Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

This Month in FIRE History: Speech Code Falls at Citrus College

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Last week, United States District Judge Timothy S. Black held that the University of Cincinnati's (UC's) "free speech zone" policy "violates the First Amendment and cannot stand." This victory came after FIRE helped coordinate a federal lawsuit in cooperation with Ohio's 1851 Center for Constitutional Law on behalf of UC's chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a campus group that had its First Amendment rights suppressed while attempting to gather signatures for a statewide petition.

This was not FIRE's first such victory, however. Almost nine years ago to the day, FIRE announced the first victory of our Speech Code Litigation Project, which at the time was only a few months old. In that case, FIRE helped organize a lawsuit on behalf of Chris Stevens, a student at Citrus College in California, who wished to challenge two campus policies that quarantined free speech to three small and remote areas of campus. Chris was aided by FIRE Legal Network member Carol Sobel, who filed the lawsuit on his behalf. 

Like the policies deemed unconstitutional at UC, the policies at Citrus College allowed for students to be suspended, arrested, or even expelled if found exercising their rights outside of the areas ...

Introducing Jordan Von Bokern from University of Chicago Law School

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Jordan Von Bokern is a rising second-year law student at the University of Chicago Law School. Jordan is a graduate of Colorado State University in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado, where he studied political science and history.

Of his decision to come to FIRE as a legal intern this summer, Jordan writes:

During my time at Colorado State, I worked for the student government in several roles, including running the funding process for student events and representing undergraduates on the university's curriculum committee. This exposed me to the inner workings of university governance and got me involved in such issues as academic freedom and student rights on campus. These experiences piqued my interest in the law and governance of higher education institutions, and FIRE's resources gave me plenty of guidance during those years. I was dismayed when I looked up CSU on FIRE's website and found a "yellow light" rating for its speech codes, meaning there were policies that were ambiguous and could be used to deny students their expressive rights on campus. I also found out that FIRE had come to the defense of CSU's student newspaper when the editorial board ran a column using strong language to criticize ...

Late mob informant leaves First Amendment legacy

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill’s recent death at age 69 was a reminder not only of “Goodfellas,” the hit movie about his exploits, but also of an important First Amendment case in which he was involved.

Hill was the subject of Nicholas Pileggi’s best-selling book Wiseguy — a nonfiction work on which “Goodfellas” was based. The movie, in which Ray Liotta portrayed Hill, inspired a legion of fans and countless other mobster movies.

Hill claimed that all he ever wanted to do was become a gangster. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor later wrote, “Whatever one might think of Hill, at the very least it can be said that he realized his dreams.” He orchestrated a point-shaving scheme in college basketball, stole millions from an airline company and committed an assortment of other crimes.

Hill’s connection to freedom of speech and First Amendment jurisprudence stems from Simon & Schuster v. Crime Victims Board (1991). In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of New York’s so-called“Son of Sam” law, which state officials used to claim money paid to Hill by publisher Simon & Schuster for the book Wiseguy....

Artistic Censorship Continues to Plague Post-Revolutionary Tunisia

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

by Mark Bousquet

On the heels of Tunisia’s Nessma television channel director Nabil Karoui being convicted of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” for airing the animated cinematic adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis on his station last October, artistic censorship continues to plague Tunisian artists in the post-President Zine El Abdine Ben Ali era. In recent weeks, the struggle between artistic freedom and government censorship has seen books seized from bookstores for alleged religious blasphemy and artwork removed from an exhibition for being “too politically engaging.” Ending government-enforced censorship was an integral aspect of the revolutionary movement in Tunisia, but instead of the practice coming to a halt, Tunisian artists are discovering that censorship is simply taking new forms.

In pre-revolutionary Tunisia, “Tunisian customs services prevented the importation of books that could harm the government’s reputation. These books were confiscated at the airport, without providing the books’ owners further information explaining the rationale behind such an act.” In post-revolutionary Tunisia, however, the governmental rationale has shifted from protecting the government’s reputation to religious blasphemy.

Writing for Tunisia Live, Farah Samti summarizes the shift in censorship in today’s Tunisia:

Now, this form of literary censorship has become ...

Sinclair CC Police Ban Signs at Religious Freedom Rally

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

FIRE has written to Sinclair Community College after learning of the disturbing and unconstitutional censorship of signs at a June 8 "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rally held on the Dayton, OH, campus and hosted by SCC's Traditional Values Club (TVC). 

As photo and video evidence shows, police ordered the participants at the June 8 rally to put away their signs, some of which were homemade, many of which were distributed by the national organizers (more than 160 such rallies—in protest of new health coverage mandates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—were held nationwide). 

In this video recorded by one of the attendees, you can clearly hear a police officer say, among other things, that "no signage whatsoever" was allowed at the event:

For reasons explained in our letter, sent on June 15, this censorship on a public college campus is blatantly unconstitutional. Making matters worse, according to this March 2012 article in the SCC campus newspaper, The Clarion, since 1990, SCC's police have been interpreting the college's Campus Access Policy (which makes no specific mention of signs) as giving them the ability to prohibit all signs at all events on the ...

Will Eisner Graphic Novel Prize for Libraries Announced

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

A new graphic novel award for libraries, named after format progenitor Will Eisner, will debut at this week’s American Library Association Annual Conference in Anaheim, California. As reported in a post on The Beat, the three winning libraries “will each receive a selection of books nominated for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, a $2,000 voucher to purchase more GNs, and a $1,000 stipend to hold author events.”

According to the press release from the Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation, each library will also receive Eisner’s complete works, bringing the value of the prize package to approximately $4,000. Foundation President Carl Gropper says the new prizes are intended to show appreciation for the support of librarians and libraries over the years:

We developed this prize as a way to emphasize not only Will Eisner’s contributions to the comics industry, but to also recognize the important role that librarians have played in the phenomenal growth of the graphic novel category. While Will Eisner helped to create the foundation for graphic novels, librarians have championed the benefits of the graphic novel format and the comics medium to the world’s readers.

The winning libraries will be chosen in a random drawing. ...

Bahrain Cracks Down on Social Media, Arresting Activists and Proposing New Laws

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Bahrain's Minister of State for Information Affairs, Samira Rajab, has announced that the government is preparing to introduce tough new laws to combat the "misuse" of social media. Like many Gulf states, Bahrain is doubling down on state censorship in response to a year of ongoing protests connected to the Arab Spring. In case the target of this upcoming legislation was in any way unclear, Ms. Rajab went on to call out human rights activists:

It is these activists who have labelled drowning victims as those killed by torture. They have labelled sickle cell victims as being killed by security forces and they have used these media to completely distort the true picture of Bahrain. This cannot be tolerated. The rule of law shall prevail."

Ms. Rajab justified the upcoming laws by pointing to sedition laws in the United States, United Kingdom, and France.

Meanwhile, the Bahraini government is already engaging in the kind of crackdown that the new law is supposed to enable. Activist Nabeel Rajab (no relation to the Minister of State for Information Affairs) was detained again on June 6 after complaints that he had made statements “publicly vilifying” pro-government individuals on Twitter. After the Prime Minister ...

Non-Traditional Families Book Banning Bonanza

Monday, June 18th, 2012

(applause for alliteration, please)

This month we’ve been working on restoring two children’s picture books teaching tolerance for different types of families. Though they are quite different in content, tone, reading level and appropriateness, their challenges parallel one another immensely.

Book one is The Family Book by Todd Parr, a peppy, colorful and simple picture book teaching that families might be different, but all families share similarities. For example: all families like hugging. Also, all families are sad when a loved one passes. The book has been removed from schools in Erie, IL along with all GLSEN-endorsed materials and will not be returned.

Book two is In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco. Geared at an older audience (ages 7-10) and embellished by lovely water-color illustrations, the book is a very (very) positive portrayal of the love between members of a non-traditional family in Berkeley, CA.  The book has been placed behind the shelves of school libraries in Davis County, UT and may only be accessed with a parental permission slip.

What these books have in common is that they acknowledge a reality: some families have same-sex parents. Not altogether surprisingly, what they also share is the ability to ...

UK Mass Surveillance Bill: The Return of a Bad Idea

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Note: This article was originally published by Index on Censorship

This week the British government unveiled a bill that has a familiar ring to it. The Communications Data Bill would require all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone network providers in Britain to collect and store information on everyone’s internet and phone activity.  Essentially, the bill seeks to publicly require in the UK what EFF and many others have long maintained is happening in the US in secret – and what we have been trying to bring to public and judicial review since 2005.  Put simply, it appears that both governments want to shift from surveillance of communications and communications records based on individualized suspicion and probable cause to the mass untargeted collection of communications and communications records of ordinary, non-suspect people.

This shift has profound implications for the UK, the US and any country that claims to be committed to rule of law and the protection of fundamental freedoms.

This isn’t the first time that an Executive has seized the general authority to search through the private communications and papers without individualized suspicion. To the contrary, the United States was founded in large part on the rejection of ...

Graphic Novels and Comic Books, They’re Not Just for Kids

Monday, June 18th, 2012

In fact, many of them contain the sorts of things you might not want a young child to see. Like video games, the market for comic books and graphic novels has a broader demographic appeal than 50 or 60 years ago.

If your child does read, say, the dark and graphic work Neonomicon by Alan Moore, however, the answer may be to better track what he or she is reading. The answer should not be to call for the book to be yanked from the public library altogether. Especially considering it was already housed on the adult shelves because it is, you know, a book for adults.

This is more or less the sequence of events for a challenge to Neonomicon in the public library in Greenville, SC. Greenville mother Carrie Gasko was alarmed after her 14-year-old daughter (who is authorized for an adult library card) checked the book out of the library. Assuming, because of the pictures, that it was a book for kids, she seemingly didn’t take a close look at the book. When she realized the novel contained adult themes, she filed a complaint, saying that library books should have a rating and that the ...

CBLDF Teams with NCAC and ABFFE in Defense of Alan Moore’s NEONOMICON

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Today, CBLDF joined forces with the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to write a letter in defense of Alan Moore’s Neocomicon (Avatar Press), which has recently been challenged in the Greenville, South Carolina, public library system. Objections to Neonomicon were raised by a patron after her teenage daughter checked out the book, which contains adult themes. The book was correctly shelved in the adult section of the library, and the teenager possessed a library card that allowed access to the adult section.

CBLDF joined NCAC and ABFFE in sending the following letter to the Library Board of Trustees at the Greenville County Public Library:

Dear Board Members,

On behalf of the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund we strongly urge you to keep Alan Moore’s Neonomicon in the Greenville Public Library. This book has reportedly been challenged by a member of the community who claims its “sexually graphic” images make it inappropriate for the library.

Removing this book because of objections to its content is impermissible under the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court said in Board of Education v. Pico...

International Intellectual Property Expert Joins EFF

Monday, June 18th, 2012
Expanded International Team Brings New Breadth to Global Digital Rights Issues

San Francisco - Carolina Rossini has joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as its International Intellectual Property Director, bringing more than ten years of experience in global IP law and policy to EFF's international team.

Carolina Rossini is a Brazilian attorney focused on Internet and IP law and policy, cooperation theory, international copyright and patent negotiations, and open licensing in emerging technologies. She is a member of the IP Global Agenda Council for the World Economic Forum, a board member of the Brazilian Internet Institute, and the founder of OER-Brazil, which works with policymakers to enact open access and open educational resource polices in Brazil and beyond. Rossini previously was a Fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard University coordinating the Industrial Cooperation Project. She also worked on open innovation strategies at the University of Sao Paulo, and was an IP professor at FGV Law School and part of Creative Commons Brazil. Her first six years out of law school were spent working as an in-house transactional telecom and Internet policy lawyer for Terra Networks in Brazil and Spain. Carolina has also worked for the Wikimedia Foundation, shaping strategies ...

This Week In Internet Censorship: Alarming Internet Decree in Vietnam, Arrests in Oman, and a Tribute to Ray Bradbury

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

New Draft of Vietnamese Internet Decree is Still Bad News for Freedom of Expression

The Vietnamese government’s draft of a new, problematic decree to regulate domestic Internet use is expected to become law at the end of the month. The 60-article document is filled with alarmingly vague language, including prohibitions on “abusing the provision and use of the Internet and information on the web” to “oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” “undermining the grand unity of all people” and “undermining the fine customs and traditions of the nation.” It also requires Internet filtration of all such offensive content, requires real-name identification for all personal websites and profiles, and creates legal liability for intermediaries such as blogs and ISP, for failing to regulate third-party contributors, triggering grave concerns about the decree’s impact on domestic online service providers.

The decree furthermore attempts to require all foreign and domestic companies that provide online services to cooperate with the government to take down prohibited content. For international companies without a business presence in Vietnam, the law would “encourage” them to establish offices or representatives in the country in order to hold them accountable for implementation of the decree. In an earlier draft of the ...

Porn Troll Wants Wi-Fi Providers to Pay for Others’ Illegal Downloads

Friday, June 15th, 2012
EFF Calls Foul on Bogus 'Negligence' Claim

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal judge today to reject a porn troll's ploy to make a Wi-Fi provider responsible for the purported copyright infringement of another user.

Liberty Media Holdings (LMH) is suing two roommates in New York, alleging the illegal downloading of a pornographic film, even though LMH argues that only one made the infringing copy. Remarkably, LMH claims that the non-downloading roommate is also responsible for copyright infringement, simply because the Internet subscription is in his name and he might have known his roommate sometimes made illegal downloads.

"This theory is absurd," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "Decades of copyright law make it clear – to be guilty of infringement you have to do more than just provide an Internet connection – you have to contribute actively to the infringement. This is a ridiculous attempt at expanding copyright law so it's easier for copyright trolls to extract more money from more innocent people."

Copyright trolls attempt to game the legal process, using improper claims and procedures to pressure alleged copyright infringers into settling lawsuits against them even where they have legitimate defenses. If LMH ...

Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue: Privacy on Opposite Sides of the Pond

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Privacy loomed large as a discussion topic at the 13th Annual Meeting of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), an event held in Washington, D.C. last week that brought together consumer advocacy organizations and regulatory agency heavyweights from both sides of the Atlantic for some in-depth policy discussions. The TACD’s annual meeting helps foster alliances between TACD member organizations (EFF is counted among them) working in the U.S. and the EU. While the overarching group tackles such broad-ranging issues as food policy and financial services, TACD’s Information Society division has been especially concerned with protecting Americans’ and Europeans’ privacy rights in the digital era.

At an overlapping event, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) hosted a privacy roundtable to bring consumer groups together with representatives from major tech companies and online advertising associations for a frank discussion about emerging issues in online privacy. Both forums yielded some fascinating questions and debate. Here are some of the key takeaways.

Will a Privacy Bill of Rights Move Forward in the U.S.?

Much discussion revolved around the proposed “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights,” a policy blueprint floated by the Whitehouse this past February that seeks to establish new safeguards to protect consumer ...

Neil Gaiman Thanks CBLDF Supporters With New Auctions, Member Rewards!

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Neil Gaiman is showing his support for the CBLDF this week with the contribution of several items from his personal collection to raise money for our important education work!

Starting this weekend, while supplies last, all donors who join the Fund at the $500 level will receive a copy of the hard to find Neverwear print “The Day The Saucers Landed” signed & sketched by Neil! To claim this reward, join or renew your membership here!

Neil also contributed some terrific one-of-a-kind items that the Fund is offering on eBay, including an extremely rare copy of “Nicholas Was…” the first holiday card by Gaiman, with calligraphy by Dave McKean. Neil personally contributed this signed piece from his private archive, along with the other fine pieces being offered this week.

Proceeds from this member appreciation drive and these auctions will benefit CBLDF’s summer education efforts, including the funding of a short documentary about the Ryan Matheson manga case, and Matheson’s appearances at upcoming conventions to raise awareness of the important rights issues his case illuminates.

Full Auction Details:

Nicholas Was

Neil Gaiman has contributed this original mint-condition edition of “Nicholas Was…” to benefit the CBLDF! Neil describes the item ...

CBLDF Heads to the Mile High City This Weekend!

Friday, June 15th, 2012

by Alex Cox

Those myriad and sundry supporters of Free Speech that reside in the great state of Colorado (and surrounding environs) will be excited to hear that the CBLDF will be available to you, in the proverbial flesh, at this weekend’s Denver Comic Con! We’ll be residing in booth 420 at the Denver Convention Center.

This is a rare visit by the Fund to one of the more beautiful vistas of our great United States, and we are excited to see our western mountain supporters in person. We will have our usual assorted array of classic graphic novels, signed by the artists and writers, to help us raise money for our continuing legal work.

With breaking news about comics by talents like Alan Moore being pulled from library shelves, we are given a bitter reminder why the Fund exists and why it is important. Prejudices and misconceptions still cling to this precious art form, like barnacles on a sailing ship, and CBLDF’s legal work and educational programs are a process of constant barnacle-scraping. Our defense work protects the art form, but it also hopefully helps it sail better going forward.

Nautical metaphors notwithstanding, this is going to ...

N.J. condo-sign ruling shows importance of state constitutions

Friday, June 15th, 2012


Friday, June 15, 2012

When we think of free speech, we naturally think of the First Amendment – the first 45 words of the Bill of Rights that begins, “Congress shall make no law … .” But we should not forget about state constitutions, which also contain provisions protecting freedom of expression.

Under our legal system, state high courts are free to interpret their state constitutions as providing greater protection for individual liberty than the U.S. Supreme Court has done when interpreting the Bill of Rights. That partly explains why former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan urged state courts to use state constitutions in his famous 1977 Harvard Law Reviewarticle, “State Constitutions and the Protection of Individual Rights.”

The principle is that the U.S. Bill of Rights sets a floor, not a ceiling, with respect to individual liberty. A state high court can interpret its state constitution to exceed the protections accorded under the federal Constitution. It just cannot interpret its state provisions as providing less protection.

The New Jersey Supreme Court exercised this prerogative recently ininvalidating restrictive homeowners association rules in Mazdabrook Commons Homeowners Association v. Khan. The case ...

Manga Translator Acquitted of Child Pornography Charges In Swedish Supreme Court Ruling

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Swedish news outlet The Local reports that their Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on child pornography charges relating to manga files on his computer. The court’s decision reflects the viewpoint of free speech advocates, including the CBLDF, that sexually explicit manga images are protected artistic expression and not child pornography. The court stated, “The criminalization of possession of the drawings would otherwise exceed what is necessary with regard to the purpose which has led to the restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of information.”

The Local reports:

Lundström, described by Swedish media as a top manga expert, was found guilty by two lower courts of having 39 drawings portraying figures in sexual poses stored on the hard drive of his computer.

In his initial trial, he explained that he had retrieved the pictures in order to stay up to date with the latest developments in the Japanese comic genre.

A district court fined him 25,000 kronor ($3,500) but an appeals court lowered the sum to 5,600 kronor.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein welcomed the ruling, stating, “This is an important victory for free expression and for manga. The Swedish Supreme Court has correctly ...

Internet Archive Sues to Stop New Washington State Law

Friday, June 15th, 2012
Statute Puts Online Libraries and Other Service Providers at Risk

Seattle - The Internet Archive has filed a federal challenge to a new Washington State law that intends to make online service providers criminally liable for providing access to third parties' offensive materials.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the Internet Archive in order to block the enforcement of SB 6251, a law aimed at combatting advertisements for underage sex workers but with vague and overbroad language that is squarely in conflict with federal law. Procedurally, the Internet Archive lawsuit was filed as an intervention into a similar suit, v. McKenna, filed last week.

"The Internet Archive, as an online library, archives the World Wide Web and other digital materials for researchers, historians, and the general public," said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian and founder of the Internet Archive. "We strongly support law enforcement efforts to combat child sex trafficking, but this new law could endanger libraries and other entities that bring access to websites and user-generated content."

SB 6251 was passed with the hope of criminalizing the dissemination of underage sex trafficking ads and imposing a requirement to confirm the ages of individuals in such ads prior to ...

Tibetan Self-Immolates, Draws Protests

Friday, June 15th, 2012

A Tibetan burned himself to death in protest against Chinese rule in Qinghai province Friday, triggering large demonstrations and a security clampdown, local sources said.

Tamdin Thar, from a nomadic family, self-immolated early morning in front of the police station in Chentsa (Jianzha) county in the Huangnan (Malho) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, immediately drawing Chinese security forces who doused the flames and bundled him away, the sources said.

On learning of his death, hundreds of Tibetans in the area thronged the Chentsa county center and the police station to demand his body, sources in the county and in the Tibet Autonomous Region told RFA. As the crowd swelled, the authorities complied and handed over his body, they said.

“Over 300 Tibetans protested at the county center demanding custody of his body" after it was learned that Tamdin Thar, whose age was given as between 40's and 60's, had succumbed to serious burns, one source inside Tibet said.

“We went to the Chentsa county police station and demanded the body. Finally the authorities gave us custody of his body," one protester, a woman, told RFA.

"However, the presence of Chinese security forces is on the increase in this area,” she added.

Another ...

Alan Moore’s NEONOMICON Challenged in South Carolina Library

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Neonomicon, the Bram-Stoker Award winning series from Alan Moore and artist Jacen Burrows, has been challenged at a library in Greenville, South Carolina. The book was shelved in the adult section of the library, which is generally restricted to minors unless they have parental permission. A 14-year-old girl who had permission from her mother checked out the book. After asking her mother about a profane word used in the book, her mother looked at the book and filed a complaint. The book was challenged for sexual content, which the mother described as “pornographic,” and is currently unavailable to library patrons for review.

Neonomicon collects the four-issue miniseries released by Avatar Press in 2010. The book incorporates Lovecraftian horror into a murder mystery. It received the first-ever Bram Stoker Award for “Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel” earlier this year.

Carrie Gaske, the mother of 14-year-old Jennifer Gaske, displays a common misconception about graphic novels in explaining why she let her daughter check out the book. From CBS 7 on Your Side, the Greenville CBS affiliate:

Recently, the teen found the book, “Neonomicon”, in the library’s adult section and thought it would be a real page ...

Federal judge says Cincinnati school violated students’ rights

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal judge has blocked a southwest Ohio university from enforcing restrictions on student political speech on campus, saying the policy violates free speech.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled Tuesday the University of Cincinnati violated the First Amendment by restricting student political speech to a certain area and requiring prior notification and permission. The judge asked the university to rewrite its policy.

The ruling will allow the school chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty to collect signatures on campus for a right-to-work cause. The group filed the lawsuit in February.

Read more.

ACLU says antigay-shirt ban at Connecticut school was illegal

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

HARTFORD (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut claimed on Tuesday that a high school violated a student’s rights to free expression by asking him to remove a T-shirt with an antigay message.

The student, Seth Groody, a junior at Wolcott High School, in Wolcott, Conn., wore the shirt bearing a rainbow with a slash through it on April 20, which was designated by the school as a day of awareness of harassment toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The A.C.L.U. of Connecticut said the student removed the shirt, under protest, on school officials’ orders.

In a letter to the principal, Joseph Monroe, the A.C.L.U. said the school had violated the student’s First Amendment rights. It asked for assurances from school officials that students would be allowed to wear clothing with similar messages.

Read more.

Media Coalition Counsel Michael Bamberger Wins Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor Award

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Michael Bamberger, First Amendment attorney and counsel for the plaintiffs protesting Utah’s H.B. 260, which would have curtailed constitutionally-protected speech online, is the recipient of 2012 Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor Award. The award “was established in 1987 to recognize and honor those individuals who have contributed substantially to the FTRF through adherence to its principles and/or substantial monetary support.”

Bamberger is general counsel for the Media Coalition, which “is an association that defends the First Amendment right to produce and sell books, movies, magazines, recordings, DVDs, videotapes, and video games, and defends the American public’s First Amendment right to have access to the broadest possible range of opinion and entertainment.”

As a member of the Media Coalition, CBLDF was one of the plaintiffs in the case against H.B. 260. The plaintiffs argued that the law was overly broad and could restrict legitimate adult-to-adult communication online. Bamberger led the plaintiffs to an important victory in the case, working out an agreement with Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff that would ensure that the only people prosecuted under the law were those who intentionally sent “harmful to minors” material to someone who is ...

How to Turn on Do Not Track in Your Browser

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

In recent years, online tracking companies have begun to monitor our clicks, searches and reading habits as we move around the Internet. If you are concerned about pervasive online web tracking by behavioral advertisers, then you may want to enable Do Not Track on your web browser. Do Not Track is unique in that it combines both technology (a signal transmitted from a user) as well as a policy framework for how companies that receive the signal should respond. As more and more websites respect the Do Not Track signal from your browser, it becomes a more effective tool for protecting your privacy. EFF is working with privacy advocates and industry representatives through the W3C Tracking Protection Working Group to define standards for how websites that receive the Do Not Track signal ought to response in order to best respect consumer's choices. 

The following tutorial walks you through the enabling Do Not Track in the four most popular browsers: Safari, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, and Chrome.


On the menu bar at the top of your screen, click on Preferences.

Select the Advanced preferences panel, shown in the screenshot below.

Check the box at the bottom of the menu ...

US Pushes Cambodia on Rights

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has raised human rights issues in talks with her counterpart from Cambodia, prodding the Southeast Asian nation to free 13 women jailed for protesting a land grab and to allow full participation in elections next year.

In her talks with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Washington on Tuesday, Clinton said the United States was concerned about the Cambodian government's handling of the "whole issue" of land protests last month which led to the jailing of 13 women for between one year and two and a half years.

The protests were over a longstanding dispute between tens of thousands of residents of capital Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake district who were evicted from their homes, or are in risk of losing them, and developers looking to turn the area into a luxury residential and shopping center.

The women had been jailed for disputing authority and trespassing on the development site.  

"The Secretary did express our concern over the recent protests regarding land rights issues and urged Cambodia to allow Boeung Kak Lake detainees full access to due process. And she did note that their release would be a sign of support for freedom of ...

In Japan, National ID Proposal Spurs Privacy Concerns

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

EFF has been monitoring governmental proposals for national identification schemes, with an eye toward evaluating the privacy implications of these new systems. In Japan, where an existing program issues unique ID numbers to citizens at the municipal level and shares information on a national network, a bill is under consideration that would create a new ID framework. Submitted by the Japanese Cabinet in February of 2012, the “My Number Bill” would issue new unique ID numbers to participating citizens. The stated purpose is to streamline information sharing between governmental bodies administering tax, social security, and disaster mitigation programs. If the law is enacted, the My Number system will begin operating in 2015.

            So far, there are no signs that Japan's government will follow the increasingly common trend of requiring citizens to submit biometric data, such as fingerprint or iris scans, in order to enroll. Nevertheless, it’s clear that data submitted by participating citizens will be subject to greater information sharing than under the prior system. This planned expansion gives rise to serious questions about whether individuals’ personally identifiable information will be adequately protected. While the existing ID framework is highly controversial due to privacy concerns, this proposal will disseminate ...

The Federal Government Moves Forward with Drone Programs Despite Poor Planning and Lack of Oversight

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

DHS’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released a report (pdf) detailing multiple problems with the drones used to patrol US borders. This report, combined with the Federal Aviation Administration’s lack of openness about its drone authorization program and failure to disclose the true number of entities flying drones, shows that the federal government is moving far too quickly in its plans to dramatically expand the number of domestic drones flying in the United States over the next few years.

The DHS OIG report, which reviewed the drone program run by Customs & Border Protection (CBP), noted several serious problems with the program, including lack of appropriate equipment and staff to fly the drones safely and lack of processes or procedures to prioritize requests for drone flights. This is especially troubling, given the agency has been flying drones since 2004.

CBP currently has nine unarmed Predator drones in its arsenal, each purchased at a cost of $18 million dollars. The drones cost $3,000 per hour to fly, and, according to the OIG report, the agency spent over $55 million (pdf) to operate and maintain the drones between 2006 and 2011. Despite these costs, CBP never made a specific budget ...

University of Cincinnati Victory Scores Coverage From Coast to Coast

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Yesterday, FIRE announced a victory for student rights after a federal district court judge issued an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the University of Cincinnati's "free speech zone." This key victory has made a splash in national and local media, and the message is clear: violating students' rights has consequences.

On the national level, both The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed have covered the ruling. The Washington Post picked up the piece as reported by the Associated Press. The Student Press Law Center also published details on the case.

Locally, the story hit Cincinnati press including The Cincinnati Enquirer, which opened with the simple statement that "it just got easier to protest, collect signatures and hold rallies at the University of Cincinnati." Cincinnati CityBeat, an independent local arts and issues publication, reported that FIRE had named UC's speech policies as some of the worst in the nation—which we did!

Other local news outlets from Boston to Sacramento reported this victory for student freedom. FIRE hopes that the press generated by this victory will once again remind schools across the country that violating the First Amendment will not go unnoticed—or unpunished!

Authorities Shutter Land Dispute Blog

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

A prominent Vietnamese activist says authorities forced him to shut down his blog as part of what appears to be an intensified crackdown on online content in the communist state ahead of a new decree on Internet usage expected to be announced this month.

Nguyen Xuan Dien, who had reported extensively on a number of land disputes in Vietnam, said he had recently been brought in for questioning by authorities over his online activities, during which time he realized that his site had been the target of a hacking attack.

“I am sure that the investigation was launched because of my blog [content],” Dien told RFA’s Vietnamese service.

“During an online question and answer session held on June 12, the Minister of Information and Communication said that there is no legal jurisdiction over blog management, so I don't know how the Hanoi director of the ministry plans to handle my case or other similar ones.”

Dien said that while he was questioned, his blog displayed different content than what he had originally posted, leading him to believe it had been hacked.

Authorities then presented him with an administrative order to shut down his blog due to “politically sensitive” material linked ...

Pioneer Award Nominations Are Now Open

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Nominations are now open for EFF’s 21st Annual Pioneer Awards, to be presented this Fall in San Francisco. EFF established the Pioneer Awards in 1992 to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. Nominations will be open until Monday, August 6th. Nominate the next Pioneer Award winner today!

What does it take to be a Pioneer? There are no specific categories, but nominees must have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications. Their contributions may be technical, social, legal, academic, economic or cultural. This year’s pioneers will join an esteemed group of past award winners that includes World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, security expert Bruce Schneier, open source advocate Mozilla Foundation, and privacy rights activist Beth Givens.

Remember, nominations are due no later than midnight on Monday, August 6th! And after you nominate your favorites, we hope you will join us on September 20th in San Francisco to celebrate the work of this year’s winners. Tickets are available now.

Federal judge rules against man handing out Bibles inside Minneapolis pride festival

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS – A federal judge says a Wisconsin man cannot hand out Bibles inside a gay pride festival this month at a public park in Minneapolis.

Brian Johnson of Hayward sought an injunction giving him unfettered access to the festival grounds. But Chief Federal District Judge Michael Davis issued a 41-page ruling yesterday explaining why Johnson’s constitutional challenge is not likely to succeed. Davis said Johnson would have to confine himself to a booth just outside the event. His attorney from the Center for Religious Expression says his client is being relegated to a quote, “no pride zone” where nobody will go – and therefore, his free speech rights are being violated. But the judge said the booth is right next to a picnic-and-entertainment area close to one of the park’s main entrances. Still, attorney Nate Kellum says he’s exploring other legal options to get Johnson inside.

Read more.

Bodily Function Books Popular With Kids, Controversial With Parents

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

A Canadian research survey to gauge librarians’ reactions to youth literature dealing with bodily functions has found widespread acceptance of books such as Walter the Farting Dog, Everyone Poops, and Captain Underpants. Librarians report that the titles are enthusiastically embraced by many children, particularly boys and reluctant readers, but that discomfort on the part of parents sometimes leads to book challenges.

University of Alberta professor Ann Curry interviewed 16 librarians from across Canada for her paper entitled “Bums, Poops, and Pees: A Scholarly Examination of Why Children Love and Adults Censor the Scatological in Children’s Books.” As summarized in an article published in the National Post, she found the librarians to be in favor of holding such books in their collections:

All of the librarians ‘strongly defended’ the place of scatologically themed books in the public library system (hey, even Beowulf and Shakespeare included references to feces). More than half said the ‘intellectual freedom rights’ of children to have access to books they enjoy was important. Many said they used such books as Walter the Farting Dog to encourage boys to read, in light of troubling literacy data that shows boys don’t enjoy tucking into a ...

Meet FIRE Summer Intern Sophia Mortensen from The College of William & Mary

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Sophia Mortensen

Sophia Mortensen is a rising junior at The College of William & Mary majoring in government with a minor in music. Sophia is also a 2012 recipient of the J. Stewart Dunn Civil Liberties Fellowship, awarded by William & Mary to help her pursue her work with FIRE. During the year, Sophia is an intern with AidData, an online database of foreign aid projects, and the treasurer of the William & Mary Anime Society

On why she decided to intern at FIRE this summer, Sophia writes:

Colleges and universities in the U.S. hold a vital place in our democracy, not only as educators, but also as forums in which ideas are discussed and assumptions questioned. Or at least, that is the role they should play. Now the trend seems to have moved towards creating a community where people are "safe" and where they can believe that they have the right not to be offended. But in creating this kind of culture, colleges are teaching students that it is indecent for people to disagree, that it is morally wrong to hold an unpopular view.

I attended a very small, ideologically unified high school where many saw my social ...

Just When You Thought You Had Enough “Fifty Shades”…

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

After Brevard County reversed its decision to remove Fifty Shades of Grey from its libraries, we noticed that several other library systems who had initially said they wouldn’t buy the book relented in the face of public demand. Holds on these books are bananas: they have ranged from the hundreds to over two-thousand in various library systems.

We issued a joint letter with collaborating free speech orgs yesterday criticizing the exclusion of Fifty Shades in the Harford County Public Library on that basis that it categorically bans “pornography.” “Pornography” is a notoriously subjective assignation and this library’s policy was in actuality an unwritten procedure inaccessible and not defined to its patrons.

Popularity and interest are common reasons—among many—for selecting a book for a public library. Rarely would libraries opt not to purchase a book which is sitting at number one on most major best-seller lists.

Imagine a library that refused to carry Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code  in the height of that craze? Or Twilight in the Summer of 2008? Or The Hunger Games trilogy in the past few months? If a book of such immense popularity (even of dubious literary quality, Dan Brown’s work has suffered the criticism ...

The D(EFF)CONtest Rages On

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

With weeks left to go on our third annual fundraising contest, supporters have already raised over $4,000 in donations to help support EFF and the Coders’ Rights Project! Our thanks to The Holy Handgrenades leading the pack at $1,410.78, with last year’s Grand Prize Winners InfoSec Daily Podcast (ISDPodcast) at $801, followed closely by the dc404 crew at $675. You’re doing great!  EFF’s annual D(EFF)CONtest helps fund tireless legal defense, activism, counseling, and community education for professional security researchers and tinkerers alike. Through these donor-supported efforts, EFF stands behind everyone who values knowledge and the freedom to innovate.

You can help by donating to EFF through one of the D(EFF)CONtest teams listed below, or by starting your own team today! Fabulous prizes await the winners including a weekend stay at the Rio Hotel and Casino, DEF CON Human Badges, Ninja Party badges, passes to theSummit party, the iSEC Partners party, and EFF swag including our exclusive DEF CON 20 Script Kitty T-Shirt. Contestants unlock a Script Kitty Trophy at every $250 and one of the new shirts at $500!

D(EFF)CONtest Script Kitty T-Shirt

So if you can't go to Las Vegas this summer, get your limited edition DEF CON 20 Script Kitty ...

Plan to Replant Flooded Forest

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

A nongovernmental organization focusing on fisheries development plans to replant a deforested area around central Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake in a bid to boost biodiversity.

The Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT) said it will replant 15 hectares (37 acres) in the so-called flooded forest that had been destroyed by rice farmers and other groups.

Flooded forests or freshwater swamp forests are those which are inundated with freshwater, either permanently or seasonally. They are normally seen along the lower reaches of rivers and around freshwater lakes.

Some 64 hectares (158 acres) of the flooded forest around the Tonle Sap Lake in Kompong Thom province were destroyed by the farmers during construction of water reservoirs in the area.

“In some areas there is only a little forest left, while in others there is nothing,” said FACT director Om Savath.

“My NGO and others will work together to replant the flooded forest,” he said.

FACT’s replanting plan will begin with six hectares (15 acres) in 2012.

Kompong Phluk community leader Tuy Yong said flooded forests provide vital shelter for fish to breed and will add to biodiversity in the Tonle Sap and other areas, increasing fish yield.

“The flooded forest is a place ...

“The Dirty Cowboy” Cause Lives On

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

You remember The Dirty Cowboy, our favorite book ban in May? School board members may be standing their ground, but they haven’t heard the last of residents perturbed by the ban. The Patriot-News and The Lebanon Daily News both featured an Op-Ed piece by Annville-Cleona parent Tim White this weekend. White writes:

“Although ACSD board President Tom Tschudy stated that he felt “reasonable minds can disagree,” he asked one parent if he would like him to bring Hustler magazine into the elementary library.

Is comparing a children’s book about taking a bath to Hustler magazine a reasonable comparison?

An undeniable correlation exists between literacy and success later in life, and parents are alarmed when one complainant can dictate immediate removal from their children’s reach of widely accepted, engaging material paid for by their tax dollars.”

We’re hoping of course, for a reasonable reconsideration of this beautifully illustrated, award-winning book and of the decisions which led to it being removed because of a single complaint about its content.

Five- and six-year-olds read a book about a bathing cowboy and see what’s there: a funny story about a bath, for which naturally, you disrobe. They don’t read nudity as sex. ...

Federal Court: University of Cincinnati Free Speech Zone Violates First Amendment, ‘Cannot Stand’

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

CINCINNATI, June 12, 2012—In a ringing victory for student rights, a federal district court declared today that the University of Cincinnati's (UC's) tiny "free speech zone" violates the First Amendment. In his order enjoining enforcement of the challenged free speech zone policy, United States District Judge Timothy S. Black held that UC's free speech zone "violates the First Amendment and cannot stand." The suit was filed by Ohio's 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in cooperation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). 

"Once again, a federal court has been forced to remind a public university of its constitutional obligation to uphold the free speech rights of its students," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "Ohioans should be pleased at the court's decision but outraged that a public college was willing to waste taxpayer money defending a policy that was manifestly unconstitutional from the very start."

Prior to today's court order, UC had required all "demonstrations, pickets, and rallies" to be held in a "Free Speech Area" that comprises just 0.1% of the university's 137-acre West Campus. University policy further required that all expressive activity in the free speech zone be registered with the university a full ten ...

Lawmakers avoid buzzwords on climate change bills

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

State lawmakers ran into a problem this year when recommending a study on rising sea levels and their potential impacts on coastal Virginia.

It was not a scientific problem or a financial one. It was linguistic.

They discovered that they could not use the phrases “sea level rise” or “climate change” in requesting the study, in part because of objections from Republican colleagues and also for fear of stirring up conservative activists, some of whom believe such terms are liberal code words.

On its website, for example, the Virginia tea party described the proposed “sea level rise” study this way: “More wasted tax dollars for more ridiculous studies designed to separate us from our money and control all land and water use.”

The group urged its members to contact elected officials right away to defeat the measure: “They will pass this without blinking if we don’t yell loudly.”

So lawmakers did away with all mention of sea level rise, substituting a more politically neutral phrase: “recurrent flooding.”

The amended study, while fixed on the same research, sailed through the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who also has raised questions about what is causing slightly higher temperatures ...

Law Review Article Highlights Impact of Speech-Protective Laws

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Tyler J. Buller, a 2012 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, has posted a draft of an excellent article, The State Response to Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, online. The abstract reads: 

Student journalism was dealt a significant blow in 1988, when the Supreme Court decided Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and gave school officials a license to censor any student speech they believe inconsistent with a school's "pedagogical concerns." As a practical matter, this has led to rampant censorship of stories critical of school officials or concerning controversial topics like sex, drinking, or drug-use. Nine states have adopted so-called "anti-Hazelwood" statutes and regulations that put additional protections between student journalists and school officials. These anti-Hazelwood measures have a mixed track record and are rarely litigated. Until now, there has been virtually no data exploring whether the measures are working and in fact securing a free student press. This Article presents an original study that explores the effectiveness of anti-Hazelwood measures by comparing the content of student journalists' editorials in states with and without anti-Hazelwood statutes or regulations. The resulting data lend strong support to anti-Hazelwood statutes freeing the student press, as they result in students writing more editorials critical ...

“In Our Mothers’ House” Restricted Access in Utah School District

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

by Justin Brown

With the President’s recent open approval of same-sex marriage; a federal appeals court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (claiming it unconstitutional); the success of Life with Archie #16, featuring the marriage of a gay character; and Marvel and DC’s inclusion of prominent storylines about gay characters, one may surmise it is easy for everyone to access constitutionally-protected LGBT materials. This is not the case, as students in a school district north of Salt Lake City will have to get parental permission before checking out a book about a lesbian couple raising a family, according to a recent article on the Huffington Post.

The book In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco is at the center of these prohibitive policies due to a complaint by the mother of a student who checked out the book, which features a family led by a lesbian couple and how they use love to give them the strength to overcome intolerance.

From the Huffington Post article by Jennifer Dolner:

Students in a Utah school district will need permission from their parents to read a book about a lesbian couple raising a family following the decision by a special committee ...

Meet FIRE Summer Intern Yean Do from Georgetown University

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Yean Do is a rising senior at Georgetown University, where she majors in psychology. At Georgetown, she conducts psychology research on the nature of human empathy and psychopathy in the Laboratory on Social and Affective Neuroscience. She is also a campus tour guide and the music director of her co-ed a cappella group, Georgetown Superfood

On why she decided to spend the summer with FIRE, Yean writes:

My interest in FIRE primarily stems from my experience attending Georgetown University, the oldest Jesuit university in the country. As a Catholic institution of higher learning, Georgetown embodies certain core religious values that influence the lives of students and faculty every day such as religious tolerance, social justice, and a commitment to serving others. If you ask any Hoya, he or she will agree that these are fundamental components of our collective identity, and they are values that I too cherish. But when a university promises to uphold individual rights for students and faculty, administrators cannot ignore these promises when student speech contradicts these religious values. At Georgetown, it seems we have forgotten this key point. The code of student conduct and student group policies (both written by administrators) acknowledge open ...

Turn It Off, Dammit! — Opposition to Film Screening

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Turn Me On, Dammit!, an indie Norwegian film about a 15-year-old girl’s struggling with her burgeoning sexuality and dealing with high school tensions, has been widely acclaimed by critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet, controversy led to the cancellation of a screening in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the film was scheduled to be shown as part of the Arts Council’s Summer Film Series. Pastor John Kearns of the Christ Harbor United Methodist Church saw an advertisement for the film in a local paper. Taking offense at the title and subject matter, Kearns contacted Tuscaloosa County probate Judge Hardy McCollum, the mayors of Northport and Tuscaloosa, and finally, the Arts Council that selected the film. Another pastor, Randy Fuller, in a sermon at New Beginnings Church, threatened to mobilize the entire religious community against the mayor and city council members in a drive to push for the cancellation of the film. In response to this pressure, Walt Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa, reportedly advised the Arts Council to pull the film from the series. Fearing loss of City funding, the Arts Council agreed.

Is Tuscaloosa becoming a theocracy where a few religious figures can bully the Mayor into interfering ...

ACTA Report: California Schools Do Not Promote a Free Exchange of Ideas

Monday, June 11th, 2012

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has just released a scathing report on "The Unfulfilled Promise of Public Higher Education in California," available online (in PDF). Its key message regards administrative bloat: 

[T]rustees have too often delegated their stewardship authority and sanctioned growing problems of waste, bloat and excess. Noting that the United States spends more on education per student than almost any country on earth, the report argues that many of California's higher education problems stem from a misdirection of resources and calls on the trustees to get their own house in order before demanding higher tuitions and more taxpayer dollars.

A large section of the report uses FIRE data on speech codes in California to conclude, quite correctly, that in both the University of California and California State University systems, "schools are failing to protect legitimate expression and free speech and are actively discouraging a robust exchange of ideas." Indeed, as the report notes, universities in California are still defining much protected expression as "harassment." ACTA explains why this problem is so important: 

When faced with speech codes ... students will hold back from expressing controversial opinions or making forceful arguments, worried that they ...

New York Bills Attempt to Peek Under the Mask of Anonymity

Monday, June 11th, 2012

by Christopher Schiller

Anonymous political commentary has been the bedrock of our country’s discourse since before we were a country. Two identical bills, together the so-called Internet Protection Act, are in the legislative process of the New York State Senate and Assembly and aim to eliminate the ability to anonymously participate in political discourse and other discussions that take place on the internet. In their current form, the bills rip the mask off of legitimate, First Amendment protected speech in a vague and an ill-conceived effort to eliminate cyberbullying and “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks” (source: First Amendment Center).

Power of Anonymity

What would many of our comic superheros be able to accomplish without the protection of their anonymity? Imagine Batman without his cowl, trying to stop villainy while every bystander clearly recognized him as billionaire Bruce Wayne. How would Peter Parker be able to live his normal life and go about his day as a geeky, awkward youngster if he were not allowed to wear a mask while fighting crime? Anonymity can be a powerful shield to allow much greater things to be said and done.

History of Anonymity

The ability to anonymously comment on the politics of ...

Happy Birthday, Nat Hentoff!

Monday, June 11th, 2012
Nat Hentoff

World-renowned author, civil libertarian, and critic Nat Hentoff turned 87 yesterday. Though we're a day late, we wish Nat—who we're proud to say is a member of our Board of Advisors—many happy returns!

Here's FIRE President Greg Lukianoff writing about Nat's help on FIRE cases in 2009: 

I should note here that Nat has long been a personal hero of mine. I know this is not a unique sentiment among First Amendment advocates like myself, but since Nat is a very active member of FIRE's Board of Advisors, I have had a unique and cherished opportunity to witness Nat's tireless efforts on behalf of liberty up close. Nearly all FIRE's staffers have had the enjoyable experience of receiving a call from Nat, asking for more information about our ongoing cases and marveling at the breathtaking injustices we fight against every day. We've been blessed to have Nat's trained journalistic instincts put to use on behalf of FIRE's work. For just one recent example, check out Nat writing with his trademark passion about FIRE's ongoing case at Brandeis University, where Professor Donald Hindley has faced persecution for critiquing the use of the word "wetbacks" in his Latin American politics class. Nat ...

Meet FIRE Summer Intern Emily Harrison from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Monday, June 11th, 2012
Emily Harrison

Emily Harrison, from Oaks, Pennsylvania (near Valley Forge), is a rising senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is studying political science and history. Emily previously worked as an intern for the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2011.

Of her decision to come to FIRE this summer, Emily writes:

Attending UW-Madison, which features a politically active campus, has spurred my interest in the First Amendment and, in particular, freedom of speech issues as pertains to college campuses. UW's reputation for political activism largely arises from the 1960s Vietnam War era and civil rights movement. During that time, UW students and professors organized teach-ins and protests and disseminated information to disrupt the presence of visiting army recruiters. These activities also tended to encourage many students and faculty on UW's campus to contribute to anti-war expression. This phenomenon of politicization could also be seen this past year in the city of Madison as thousands of Wisconsinites travelled to the state capitol building in Madison. Citizens joined ongoing peaceful protests to challenge the Wisconsin 2011-2013 Biennial Budget proposals and other policy measures being considered at that time. By personally observing these political protests in Madison during 2011 and 2012, I learned that protesting ...

ETSU, Brute?

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Okay, it's a terrible Shakespearean pun. But as bad a pun as this blog post's title is, it's still nowhere near as disappointing as the state of free speech at East Tennessee State University (ETSU).  

The basic story is that as part of a "civility week," the Student Government Association created T-shirts with various slurs on the front and the message "I am more than a label. Think. Live. Respect." on the back. The T-shirt campaign was quite clearly a campaign to combat stereotyping. Nevertheless, the ETSU administration wasn't so thrilled with the shirts, and quickly imposed heavy-handed censorship.  

FIRE Vice President Adam Kissel has more in his May 25 Huffington Post article:

According to the East Tennessean, ETSU Vice Provost and Dean of Students Joe H. Sherlin, Jr., called the Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Branch to a meeting and demanded that the students limit their use of the T-shirts. After much debate, the T-shirts were limited to just four hours on one day and in one location -- from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the school's Borchuck Plaza -- as well as at the 'Label' event in the evening. In addition, the administration apparently ...