Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Did Somebody Say ‘Gazongas’? You’re Busted!

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

There's a movement afoot in state legislatures to ban employers and universities from demanding control of or monitoring the social media accounts of their students or employees. One such bill specifically aimed at students unanimously passed the California senate yesterday.  Advocates of these laws justifiably worry that, when students are required to provide their usernames to their schools-and sometimes even to turn over the passwords to their accounts-universities are infringing on students' expressive rights and invading student privacy. This kind of monitoring has caught on quickest in the case of student athletes.

The University of Kentucky (UK) and University of Louisville (UL) seem hell-bent on proving these worries right. According to an article in The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) that I first thought was a parody, UK and UL have been using social media monitoring programs called UDiligence ($6,450 a year for UL) and Centrix Social ($6,000 a year for UK) to monitor the Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube profiles of most or all of their student athletes. These programs search for keywords, set by administrators, and send alerts to coaches or administrators when they are used by a student. Most of the terms are the names of sports agents, but ...

What is wrong with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

By Carolina Rossini and Maira Sutton 

EFF has been fighting against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) intellectual property chapter for several years. This agreement poses a great risk to users’ freedoms and access to information on a global scale.

We have created this infographic to capture the most problematic aspects of TPP, and to help users, advocates and innovators from around the world spread the word about how this agreement will impact them and their societies. Right-click the image for the PNG file, or dowload the PDF version below.

We thank Lumin Consulting for working with us on this project. 

Take Action TPP

Yes, Resident Assistants Have Free Speech Rights Too

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

About this time last year, I put out a pair of Torch posts advising students about the importance of knowing their rights on campus and being able to protect themselves in the event their rights are violated. With the new school year around the corner, now would be a good time for both returning and incoming students to give them a read.  

We occasionally get questions, however, from students in a somewhat different position—as resident assistants (RAs) in university residence halls, operating not only as students, but as employees of their universities. Do they have fewer free speech rights than other students? If so, where is the line drawn? A FIRE case at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) provides some pointers here. 

In summer 2010, student DJ Lintelman was heading into his third year as an RA at FGCU, having earned positive marks in both his 2009 and 2010 evaluations. But that July, Lintelman was terminated from his position. Among the reasons given by associate director of the Office of Housing and Residence Life (OHRL) Jameson Moschella were "Facebook messages" sent to another student (in which Lintelman harshly criticized the student for supporting recent student government moves to impeach ...

Japan’s Copyright Problems: National Policies, ACTA, and TPP in the Horizon

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

By Maira Sutton

Japan is yet another of many countries where Big Content is working closely with policymakers to enact expansive copyright laws in the name of fighting off threats to their profit bottom lines. In terms of copyright policy, it has been an especially big year for Japan.

In June, the Japanese government passed a new copyright bill that enacted criminal penalties for downloading, uploading, and simply viewing copyrighted materials. The bill also placed brand new restrictions on digital content, such as the criminalization of circumventing DRM on DVDs.

Anti-ACTA protesters in Japan, 2012. (Source: Wikicommons user Yves Tennevin / CC 2.5)

Prior to that, after years of supporting backroom negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Japan hosted the signing ceremony in Tokyo in December 2011. Despite its defeat in Europe, we have no reason to assume it has died. This is supported by the fact that it continues to inch its way through the Japanese legislature towards ratification. The coming threat is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, the international trade agreement that carries an intellectual property chapter that goes even farther than ACTAto restrict and criminalize sharing and accessing content.

Japan’s copyright laws ...

Resolution for ‘The Red and Black’

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

After almost a week of controversy at the University of Georgia, good news broke yesterday in the ongoing struggle at award-winning independent student newspaper The Red and Black

The controversy began last week when the entire student editorial staff of the campus publication quit following proposed changes to the paper's staff and editorial process. The changes, drafted by the board of directors of The Red and Black, included the implementation of prior review by a non-student editorial director-an egregious usurpation of student editorial control. The staff's resignations attracted national media attention and public support, leading the board of directors to rescind the drafted proposal, apologize for the scandal, and verbally agree to the students' demands following a meeting last Friday. Board Member Ed Stamper, who drafted the original memo (PDF) outlining the changes, also resigned and apologized along with a number of other non-student professionals.

Now, we hear the welcome news that Editor-in-Chief Polina Marinova and Managing Editor Julia Carpenter have returned to the paper and will soon resume work. Following their reinstatement, the editorial staff reiterated the paper's commitment to success and called for a "new era of open communication" between the board of ...

Dissident Lawyer Attacked

Monday, August 20th, 2012

An outspoken and formerly imprisoned Vietnamese rights lawyer said Monday that he has been beaten by men he believes were plainclothes police.

Le Quoc Quan told RFA’s Vietnamese service that he was attacked by a group of men around 8:00 p.m. on Sunday in Hanoi while he was returning home from parking his car in a nearby lot.

Two of the attackers beat him with steel rods. He was injured on the head, the belly, and the knee before passers-by heard his calls for help and the attackers ran away, he said from his home.

He said he has been harassed by authorities before and believes the men, who were not in uniform, were connected to the police, adding that one of the attackers had a familiar face.

Quan, who has participated in anti-China demonstrations that authorities have watched closely since last year, said he did not know what prompted this attack against him, but that he believed it was to chastise him for his activism.

"I am considered a dissident by the Communist Party. I work to change this regime with nonviolent measures and I have suffered a lot of hardship [for this] in the past five years,” Quan ...

FIRE’s New Video Featured in ‘Daily Caller’

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Fresh off the release of our new short documentary, "Exiled from Vanderbilt: How Colleges Are Driving Religious Groups Off Campus," FIRE's Robert Shibley has written a new column for The Daily Caller exploring the Vanderbilt case and the video's message. Visit The Daily Caller to learn more and be sure to check out "Exiled from Vanderbilt"!

EFF Tells Obama’s IP Czar To Stand Up For Internet Users

Monday, August 20th, 2012

By Carolina Rossini and Mitch Soltz 

Recently, EFF sent comments to Victoria Espinel, the Obama Administration's "IP Czar,"1 to help shape how U.S. tax dollars are spent on enforcing copyright, trademark, and patent laws for the next two years.

EFF said that when the government encourages (or goads) private companies into making private "voluntary" agreements to cut down on online infringement, the government should insist on the same protections for free speech, privacy, transparency, and due process that we expect from any law coming out of Congress. For example, the Obama Administration had lots of public praise for the "Copyright Alerts" agreement between ISPs and entertainment companies, despite the lack of public input into that agreement and some other significant flaws.

As much as we like Ms. Espinel's oft-repeated statement that the Administration respects "the principles of fair use, privacy, competition, due process, and free speech," we wrote to her that we don't think that's enough when the government throws its weight behind private agreements. She responded to us by email to say that when Web advertising companies created a private agreement not to do business with so-called rogue websites, Espinel's office told them "it is critical that such ...

New FIRE Video: How Religious Groups Were ‘Exiled from Vanderbilt,’ Featuring Larry Gatlin and Jonathan Rauch

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Religious and political groups in the United States have traditionally been free to choose their leaders and members without interference from authorities. That’s no longer true at Vanderbilt University, where the school banned belief-based groups from making belief-based decisions about their members and leaders and drove 13 religious student groups off of campus. In “Exiled from Vanderbilt: How Colleges are Driving Religious Groups Off Campus,” FIRE talks to Vanderbilt students and faculty about how this decision is affecting them. Country music legend Larry Gatlin and author and scholar Jonathan Rauch also explain why Vanderbilt has done both its students and the idea of pluralism itself a profound disservice. 

A California District Court Holds that the Video Privacy Protection Act Applies to Online Video

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Last Friday, the District Court for the Northern District of California issued a ruling that clarifies that the Video Privacy Protection Act (“VPPA”) applies to online video. The court thereby confirmed what EFF has been arguing for quite some time: that this law protects users' online watching habits. This ruling is particularly welcome as the VPPA's protections could now be limited through an amendment that is pending in Congress.

The VPPA was passed in 1988, after a scandalous disclosure of video rental records of the Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. While initially intended to protect all “intellectual vitamins”—including books and records—the final version of this law only applied to “prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio visual materials.” It requires users' consent before any personal information showing their requests or purchases of this kind of material may be disclosed. It also specifies that this information may only be disclosed “to a law enforcement agency pursuant to a warrant issued under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, an equivalent State warrant, a grand jury subpoena, or a court order.”

Earlier this year, a class of Hulu users filed a lawsuit against Hulu alleging that its practice of sharing their ...

‘Red & Black’ Update

Friday, August 17th, 2012

The news is arriving fast and furious out of Athens, Georgia, where the former editorial staff of award-winning independent student newspaper The Red & Black met with members of the paper's Board of Directors this afternoon to discuss their reasons for resignation and the possibility of reversing the deeply problematic staffing and editorial changes recently imposed upon the paper.  

For background on the troubling dispute, see the staffers' blog, Red and Dead, or the impressive and encouraging amount of coverage the board's power grab has generated in just 48 hours.

The former staffers' Twitter feed, @redanddead815, is the best source of breaking information. 

Here's what's new following today's meeting as of the time of this writing: 

  • Ed Stamper, the board member who authored the infamous "GOOD" and "BAD" journalism memo (PDF) that prompted the mass resignation, has resigned from the board and offered an apology for his actions, and the board has issued a statement confirming as much;
  • An undetermined number of the new, professional, non-student hires made by the board have also resigned
  • Ed Morales, the professional, non-student employee who had been promoted from editorial adviser to editorial director, has been demoted back to editorial adviser; 
  • ...

On American Campuses, Does Innovation = Punishment?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

In my most recent Daily Caller piece, I argue that sometimes it does. And unfortunately, it's a coast-to-coast problem, with both the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Central Florida recently taking actions to make sure that students who engaged in what I guess you could call "unauthorized innovation" faced punishment instead of praise.

Growing up, one of my favorite books was a book about the legendary culture of pranks at MIT (in fact, MIT is where the term "hacker" came from) called The Journal of the Institute for Hacks, Tomfoolery & Pranks at MIT (now apparently superseded by a more recent volume called Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT). I highly recommend it to you and your teenage kids. The level of sophistication, innovation, and just plain hard work involved in many of these pranks was amazing—not surprising, as a guy you might have heard of, Richard Feynman, was involved in some of them.

Thankfully, it's my understanding that this culture continues at MIT today. But unfortunately, MIT is apparently the outlier when it comes to accepting that brilliant students sometimes think outside the box. While I'm no Feynman, ...

‘Memphis Flyer’ Chronicles ‘Helmsman’s’ First Amendment Battles

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Recently the Student Press Law Center publicized the struggles of The Daily Helmsman, the University of Memphis (UM) student newspaper which has had numerous wrangles with the university administration, many involving disputes over the release of public records (including for a rape committed on the UM campus). Most recently The Daily Helmsman saw its funding cut by $25,000 by UM's Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee, which wasn't shy about its reasons for doing so. According to the SPLC's reporting:

Helmsman editors said they have been told by several committee members — including student government representatives and university administrators — that the cuts are due to growing displeasure with the newspaper's content.

The SPLC, FIRE, and others have called out UM's apparent retaliation against the newspaper, and Society of Professional Journalists President John Ensslin has harshly criticized the university's behavior as well.  

This week, The Daily Helmsman's struggles at UM are described at length in a cover feature for the Memphis Flyer. Justin Fox Burks' feature spans more than 3,000 words—and is eminently readable to the very last. The feature's many accomplishments include placing The Daily Helmsman's $25,000 funding decrease in perspective. Yes, Burks ...

Legal Scholarship Covers ‘How Not to Criminalize Cyberbullying’

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Today, there is no hotter topic in the free speech arena than "cyberbullying" laws. University of Florida College of Law Professor Lyrissa Lidsky and student Andrea Pinzon Garcia have posted an excellent survey of cyberbullying laws and their relationship with the First Amendment, framed around Missouri's cyberbullying statute, in How Not to Criminalize Cyberbullying, ___ Mo. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2012).

Lidksy and Garcia note that cyberbullying statutes stand on firmest constitutional ground when limited to the traditional classes of speech outside of First Amendment protection: true threats, obscenity, defamation, fighting words, and so forth. When moving beyond these well-established categories, state cyberbullying statutes risk unconstitutionality. So what do the authors state that a state legislature can do to make sure its law passes First Amendment muster?  

First, for speech to be criminalized, it should have to be repeated "so often that it creates a substantial disruption to the lives of the victims." Here the authors specifically cite Saxe v. State College Area School District, 240 F.3d 200 (3d Cir. 2001) (striking down a public school district's overbroad harassment policy), but the language the authors suggest tracks the Supreme Court decisions in both Tinker v. Des Moines ...

Pakistan’s Internet Censorship Worsens…Again

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Just when we thought censorship in Pakistan couldn’t get any worse, it has.  After our joint effort with numerous Pakistani and international organizations succeeded in putting plans for a national filter on hold, and Pakistan relented after a brief experiment with blocking Twitter, we thought we could turn our focus elsewhere for a little while.

We were wrong.

Last Saturday, news emerged that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had ordered all of the country’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block fifteen “scandalous” websites, including one hosting an audio recording of a “sensual” conversation between two parliamentarians and another containing video of a press conference in which a female television anchor claimed that she and a government employee are secretly married and have a son.

While Pakistan has been censoring online content for a long time, the PTA’s focus has tended toward pornography and blasphemy, not political scandal.  In an article from Pakistani publication The News, Wahajus Siraj, Convener of the ISP Association of Pakistan, suggested that the latest censorship was for political gain.

In addition to political intrigue, Pakistani digital rights organization Bytes4All reports that the government froze mobile phone networks in the province of ...

These Drones Are Made For Watchin’

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

(Special thanks to EFF Intern Max Mishkin for his help with this blog post)

EFF recently received a trove of documents from the FAA in response to our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, offering new insights into the public and private use of drones in the United States—including where they’re flying, why they’re being used, and what their capabilities are.  These new documents include the never-before-released Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs) from all private companies authorized to fly drones (list available here).

Here are a few things we’ve discovered so far in our review of the material.

Focusing on Surveillance

North Little Rock Helicopter DroneWith some exceptions, drone flights in the U.S. have been all about developing and testing surveillance technology.  The North Little Rock Police Department, for instance, wrote that their SR30 helicopter-type drone “can carry day zoom cameras, infrared cameras, or both simultaneously.”  Not to be outdone, the Seattle Police Department’s drone comes with four separate cameras, offering thermal infrared video, low light “dusk-dawn” video, and a 1080p HD video camera attachment. The Miami-Dade Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety have employed drones capable of both daytime and nighttime video cameras, and according to the ...

EFF to Bahraini Government: Release Nabeel Rajab

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Last week, 19 members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to Bahrain’s king, calling for the release of prominent activist Nabeel Rajab, who was serving a three-month jail sentence for comments he made on Twitter.  As have written previously, the Bahraini government has cracked down harshly on dissidents, allegedly utilizing tools such as FinFisher and arresting activists on trumped-up charges.

Today, Rajab was sentenced to three years in prison for a set of three different charges relating to his participation in protests.  Rajab is the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), and the vice president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). In a statement today, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights wrote:

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) condemn in the strongest terms the sentence passed today against the detained human rights defender Nabeel Rajab by the Bahraini government on charges related to protesting.

EFF joins the BCHR, GCHR, and other human rights and civil liberties groups—including fellow IFEX members Index on Censorship, Freedom House, and the Arabic Network for Human ...

FIRE Cited in University Policy, But Speech Code Gets It Wrong on ‘Cyberbullying’

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

In what may be a first, FIRE has been directly cited in a university policy regulating student expression. Northwestern State University (NSU) in Louisiana maintains a Student Handbook policy on "Cyberbullying" (PDF) that states, in relevant part: 

Cyberbullying involves the use of information technology (email, websites, social networking, internet messaging, or any other technology) for hostile behavior to harm or to upset others. A person cannot easily get away from cyberbullying since using email and the internet are everyday practices. For more information on bullying, visit the following sites:



While we have a lot of experience analyzing speech codes and helping colleges and universities to revise them, actually being cited as a source for one is new territory for us. So are we flattered at the mention in this policy? Actually, no.  

That's because, despite citing a FIRE Torch post discussing the problems with university restrictions on student speech, the policy in question violates students' First Amendment rights. 

We rate NSU's code as a "yellow light" policy in Spotlight, and it is one of several speech codes contributing to NSU's overall yellow light rating. As is the case with most yellow light policies, ...

Student Journalists at UGA Walk Out After Hostile Takeover of Paper by Non-Students

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

The student editorial staff of the award-winning University of Georgia (UGA) independent student newspaper The Red & Black quit en masse Wednesday in response to the appointment of a non-student editorial director with power of prior review of the paper. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a variety of other media have also covered the developing story, and the staffers who walked out are reporting on the situation from their new blog, Red & Dead

A statement from former Editor-In-Chief Polina Marinova lays out the facts, and here is her explanation as to why the students quit: 

In less than a month, The Red & Black has hired more than 10 permanent staff with veto power over students' decisions.

In a draft outlining the "expectations of editorial director at The Red & Black," a member of The Red & Black's Board of Directors stated the newspaper needs a balance of good and bad. Under "Bad," it says, "Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is 'journalism.' If in question, have more GOOD than BAD." I took great offense to that, but the board member just told me this is simply a draft. But one thing that ...

Pro-Syrian Government Hackers Target Activists With Fake Anti-Hacking Tool

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

As the violence escalates across Syria, so do the campaigns of targeted malware attacks against Syrian activists, journalists, and members of the opposition, which covertly install surveillance software on their computers. Syrians are growing more aware of the danger these campaigns pose to their security and the security of their friends and loved ones. On Facebook, the Union of Free Students in Syria group has started an album of students holding up signs warning against phishing attacks and malware, with messages that such as, "Assad supporters are sending dangerous files with hacked accounts. Check with your friends before opening an attachment."

The latest malware campaign plays into users' concerns about protecting their security by offering a fake security tool called AntiHacker, which promises to provide "Auto-Protect & Auto-Detect & Security & Quick scan and analysing."[sic] EFF's analysis indicates that this campaign is the work of the same actors behind several malware campaigns that lured their targets in using fake revolutionary documents and a fake Skype encryption tool--campaigns that date back to at least November 2011.

While it proports to provide security against hackers, AntiHacker instead installs a remote access tool called DarkComet RAT, which allows an attacker to capture ...

IFLA Endorses International Code of Ethics for Librarians and Information Workers

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

On August 12, the Governing Board of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) endorsed a new International Code of Ethics for Librarians and Information Workers.   A working group from IFLA’s Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) drafted and consulted extensively on an international code of ethics for librarians, drawing on hundreds of comments from IFLA members and non-members.

Five members from five different countries comprised the working group, all of whom are current or former members of the FAIFE committee:   Loida Garcia-Febo, Anne Hustad, Hermann Rosch, Paul Sturges and Amelie Vallotton.

The full text of the Code of Ethics and a summary version are now online:

IFLA International Code of Ethics for Librarians and Information Workers (Summary Version)

 Read IFLA’s full announcement.

Inmate loses First Amendment claim over ban of ‘The Pill Book’

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

An Illinois state prisoner did not have a First Amendment right to receive The Pill Book even though he claimed he needed it for health reasons, a federal judge has ruled.

Chester O’Quinn, serving a 70-year sentence for murder at Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Ill., ordered The Pill Book in June 2010. When the book arrived, a review committee determined that it was on a banned-book list. The book, by Dr. Harold Silverman, is an “Illustrated guide to the most-prescribed drugs in the United States.”

Read more.

To Make Sure Criminals Get No Location Privacy, the 6th Circuit Kills It for Everyone Else Too

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

A day after we filed an amicus brief arguing law enforcement needs a search warrant in order to obtain cell phone tracking data from wireless carriers, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reached the opposite conclusion yesterday (PDF), killing privacy protections for a large swath of the country.

As part of an ongoing investigation into a drug trafficking organization, DEA agents obtained approval from a federal magistrate judge to access the "subscriber information, cell site information, GPS real-time location, and 'ping' data" from a pre-paid wireless phone through the use of an admininstrative order (PDF) issued under the Stored Communications Act, which does not require "probable cause" like a search warrant. On appeal the defendant Melvin Skinner, argued that the three day warrantless cell phone tracking violated the Fourth Amendment, but the Sixth Circuit disagreed.

In what can only be described as a results-oriented opinion, the court found Skinner had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the cell phone location data because "if a tool used to transport contraband gives off a signal that can be tracked for location, certainly the police can track the signal." Otherwise, "technology would help criminals but not the police." In other words, because cell ...

#Patentfail: Tell Your Story

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

At the risk of repeating ourselves, the current patent system is broken. There's considerable evidence to support this claim, too—whether it's innovation-destroying patent trolls or certified "chaos" in legal battles among tech giants. More than 10,000 people have signed onto our Defend Innovation campaign, helpfully providing their thoughts on what works and what doesn't with the patent system, and what kinds of changes would really make things better.

These fixes can only come, however, with thorough evidence and analysis, which is why we have kicked off our Defend Innovation campaign. Another crucial ingredient is scholarship on the issue. Professor Colleen Chien of Santa Clara University School of Law is conducting a short Patent Demand Survey, and she's looking for your help in collecting relevant data. Professor Chien's research is an important step in understanding—and teaching others, including policy makers—the scope of the patent problem. It is crucial that those whose lives are affected by patents participate. We can't say it enough: we highly encourage those who have received patent demands to fill this confidential survey out.

We need entrepreneurs and engineers who have been affected by patents to tell their stories. Too often, startups are afraid (oftentimes for ...

IF Action Round Up August 6-12, 2012

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

OIF sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. To subscribe to this list, visit For an archive of all postings to the list since 1996, visit Below is a sample of articles from August 6 – 12, 2012.


Data sharing notices should specify existing privacy preferences

The Caucus: The Troubled Life of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

Google fined over Safari cookie privacy row

Related: Can Google be trusted?

Proposed Privacy Law Demands Court Warrants for Cloud Data

NYPD, Microsoft Launch All-Seeing “Domain Awareness System” With Real-Time CCTV, License Plate Monitoring [Updated]

Detailed Parking Tickets Breach Personal Privacy, Appeals Court Says

Microsoft sticks to its guns, keeps Do Not Track on by default in IE10



Libraries dealing with question of filtering the Internet


Privacy and Free Speech

State of the First Amendment 2012 Report

Facebook, ACLU: ‘Likes’ are protected speech

Take Action to Support Ethiopian Blogger Eskinder Nega

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Recently, we wrote about Ethiopian blogger Eskinder Nega, who was sentenced under the country's vague counterterrorism to eighteen years in prison for blogging about government corruption.

Individuals and organizations in the U.S. that wish to offer support for Eskinder Nega and freedom of expression in Ethiopia have several options. They can:

In the weeks since our post, a number of organizations have come out in support, petitioning the Ethiopian government to free Nega and drop the charges against him.  The International Press Institute has submitted a letter signed by prominent journalists from all over the world, while Freedom Now filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.  A group of 32 IFEX member organizations has also sent an appeal for Nega's release.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  It is imperative that we ...

Government Faces New Warrantless Surveillance Battle After Losing Landmark GPS Tracking Case

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Defendant Pushes to Exclude Cell Phone Location Data Obtained Without a Warrant

San Francisco - A federal district court is poised to determine whether the government can use cell phone data obtained without a warrant to establish an individual's location. In an amicus brief filed Monday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) argue that this form of surveillance is just as unconstitutional as the warrantless GPS tracking the U.S. Supreme Court already shot down in this case.

"Location data is extraordinarily sensitive. It can reveal where you worship, where your family and friends live, what sort of doctors you visit, and what meetings and activities you attend," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Whether this information is collected by a GPS device or a mobile phone company, the government should only be able to get it with a warrant based on probable cause that's approved by a judge."

In U.S. v. Jones, FBI agents planted a GPS device on a car and then tracked its position every ten seconds for 28 days without a valid search warrant. In a landmark decision earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that this violated the ...

Are Facebook ‘Likes’ Protected by the First Amendment?

Monday, August 13th, 2012

A sheriff’s deputy in Hampton, Va., was fired allegedly for “liking” the Facebook page of the sheriff’s opponent in an upcoming election. The deputy sued, claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated.

In April, a federal judge ruled that clicking Facebook’s “like” button was not protected under the First Amendment. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is now considering the case, and Facebook and the ACLU have filed briefs in support of the fired deputy, Daniel Ray Carter.

Read more.

The Free Speech Pamphlet Series: Pornography

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
The Free Speech Pamphlet Series: Pornography
Feminism and Free Speech: Pornography is part of the Feminism and Free Speech series produced by Feminists for Free Expression, a national, not-for-profit anti-censorship organization. FFE has prepared this publication to aid in the understanding of pornography, its uses and benefits, and its relation to violence. Below is an overview of the scientific and cross-cultural research, and legal and historical data on sexually explicit material. Popular beliefs are followed by research review.

All Nations Lose with TPP’s Expansion of Copyright Terms

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

EFF has previously written about various troubling provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that is being negotiated under wraps. One other major concern is that TPP seeks to propagate the excessive copyright terms currently found in American copyright legislation, and will become yet another tool of the second enclosure movement: “the enclosure of the intangible commons of the mind”.

These terms are detrimental to creativity and innovation and only serve to benefit the major record and movie production companies who lobbied for them in the U.S. Now starting with the Pacific region, these exorbitant counterproductive terms could be imposed on countries with more progressive copyright laws through the force of the TPP. Making these terms part of trade agreements is part of a general move towards “forum shifting” and “policy laundering” of the IP policy discussion away from places where there is at least some requirement for public input and transparency, such as Congress.

There are many problematic issues around enacting such long copyright terms into an international agreement. Primarily, it would force everyone living in a TPP signatory country to pay a heavy price in continued royalties for content. For example, one ...

FIRE Warns U. of California President: Reject Recommendation, Don’t Pick Fight with First Amendment

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

OAKLAND, Calif., August 8, 2012—In a letter sent today, FIRE warns University of California System (UC) President Mark Yudof against enacting unconstitutional "hate speech" policies on UC's campuses. FIRE’s letter responds to a recent recommendation from members of an official advisory body that, in response to alleged anti-Semitism on campus, UC “accept the challenge” of First Amendment litigation. FIRE urges President Yudof to reject the recommendation, reminding him that decades of legal precedent make clear that broad, content-based bans on student speech violate the First Amendment.   

"Many people on campus see speech codes as a noble solution that will eradicate ideas and thoughts we disdain. But censorship has never changed hearts or minds," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "While the speech codes recommended here would not hold up in court, this belief that censorship is not just acceptable, but what 'wise and enlightened' people should do, is a long-term threat to our freedom." 

On July 9, 2012, members of UC's Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion issued formal recommendations to President Yudof. The recommendations—titled the "University of California Jewish Student Campus Climate Fact-Finding Team Report & Recommendations"—seek to "identify steps needed to make campuses more inclusive and welcoming ...

Battling Bullying: How to Protect Students and Freedom at the Same Time

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Danielle LaHee is a FIRE Summer Intern. 

Recently, there has been an increase in media attention focused on adolescent and teenage suicides due to bullying and cyberbullying. The result has been an influx of bullying policies beginning at elementary school and stretching to the halls of higher education, many of which restrict free speech along with prohibiting actual bullying. To ensure the protection of fundamental First Amendment rights in the educational context, educators and legislators must look to a combination of proper harassment law and prevention methods to combat what is becoming a pervasive issue. 

Those who are victims of bullying frequently experience long-term and extensive verbal and sometimes physical abuse. One approach to examining the effects of bullying can be found in psychologist Abraham Maslow's theory of self-actualization. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, after basic psychological and safety needs are satisfied, the "belongingness need" becomes paramount. He points to our animal tendencies to herd, to flock, to join, to belong. Bullying studies further the connection between bullying and negative effects. A study published by the British Medical Journal showed that "bullied twins were significantly more likely to self harm than were their non-bullied co-twins." Another study ...

Mars Landing Videos, and Other Casualties of the Robot Wars

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

NASA's successful landing on Mars of an SUV-sized nuclear rover from a rocket-skycrane should have marked a high point in collaborative accomplishments between humans and robots. But here on Earth the situation was a bit more tense. That's because, just hours after the celebrated touchdown, Vice Magazine's Motherboard blog broke the news that one of NASA's official clips from the mission had been pulled from YouTube, replaced with a notice from the video site indicating that the "video contains content from Scripps Local News, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."

Motherboard points the finger of blame at the DMCA, the law that provides the terms under which online service providers must enforce copyright policies in order to avoid liability. But as Ars Technica has since pointed out, the problem likely lies not with the DMCA itself, but with the additional (and voluntary) automated Content ID system YouTube has developed. Content ID uses digital fingerprinting technology to identify duplicate audio and video on YouTube and, depending on the "business rules" configuration of the designated rightsholder, blocks or places ads next to videos. Unfortunately, the robots behind that copyright enforcement machine have the tendency to shoot first and ask ...

Comic Spring in the Arab World

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Comic artists and cartoonists in Arab nations and much of the Middle East have been cultivating a new era of cultural, social, and political importance of the media. These artists have been defiant, often risking their lives in the face of harsh censorship as their nations transition to more democratic governments. This comic renaissance has prevailed since the beginning of the Arab Spring, from Tunisia to the current struggle in Syria.

According to an article on, a German website sponsored by various institutions whose goal is to inform the world about foreign social issues, artists in the Arab world have used comics — a medium historically seen as sophomoric in most Middle Eastern countries — to educate people about the rich cultural history of comics and to voice opposition to governments and religious institutions.

From the article by Charlotte Bank, entitled “Swimming Against the Tide” (translated by Charlotte Collins):

This year’s Erlangen International Comic Salon, which took place from 7 to 10 June, introduced a series of young comics artists from the Arab world and presented their work in a high-profile exhibition.

Hardly known at all in Europe until now, the work of these young ...

Co-Director of TJ Center’s First Amendment Clinic is the new Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

The steering committee of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has selected Bruce D. Brown, a former journalist and most recently a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker & Hostetler, as the organization’s new executive director.

“Bruce brings precisely the right combination of skills and experience to lead the Reporters Committee and to widen its reach within the ever-expanding universe of news media,” said Steering Committee Chairman Tony Mauro, Supreme Court correspondent for The National Law Journal/ALM.

“As a former reporter, Bruce knows and shares the values of freedom of the press and sunshine in government that are essential to our profession and to the Reporters Committee’s mission. As a highly respected media lawyer, he has been a strong advocate for the principles that benefit journalists of all kinds,” Mauro added. “Bruce is also the right person to help build a strong financial base that will enable the Reporters Committee to thrive far into the future.”

Brown, who begins his tenure Sept. 10, was nominated by a search committee of journalists, media lawyers, foundation officials and educators from more than 50 candidates who applied or were nominated for the job. He succeeds Lucy A. Dalglish, who ...

Federal Court: Machete-Waving Student? Due Process Still Necessary

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Last Friday, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania overturned the expulsion of a student at a public university in Furey v. Temple University. The case is an interesting read—it involves a student waving a machete at an off-duty police officer—but what is most interesting is the court's holding and its novel approach to due process in the student disciplinary context.

Liberally citing the Supreme Court's seminal due process case of Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976), the federal district court made a number of findings about specific procedures required to ensure due process in student expulsion hearings.

First, the court noted that the student had been repeatedly told his testimony was voluntary and that there could have been no violation of a putative "right to remain silent." In reaching this conclusion, the court made a stronger statement that such a right exists than previously announced elsewhere, noting that to some extent "there is a right to remain silent in disciplinary proceedings while the student is also facing criminal charges." Federal district courts in other circuits have issued differing opinions on this subject: for example, in Coplin v. Conejo Valley Unified Sch. Dist....

Making History: 2012 FIRE Interns Visit Philadelphia Landmarks

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
FIRE interns at the National Constitution Center
2012 FIRE Interns at the National Constitution Center: Luke Wachob, Yean Do, Shelli Gimelstein, Emily Harrison, Kelsey Curtis, Danielle Lahee, and Sophia Mortensen. Photo by Jaclyn Hall.

One of the biggest perks of FIRE's office in downtown Philadelphia is that we are just blocks away from several historic sites, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell exhibit. Today, the interns and I took a break from research, reading, and writing to visit the room where the U.S. Constitution was debated and signed and take a tour of the National Constitution Center. 

Although this is the interns' last week in the FIRE office, I hope the memories we made this summer will last a lifetime!

9th Circuit Dismisses Al Haramain Case

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the warrantless wiretapping case, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama, on the technical legal basis known as sovereign immunity.  

Essentially, on a complex statutory analysis, the court ruled that the only claim left in the case, for money damages under 50 U.S.C. section 1810, could not be brought against the government itself, and instead could only be brought against government officials in their individual capacity. The court then ruled that the specific claims made against an official in his individual capacity, FBI Director Mueller, were not sufficient and could not be amended. 

While the analysis is complex, the upshot is clear and very troubling.

First, the Court ruled that Congress in passing this section of FISA created a cramped statute that, at least in section 1810, only allows a claim for redress if the government uses the information it illegally gathers, and creates no a remedy against the government for the unlawful collection of information. Apparently, when it came to granting a legal claim for damages, Congress intended to allow the government to do as much wiretapping in violation of the law as it wanted to, and only allow individuals ...

Supporters Want Reason for Delay

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Updated at 3:30 p.m. EST on 2012-08-07

Around twenty supporters of three Vietnamese bloggers accused of "conducting propaganda against the state” gathered in Ho Chi Minh City Tuesday to demand an explanation from Vietnamese court officials for the delay of their trial on the day it was scheduled to begin.

Vietnamese authorities postponed the trial last week, claiming defense lawyers had called for the delay following the self-immolation death of the mother of one of the accused.

But the attorneys for Ta Phong Tan, a Catholic former policewoman, Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his online alias Dieu Cay, and Phan Thanh Hai, known as Anh Ba Saigon, denied ever having made any request to the court.

One of the supporters, Father Dinh Huu Thoai from the Catholic Redemptorist Order, said his group of fellow bloggers had traveled to the court with Nguyen Van Hai’s ex-wife seeking an answer from officials.

“We went with Dang Thi Tan … The relatives of the two other detained bloggers live far away, so they couldn’t join us,” he said.

“Our purpose is to make clear why the trial was postponed. [The court officials] can’t just do whatever they want.”

Repeated claims

The supporters ...

Chen Nephew Faces Murder Trial

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Updated at 12:30 p.m. EST on 2012-08-08

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong will try the nephew of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng for "intentional homicide" this week, a U.S.-based rights activist said.

Chen Kegui, who defended his family from an allegedly brutal attack after his uncle's daring escape from house arrest, will stand trial at a court in Shandong’s Yinan county on Friday, according to activist Wang Xuezhen.

Chen defended himself with a kitchen knife when “local government officials and their hired thugs” broke into his home, Chen Guangcheng has said. Several people were injured in the incident, including an official.

Wang, who is a friend of the family, said Chen Kegui's family hadn't received any documentation but that they had been told verbally that the trial would begin on Aug. 10.

"They told him it would be on Aug. 10, but there has been no formal documentation given to the relatives by the court," Wang said. "They asked the family members to be present, but there was no formal notice of a trial."

Lawyer Ding Xikui said he had still had no word from the authorities on the trial date, however.

"This is inappropriate, because we had ...

Woman Strips, Self-Immolates

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Updated at 12:30 p.m. EST on 2012-08-07

A Tibetan woman took off her clothes and self-immolated in a monastery's grounds Tuesday to protest Chinese rule in Gansu province in China's northwest region, sources inside Tibet said.

Dolkar Tso, a 26-year-old mother of two, died after setting herself on fire near a stupa at the Tso monastery in the southern part of Kanlho (Gannan, in Chinese) prefecture at around 2.30 p.m. local time, the sources said

The incident was witnessed by other Tibetans circumambulating the monastery, and as they attempted to save her she told them to let her die.

"She took off her clothes and burned herself naked," one source inside Tibet said, citing eyewitnesses who heard her shout slogans calling for freedom in Tibet and the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

"She survived initially when the Tibetans put out the fire, and when the local monks arrived she called on them to hit her on the head with a stone and kill her so that the Chinese would not take her into custody alive," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

When the monks took Dolkar Tso to the monastery, her family members arrived ...

Join the CBLDF Website Team!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Just yesterday, the CBLDF website was recognized by Tom Spurgeon with The Comics Reporter for our “content explosion,” and we want to do more! CBLDF is looking for contributors to add to our already spectacular roster of bloggers. Whether you’re a journalism student looking for experience, a passionate fan of comics and Free Speech, or an educator and librarian who wants to share your experiences, CBLDF is looking for your voice!

Each member of our website team will be asked to identify and/or generate content about relevant Free Speech issues for on a weekly or semiweekly basis under editorial guidance from the Web Editor. The Web Editor may assign specific articles for coverage, but contributors will otherwise have flexibility in choosing what they write about. Our current contributors cover stories and generate original posts that run the gamut from the history of comics censorship to the international suppression of cartooning voices.

The blogging positions are voluntary. Articles will be seen by visitors to and cross-posted on CBLDF’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, and weekly newsletter, ensuring that several thousand people will see the articles. Contributors will be able to work from anywhere, set their own schedules, build writing and ...

New Violence in Rakhine

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Violence has flared up again between ethnic Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas in western Burma, with at least three people killed and five injured, according to sources and reports.

Three predominantly Muslim villages were razed around Kyauktaw town in Rakhine state on Sunday and another village was burned on Monday, the sources said in the first fatalities reported since violence in June left 78 people dead and displaced 70,000 others, according to official figures.

Some 160 houses were torched on Sunday evening alone, according to the local Voice Weekly as pressure mounted on the Burmese authorities to contain the bloodshed, which has cast a cloud over reforms pursued by President Thein Sein nominally civilian government after decades of brutal military rule.

Rakhine state government information officer Win Myaing could not provide details on any fatalities when asked by RFA to comment on the new violence.

"Information is not available on any fatalities but two persons were injured," he said.

Aung Mya Kyaw, a member of parliament with the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) who is also a native of the state capital, Sittwe, called for more cooperation between the state administration and the central government in Naypyidaw.

"The clashes started ...

myVidster: A Victory for Innovation and a Vote for Sensible Copyright Law

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Last week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Flava Works v. myVidster, a case that raises questions about embedded videos and copyright infringement. Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the opinion, has a reputation for producing memorable and influential ruling, and this one is no exception. (You might remember that Judge Posner also recently issued an important ruling in a patent case between Apple and Motorola.) In reversing the injunction granted against myVidster, the Seventh Circuit wholly rejected the premise that embedding, linking to, or watching infringing videos constitutes infringement itself.

First, some background: Flava Works, a video company that makes full-length videos available only behind a paywall,1 sued MyVidster, a social video bookmarking site that allows users to save videos to a profile and share pages containing embedded videos with other users. Last summer, the district court sided with Flava Works and granted an injunction. The district court got it wrong on at least two counts. First, the Court failed to apply the appropriate standard for injunctive relief and second, the Court mistakenly found that myVidster’s users infringed Flava Work’s copyrights.

Fortunately, the Seventh Circuit agreed.

First, though the standard for an injunction ...

Ban on Journals Lifted

Monday, August 6th, 2012

The Burmese government said Monday it was lifting a ban on publication of two weekly journals amid local media protests against government censorship.

Several dailies blacked out their front pages in the latest action by the Burmese media pushing for freedom of expression as the country enters a new period of liberalization under President Thein Sein's nominally civilian government after decades of military rule.

The government's Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), which requires media outlets to submit articles for approval before publication, summoned editors of the Voice Weekly and Envoy magazines Monday and told them that their suspension would be lifted next week.

The journals had been told that the suspension periods were indefinite when informed of the ban last week and were asked to follow the regulations set down by the PSRD and the repressive Printers and Publishers Act enacted after a 1962 military coup.

No specific reasons were given for the suspension at that time, but the two had carried speculative reports on an expected cabinet reshuffle that may have ruffled government feathers.

"The censorship board called in the editors of the two journals today. They said the newspapers would be allowed to publish again and can ...

Health Officials Demand Equal Care

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Cambodia is instructing doctors to practice without regard to socioeconomic status, according to the country’s top health official, amidst reports that women have been left to die during childbirth and other patients have been refused treatment because they did not have the money to pay for services.

Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said Friday that improvements in healthcare quality and service have over the past two years substantially decreased the number of maternal and child fatalities across Cambodia, which has the highest infant mortality rate in the Southeast Asia.

He said that since 2010 the ministry has worked to teach doctors not to differentiate between the rich and the poor—a practice which has led to some doctors refusing to admit pregnant women and other patients who could not cover certain medical fees.

“We are working on a process to improve maternal and child health,” Mam Bunheng said, adding that the ministry is also in the process of drafting a code of conduct for midwives.

“We are also working to improve our midwives in health centers and referral hospitals,” he said. “We are working to train midwives to work in communities.”

Mam Bunheng said that doctors have been instructed to admit ...

Religious Leaders Barred

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Vietnamese police on Monday blocked religious leaders and disabled war veterans from attending a gathering organized by a pagoda associated with a banned Buddhist group, beating and detaining one minister, the head monk told RFA.

Monks at the Lien Tri Pagoda, a temple in Thu Duc on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City and under the unsanctioned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), held the gathering to provide a free vegetarian meal and gifts to disabled Vietnam War veterans who lack assistance from the government.

But around 100 plainclothes police surrounded the temple to prevent participants from entering, the head monk, Thich Khong Tanh, told RFA.

Local Christian leaders were also invited, and one Protestant minister was beaten and taken away to the police station for questioning, he said.

Two Catholic priests who resisted police attempts to block them from attending were allowed into the pagoda grounds only after agreeing to delete photos they had taken of the scene outside the temple, Tanh said.

Activists invited to the gathering, including prodemocracy physician Nguyen Dan Que, rights lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen, and formerly imprisoned journalist Truong Minh Duc, phoned Tanh to tell him they were being closely watched and could ...

Speech Codes at Colgate University Threaten Students’ Rights

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Kelsey Curtis is a FIRE Summer Intern.

As I prepare to enter my senior year at Colgate University, I am spending a lot of time reflecting on all that I have learned and how much I have grown over the course of my college experience. Colgate's faculty and students have provided me with opportunities for exploration every day, and it is because of the thoughtful community at Colgate that I have been able to gain so much. It was not until I began my internship at FIRE this summer that I realized that this learning environment is in a precarious position. Colgate University's Standards of Conduct and Non-Academic Policies contain several restrictive "speech codes" that threaten the open exchange of ideas at Colgate. The policies are well intentioned, aimed at protecting students and faculty at Colgate from sexual harassment and bias-related discrimination. But their overbroad and vague language means that they can be applied to speech that is well within the protection of the First Amendment. Although Colgate is a private university, not legally bound by the First Amendment, it claims to value and protect "the rights of free inquiry, expression and assembly." Shouldn't its students, therefore, have the ...

IFAction Round Up July 30-August 5, 2012

Monday, August 6th, 2012

OIF sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more.  To subscribe to this list, visit  For an archive of all postings to the list since 1996, visit Below is a sample of articles from July 30-August 5, 2012.


US House to International Telecommunication Union: Hands off the Internet

Libraries dealing with question of filtering the Internet



Court Demands TSA Explain Why It Is Defying Nude Body Scanner Order

Cybersecurity Act fails Senate vote

Related: After defeat of Senate cybersecurity bill, Obama weighs executive-order option

FTC proposes tougher kids privacy rules

Democrat drafts drone privacy bill

Illinois employers can no longer force Facebook password disclosure

5 Online Privacy Intrusions You Don’t Know About, and Should

Class-action lawsuit settlement forces Netflix privacy changes

ACLU tries to track license plate readers

Police Break Up Creditors’ Protest

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Authorities in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian sent in riot police to disperse dozens of disgruntled creditors of the Lantian Department Store, which has been accused of illegal fund-raising, after they protested outside local government offices on Monday.

Around 50 petitioners gathered outside the offices of the Nanping municipal government on Monday, carrying banners which read "Congratulations on the 18th Party Congress from the wronged people," and "Huang Wenshan, give us back our blood and sweat!"

Huang was managing director of the now-bankrupt Lantian Department Store when the company reportedly raised funds illegally, but Lantian's creditors say they have never been compensated or repaid.

The protesters blocked the road outside the government buildings, bringing traffic to a standstill for nearly 20 minutes and prompting the authorities to send in riot police who beat up the assembled creditors, protesters said.

"There were about 40 or 50 of us," said petitioner Wu Linxiang, who was present at the scene for another reason. "Most of us were women, and we held up the traffic ... for about 20 minutes."

"They called out the riot police, who dragged us and pulled our arms behind our backs, as if they were restraining criminals," Wu ...