Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Watch the 2012 CFN Conference Live!

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

The 2012 CFN Conference is just one day away! Students from across the country will be gathering at Bryn Mawr College to learn about their rights on campus this weekend. Attendees will hear from FIRE staff and our distinguished speakers, including:

  • Professor Don Downs, an award-winning professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition to his scholarship on freedom of speech, academic freedom, and campus politics, Professor Downs has been an active defender of academic freedom on UW's campus, where he serves as the president of the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights. [Friday, 7:30 p.m. EDT]
  • Christina Hoff Sommers, a former philosophy professor who taught ethics and serves as a member of FIRE's Board of Advisors. She has been an outspoken critic of the erosion of due process on campus. She is also known for her extensive writings about education and is currently a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. [Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EDT]
  • Robert Corn-Revere, a partner at the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine in Washington, D.C., and a First Amendment expert. Corn-Revere is the lead attorney for former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes in Barnes v. Zaccari, ...

Human Rights Watch: Yale to curtail rights on new Singapore campus

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

(New York) – Yale University’s acceptance of Singaporean government restrictions on basic rights at the new Yale-National University of Singapore (NUS) joint campus shows a disturbing disregard for free speech, association, and assembly. Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis told the media in July that students at the new campus, expected to open in August 2013, can express their views but they will not be allowed to organize political protests on campus or form political party student groups.

The Singapore government has long severely restricted the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and has imposed harsh punishments on violators, Human Rights Watch said.

“Yale is betraying the spirit of the university as a center of open debate and protest by giving away the rights of its students at its new Singapore campus,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of defending these rights, Yale buckled when faced with Singapore’s draconian laws on demonstrations and policies restricting student groups.”

Yale’s willingness to curtail rights on its Singapore campus lends credence to those who would deny the universality, inalienability, and indivisibility of human rights on the basis of a country’s historical and cultural context and its economic ...

Activist Sues Over Detention

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

A Beijing-based eviction activist is awaiting a court decision after she sued her local police station for abuse while she was in custody.

A court in the southern district of Fengtai this week began hearing the allegations of police misconduct brought by local petitioner Ge Zhihui.

Ge says that police illegally detained her on Feb. 23, insisting she come to the police station without any documentation of her visit.

Such cases are rarely accepted in Chinese courts, and the hearing itself is a rare victory for the country's army of petitioners, who say they routinely suffer illegal detentions, beatings, and official harassment as they pursue complaints against official wrongdoing.

The hearing was attended on Wednesday by nearly 60 spectators in the public section of the court.

"The Chinese government has been detaining petitioners ahead of the 18th [ruling Chinese Communist] Party Congress [later this year]," Ge said. "These petitioners showed great courage in coming to the court today; there were more than 100 of them, and around 60 went inside."

"There were maybe 30 or 40 people outside who didn't dare go in because they were afraid of being detained as soon as they handed over their ID," she added.

...

Yale Travels to Singapore, Leaves Toothbrush, U.S. Values at Home

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a press release excoriating Yale University for its "acceptance of Singaporean government restrictions on basic rights at the new Yale–National University of Singapore (NUS) joint campus [that] shows a disturbing disregard for free speech, association, and assembly." Foreign Policy has picked up the ongoing controversy, as has Alex Klein over at The Daily Beast

HRW's press release echoes some of the concerns I have laid out here on The Torch over the past few weeks:

Many Singaporean laws are incompatible with the basic policies of a university such as Yale... "Yale may find that many of the freedoms taken for granted over its 300 year history are against the law in Singapore," [Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW] said. "If it truly values those freedoms, and expects its students to, it will need to fight for them." 

This is exactly right. While FIRE does not take a position on the sovereign rights of Singapore to establish its own laws, there is absolutely no justification for an American university that values freedom of speech to cheerfully assist Singapore in enforcing these laws. HRW further identifies a major disconnect between Yale's stated nondiscrimination policies ...

Cartoonist Battles Frivolous Lawsuits with Comedic Protest

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

By Justin Brown

The Oatmeal, a website that features the work of cartoonist and programmer Matthew Inman, has been entangled in a legal dispute with the attorney of competitor Funny Junk, a comedy site that posts user-uploaded images. After exercising his First Amendment right to make a statement against copyright infringement that was taking place on Funny Junk’s website, Inman received a cease and desist letter from Funny Junk attorney Charles Carreon. Inman’s hilarious response to the cease and desist letter raised more than $200,000 for charity but led to a series of frivolous lawsuits from Carreon. The lawsuits have been dismissed, but the case could have had legal implications for anyone — including cartoonists — who decided to exercise their First Amendment rights by criticizing a company in a public forum.

The EFF relates the basic details of the case:

Attorney Charles Carreon dropped his bizarre lawsuit against The Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman today, ending his strange legal campaign against Inman’s humorous and creative public criticism of a frivolous cease and desist letter that Carreon wrote on behalf of his client Funny Junk.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and co-counsel Venkat Balasubramani represented Inman in the ...

Yale’s Reversal On Academic Freedom Garners More Criticism

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Yale University continues to take a beating in the media for its decision not to protect students' and professors' rights on its Singapore campus. In addition to FIRE's own coverage of Yale's statement guaranteeing academic freedom and then its immediate and unprincipled retreat from that position, other outlets are also pouncing on Yale's betrayal of its students and faculty members.

A story at The Daily Beast takes Yale to task for breaking its promise to students and faculty that "academic freedom" on the Singapore campus would be "guaranteed." 

But this week, the debate over Yale–NUS reignited when the franchise's new president, Yale English professor Pericles Lewis, said in an interview that the new campus plans to nix political protest in order to comply with Singaporean law.

The Daily Beast goes on to point out the ways in which Yale has already sacrificed core values of free speech and academic freedom to make this venture work. 

Last April, a panel of Singaporean students and alumni visited New Haven to defend the Yale–NUS venture. The event was titled "Singapore Uncensored," but no recording was permitted, and members of the press were told they could not quote speakers directly.

When a professor of ...

Call to Protect Ethnic Minorities

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Addressing Burma’s parliament for the first time, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi called Wednesday for better laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities in the country amid ongoing armed conflict between the groups and government troops.

Voicing her support for a proposal by a lawmaker from the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) to uphold ethnic minority rights, Aung San Suu Kyi said broader guarantees for ethnic equality were key to the country’s transition to democracy.

“I urge us parliamentary members to discuss the protection of ethnic minorities' rights by creating and amending laws as needed, and I hereby support U Ti Khun Myat's proposal,” she said, referring to the Shan state representative for the USDP.

The laws are needed if the country is “to become a truly democratic union, based on equality as well as the Panglong spirit and mutual respect,” said Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the chairman National League for Democracy (NLD).

The 1947 Panglong Conference involved negotiations between the government and ethnic minority groups, setting the stage for Burma’s unification as a republic upon its independence from Britain.

In order to protect ethnic minority rights, Burma's laws need to go farther ...

Connect with FIRE in DC Tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Students visiting our nation's capital have lots of options to connect with FIRE in Washington tomorrow. FIRE's own Jaclyn Hall and Joe Cohn will be staffing a table at the Campus Progress National Conference, while Will Creeley will be addressing the Young Americans for Liberty National Convention at 3:15 PM on "How to Dismantle Speech Codes." If you'll be at one of those events, please stop by!

S.D. doctors can be required to issue suicide warning

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota can require doctors to warn women seeking abortions that they face an increased risk of suicide if they go through with the procedure, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the portion of the 2005 South Dakota law dealing with the suicide advisory 7-4.

“On its face, the suicide advisory presents neither an undue burden on abortion rights nor a violation of physicians’ free speech rights,” the court wrote in its majority opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds.

In September, a three-judge panel upheld U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier’s decision to overturn the requirement following a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood. Yesterday’s decision by the full 11-member court grants judgment to the state and vacates the permanent injunction against enforcing the provision.

The ruling ultimately was a battle of medical studies. Statistics show women who have had abortions have higher rates of suicide compared with women who have given birth, but the sides don’t agree that there’s a causal link between abortion and suicide.

Read more.

AP

Protesters Besiege Capital Building

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Nearly 1,000 villagers set up camp at a municipal building in Vietnam’s capital Tuesday, demanding that the government return land they say was illegally confiscated and sold to a neighboring village.

The protest was the third in four months by the residents of Lien Hiep, in Hanoi’s Phu Tho district, who vowed to remain on the premises of the Village People’s Committee for “weeks or months” until their land was returned and the officials responsible for its sale punished for corruption.

“More than one year ago, we lodged a petition after finding out that all of our village officials were corrupt and had received funds from a development site that was created by illegally selling our land to another village," one villager told RFA, as protesters set up stoves to cook rice porridge in the building’s courtyard.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the villager said that no one from the government had ever addressed the petition, angering the villagers.

In late April, the villagers held their first rally at the Village People’s Committee building and held a second one in June.

It was only after the second protest that Hanoi city officials issued a decree ordering district and village authorities ...

Danish Report Discredits Link Between Cartoons and Child Sex Abuse

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

The Copenhagen Post reveals that a report issued by experts at Sexologisk Klinik discredits claims that cartoon depictions of underaged characters engaging in sex acts encourage people to commit child sex crimes in real life. The report to the justice ministry states: “We have had to acknowledge that there is no evidence that the use of fictive images of sexual assaults on children alone can lead people to conduct sexual assaults on children.”

The report was ordered by former justice minister Lars Barfod in response to calls to ban comics and animation depicting minors engaged in sex acts, including prominent manga genres. It arrives less than six weeks after the Swedish Supreme Court overturned the conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on child pornography charges relating to manga files on his computer, and marks another positive development towards separating the prosecution of drawn images from photographs under child pornography laws.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been active in defending American readers of manga against false allegations that the comics in their possession constitute child pornography. Most recently, the Fund scored a victory in this area when Canadian authorities dropped false importation of child pornography charges against American reader ...

Oregon State University: One Policy Away from "Green Light"

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Emily Harrison is a FIRE summer intern.

Oregon State University (OSU) is just one "red light" speech policy away from earning FIRE's acclaimed "green light" distinction. The university revised its restrictive "Electronic Harassment" policy in 2008, which is a positive indicator of OSU's willingness to protect the free speech rights of its students and faculty members. We hope this means that OSU might be willing to revise its "Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence" policy, which is OSU's lone remaining speech code

OSU's Equity and Inclusion Office offers an "overview" of OSU's sexual harassment policy:

Sexual harassment includes sexual or gender-based behavior that is unwanted and/or nonconsensual, and has the effect, intended or unintended, of producing harm. It includes behavior along a continuum of severity, from offensive talk to physical violence, including but not limited to rape. 

In examining the legal issues concerning OSU's policy, it is important to understand the established legal precedent surrounding sexual harassment policies in the educational setting. In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629, 652 (1999), the U.S. Supreme Court provided a definition of student-on-student sexual harassment in the educational setting as conduct that is:

"so severe, pervasive, and ...

Canadian Fair Dealing Expanded to Include Parody

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

by Maren Williams

While working on my recent post about Canadian political cartoonist Dan Murphy’s animated parody being removed from his newspaper’s website, allegedly under pressure from the very company targeted by the video, I was somewhat surprised to learn that such works were not necessarily protected under the “fair dealing” provisions of Canada’s copyright laws. In the United States, the more-or-less equivalent “fair use” clearly allows parodies of copyrighted works as long as they are sufficiently transformative. Murphy’s video, which imagines an executive from oil pipeline company Enbridge growing increasingly frustrated as oil continues to stain his bucolic advertising, would certainly meet that criterion. While the background animation resembles Enbridge’s actual commercials, the voiceover and oil blotches distinguish it from the genuine ads, while also making it clear that Murphy is advancing an editorial comment on the company’s greenwashing over recent spills from its pipelines.

Without Canadian fair dealing protections for parody, however, Enbridge or any other company could stifle such public criticism simply by claiming copyright infringement. In fact, that is exactly what happened in a precedent-setting 1997 Canadian Supreme Court case, Michelin v. CAW Canada. Michelin employees who were advocating unionization produced a brochure ...

Labor Camp for Hong Kong Protesters

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi have sentenced to labor camp two petitioners who took part in the annual July 1 demonstrations in Hong Kong, their relatives said on Tuesday.

Song Ningsheng and Zeng Jiuzi were handed the one-year sentences, which can be processed administratively with no need for a trial, as a punishment for their involvement in the demonstrations, during which tens of thousands of people each year vent their frustrations against the authorities in the former British colony.

Zeng's son Liu Zhonghua was given the news verbally by police in Jiangxi's Ningdu county, he said in an interview on Tuesday.

"The police said that my mother and Song Ningsheng went to Hong Kong and took part in an illegal demonstration," Liu said. "They had also petitioned illegally in Beijing a number of times."

"I asked [the officer] whether they would give me an official notification document, and he said there was no need, because they could just do this with a nod to the people at the labor camp," he said.

Liu said he fully supported his mother's trip to Hong Kong, however.

"There's absolutely no way to fight for one's rights here in mainland China," ...

KC Johnson on the Latest Threats to Due Process on Campus

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Over at Minding The Campus, Professor KC Johnson reports on the latest "Tip of the Week" from the Association of Title IX Administrators, which advises universities on which modifications to make to their appeal processes following the "Dear Colleague" letter released by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights in April 2011. As Johnson notes, the group's suggested modifications "would almost certainly render successful appeals less likely." For more on how these "modifications" threaten due process rights on campus, visit Minding The Campus

A Librarian Responds to a Book Challenge

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

One of CBLDF’s missions is to protect graphic novels when they are challenged in libraries. We’ve played a pivotal role in some challenges, most recently with Alan Moore’s Neonomicon, which faces a challenge in North Carolina. As I was cruising the interwebs this weekend, I came across a spectacular letter written by James LaRue, a librarian in Colorado. The letter is in response to a 2008 challenge to Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, the critically acclaimed children’s book by Sarah S. Brannen. The book features the marriage of two male characters and has drawn the ire of individuals who would remove it from library shelves. Mr. LaRue wrote a letter to the person who posed the challenge at his library, succinctly and precisely countering the patron’s claims regarding the book. The letter is an amazing example of the passion with which many librarians face book challenges, and an uplifting piece for any book lover. I’m sharing Mr. LaRue’s blog post about the letter in its entirety with his permission:

Recently, a library patron challenged (urged a reconsideration of the ownership or placement of) a book called “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding.” Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of it until ...

A Balanced Approach to VAWA

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Yesterday morning Inside Higher Ed joined The Chronicle of Higher Education in reporting that some domestic violence advocates and survivors of sexual assaults on university campuses have again asked Congress to iron out the differences between the two chambers' versions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act ("VAWA"). These advocates are encouraging Congress to pass a comprehensive bill before the session closes that includes protections for victims of sexual assaults in the college setting. 

This latest push by advocates presents a good opportunity for FIRE to reiterate our hope that any final version of VAWA will take the rights of all students into account. FIRE takes no position on the vast majority of VAWA's provisions, as much of each chamber's bill addresses issues beyond our mission of protecting student and faculty rights on campus. However, FIRE has been concerned about those elements of the bill that would affect campus rights.  

We've been outspoken in our support for aspects of each chamber's bill that would positively impact student due process protections. Still, we have repeatedly cautioned that the final legislation must not include measures that diminish due process rights for the accused or infringe on other constitutional rights. Unless ...

Broadcast Chief to Visit North Korea

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

A South Korean public broadcasting chief who heads a professional Asian broadcasting group is set to visit North Korea this week to discuss media coverage of the Summer Olympics, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Monday.

Kim In Kyu, who is president of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), will visit Pyongyang Tuesday through Thursday, ministry spokeswoman Park Soo Jin said.

Kim, who also heads South Korean public broadcaster KBS, will be the first South Korean civilian authorized to visit the North since a group went to pay respects after the death of the former North Korean leader in December.

"Kim's visit, allowed for his capacity as the ABU president, will be limited to discussing broadcasting issues with the North," Park said.

Kim is making the trip to officially license KRT, the North’s radio and television broadcasting committee, the rights to air coverage of the Olympic games which begin in London this Friday, ABU said in a statement on its website.

ABU was mandated to handle the license by private South Korean broadcaster SBS, which controls the rights to air the Olympic games in the entire Korean peninsula—the two sides of which remain technically at war since their conflict ended only in an ...

Speech Code of the Month at Indiana U-Southeast Featured by Fox News

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

FIRE's Speech Code of the Month at Indiana University Southeast (IUS) was highlighted by FoxNews.com on Friday in an article about campus speech codes. 

As quoted in the article, FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley reminds readers of one reason why First Amendment protections on college and university campuses are important: "It's the price you pay for living in a free society ... The entire enterprise of a university is to express scholarly thoughts and opinions." 

Samantha Harris, FIRE's Director of Speech Code Research, also weighs in, using as an example one particularly troublesome portion of the IUS speech code that says students may only "express opinions" within the university's designated free speech zones. As Sam says, "IUS almost certainly doesn't mean this—if you want to tell your friend that you think it's hot outside, you have to go to the zone to do it ... it's an indicator of just how poorly written and unconstitutional this policy is."

Also worth noting in the article is another classic example of administrative confusion over how free expression works. Joseph Wert, Dean of the School of Social Sciences at IUS, told FoxNews.com that speech codes such as the one at IUS are ...

Jailed Radio Station Chief Ill

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The head of an independent Cambodian radio station arrested a week ago for allegedly spearheading a land uprising has fallen ill in prison, his wife said Monday.

Mam Sonando, the director of Beehive Radio, was moved to a prison clinic for medical treatment on Sunday over a serious flu, wife Den Phanara said as more than 100 activists gathered in Phnom Penh on Monday to pray for his release.

“He has the flu. He couldn’t talk,” she said, adding that he had gotten sick from his cellmates in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar Prison, where he is awaiting trial on charges of orchestrating a land revolt in Kratie province that triggered a security crackdown and bloody clashes in May.

Den Phanara said the cell where he was being held before being taken to the clinic was narrow and that he had shared it with 15 others.

Mam Sonando, who is in his late 60s and head of the Association for Democrats activist group, was arrested at his home on July 15 after returning from a trip abroad and charged in court the next day.

He has rejected the charges. Lawyers said he faces a lengthy prison term if found guilty.

Human ...

Why the WikiLeaks Grand Jury is So Dangerous: Members of Congress Now Want to Prosecute New York Times Journalists Too

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

For more than a year now, EFF has encouraged mainstream press publications like the New York Times to aggressively defend WikiLeaks’ First Amendment right to publish classified information in the public interest and denounce the ongoing grand jury investigating WikiLeaks as a threat to press freedom.

Well, we are now seeing why that is so important: at a Judiciary subcommittee hearing on July 11, some members of Congress made it clear they also want New York Times journalists charged under the Espionage Act for their recent stories on President Obama’s ‘Kill List’ and secret US cyberattacks against Iran. During the hearing, House Republicans “pressed legal experts Wednesday on whether it was possible to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

In addition, the Washingtonian’s Shane Harris reported a month ago that a “senior” Justice Department official “made it clear that reporters who talked to sources about classified information were putting themselves at risk of prosecution.”

Leaks big and small have been happening for decades—even centuries—and the most recent are comparable to several others. No journalist has ever been prosecuted under the Espionage Act and it has generally been accepted, even ...

How Society, Not Government, Regulates Hurtful Speech

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Luke Wachob is a FIRE Summer Intern.

The first step onto a college campus can often feel like walking into a different country. It has its own colors, its own traditions, its own newspaper, and even its own President. The architecture, the sounds, and the people all change decidedly once you step out of the car and onto campus. After being there for a while, from the seclusion of your dorm, it can seem so separate from the outside world that you can wonder earnestly what those mysterious United States of America are all about. For one thing, if someone ran down your dorm hall shouting obscenities and slurs, you'd know to go to the RA, who'd find a Campus Life administrator. Demerits, suspensions, and sensitivity training all around! Problem "solved." Yet I hear all the time that in the real world, such protections against nastiness don't exist. So what the heck do they do about it out there? 

A school bus monitor is demeaned and insulted by students and then gets a paid vacation from witnesses of the disgraceful incident. A cable television comedian makes a joke about rape, and the blogosphere explodes with reactions, from outrage to defensiveness ...

SDCC: The Fight to Defend Manga

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

On the Saturday of Comic-Con, CBLDF Executive Director joined Ryan Matheson for “CBLDF: The Fight to Defend Manga,” a panel discussing the particular issues that manga and its fans face when it comes to censorship. Matheson was arrested by Canadian authorities at a border crossing when he entered the country with manga on his laptop that authorities incorrectly labeled child pornography. CBLDF won an important victory in the case when the charges were withdrawn. Carlo Santos with Anime News Network was on hand for the panel and took the time to write it up, summing up the issues manga face:

Different attitudes to sexuality in Japanese culture have caused concern among American audiences. By now, an entire generation of North America readers have grown up on manga and anime culture , making it a major cultural phenomenon—but also a potential legal issue for those who do not understand it.

After a brief history of the manga-related cases that CBLDF has been involved in, including Texas v. Jesus Castillo and US v. Christopher Handley, Santos describes Matheson’s presentation at the panel:

Matheson himself was present at the panel to tell his story. In his account, he said that his position ...

Robert in ‘Daily Caller’

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Our very own Robert Shibley has an op-ed in The Daily Caller exposing a number of recent anti-speech actions at American universities. Here's a taste:

With college prices higher than ever, student loan debt north of a trillion dollars, and increasing talk of a higher education "bubble" similar to the housing and dot-com bubbles of recent years, American universities can ill afford more of this expensive, counterproductive, and frequently unlawful totalitarianism. It's time campus administrators stopped worrying about what students say while on campus and started worrying more about what they'll say when they're asked if they still want to support those campuses after they've graduated.

Indeed, we had hoped that colleges would have realized by now that violating the First Amendment is untenably expensive, both to their reputations and their pocketbooks, but apparently not. Take a look at Robert's article!

The Free Speech Pamphlet Series: The Internet

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

The Free Speech Pamphlet Series: The Internet
The Internet is growing at a dizzying rate with seemingly unlimited potential. It is a networking tool and community builder, a communications highway that delivers authoritative, expert-approved information and entertainment, as well as personal reports and subjective reviews. The Internet lends itself to the consumption, creation and distribution of multimedia content for information, fun and profit. Many websites thrive on content that is not just interactive, but user-generated, created and uploaded by people making media for fun, and participants in online communities that grow around an immense variety of interests. Savvy internet users not only read news online and research topics of interest, but also visit and write personal and entertainment blogs, watch and make online videos, and listen to and record audio podcasts.

With the growth of the Internet have come many questions that relate to the work of Feminist for Free Expression: Who regulates online content? How do users maintain privacy? How pervasive is adult content? Is there a need to regulate political content? How are young people affected by the wealth of information and social interactions that are available online?

This free and free-wheeling exchange of information has raised questions ...

This Week in Transparency: Release of Records, Classification Reviews, and Court Relief

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

FAA Releases Thousands of Pages of Drone Records to EFF

In response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which has already uncovered the list of all entities licensed to fly domestic drones, last week, the FAA released the certificates of authorization and other records related to those authorizations for 18 state and federal agencies flying drones, totaling thousands of pages of newly uncovered records.

The newest batch of FAA documents mainly address safety issues with drone flights, but spur many unanswered questions about the privacy implications of drones. EFF continues to look through the documents and will report on them shortly.

Review of Classification System Yields Elimination of Over 400 Classification Guides

After a two-year review of the classification system ordered by President Obama, the Pentagon finally released a published report. The report reveals that the Department of Defense (DOD) eliminated 413 of its 2,070 classification guides. The guides are intended to provide classification instructions for programs and issue areas. The Navy, the department with the largest number of classification guides at 988, eliminated close to 250. Despite the elimination, there are still over 1,600 guides at the DOD that mandate when to classify and redact ...

Proponents of Canada’s Online Spying Bill Still Trying to Justify Excessive Powers

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Canada’s online surveillance bill may be on hold for now, but a recent news article confirms that a rather formidable figure has been angling for its return: Richard Fadden, head of the Canadian equivalent of the FBI. Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), wrote in a letter that the highly contentious Bill C-30 was “vital” to protecting national security. The letter was sent to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the driver behind Bill C-30, in late February. It was released to the Canadian Press in response to a request filed under the Access to Information Act.

As EFF has noted before, Bill C-30 would introduce new police powers allowing Canadian authorities easy access to individuals’ online activities, including the power to force Internet companies to hand over private customer data without a warrant. It would also pave the way for gag orders preventing online service providers from notifying subscribers that their private data has been disclosed — a move that would make it impossible for users to seek legal recourse for privacy violations.

Similar gag orders are frequently imposed in the United States, when the FBI issues national security letters (NSLs) seeking customer information. In a ...

With Conviction of Eskinder Nega, Ethiopia Backslides Further

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Last week, EFF was dismayed to learn that Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega had been sentenced to eighteen years in prison under a sweeping and overbroad Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.  More than one hundred other Ethiopians, including nine journalists, have been sentenced under the vague law.  In December 2011, two Swedish journalists were convicted on charges of supporting terrorism.

Nega's sentence has been roundly condemned by both the United States government and the United Nations, as well as a bevy of human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch.  We join these groups in condemning the sentences handed to Nega as well as five other bloggers, all of whom are living in exile.

A Dangerous Precedent

Back in June, we highlighted Ethiopia's censorship and surveillance practices. from the blocking of websites to the Telecom Service Infringement Law that, in addition to protecting the state service provider from the competition of VOiP services, also aims to harshly punish citizens for using or having in their possession any telecommunications equipment without prior permission from the government.

The latest convictions demonstrate the Ethiopian government's determination to restrict freedom of expression and association.  The use of anti-terrorism legislation to silence writers is ...

Date Set For Barnes v. Zaccari Trial

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Important news in Hayden Barnes' federal civil rights lawsuit, the ongoing FIRE case involving the university president who expelled a student for a critical collage. On Wednesday, the trial judge granted former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari's motion to transfer the case to a different United States District Court in Georgia. Today, the new judge declared (PDF) that the case is ready for trial and set the case on the October 2012 trial calendar.  

Just to remind you about the details: this is the case where former Valdosta State University student Hayden Barnes protested President Ronald Zaccari's plans to construct two parking garages on campus. In addition to posting flyers and emailing Zaccari, students, faculty, and the Board of Regents, Barnes posted a collage (PDF) on his Facebook mocking Zaccari's plans. Citing this collage, Zaccari—whose shaky allegiance to the First Amendment was already demonstrated by Valdosta State's outrageously restrictive (and since dismantled) "free speech zone"—unilaterally kicked Barnes out of school, trampling the First Amendment and Barnes' own due process rights in a shocking attempt to silence a critical voice.

With FIRE's help, Barnes filed a federal lawsuit against Zaccari, members of his administration, and the Board of ...

The Death of SOPA Was Not a Fluke: Three Reasons Why Elected Officials Should Endorse the Declaration of Internet Freedom

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The January 18th blackout protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) was an unprecedented event in Internet history.  Within 24 hours, dangerous and draconian copyright legislation went from being a forgone conclusion in Congress to completely rejected by its members. Still, many observers have remarked that, despite the protest’s effectiveness, the result was a fluke. It was a perfect storm of companies and people coming together that could not be replicated, they've said, and nothing has really changed.

But at least three post-SOPA events in the last six months tell a different story: that the protection of digital civil liberties is a central issue to many voters. And there’s an easy way for 2012 electoral candidates to let those voters know they share that concern: sign the Declaration of Internet Freedom.

1. The Death of ACTA in the EU

Almost immediately after the successful SOPA blackout, protests organically sprung up around the world opposing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a restrictive intellectual property treaty that was negotiated in almost complete secrecy. While most of the negotiating countries had already signed ACTA, citizens of Europe—inspired by the American reaction to SOPA—started raising alarm online and took to the ...

FIRE Staff Hit the Airwaves

Friday, July 20th, 2012

FIRE staffers will make two radio appearances to discuss the release of our newly revised Guide to Free Speech on Campus, free speech zones, campus speech codes, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff's upcoming book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, and much more.

The first appearance will occur momentarily at 11:13 a.m. EDT when FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley joins Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips on Project Censored Radio. For those in the area of UC–Berkeley, the show can be heard on KPFA 94.1 FM. If you can't tune in to hear Will's segment right at 11:13 a.m. EDT, no worries—the segment will be published in Project Censored Radio's archive.

On Sunday, for FIRE's second radio appearance, Greg will speak with Valerie Sargent Martin on her Internet radio show at 4:15 p.m. EDT. Those interested in catching the interview can tune in by visiting Freedomizer Radio's website. Greg's interview will also be archived following the broadcast.

New Cybersecurity Proposal Patches Serious Privacy Vulnerabilities

Friday, July 20th, 2012

For months, we’ve been raising the alarm about the serious civil liberties implications of the cybersecurity bills making their way through the Senate. Hours ago, we received some good news. A new bill called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S 3414) is replacing the prior Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity Act (S 2150). This new bill drastically improves upon the previous bill by addressing the most glaring privacy concerns. This is huge, and it’s thanks to the outcry of Internet users like you worried about their online privacy. Check out the new bill (PDF).

Make no mistake—we remain unpersuaded that any of the proposed cybersecurity measures are necessary and we still have concerns about certain sections of the bill, especially the sections on monitoring and countermeasures. But this was a big step in the direction of protecting online rights, and we wouldn’t be here without the support of Internet users contacting Congress in droves.

Here’s what you need to know about the new privacy-protective package. Major new privacy protections added to the bill:

  • Ensuring that only civilian agencies—not the National Security Agency—are in charge of our nation’s cybersecurity systems. Let’s face it, we don’t want the agency that’s been spearheading the illegal warrantless ...

EFF Joins EPIC With Brief Calling for TSA to Follow the Law

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

EFF has joined a diverse collection groups signing on to a brief prepared by the Competitive Enterprise Institute to support the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in its call for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conduct a legally required notice-and-comment rulemaking for its "advanced imaging" scanners. The TSA is currently operating 700 such scanners in nearly 190 U.S. airports. A year ago, in July 2011, the TSA was ordered to "promptly" commence the notice-and-comment rulemaking process but has failed to follow the law and do so for an entire year, claiming that it lacks the necessary resources.

Today's brief explains the trouble with that logic (emphasis added):

If the TSA is unable to manage its tremendous budget of nearly $8 billion in a manner that enables the agency to follow well-established laws, this Court is obligated to exercise its authority to compel the agency to follow duly enacted laws.

[...]

Curiously, the obstacles responsible for the TSA’s delayed rule-making here do not appear to have forestalled the agency’s aggressive deployment of AIT scanners in airports nationwide. [...] This course of conduct is hardly indicative of an agency so starved for resources that it cannot comply with a straightforward judicial ...

U of Florida Seems to Have Control Issues When it Comes to Student Newspapers

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

This is an odd one. A controversy is brewing at the University of Florida over the administration's demand that century-old student newspaper The Independent Florida Alligator remove 19 of its signature orange newspaper racks from campus.

Why is this happening? I have no idea, and the Alligator doesn't seem to either. Here's a segment of the Alligator article on this development, interspersed with my comments and questions: 

During Fall 2009, administrators proposed to UF's Board of Trustees a rule that would prohibit distribution of all publications on campus unless approved by the UF vice president for business affairs, according to information provided by Alligator attorney Thomas Julin.

Why exactly should the UF Vice President of Business Affairs have control over the distribution of student publications? Why is the default posture to disallow publications rather than to allow them? And why is the decision of what expression to allow at a public university considered to be a business decision? 

UF didn't contact the Alligator about the change, and the Board approved it Dec. 11, 2009. The change was published but not sent to the Alligator. 

Well, the Alligator had only been around for 103 years at that point. Maybe the ...

New ‘Guide’ in ‘Huffington Post’

Thursday, July 19th, 2012
I've got a new entry up over at The Huffington Post discussing why I'm so excited about the release of FIRE's new Guide to Free Speech on Campus. Check it out!  

The Case for a Federal Anti-SLAPP Statute

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

The ability to speak openly is a hallmark of the Internet. Bloggers are able to create, commend, and criticize at will, as our Constitutionally protected right to free speech carries through both online and off. Sometimes, however, legitimate speech can be censored by strategic defamation lawsuits known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). These frivilous lawsuits are often filed by plaintiffs with deep pockets and have little to no chance of winning, yet are aimed at pressuring the target into settling for fear of expensive litigation.

EFF recently successfully defended Matthew Inman, creator of the online comic The Oatmeal, from a SLAPP. Inman had simply criticized rival humor website FunnyJunk, which had been republishing comics from The Oatmeal website. FunnyJunk hired lawyer Charles Carreon to bring suit against Inman for defamation, demanding absurd settlement fees. The issue is that Inman's posts against FunnyJunk were lawful, protected free speech; the lawsuit against him was pure intimidation. With Inman's supportive fanbase and bold response, Carreon seemed to have picked the wrong person to bully.

Had Carreon not dropped his frivolous case, Inman could have filed a motion under the California's strong anti-SLAPP statute. Other bloggers around the country aren't ...

Hong Kong Schools Reject Textbook

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Hong Kong's Catholic diocese has refused to allow the use of a "patriotic education" textbook in dozens of primary schools under its jurisdiction following fears that the book will herald a new era of propaganda-style education backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The Catholic diocese has joined a number of religious and charitable educational trusts in rejecting the textbook, meaning that around one third of Hong Kong's 500 primary schools won't teach it, at least in its initial year.

"The diocese believes that the teaching of citizenship in schools should be well-rounded and rational, and unbiased in its content," Chan Nai-kwok, head of the diocese educational affairs office, told a news conference on Thursday.

"It should encourage students to think critically."

The book, titled "The China Model," which portrays the Communist Party as "progressive, altruistic and united," has re-ignited debate over Beijing-backed propaganda-style education in Hong Kong.

But Chan said the diocese wasn't against patriotism in itself. "We want our students to have a feeling for Hong Kong, to love Hong Kong, but also to love their country, to feel Chinese, and to have an international outlook," he said.

Chan's colleague and former Catholic primary school principal Yip Sing-piu ...

When Nakedness Is Protected Speech

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

By Joe Palazzolo

Remember reading about the Oregon man who stripped naked in protest of the Transportation Security Administration body scans and pat-downs? (Yes, the irony.)

A Multnomah County judge found him not guilty of indecent exposure, ruling that John Brennan’s act was protected speech.

He started peeling off his clothes the airport in Portland, after a TSA officer who pat him down detected nitrates, Mr. Brennan testified at his Wednesday bench trial.

From the AP:

“For me, time slowed down,” Brennan said. “I thought about nitrates and I thought about the Oklahoma City bombing.”

Brennan said before his trial that after months of angst every time he went through security, the nitrate detection was the final straw for him, a wordless accusation that he was a terrorist.

So he took off all his clothes.

A TSA agent stacked plastic crates high onto several carts and positioned them around Brennan. Port of Portland police arrested Brennan and took him to the Multnomah County Jail.

Read more.

Neil Gaiman’s “The Day The Saucers Came” Comics-On Tees Available Now!

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Hot off the presses, and following a dramatic premiere at San Diego Comic-Con, Threadless & Neil Gaiman’s Comics-On Tees featuring his story “The Day The Saucers Came” is now available for purchase at Threadless! A percentage of the proceeds from each shirt sold goes to aid the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s important First Amendment work. Sets are going fast, so get yours today!

Tunisian Man Loses Free Expression Appeal

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

by Soyini A. Hamit

On March 28, Jabeur Mejri, a Tunisian man convicted of upsetting public order and morals, was sentenced to seven years in jail after posting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad on Facebook. Last week, he learned that the court would not overturn his sentence. This decision comes just two weeks after Salafi Islamists violently protested an art exhibition they found insulting. Though many hoped that the restrictions on free speech and expression prevalent under President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali would ease after he fled the country in Janurary 2011, it seems as though the current government has simply chosen an alternative means of restriction.

The tight limits on speech and expression in Tunisia stem in part from the country’s constitution. Article 8 allows for freedom of opinion, expression, the press, assembly, and association within the boundaries defined by law. It also states that “[n]o political party may take religion, language, race, sex or region as the foundation for its principles, objectives, activity or programs.” Under Ben Ali, the penal and press codes criminalized speech offenses that included defamation and spreading information that was thought to harm public order and morals. These codes were primarily used to silence ...

Spy Games

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

With the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012 drawing near, the colossal security apparatus surrounding the Summer Games has come into focus.

For starters, things got messy in London last week when G4S, the private firm that won the contract to provide security for the games, admitted it wouldn’t be able to deliver the promised number of security guards. To make up for the shortfall, the UK government plans to deploy an additional 3,500 soldiers.

Meanwhile, private guards are only half the equation when it comes to safeguarding the world’s most prominent sporting event. Preparations for the Summer Olympic Games amount to Britian’s largest-ever peacetime security operation, replete with warships, ground troops, and security cameras. “Special drones” will even cruise overhead to conduct crowd surveillance, an unnamed salesman at an Israeli company told the Associated Press. All of this is unfolding in a city already famous for its ubiquitous detection equipment, at a time when a bid for increased governmental surveillance powers has privacy advocates up in arms.

Meanwhile, this latest Olympics security production seems to follow a long-term trend that so far has gone largely unexamined. In the past, the Olympic Games have generated millions of ...

EFF Urges Congress to Protect Privacy in Face Recognition

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Today, EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch urged Congress to limit the collection of biometrics and protect privacy with respect to the use of face recognition technology. Jennifer’s testimony [PDF] in a Senate hearing on “What Facial Recognition Technology Means for Privacy and Civil Liberties” outlined the privacy and security concerns that are inherent to automatic face recognition.

This is a pressing issue because, as we've noted before here and here, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are already incorporating face recognition technology into their extensive biometric databases, which are accessible in real-time by state and local law enforcement, the Department of Defense, the State Department and other federal agencies. Moreover, companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and various mobile app providers have already started to index faces for private face recognition databases.

The use of face recognition technology raises important First and Fourth Amendment concerns, though the scope of Constitutional protections in this area is unclear. Jennifer testified that “[f]ace recognition allows for covert, remote and mass capture and identification of images—and the photos that may end up in a database include not just a person’s face but also how she is dressed and possibly ...

Singing Obama Ad Takedown Means More Trouble for Political Speech Online

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

As has been widely reported, an official Romney campaign ad that showed President Obama singing a line from the Al Green song "Let's Stay Together" has been hit with a takedown from BMG Rights Management — the group that controls the publishing rights of the original song — and pulled from YouTube. The takedown is an obvious abuse of the DMCA process: the ad was a clear fair use and therefore noninfringing.

But the unfortunate real story here is that this kind of takedown abuse is all too common, and we're likely to see it again this campaign season. Four years ago, as the last presidential campaign season started heating up, we documented the troubling trend of political speech coming under the copyright hammer. After getting ads pulled by overzealous rightsholders, the McCain-Palin campaign sent a letter to YouTube asking for special consideration for political campaigns.

YouTube's response, four years ago, was a reasonable one: it doesn't favor speech from a particular class of users, "whether they are an individual, a large corporation, or a candidate for public office." That makes sense. But YouTube went one step further, refusing to adopt any policy to limit abuse of the ...

Tales from the Code: Spidey Fights Drugs and the Comics Code Authority

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina, went down a few weeks ago. Unlike other larger conventions, which have expanded to become focused more on pop culture like television, movies and video games, Heroes Con is still a good old fashioned comic show and feels more like a family reunion. This year’s convention was special because it included Stan Lee, who I guess, keeping with the family analogy, is the really cool uncle that tells really fun stories about his adventures. You know, the one everyone loves but hardly ever gets to see. During the Annual Charity Art Auction, Stan Lee showed up to sign this painting by Phil Noto:

The audience was immediately on their feet.  How could they not be? I mean, this was Stan “The Man” Lee.  As I sat in the art auction, I thought about all the amazing things Uncle Stan had done for comics and how many great stories he must have about his experiences.  With the Spider-Man movie out and Comic-Con wrapped up, I thought it would be fun to talk about the time that Stan Lee (and Marvel) challenged the Comics Code Authority and won.

Of course, one can’t mention comic book censorship ...

EFF Challenges National Security Letter Statute in Landmark Lawsuit

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Since the first national security letter statute was passed in 1986, the FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of such letters seeking private telecommunications and financial records of Americans without any prior approval from courts. Indeed, for the period between 2003 and 2006 alone, almost 200,000 requests for private customer information were sought pursuant to various NSL statutes. Prior to 2011, the constitutionality of this legal authority to investigate the records of Americans without court oversight had been challenged in court -- as far as we know -- exactly one time. EFF is today releasing FBI-redacted briefing from a major new ongoing case in which it is challenging one of the NSL statutes on behalf of a telecommunications company that received an NSL in 2011. Not only does this briefing show that the Department of Justice continues to strongly protect the FBI's NSL authority, it highlights a startlingly aggressive new tactic used by the Department of Justice: suing NSL recipients who challenge the FBI's authority, arguing that court challenges to such authority themselves amount to breaking the law.

National security letter statutes -- five in all -- are controversial laws that allow the FBI to easily bypass courts ...

Australian Government Moves to Expand Surveillance Powers

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Australia is the latest democratic nation to introduce new national security measures that would vastly expand governmental surveillance powers, following an alarming legislative pattern that’s also unfolded in the United Kingdom and Canada in recent months.

Just as EFF sounded the alarm about the UK’s attempt to move forward with a mass surveillance bill and kept the pressure on before Canada’s online surveillance bill was temporarily shelved in the face of an outcry from privacy advocates, we’re ready to join Australians in pushing back against this latest bid for greater online spying powers Down Under.

Last week, Australian Attorney General Nicola Roxon submitted to Parliament a package of proposals intended to advance a National Security Inquiry in an effort to expand governmental surveillance powers. In a 60-page discussion paper, Roxon calls for making it easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to spy on Twitter and Facebook users, which would likely be achieved by compelling companies to create backdoors to enable surveillance. The proposals also revive a controversial data retention regime. And an especially problematic proposal would go so far as to establish a new crime: failure to assist law enforcement in the decryption of communications.

The bulleted list of ...

A "Bat Signal" for the Internet

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

EFF Joins Mozilla, Fight for the Future, Public Knowledge and Others in Launching the Internet Defense League

Earlier this year, EFF worked with Internet defenders across the globe to beat back SOPA, a U.S. Internet censorship bill that would have sacrificed the free speech rights of users in the name of fighting online “piracy.” Concerted action by millions of Internet users killed SOPA, but we know that protecting online rights takes vigilance. In fact, SOPA supporters are already pushing their censorship agenda through new bills, secret international trade agreements, and “voluntary” agreements negotiated between Big Content and service providers. And the threats don’t stop there: our rights to communicate and browse the web in private are also at risk, thanks to proposed Big Brother surveillance measures.

We know that when we work together, we can protect our Internet. So, we’re joining with some of our friends from the anti-SOPA fight in creating the Internet Defense League to help Internet users, organizations, and companies fight back whenever online rights are threatened.

Here’s how you can be an Internet superhero

Sign up If you have a website, the Internet Defense League will send you sample alert code to get ...

Court Won’t Shut Down Aereo Before Trial; Round 2 Begins For Internet TV Startup

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Good news, TV fans! Aereo, a startup that lets viewers watch broadcast TV over the Internet from tiny, personal antennas, can stay up and running - at least for now. Several television networks are trying to sue it out of existence, beginning with a motion asking a federal court to shut it down until a legal decision is reached. It's a typical move, and one that forces many innovative startups into bankruptcy long before any court has ruled on whether their business is legal. Last week, however, Judge Alison Nathan of the federal court in Manhattan denied the motion and made Aereo the first Internet TV business of its kind to live long enough to defend its business model.

This decision is a win for free TV viewers and for innovation, but it may be just one battle in a long war. Rather than continuing to fight in the district court, the networks have filed an appeal in the Second Circuit appeals court, where they may try to overturn the 2008 Fox v. Cablevision decision that has made New York a friendly place for Internet TV entrepreneurs.

Aereo was founded by serial entrepreneur Chaitanya Kanojia with funding from media ...

News Round-up: Book Challenges, Huck Finn Racism and Whoopi

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

The news is blossoming today with book challenge-related stories, and we thought we’d take a moment to share.

1.) A teacher’s aide in Dubuque, Iowa was fired (though she apparently about to quit anyway) after disrupting classes by insisting that Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a racist book that shouldn’t be taught in schools. Afterward, a judge denied her request for unemployment and noted, “Of course it’s racist. Part of the idea was to point out, through that book, that it was racist. It’s about racism.” The aide in question was apparently also disturbed by historical discussions of the existence of the Ku Klux Klan.

2.) A news station in Greensboro, North Carolina did a run-down of what happens during a book challenge and found out that a challenge has more or less never been upheld in libraries there. Their most recent challenge was a mash-up book called Dick and Jane and Vampires (gotta get me a copy of this book). The story talks about the long list of classic and great banned literature and brings a healthcare professional in to talk about the (not) harmful effects of “prurient” literature.

3.) Still more Fifty Shades of Grey. ...

Labor Camp for Tiananmen Artist

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Authorities in the Chinese capital have sentenced to labor camp an artist who tried to commemorate the 1989 military crackdown by writing with his own blood in Tiananmen Square, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Beijing-based artists Hua Yong and Guo Zhenming were detained by police after they tried to set up their art installation marking the 23rd anniversary of the June 4 military crackdown on student protests on Tiananmen Square itself.

"Police in Tongzhou county, Beijing told me that [Hua's] detention period was up, and that he had now been sentenced to re-education through labor," Hua's lawyer Liu Xiaojun said.

"The police didn't say [how long for]," Liu said, adding that he would discuss with Hua's family how best to proceed.

Hua is no stranger to artistic activism. Last year, he and three friends also attempted an art installation on Tianamen Square to mark the 22nd anniversary of the crackdown.

At the time, he told RFA that he had given himself a bloody nose and used the blood to write the numbers "6,4" on the paving stones, denoting the date, June 4.

He was soon stopped by plainclothes police, who are stationed all around the politically sensitive Square, who confiscated ...