsuits brought in federal court. Therefore, it claimed, preponderance must also be "the appropriate standard for" schools to use in "investigating allegations of sexual harassment or violence.'"

It was completely true, and completely irrelevant, that the preponderance of the evidence standard applies in lawsuits in general, as well as civil-rights cases. But that ...

Freedom Not Fear: David Lyon on Contemporary Surveillance

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

NOTE: On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose surveillance measures from Europe to Australia. To support this effort, EFF is examining surveillance trends and spotlighting international grassroots activism launched in response.

David Lyon is a prominent sociologist, author, and director of the Surveillance Studies Center at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. His most recent book, co-authored with Zygmunt Bauman, is titled Liquid Surveillance. Lyon spent an hour talking with EFF about contemporary surveillance trends such as biometrics, CCTV cameras and legislative proposals for broadened online spying powers for law enforcement.

EFF: We’re seeing proposals in the UK, Australia and Canada, to grant broader powers to law enforcement agencies to intercept online communications. Do you have any thoughts about what’s driving this push, and why we’re seeing so many similar policies floated at the same time?

David Lyon: It relates to a number of things. It’s partly government fear about what can be done with data, the power of data in an era of digitality and social media – Wikileaks being an obvious case-in-point. It’s a fear of the movement of information and how the movement of ...

FFE gets a call-out in a controversial media case down under . . .

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

FFE gets a call-out in a controversial media case down under . . .

Take a Look at the Covers for CBLDF Liberty Annual 2012!

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

October is on the horizon, and that means the 2012 edition of CBLDF Liberty Annual will soon be in your hands! Each year, Image Comics releases the Annual to benefit the First Amendment work of CBLDF. This year, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson took the editorial reins, compiling the best Annual yet. Earlier this week, Comic Book Resources got an exclusive sneak peak of the spectacular Terry Dodson cover:

In case you missed it, the gorgeous Gabriel Ba cover was released with Image’s solicitations in July:



48 PAGES / FC / M

CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL returns! This year’s installment is ...

CBLDF Welcomes iVerse Media As Latest Corporate Member!

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Digital Content Distributor Joins the CBLDF’s Fight to Protect First Amendment Rights!

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and digital comics innovator iVerse Media jointly announced today iVerse’s addition to the CBLDF’s growing roster of industry supporters.  As the organization’s newest corporate member, iVerse and its Comics Plus platform join leading publishers, distributors and brands in support of the Fund’s vital work in protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians and readers.

“The entire mission of CBLDF is something we at iVerse believe in very strongly and we’re honored to help them fight the good fight,” said Michael Murphey, iVerse CEO. “Of particular concern to us are the increasing number of challenges to freedoms of expression that put independent creators and smaller publishers at risk – as well the implications for both creators and consumers of digital content.”

“The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is enhanced by iVerse joining the organization as a corporate member,” said CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. “The CBLDF is stridently committed to protecting the rights of creators and readers who are increasingly at risk in this era of digital distribution. iVerse’s support shows them ...

New Research on "Junk" DNA Raises Questions on Eve of Crucial Court Hearing

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

On September 19, the Ninth Circuit is set to hear new arguments in Haskell v. Harris, a case challenging California’s warrantless DNA collection program. Today EFF asked the court to consider ground-breaking new research that confirms for the first time that over 80% of our DNA that was once thought to have no function, actually plays a critical role in controlling how our cells, tissue and organs behave. 

This research comes out of a gigantic nine-year, federally-sponsored, world-wide project called ENCODE (Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements), which was designed to learn more about “junk” DNA. These research findings should have broad ramifications for federal and state DNA collection programs.

The government has argued in case after case (pdf) challenging DNA collection that the 13+ genetic markers that make up a person’s DNA profile1  are, in effect, “junk” and provide no more information than a person’s fingerprint. However, the ENCODE research reinforces the points we’ve made multiple times before—that DNA—whether it is in the form of a full genetic sample or an extracted profile—can reveal an extraordinary amount of private information about you, including familial relationships, medical history, predisposition for disease, and possibly ...

FIRE Co-Founder Alan Charles Kors Featured on ReasonTV

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

"I guarantee you that Reason published on a campus would be defunded and that you'd be up on harassment charges every other week," Professor Alan Charles Kors, FIRE co-founder and chairman emeritus, told Nick GIllespie in an interview posted today.

In the interview, Alan talks about how college campuses have changed since he joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1968. The 35-minute video touches on speech codes, rising tuition costs, and how campus culture has shifted over the past 40 years. 

About 24 minutes into the video, the conversation turns to FIRE specifically. Alan touches on the heart of FIRE's argument for free speech on campus at 30:42: "The best answer to speech you don't like is more speech."

Watch the full interview below or on ReasonTV.

Radio Chief Denies Charges

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Cambodian radio station chief Mam Sonando rejected charges that he masterminded a secessionist plot as his trial opened Tuesday amid tight security, with hundreds of his supporters prevented from entering the court.

Judge Chang Sinath of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court read the charges against Mam Sonando, 71, who was arrested in July and accused of sparking a May land revolt and ensuing clashes in Kratie province’s Chhlong district.

“I didn’t establish any self-governing zone,” Mam Sonando, who is the director of the independent Beehive Radio station, told the judge in front of reporters, who were only briefly allowed to view the proceedings before being removed from the courtroom by authorities who said the chamber was “too small” to accommodate them.

Court officials permitted foreign diplomats and staff members from international rights groups to stay throughout the hearing, although representatives of Cambodian rights groups were asked to leave.

Mam Sonando has been in poor health in jail since his arrest in July for allegedly orchestrating a mass occupation of land in Broma village that triggered a security crackdown and bloody clashes in May.

The clashes occurred after some 1,000 village families refused a government order to vacate state land they ...

Timeline entry for 1990: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” by Alvin Schwartz, challenged in 1990.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book coverIn 1990, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” was challenged in the Livonia, MI schools because the poems were thought to frighten first grade children. Written by Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, “Scary Stories” was followed by “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones.” All three titles have been challenged due to objections about the content and illustrations for children.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit

Arizona Supreme Court rules tattooing is constitutionally protected free speech

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

The Arizona Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that the married owners of a prospective tattoo parlor could bring suit against the City of Mesa for violating the couple’s constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression in denying their business a zoning permit. In order to open their tattoo parlor Ryan and Laetitia Coleman in 2008 applied for a Council Use Permit (CUP) under Mesa City Code [materials] § 11-6-3(B). After conflicting recommendations from Mesa’s Planning and Zoning Board and a public comment hearing, the city council voted 6-1 to deny the permit. The Colemans filed a complaint in the state superior court alleging that Mesa’s denial of the CUP violated their rights to free speech [Cornell LII backgrounder] under the federal and Arizona [materials] Constitutions.

Read more.

Welcome to the New!

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Today the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is proud to unveil the new and radically improved!  With a daily news blog and a rich and growing Resources section, we strive to make your best tool for information about comics censorship.

The new site has also been redesigned to improve ease of use for our readers, and is wrapped in a striking new “Liberty” logo by Cliff Chiang!  Here’s just some of the new features you’ll find as you explore the site:

News Blog: A daily resource covering comics censorship as it happens.  The CBLDF’s team of bloggers bring breaking coverage of free expression news from courts, libraries, legislatures, and schools, as well as the latest of international issues.  We also provide a wide range of historical interest stories, and updates on the latest CBLDF Member Appreciation events.  The CBLDF’s blog is edited by Betsy Gomez.  Email her at if you’d like to volunteer for our writing team!

Resources: The new boasts a wide-ranging resources section that provides a wealth of practical and historical information on comics censorship for students, professionals, and curious readers alike.  Some of the new highlights include:

Timeline entry for 1989: The Satanic Verses

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature “The Satanic Verses,” by Salman Rushdie, which inspired one of modern history’s most dramatic censorship controversies — banned, burned, and sparking violence across the globe in 1989.

Book burning: The Satanic VersesPublished in 1988, “The Satanic Verses” sparked worldwide controversy for its religious content and alleged blasphemy. The novel was banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia, South Africa, and India in 1989 because of its criticism of Islam. Sales of the book were restricted or criminalized in Venezuela, Japan, Bulgaria, and Poland. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa or religious edict, stating, “I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of ‘The Satanic Verses,’ which is against Islam, the prophet, and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, have been sentenced to death.” In the U.S., the novel was also challenged at the Wichita, KS Public Library in 1989 as “blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed.”

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit

CBLDF Blasts Into Fall Convention Season At Baltimore Comic Con

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

This weekend the CBLDF is on the road to Baltimore for the Baltimore Comic Con! Come meet CBLDF Deputy Director at Booth 1402 where we’re offering a vast array of cool items to our supporters!

At The Booth (1402):
Show us your CBLDF Membership Card and we’ll give you your very own CBLDF Convention Kit, which includes a CBLDF lanyard, badge flair, sticker and button, all absolutely free to thank you for your support. We’ll also have a huge selection of signed graphic novels, including Darth Vader & Son signed by Jeffrey Brown, Walking Dead signed by Robert Kirkman, and much, much more. We’re also offering new t-shirts including R. Sikoryak’s “It Could Happen To Anyone…” from Graphitti Designs. On top of all that, we’re also bringing portfolios of original art to offer for your donations. Contributions to CBLDF advance our important work protecting the medium’s First Amendment rights, so please come show your support!

Programming: On Saturday at 4:00 in Room 302 – 303 it’s The History of Censorship in Comics, presented by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Deputy Director Alex Cox, and Comic Author and Historian Fred Van Lente. Since the very beginning of the ...

Audio Of 1954 Juvenile Delinquency Hearings Resurfaces

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

By Joe Izenman

The 1954 Senate Subcommittee hearings examining the possible relationship between comics and juvenile delinquency remain the most significant moment in the history of comic book censorship. Centered on the testimony of Dr. Fredric Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, the proceedings led to the creation of the self-policing of the industry, via the Comics Code Authority, and the death of EC, the largest publisher at the time of horror comics.

The transcripts of these historic hearings have been available for some time at However, it is only recently that New York NPR station WNYC have rediscovered and posted the original audio of the first day.

The first recording covers the morning of April 21, 1954, and includes the testimony of committee investigator Richard Clendenen, child psychologist Dr. Harris Peck, and Henry Edward Schultz, general counsel for the Association of Comic Book Magazine Publishers.

Part two features testimony by Wertham himself, followed by the interrogation of EC publisher William Gaines. Both recordings provide a fascinating insight into the tone and mood of the hearings that caused such drastic, industry-wide upheaval, and exemplify the congressional witch-hunts that permeated our government in the ...

Timeline entry for 1988: The Chocolate War

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature 1988 and “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier.

The Chocolate War book coverIn 1988, “The Chocolate War” was challenged by a middle school principal in West Hernando, FL, who recommended the novel be removed from the school library shelves for being “inappropriate.” Published in 1974, Cormier’s novel tackled the problem of bullying at a time when this issue was not widely discussed. Frequently challenged for the violence, teen sexuality, “foul language,” and less-than-flattering portrayal of school culture it depicts, “The Chocolate War” follows a high school student who stands up to pressure and intimidation from his fellow students and teachers.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit

Local News: Opening Reception for Storyline Exhibit

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

A exhibit of photos, drawings and videos from Storyline 2012 will take place in September at CitySpace Gallery (100 5th Street NE) with an opening reception on Friday, September 7th, 5:30-7:00 PM .  The reception is FREE and open to the public. Food provided by the one and only Patrick Critzer!

The annual Storyline Project guides rising 4th-6th graders through unique walking expeditions that culminate in a collaborative mural on Charlottesville’s First Amendment Monument.. This year, the Storyline Project explored the people and places of Charlottesville through the theme of “Monticello Road: Portraits of the People.”

The Storyline Project is a partnership between Piedmont Council for the Arts, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, Charlottesville Parks & Recreation, the Thomas Jefferson Center For the Protection of Free Expression, and SiteWorks Studio. Ffunding was provided by Bama Works of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.

The exhibit will remain on display through September 28. The CitySpace Gallery is open to the public Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm.

‘The Cavalier Daily’ Reports on FIRE’s “Best Colleges” List

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

The Cavalier Daily reports today on the University of Virginia's (UVA's) proud distinction as one of the best colleges for free speech. Released yesterday in The Huffington Post, FIRE's 2012 list of the seven best colleges for free speech recognized UVA for the second straight year.

FIRE worked with UVA in the fall of 2010 to revise several speech codes which had restricted student speech on campus, and we were very pleased to welcome them as a "green light" school in October 2010. As The Cavalier Daily reports, the school has continued to live up to this rating in the past year in the midst of controversy over the resignation and reinstatement of President Teresa Sullivan. 

Read more from The Cavalier Daily about UVA's honor and visit The Huffington Post to learn what other schools were honored as part of FIRE's 2012 list!

Russian Child-Protection Law Leads to Censorship of Animated Shows

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

(c) Fox

“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” It’s the catchphrase of Helen Lovejoy, a character from The Simpsons. It also seems to be the rallying cry of the Russian Federation. Recent legislation intended to protect children from harmful information is now affecting programming on a national television channel. The Simpsons is one of the shows slated for censorship.

Russian television channel 2×2 plans to censor The Simpsons in accordance with the Protection of Children from Harmful Information Act. The law places a ban “on information that might cause fear, anger, or panic; justify violence and unlawful behavior; or cause a desire to use drugs, alcohol, or otherwise harm one’s health.” Networks cannot broadcast programming containing violence, profanity, sexual content, drinking or smoking between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. local time. Rather than air The Simpsons at a different time, 2×2 plans to remove all scenes that feature The Itchy & Scratchy Show, a violent spoof cartoon watched by Bart and Lisa Simpson. Lev Makarov, general director at 2×2, says that they plan to retouch shows that contain scenes prohibited by the new law. Also targeted is the cartoon South Park, which will no longer ...

Russian Child-Protection Law Leads to Censorship of Animated Shows

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” It’s the catchphrase of Helen Lovejoy, a character from The Simpsons. It also seems to be the rallying cry of the Russian Federation. Recent legislation intended to protect children from harmful information is now affecting programming on a national television channel. The Simpsons is one of the shows slated for censorship.

Russian television channel 2×2 plans to censor The Simpsons in accordance with the Protection of Children from Harmful Information Act. The law places a ban “on information that might cause fear, anger, or panic; justify violence and unlawful behavior; or cause a desire to use drugs, alcohol, or otherwise harm one’s health.” Networks cannot broadcast programming containing violence, profanity, sexual content, drinking or smoking between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. local time. Rather than air The Simpsons at a different time, 2×2 plans to remove all scenes that feature The Itchy & Scratchy Show, a violent spoof cartoon watched by Bart and Lisa Simpson. Lev Makarov, general director at 2×2, says that they plan to retouch shows that contain scenes prohibited by the new law. Also targeted is the cartoon South Park, which will no longer air before 11 ...

Timeline entry for 1987: Forever

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Leading up to Banned Books Week 2012, ALA will highlight one book from its new timeline of banned and challenged books each day. Today we feature multiple challenges in 1987 to “Forever,” by Judy Blume.

Forever book coverIn 1987, “Forever” was challenged at the Moreno Valley, CA Unified School District libraries for “profanity, sexual situations, and themes that allegedly encourage disrespectful behavior.” It was challenged in the same year at the Marshwood Junior High School classroom library in Eliot, ME because the book “does not paint a responsible role of  parents;” its “cast of sex minded teenagers is not typical of high schoolers today;” and because the “pornographic sexual exploits (in the book) are unsuitable for junior high school role models.” Blume’s 1975 novel offers a frank consideration of teenage relationships and sexuality that was unprecedented for its time. Beyond the significant  controversy over “Forever,” Blume became a frequently challenged author for her many works exploring difficult subjects – including menstruation, bullying, and divorce – that face young adults.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit

Graphic Novel “Sidescrollers” Cut from Enfield Summer Reading List

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

A parent of an incoming freshman in Enfield, CT took a complaint about the graphic novel Sidescrollers to the district Board of Education and succeeded in having the book axed from the list. In addition, the board decided to take responsibility for creating the reading list out of the hands of its teachers and funnel it through a board committee and Chief Academic Officer.

The parent took issue with the school endorsing the book, which contains profanity and sexual references. The Book is on the Young Adult Library Association’s 2008 List of Great Graphic Novels for Teens.

Incoming freshmen at two high schools in Enfield, CT were given a list of six books and asked to choose one book from the list as a summer reading title. Honors students were asked to read two. Ironically, also on the list were two other frequently challenged books, Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Additionally ironic, is the Board of Education’s statement in its Instructional Policies that “No parent nor group of parents has the right to negate the use of educational resources for students other than his/her own child.”

Wisconsin Parks Department Bends to Will of Radio Host, Bans Play

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

SummerStage will not be performing their “diabolical” play at Lapham Peak State Park in Wisconsin as previously scheduled, as a right-wing radio host put the fear of God in The Department of Natural Resources. The Progressive reported the DNR pulled “The Bible: Complete Word of God, Abridged” after evangelical clergyman Vic Eliason dedicated an hour-long radio rant calling for them to ban the “blasphemous” work.

A little bit about “The Bible: Complete Word of God, Abridged“:

The work was written by the Reduced Shakespeare Company as a light-hearted take on The Bible in the style of Monty Python. It affectionately laughs with, not at, the faithful and Bible-familiar. According to SummerStage founder Brian Faracy, the play has been performed in churches, community centers and even at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with nary a peep or problem. You can watch theater troupe trailers on YouTube to give you a better idea of the tone and content.

Here’s an example of the type of joke we’re dealing with. Moses comes down from the mountain and addresses the crowd:

“Children of Israel, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is I talked Him down to 10. ...