Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

IF Action Round Up, May 18-24, 2012

Friday, May 25th, 2012

What is your vote for biggest story of the week? Tell us in the comments or vote on Facebook!

OIF sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. To subscribe to this list, visit http://lists.ala.org/wws/subscribe/ifaction. For an archive of all postings to the list since 1996, visit http://lists.ala.org/wws/arc/ifaction. Below is a sample of articles from May 18-24, 2012.

Censorship

Annville-Cleona School Board stays strong on decision to ban ‘The Dirty Cowboy’

District plans to screen books closer (TX“Stuck in Neutral” by Terry Trueman)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Rally to Discuss Risks of Internet

Libraries Debate Stocking ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Trilogy

Easton School Board: “Nickel and Dimed” Can Stay

‘Feed’ debate leads to look at parental notification policy

Privacy

School officials’ Facebook rummaging prompts mom’s privacy crusade

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Surveillance Case

California Considers Bill to Require Permission to Collect, Analyze DNA

New York legislation would ban anonymous online speech

Study: Patriot Act Gives US Government No Special Access to Cloud Data

FBI quietly forms secretive Net-surveillance unit

Access

A Petition for Free Online Access of Taxpayer-funded Research

House to ...

NCAC Opposition to “Fifty Shades” Ban Big in the News

Friday, May 25th, 2012

The meteoric sales of Fifty Shades of Grey and its subsequent banning from public libraries around the country–in particular in Brevard County, FL, has been all over the news this week. One of the most notable of the media pick-ups was a story in The New York Times on Monday about the debate over stocking the book in public libraries.

The article quoted our joint letter with ABFFE and five other free expression groups.

NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin was also quoted in the article:

“There are some possible arguments for trying to keep kids away from certain kinds of content, but in the case of adults, other than the restrictions on obscenity and child pornography, there’s simply no excuse. This is really very much against the norms in the profession.”

On Thursday we joined forces with the Florida branch of the ACLU in issuing a demand letter to the Brevard County Commission. The letter appeals to the commission to overturn the Library Director’s decision and return the books to library shelves:

Many Brevard residents rely on the library. Some cannot afford books; they don’t own e-readers or
tablets to which they can download books. They rely on the ...

Censorship, Consequences and the Creative Process

Friday, May 25th, 2012

by Christopher Schiller

Throughout the history of comics there are many brave examples of artists tackling controversial subject matter, which has been fodder for many stellar, ground breaking works. Often the tension of controversy is required to have a conversation of great substance with the audience. But there are those who attempt and often succeed in restricting these conversations through censorship, often with dire consequences. The novelist Salman Rushdie, no neophyte in the arena of censorship battles, has recently commented on the impact of censorship on both works and their creators, pointing out that there is more lasting resonance in the consequences of the prior restraint of creative endeavors than is immediately apparent.

A May 15th article in The New Yorker by Salman Rushdie draws from his Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture given May 6th as part of the PEN World Voices festival. Rushdie discusses the impact of censorship on the creative process as well as the creator in a modern free speech society. The discussion points out the real effect that the vagueness inherent in most forms of censorship: the chilling of free speech. This, in turn, results in a diminished creative experience. Censorship is a strong ...

BLOWN COVERS Reveals Controversial and Rejected New Yorker Covers

Friday, May 25th, 2012

by Mark Bousquet

A recent Forbes article discusses some of The New Yorker‘s most controversial covers and reveals images that never made it to print. The subject of the piece is the recent release of Françoise Mouly’s book, Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See. Though typically drawing attention for their artistic and satirical merit, select New Yorker covers have also proven controversial, such as Barry Blitt’s July 2008 cover that depicted President Barack Obama and the First Lady exchanging a “terrorist fist-bump” in the Oval Office. Ms. Mouly’s book helps to illuminate the tension that exists between artistic expression and commercial interests.

As the art editor for The New Yorker, Ms. Mouly sits between the artists she encourages and the editors she must appease. Liza Donnelly, a cartoonist for the magazine, articulates the power of being selected for the cover on the artist: “For many if not most cartoonists, the next hurdle is to have a cover. The New Yorker covers are magical and carry a certain mystery, and if you are a New Yorker cartoonist, having a drawing on the cover is a rather large feather in your cap.”

Blown Covers offers ...

Call to Action: Join the Fight Against Cyber Spying Proposals in the Senate

Friday, May 25th, 2012

EFF and an array of civil liberties organizations are engaged in a pitched battle against the privacy-invasive legislation Congress is pushing under the guise of promoting “cyber security.” Everyone agrees that network security is important, but a thinly disguised mass surveillance bill won’t help address the needs of our country in defending our networks. Even when faced with wide-ranging opposition from security experts and the Obama Administration, the House of Representatives managed to ram through CISPA, a bill widely decried as empowering the military to collect the Internet records of Americans’ everyday Internet use. Now the fight is moving to the Senate, and the word from DC is that a vote on cybersecurity measures could happen in early June. That gives us little time to waste in fighting this legislation. We need the Internet community to rise up and fight for online freedoms in the cybersecurity debates. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Send an email to Congress. Our online form makes this a quick process – just fill in your info, customize the message, and hit send.
  2. Tweet at your Senator. We need to use every avenue possible to show opposition to efforts to undermine our civil liberties ...

Megaupload User Asks Court for Files Back. Again.

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

You may remember that EFF’s client, Kyle Goodwin, asked the court to return the legal files he lost when Megaupload was seized last January. Since then, we’ve been to court, both for a hearing and a mediation, and nothing has changed. The key problem: the government has failed to help third parties like Kyle get access to their data. So we have no choice but to go back to court.

Today, EFF filed a brief asking for the court to order Kyle’s rightfully owned data returned. And it’s not just about Kyle’s property: it’s about the property of many other legal Megaupload users, too. We’ve asked the court to implement a procedure to make all of those consumers whole again by granting them access to what is legally theirs. Especially given that the use of cloud computing services is already widespread and poised to grow exponentially in the next few years, we believe the court should ensure that such innocent users do not become regular collateral damage.

Kyle Goodwin, and others like him, did nothing but legitimately use a cloud storage service to house legal files – in Kyle’s case, business files, but many others lost access to personal ...

Google Releases New Copyright Transparency Report

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Today, Google expanded its transparency reports program today by releasing a detailed report of content removal requests from copyright holders. The new copyright report joins its semi-annual government takedown transparency report, and covers more than 95% of the copyright takedown requests it has received for Search results since July 2011.1 Though Google has posted the content of takedown requests to Chilling Effects where possible before, this report presents the data collectively (and graphically) for the first time.

Striking is the sheer volume of takedown notices Google receives: in just the last month, it processed over 1.2 million requests for Search alone, from 1,296 copyright owners and 1,087 reporting organizations. That scale allows it to present trends in the data that might not otherwise be apparent. For example, even in the case of notorious "pirate" sites like The Pirate Bay, Google has received takedown notices for less than 5% of their indexable pages.

On the other hand, this report also provides a clearer look into the abuse of copyright tools. Google explains that it's complied with 97% of takedown requests received between July and December of 2011, but also provides examples of obviously invalid copyright requests it's received...

Art, Porn and Censorship: the Mansfield Art Center (OH) Covers up Painting

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

A painting, included in a juried exhibition show at the Mansfield Art Center in Ohio, was partially covered with black paper. The painting had been selected for inclusion in the show, but the management of the Art Center decided that the outside edges of the work, which were covered with clippings from pornographic magazines, should not be seen by anyone. Sans edges the work was a simple urban landscape. According to the artist, Neil Yoder, “The peripheral edge emerged from the idea ‘supple, viscous soft blue’ contrasting with the earth tones of post industrial dreamscapes….The contrast of differing beauty forms or subconscious shapes, tinged with revulsion, ecstasy, perceived ‘filth,’ aesthetic fascination, birth and death.”

So, with the edges covered, the work was rather dramatically reduced in meaning: the interplay between  industrial landscape and sex imagery  being, arguably, at its core. For an Arts Center to tamper so heavy-handedly with the integrity of an artwork is very disturbing. According to the Center’s director, Tracy Graziani, “We normally don’t like to censor art, but this is pornography and there are laws about how to handle pornography and would we be liable if a child viewed it?”

We are pleased that the Arts ...

Risky Business at ‘Slate’

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Internet powerhouse Slate featured a piece on Tuesday interviewing the founder of the "risk quotient" scale, Dylan Evans. Evans' remarks about risk assessment and "risk intelligence" are interesting, especially when he mentions FIRE and his opinions about the increasingly risk-averse culture of academia (near the end of the interview).

Two years ago this month, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff wrote in The Huffington Post about a sexual harassment charge filed against Evans for discussing the sexual habits of fruit bats. (Professor Evans was censured by University College Cork in Ireland, which is outside of FIRE's mission.) This powerful experience with the stranglehold of academic political correctness gave Evans personal evidence for what he calls "a worrying trend in academia towards policies that inhibit free discussion of ideas and sharing of information," which we see throughout the American academy.

Check out the rest of Evans' take on the stymied progress of academic culture and his thoughts about risk intelligence here

Privacy News Roundup: Government Snooping in the Free World

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

UK Data Breaches Were an Inside Job

Privacy advocates in the United Kingdom got the unfortunate opportunity to say “we told you so” last week, following revelations that nearly 1,000 civil servants working at the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions had been disciplined for accessing citizens’ private and confidential data, including criminal records, employment histories and social security details. More than 150 of those data breaches occurred at the Department for Health, an agency tasked with providing health services – and maintaining all UK medical records.

The unsettling news came to light after reporters with an investigative television broadcast series filed Freedom of Information requests and published their findings.

As ZDNet’s Zack Whittaker shrewdly points out, the most disconcerting aspect of this rampant leakage is that it wasn't caused by a system malfunction, but rather active exploitation at the hands of “the very people we supposedly trust with our data.”

Not Guilty? Met Police Can Still Snoop Through Your Cell Phone

Metropolitan Police in 16 London boroughs are now employing technology to instantly extract mobile phone data from suspects in custody. The upgrade allows police to access call history, texts and phone contacts, while eliminating the need for a ...

Censorship of “I

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

A disturbing pattern continues to emerge across the country involving breast-cancer support bracelets worn by public school students. Students wear them, administrators overreact and censor them, and some students file lawsuits in federal court asserting their First Amendment rights.

The bracelets, sponsored by the Keep A Breast Foundation, are designed to increase awareness of breast cancer. Some public school students wear them to honor a family member or friend who has battled the disease.

The Fort Wayne, Ind., Journal Gazette reports on the latest of these controversies. An unidentified high school sophomore in Fort Wayne sued after her principal forbade her from wearing the bracelet. It had been given to her by her mother, Julie Andrzejewski, a breast-cancer survivor.

One federal court decision in Pennsylvania already has established that two middle school students had a First Amendment right to wear the bracelets. In H. v. Easton Area School District, a federal district judge ruled in April 2011 in the students’ favor. The judge found that the bracelets caused no substantial disruption of school activities and were not vulgar or lewd.

Read more at firstamendmentcenter.org

Critical Fail: The Censorship of RPGs

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

by Justin Brown

Let’s say you’ve been reading up on the CBLDF coverage of the top 10 banned books of 2011, which included a graphic novel in the #2 spot, and you want to vent your frustrations by gathering with a group of friends to play a trending role-playing-game. You amble amongst local comic shops, book stores and libraries to obtain the newest player manual only to discover that it has been banned or censored to the point of being unplayable. (I mean, who wants to try to bewilder a bug-bear with a rubber-mallet-of-kindness? Ok, that scenario is a little farfetched, but you get the picture.) According to a recent article on ICv2, censorship has branched out to include RPGs for many of the same reasons that comic books have been challenged and censored.

From the ICv2 article, “The Top Censored RPGs: Artwork and Content Created Problems“:

Role-playing games have attracted plenty of unwarranted criticism in the mainstream media over the years with blanket indictments of Dungeons & Dragons as promoting Satanism or contributing to juvenile delinquency, but some games have actually been pulled after publication by embarrassed publishers, while others have been banned at ...

Appeals Court Rejects Arlington County Dog Day Care Center’s Sign Ordinance Challenge

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

A federal appeals court says Arlington County did not violate a business owner’s free-speech rights by requiring her to cover up a 960-square-foot mural.

Kim Houghton owns a dog day care center called Wag More Dogs. She sued after county officials declared that her outdoor mural depicting frolicking cartoon dogs violates an ordinance limiting the size of commercial signs. The dogs in the mural, which faces Shirlington Dog Park, are similar to dogs used in the shop’s advertising.

Houghton claimed the ordinance violates her First Amendment rights and is unconstitutionally vague.

A federal judge disagreed, and so did a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel said Tuesday that the ordinance is clear, content-neutral and narrowly tailored to enhance the county’s aesthetics.

Dueling Editorials at Stanford about Standard of Evidence

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

This week, the Stanford Daily student newspaper featured dueling editorials about Stanford's decision to lower the standard of evidence in sexual misconduct cases in response to last year's Dear Colleague letter from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). FIRE has taken the lead in opposing several provisions in that letter, which states that colleges and universities must employ a "preponderance of the evidence" standard—a 50.01%, "more likely than not" evidentiary burden—when adjudicating student complaints concerning sexual harassment or sexual violence. The OCR regulations further require that if a university judicial process allows the accused student to appeal a verdict, it must allow the accuser the right to appeal as well, resulting in a "double jeopardy" situation for the accused.

Stanford actually used to have a high standard of proof, "beyond a reasonable doubt," in all of its disciplinary hearings—the same standard used in our criminal courts. With the threat of losing federal funding if it did not comply with the OCR letter, Stanford, like many schools, has chosen to abandon that standard in the case of allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct. Yet this decision has not been without controversy. 

The majority of the editorial board of ...

Two Cartoonists to Receive CRNI Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

by Maren Williams

Two political cartoonists who have courageously defied government censorship and brutality will be honored with the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from Cartoonists Rights Network International. Syrian Ali Ferzat and Indian Aseem Trivedi will receive the award on September 15, 2012 at George Washington University in Washington, DC, according to a post on CRNI’s website.

The annual award recognizes cartoonists who have “shown exemplary courage in the face of unrelenting threat, legal action or other pressure as punishment or disincentive for cartoons that are too powerful for some officials, sects, terrorists or demagogues.”

Ferzat, who also was recently named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, came under pressure from the Syrian government after publishing cartoons critical of President Bashar Assad:

For this, thugs were ordered to send Ali a message.  They brutally beat him up, intentionally breaking both his hands.  After the attack, Ali made a second courageous and potentially life-threatening decision.  He decided to make public what the Assad Regime had done to him.  The work of this brave and talented artist can be seen online at http://www.ali-ferzat.com/ar/comics.html and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ali.frzat.

Despite the intimidation tactics of ...

Senator Wyden Demands Access to Text of Secret International Agreements Regulating the Internet

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Senator Ron Wyden yesterday introduced a bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate demanding access to draft texts of international trade agreements under negotiation by the Office of the United States Trade Representative such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that carry provisions that could severely choke off users' rights on the Internet around the world. This is a great positive step in the right direction.

The proposed bill, titled the "Congressional Oversight Over Trade Negotiations Act", calls for all Members of Congress, together with all of their staff with proper security clearance, to be given access to "documents, including classified materials, relating to negotiations for a trade agreement to which the United States may be a party and policies advanced by the Trade Representative in such negotiations." 

Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the sole power to regulate foreign commerce in order to ensure that such laws and policies take into consideration all the interests of the people rather than those of the select few. Congress has delegated certain powers to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), but remains subject to Congressional oversight. The USTR is required to consult wth the ...

Media Scores Rare Court Victory

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In a rare court victory for the media in reform-embracing Burma, a judge ruled Wednesday that a news magazine need not disclose to the government the name of a reporter who filed a controversial story about corruption.

The Ministry of Mines had filed a defamation suit against the Voice weekly journal, demanding that it reveal the author of the article published in March about misappropriation and irregularities in the accounts of several government ministries.

But the court dismissed the ministry's application on hearing arguments from both sides at a hearing Wednesday, the Voice's editor-in-chief Kyaw Min Swe told RFA.

"Both sides put up our arguments on the issue and finally the judge gave a verdict that they have no grounds for asking for the reporter's name," he said.

Hearing on the defamation suit will continue on June 6.

In the March report, the Voice, citing a report from the auditor general's office to the parliament's public accounts committee, charged that accounts of ministries such as those in charge of information, agriculture, industry and mines had been misappropriated from 2009-2011.  

It particularly said that the Ministry of Mines sold 50 percent of shares in the Monywa copper mine, owned ...

This Week In Transparency: Patriot Act, 50 Year Old Secrets, and More Drones

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

CIA Still Claims Its Drone Program is "Secret"

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the Obama Administration may finally lift the legal veil of secrecy surrounding the CIA’s covert drone program. The ACLU has been involved in a lawsuit over the US government’s constitutional authority to target American citizens with strikes overseas with its supposedly covert CIA drone program. On Monday, however, the CIA decided to continue to claim the program is a state secret and that they should not have to admit or deny it exists.

This, despite the fact that, as Journal reported, “U.S. drone strikes are hardly a secret. Officials have spoken openly about them, even discussing the operations in formal speeches. But they are still classified, and unauthorized disclosures about details of individual missions could constitute a felony.”

Ironically, on the same day, the White House announced a new policy for which suspects get targeted by the covert program, saying counterterrorism chief John Brennan would have the final say on who gets targeted by The Program Which Must Not Be Named.

EFF Releases New FOIA Documents and Files Amicus Brief in Transparency Case

  • Patriot Act

EFF published the full set of documents the Justice ...

This Week In Internet Censorship: Hackers DDOS Eurovision and Indian websites, France Calls Out Amesys, South Korean Podcasters Under Fire

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Eurovision Song Contest Sets Stage for Online Protest

Last Thursday, Azeri hackers calling themselves Cyberwarriors for Freedom temporarily took down four different websites for the Eurovision Song Contest, which is being hosted by Azerbaijan this week. Hackers replaced the home pages with an Azeri-language message demanding that President Ilham Aliyev cancel the event. While they condemned the destruction of homes to make way for the Eurovision arena and the silencing of independent journalists, the hackers’ message also included homophobic language, calling the contest a “gay parade.”

While Azeri authorities continue to investigate the hacking, the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan also launched a new campaign petitioning Eurovision performers to show support for human rights in Azerbaijan. The campaign echoes statements from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who have called upon Azeri authorities to release detained opposition activists and guarantee free expression for peaceful protesters planning demonstrations before the contest.

The Azeri parliament is currently debating laws curtailing social media access, even though 78% of Azeris have never used the Internet and only 7% go online daily.

French Judicial Investigation Calls Out Amesys’ Complicity With Libyan Torture

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the League of Human Rights ...

Fight for Religious Liberty Continues

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In what can serve as an excellent lesson for campus officials who target the associational rights of their students, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) has reversed its ruling against a campus religious group and will now allow the club to operate at UNCG. Citizen Link reports that the school reversed its denial of recognition to the Make Up Your Own Mind club after the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the school for refusing to accept the club's religious status and belief-based membership requirements.

The decision comes in light of the ongoing debate at Vanderbilt University over the school's decision to institute a policy forbidding student organizations from imposing membership requirements based on belief. Just yesterday, twelve student organizations wrote an open letter to the Vanderbilt administration asking that it reverse its decision and "adopt a policy that not only clearly advances our shared commitment to non-discrimination but also adequately preserves the religious liberty and the creedal integrity of faith-based student groups." FIRE urges Vanderbilt University to take this message to heart and look to schools like UNCG as models for reform.

From Fingerprints to DNA: Biometric Data Collection in U.S. Immigrant Communities and Beyond

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
New White Paper from EFF and the Immigration Policy Center Outlines Privacy and Security Concerns

San Francisco - Today the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) release "From Fingerprints to DNA: Biometric Data Collection in U.S. Immigrant Communities and Beyond." The paper outlines the current state of U.S. government collection of biometric information and the problems that could arise from these growing databases of records. It also points out how immigrant communities are immediately affected by the way this data is collected, stored, and shared.

There is a growing push to link biometric collection with immigration enforcement. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) takes approximately 300,000 fingerprints per day from non-U.S. citizens crossing the border into the United States, and it collects biometrics from noncitizens applying for immigration benefits and from immigrants who have been detained. In addition, state and local law enforcement officers regularly collect fingerprints and DNA, as well as face prints and even iris scans. All of these government databases are growing and are being increasingly interconnected. For example, the Secure Communities program takes the fingerprints of people booked into local jails, matches them to prints contained in large federal immigration databases, ...

TV Networks Try to Squash New York City Streaming Service

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Bogus Copyright Infringement Claims Could Add Up to Fewer Choices, Higher Prices

New York - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging a federal judge not to let television networks squash an innovative streaming service with a bogus copyright infringement lawsuit.

In an amicus brief filed today, EFF and Public Knowledge asked the court to block a preliminary injunction that could prevent Aereo Inc. from establishing a customer base in New York City, arguing that shutting down the service at this early stage sends a dangerous message to other start-up companies working to improve consumers' TV viewing experience.

"The threat of lengthy litigation would discourage any business from working to add value to the television viewing experience, leaving the market in the hands of a few established players," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "Remember, these are the same folks who tried to keep VCRs off the market years ago, and more recently fought viciously against remote DVRs, which allow cable subscribers access to content they've already bought but is stored elsewhere. This is yet another attempt by TV networks to profit from, control, or stop new technology they didn't think of first."

Aereo lets users in New York watch ...

India Moves to Ban Cartoons from Textbooks

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

by Soyini A. Hamit

On May 14, one day after the 60th anniversary of the Indian Parliament, the government decided to ban textbooks from the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) for using cartoons that mock politicians. The government will also review NCERT textbooks, in addition to removing the offensive cartoons.

What began as an affront to famed cartoonist Shankar Pillai’s depiction of political leader B. R. Ambedkar has grown into an assault on the use of all cartoons in textbooks. Members of Parliament protested until the government relented and agreed to censor textbooks. The lone voice of dissent came from MP Sharifuddin Shariq, who felt that the cartoons should not upset politicians because they “reflected the reality.”

The Indian government is no stranger to banning work that they feel reflects them poorly. Freelance political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi faces imprisonment and fines from charges of treason and insulting national emblems.

For more information on this story, read the Times of India coverage here and here, as well as CBLDF coverage of Aseem Trivedi’s case here.

Few countries protect Free Speech as adamantly as the United States does, and censorship has a chilling effect worldwide. ...

Webcomic Takes a Stab at Indian Online Content Laws

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

by Joe Izenman

Only a few months have passed since political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi faced charges of treason for mocking the state. But that hasn’t stopped at least one webcomic artist from taking a sarcastic Mother’s Day shot at Indian Parliament’s year-old amendments to their Information Technology Act, which introduced an extraordinary set of restrictions and punishments for a broad range of online content violations.

Indian webcomic Crocodile In Water, Tiger On Land—a self-described purveyor of “below-the-belt cheap shots in comic form” has this to say in “thanks” to India’s lawmakers:

The legislation’s intent was to protect online intermediaries — such as ISPs, and content providers like social networks and hosting services — from corporate liability, provided they perform due diligence on user content. However, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation describes, the amendments’ primary weakness is in their “overbroad scope”:

They require intermediaries to adopt terms of service that prohibit users from hosting, displaying, publishing, sending or sharing any proscribed content, including not just obscene or infringing content, but also any material that threatens national “unity” or “integrity,” “public order,” or is that “grossly offensive or menacing in nature,” “disparaging,” or “otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever.”

The ...

Authorities Target Southern Broadcasts

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Updated at 2:30 p.m. EST on 2012-05-23

Authorities in North Korea have stepped up efforts to jam South Korean television and radio broadcasts in a bid to prevent the public from accessing news from the outside world, according to North Korean sources inside the country and along the border with China.

A North Korean resident surnamed Yoon, who lives in Kangwon province’s Wonsan city near the Chinese border, said that television programs from the South had been harder to receive than usual in recent weeks, and that authorities may be interfering with the broadcasts which they fear might undermine authoritarian rule.

“Nowadays, it is really difficult to watch South Korean programs on TV,” Yoon told RFA during a trip to China where he was visiting his relatives.

“I’ve been seeing [static] for some time now,” Yoon said. “I first thought it was because the weather was bad, but things like this have happened rain or shine, so I suspect it is because the authorities are jamming the signals.”

He said that on other days, he encountered no interference when viewing the same channels.

“I don’t think they jam the broadcasts every day,” Yoon said. “But I still can’t tell why ...

Supreme Court to Federal Circuit: Fix Ultramerical Decision

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

This week, the Supreme Court put to rest any doubt that when it invalidated a patent that added nothing novel to an otherwise unpatentable idea, back in March, it was talking about software patents, too. In that case, Mayo v. Prometheus, the Court reviewed the three types of inventions that cannot be patented: laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas and held that the patent at issue there—one covering diagnostic testing—represented nothing more than a law of nature, with “conventional steps, specified at a high level of generality,” appended. At the time, we commented that this ruling should likewise apply to software patents, so that merely adding a "conventional step" to an otherwise abstract idea would not make that abstract idea patentable (which is exactly what happened in the Ultramercial v. Hulu case). On Monday, the Supreme Court told the Federal Circuit to reconsider its Ultramerical ruling in light of Mayo, which sounds a lot like an endorsement that Mayo's limitations on patentable subject matter should extend to software, too.

When Mayo was first decided, we were pleased to see that the Supreme Court’s language included abstract ideas in its analysis. Of course, many consider most software, and the algorithms that form ...

OCR: Reducing Protection for the Accused

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Dissent about the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) "Dear Colleague" letter continues around the country. Most recently, North Carolina-based John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy reporter Duke Cheston weighed in with a piece called "Tilting the Scales on Sexual Violence." Cheston hits the nail on the head: 

[OCR's] new rules were touted as a way of promoting "enhanced equity." But, in reality, the new rules rather inequitably reduce the protections of those who are accused ...

Cheston also examines how the Dear Colleague letter is adversely affecting the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Check out the article at the Pope Center's website!

Lawyers Challenge Visit Ban

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

A group of lawyers in China has challenged a ruling banning them from meeting with blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's nephew, who is facing trial for "intentional homicide" in the wake of his uncle's daring escape from house arrest.

In a letter addressed to the police chief of the Yinan county public security bureau in the eastern province of Shandong, the lawyers hit out at police interference in their efforts to defend Chen Kegui.

"We believe your bureau’s conduct violates the Criminal Procedural Law of the People’s Republic of China and other administrative and legal regulations," said the official letter, which was signed by Beijing public interest lawyer Ding Xikui and Shanghai-based lawyer Si Weijiang.

"[It] seriously violates the legal rights of Chen Kegui and lawyers’ lawful rights to carry out their profession," said the letter, which followed unsuccessful attempts last week by the legal team appointed by Chen's wife, Liu Fang, to meet with their client.

Ding confirmed to RFA's Cantonese service on Tuesday that he and Si had been denied permission to visit Chen Kegui at the Yinan county detention center, where he is currently being held.

"They said they have already found him legal assistance, and they ...

Who You Gonna Call?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

FIRE, of course!

Professor Maurice Eisenstein, who is suing Purdue University Calumet for violating his free speech rights after he criticized Muslims on Facebook, was interviewed by Frontpage in a piece published today. The interview provides a detailed account of his ordeal.

Here is an excerpt about FIRE's influence in his case: 

FP: The University cleared you of these 9 harassment/discrimination complaints. How or why do you think that happened?

Eisenstein: My very short answer is: the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE. If not for FIRE, I think things could have and would have likely gone very differently. FIRE sent a letter in January 2012 and that letter was made public about 1 day before the University had to issue a ruling on these 9 complaints. The University ended up extending its decision time-line in the aftermath of the public relations fallout from the FIRE letter.

I really do think that without the support from a national organization with the credibility that FIRE has, the University would have tried to initiate termination proceedings. The whole attempt to fire me would be over the issue of "offending" someone. 

Later, he says:

There are two things I would ...

Big Wow Raises $1,500 for CBLDF!

Monday, May 21st, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

I rolled an hour down the road this weekend for Big Wow! Comicfest, a regional show that’s seen quite a bit of growth since the last time I attended. In the years that have passed since my last outing to the show, it’s grown from a smallish collectors show (where I could fill in the gaps in my Jonah Hex and The Phantom collections) into a bustling event with an impressive guest list and a burgeoning artists alley. It was a genuine joy to see how the show has upped the ante. By the end of the convention, I had introduced many people to CBLDF and talked to many of our regular contributors, raising $1,500 for the cause!

I fought traffic Friday evening to make it to San Jose, a city whose proximity to Silicon Valley has vested it with a considerable number of museums, from art to technology, and a diverse selection of delicious restaurants. (If you go to a taqueria in San Jose, always order the orange sauce!) CBLDF was posted at booth #603, near Saturday’s entrance and next to the Avengers art exhibit and a children’s’ area that featured live art demonstrations from ...

Join Charles Brownstein for a Discussion of Free Expression and the PROTECT Act This Wednesday

Monday, May 21st, 2012

This Wednesday, you can join CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein for “Is Manga a Crime? Non-photographic images, Child Pornography and Freedom of Expression,” a program that discusses the impact of the PROTECT Act and the transportation of drawn images across international borders. The program is the Digital Media & Fine Arts Committees of the New York State Bar Association Entertainment, Arts, & Sports Law Section, and attorneys who attend can gain 1.5 MCLE credits in professional practice (pending approval).

The program description:

In Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002), the US Supreme Court deemed certain parts of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 (CPPA) unconstitutional as it prohibited lawful speech (images that do not involve minors, including drawings).  Following this decision, the PROTECT Act of 2003 was passed.

Individuals in the United States have been charged and sentenced under the PROTECT Act because of their possession of non-photographic images deemed to be child pornography.  In US v. Handley, 564 F. Supp. 2d 996 (S.D. Iowa 2008), Judge Gritzner deemed certain sections of the PROTECT Act unconstitutional (18 U.S.C.S. § 1466A(a)(2) and (b)(2)) but allowed the sections that required the application of the Miller test for obscenity (18 U.S.C.S. ...

The Netherlands Passes Net Neutrality Legislation

Monday, May 21st, 2012

New legislation in the Netherlands makes it the first country in Europe to establish a legal framework supporting net neutrality. In addition to the net neutrality provisions, the law contains language that restricts when ISPs can wiretap their users, and limits the circumstances under which ISPs can cut off a subscriber's Internet access altogether.

The anti-wiretapping section of the new law specifies that ISPs may not use technologies like deep packet inspection (DPI), except under limited circumstances, or with explicit consent from the ISP’s customer, or to comply with a court order or other legislative provisions. One Dutch ISP, KPN, came under fire last year for using DPI to determine whether its subscribers were using VoIP on mobile devices.

The new law sets out an exhaustive list of six circumstances in which an ISP can disconnect or suspend the Internet access of subscribers. These include: termination at the request of the subscriber, non-payment by a subscriber, in cases of deception, at the expiry of a fixed contract, force majeure, or if the ISP is required to terminate by law or a court order. In addition, the network neutrality provisions also permit blocking of an Internet connection where necessary for the ...

Free “Difficult Conversations” webcast now available

Monday, May 21st, 2012

A recording of last month’s webinar, “Moving Difficult Conversations Toward Positive Outcomes: Coping with challenges in the library workplace” is now available at no cost.  The hour-long webcast provides tips for dealing with conflict resolution – whether among co-workers or with upset patrons or concerned community members.

The presenters are Angela Maycock, OIF assistant director, and Caitlin Williams, Ph.D., an award-winning author, speaker and coach on topics related to workplace issues and professional development.  To listen to the webcast and view the slides, visit https://ala.ilinc.com/register/rbscfsr and enter your name and email address.

“Moving Difficult Conversations Toward Positive Outcomes” was cosponsored by ALA JobLIST Placement Center and OIF, in conjunction with the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund.

Peter Bonilla Speaks into the PolicyMic

Monday, May 21st, 2012

FIRE's Peter Bonilla has a piece over at PolicyMic discussing the recent firing of The Chronicle of Higher Education blogger Naomi Schaefer Riley. Riley inspired controversy with her contention that a selection of Ph.D. dissertations in black studies indicated that the discipline was not up to general academic standards. Describing the way academia all too often handles dissent, Peter has this to say:  

The many who supported Riley's firing may think we've all been done a favor by taking away one of Riley's forums. We haven't. By granting the protesters' wishes, the Chronicle has condescended to its readers and, for our college students, watered that weed of a notion that we should never have to confront ideas we dislike.

Check it out!

‘Stanford Review’ Questions University’s Political Speech Policy

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Last week, Gideon Weiler of student newspaper The Stanford Review penned an article criticizing Stanford University's policy governing "political activities." Weiler wrote:  

Stanford University has an ambiguous set of policies regarding student political activism on campus.

Students running for public office, for example, are not allowed to use campus resources for their campaign efforts. As a result, Stanford forbids students from using Zimbra email accounts to send campaign related messages.

University regulations make it that much more challenging for student politicians to succeed. It is hard enough as it is, for students such as Roman Larson, who ran for his district's school board in Wisconsin, or Michael Tubbs, who is running for city council in Stockton, to get elected so young. 

Weiler wondered why Stanford's policy hadn't caught our interest here at FIRE. We're happy to explain our take on the policy—and as the election season hits its stride, it's worth revisiting our Policy Statement on Political Activity on Campus, updated for the 2012 races. 

First, let's look at Stanford's policy. Political activity at Stanford is governed by Administrative Guide Memo 15.1 (PDF). Here's the summary: 

While all members of the University community are naturally free to express ...

Hey ITU Member States: No More Secrecy, Release the Treaty Proposals

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will hold the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in December in Dubai, an all-important treaty-writing event where ITU Member States will discuss the proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR). The ITU is a United Nations agency responsible for international telecom regulation, a bureaucratic, slow-moving, closed regulatory organization that issues treaty-level provisions for international telecommunication networks and services. The ITR, a legally binding international treaty signed by 178 countries, defines the boundaries of ITU’s regulatory authority and provides "general principles" on international telecommunications. However, media reports indicate that some proposed amendments to the ITR—a negotiation that is already well underway—could potentially expand the ITU’s mandate to encompass the Internet.

In similar fashion to the secrecy surrounding ACTA and TPP, the ITR proposals are being negotiated in secret, with high barriers preventing access to any negotiating document. While aspiring to be a venue for Internet policy-making, the ITU Member States do not appear to be very open to the idea of allowing all stakeholders (including civil society) to participate. The framework under which the ITU operates does not allow for any form of open participation. Mere access to documents ...

Swedish Telcom Giant Teliasonera Caught Helping Authoritarian Regimes Spy on Their Citizens

Friday, May 18th, 2012

According to a recent investigation by the Swedish news show Uppdrag Granskning, Sweden’s telecommunications giant Teliasonera is the latest Western company revealed to be colluding with authoritarian regimes by selling them high-tech surveillance gear to spy on its citizens. Teliasonera has allegedly enabled the governments of Belarus, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Kazakhstan to spy on journalists, union leaders, and members of the political opposition. One Teliasonera whistle-blower told the reporters, “The Arab Spring prompted the regimes to tighten their surveillance. ... There’s no limit to how much wiretapping is done, none at all.”

The investigative report, titled “Black Boxes,” in reference to the black boxes Teliasonera allowed police and security services to install in their operation centers--which granted them the unrestricted capability to monitor all communications—including Internet traffic, phone calls, location data from cell phones, and text messages—in real-time. This has caused concern among Swedish citizens and Teliasonera shareholders, who had previously been assuaged by assurances from the telecommunications company that they follow the law in the countries in which they are operating. After a meeting with Peter Norman, Sweden’s Minister of Financial Markets, the chairman of Teliasonera’s board of directors issued a statement, announcing that they had ...

Local Governments Have the Power to Restrict Drone Surveillance in the US

Friday, May 18th, 2012

A series of events in the last two weeks have set the stage for how surveillance drones will be operated by local law enforcement in the United States and how citizens can demand privacy protections as domestic use escalates.

As EFF has previously reported, Congress passed a bill in February mandating the FAA must open national airspace to drones, despite the extensive and unprecedented civil liberties dangers they pose to every American. The FAA, in new rules announced on Monday, made the authorization procedure easier, stating they have “streamlined the process” for “public agencies”—which includes local law enforcement—to legally operate drones in U.S. skies.

We know that dozens of law enforcement agencies already have drones, based on information from EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over the FAA’s initial refusal to release the list of authorizations. And one of the biggest cities with a police department on the list was Seattle.

It turned out Seattle’s city council—which oversees the police department—was just as surprised as many citizens to see Seattle Police Department’s name on the list. The city council learned about the drones through a reporter asking questions related to EFF’s lawsuit, not through official channels. After front page ...

Free Speech Lawsuit at Purdue-Calumet Hits Fox News, Associated Press

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Yesterday, the media began to pick up the lawsuit filed in Indiana last week by a Purdue University Calumet professor who had generated controversy by criticizing Muslims on Facebook. As his lawsuit points out, Professor Maurice Eisenstein was cleared of nine complaints after a months-long investigation only to be found guilty of "retaliation," when really it was his own colleagues who had ganged up against him to shut him up. FIRE has been advocating for Eisenstein since January

The case was covered this afternoon by Mike Jaccarino at FoxNews.com

"When you investigate free speech, you chill free speech," Eisenstein said. "How am I supposed to do my job without free speech. I've changed. Every time I go into a classroom, I look around and wonder who will complain about what I say."

Eisenstein enlisted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in bringing his suit against the Big Ten school. 

Information from FIRE's press release also appeared in an Associated Press article by Charles Wilson as well as online in USA TODAY by John Bacon, in an article by Abigail Rubenstein for Law360 (a news source for lawyers), and in a piece by Dennis Carter ...

Free Speech Advocates Score Victory in Utah

Friday, May 18th, 2012

A victory for Free Speech was claimed yesterday when US District Judge Dee Benson issued an order ruling that people posting constitutionally-protected content on websites cannot be prosecuted for doing so and are not required to label the content they post. The ruling supports the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that opposed a Utah “harmful to minors” law that restricted free expression online. CBLDF was one of the organizations that opposed the law, joining fellow Media Coalition members the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, and the Freedom to Read Foundation. Additional plaintiffs included the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah; painter Nathan Florence, the Publishers Marketing Association, and the Sexual Health Network.

Utah’s law sought to regulate all Internet speech that some might consider “harmful to minors,” including works of visual art, photography, graphic novels, and information about sexual health and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

The official press release from the Media Coalition discusses the importance of the victory:

SALT LAKE CITY May 18, 2012 — People cannot be prosecuted for posting content constitutionally protected for adults on generally-accessible websites, and are not required by law to label such content ...

IF Action Round Up May 11-17, 2012

Friday, May 18th, 2012

What is your vote for biggest story of the week?  Tell us in the comments or vote on Facebook!

OIF sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. To subscribe to this list, visit http://lists.ala.org/wws/subscribe/ifaction. For an archive of all postings to the list since 1996, visit http://lists.ala.org/wws/arc/ifaction. Below is a sample of articles from May 11-17, 2012.

Privacy

Euclid downplays privacy concerns about Wi-Fi tracking

FBI eyes Internet wiretaps

DoD Establishes Civil Liberties Program

Cops, ACLU clash over GOP bill that would limit cell phone tracking

Bits: Twitter Implements Do Not Track Privacy Option

Facebook IPO doesn’t mean the end of privacy

Ruling aims at restoring balance in dealing with terror

FTC shifts its approach to protecting online privacy

 

Censorship

Locals offer opinions on ‘Fifty Shades’ during Brevard libraries meeting

According to iTunes, “jailbreak” is a four-letter word

Parent Traps: Don’t monitor your kids’ Web surfing.

The Rise of Europe’s Private Internet Police

Changes expected after outcry over book selection

On Censorship by Salman Rushdie, The New Yorker

Broken Arrow school board votes to keep acclaimed but assailed book

...

Don’t Film Me, Bro!

Friday, May 18th, 2012

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a guidance letter this week finding a First Amendment right to record police engaged in their official duties. Professor Eugene Volokh of UCLA School of Law picks up on this over at the Volokh Conspiracy.

The most recent case clarifying this First Amendment right is ACLU v. Alvarez, issued this month by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. In Alvarez, the Seventh Circuit held that "[t]he act of making an audio or audiovisual recording is necessarily included within the First Amendment's guarantee of speech and press rights as a corollary of the right to disseminate the resulting recording. The right to publish or broadcast an audio or audiovisual recording would be insecure, or largely ineffective, if the antecedent act of making the recording is wholly unprotected ...." (Emphasis added.) 

These First Amendment protections for recording police officers apply on university campuses as well. In fact, in an incident at University of Massachusetts Lowell last year, a campus police officer attempted to stop a student from recording a campus police response to an altercation outside campus apartments. While that police officer has ...

UPDATED: CBLDF Hits the West Coast with Big Wow ComicFest!

Friday, May 18th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

UPDATE: You’ll find CBLDF at booth #603 throughout the show!

With Executive Director Charles Brownstein in Japan for a symposium on manga and censorship; Deputy Director Alex Cox in Portland, Maine, for the Maine Comics Arts Festival; and a charity auction and a booth headed up by volunteer Diana Green at St. Paul, Minnesota’s SpringCon, CBLDF is all over the world this weekend. Lest the West Coast feel left out, I’ll be on hand at the Big Wow! ComicFest in San Jose, California!

Big Wow takes place May 19 – 20 in downtown San Jose at the San Jose Convention Center, Hall 2. You’ll find CBLDF at booth #110 #603, and we’ll will join throngs of fans for two days of comics creators, media guests, and exciting programming. We’ll be on hand with an exclusive assortment of signed premiums, including what may well be the last of our hugely popular CBLDF Grab Bags.

This show is sure to slake the thirst of any Bay Area fanboy or fangirl who didn’t get their WonderCon fix this year. I know I’m excited about the extensive guest list, which includes the likes of Jim Lee, Tim Sale, Bernie Wrightson, ...

IFRT Preconference in Anaheim: Who Do I Trust to Protect My Privacy?

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Who Do I Trust to Protect My Privacy?: Privacy Conversation Deliberative Forum and Moderator Training

Sponsored by ALA Intellectual Freedom Round Table and the ALA Center for Civic Life

A Hands-On Preconference

Thursday, June 21, 2012, 1:30 – 5:30

Anaheim Convention Center, Room 303C

ALA Annual Conference attendees are invited to join us for this preconference on how to bring discussions around privacy to your library!  The conversation will be structured with an Issue Map.  Following the dialogue, participants will learn how to convene and moderate a deliberative dialogue so they can host their own local forums that explore privacy values and concerns.

Download forum materials including the Issue Map here.

The cost is $25.  To register, sign onto ALA Conference Registration; click on Preconferences and Events, and scroll down to IFRT.

For More Information, contact: Carolyn Caywood cacaywood@cox.net; Nancy Kranich nancy.kranich@rutgers.edu; Nanette Perez nperez@ala.org

Join CBLDF This Weekend at the Maine Comics Arts Festival!

Friday, May 18th, 2012

by Alex Cox

I will be at the Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland, Maine, all weekend. On Saturday, May 19,  I will be presenting the CBLDF’s “History of Censorship in Comics” — a slideshow walk through oppression and small-mindedness from the 1930s to today! The presentation happens at the Portland Public Library Main Branch in the Rines Auditorium (5 Monument Square).

On Sunday, May 20, from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., you’ll find me at the Ocean Gateway with a booth full of info about the Fund and awesome donation premiums like our hugely popular I READ BANNED COMICS tees and the (now-defunct) COMICS CODE AUTHORITY stamp tee-shirt!

The Maine Comics Arts Festival is a much-loved regional show and very much a community event. Created and sponsored by Casablanca Comics, this year’s show features a great guest list, including Kate Beaton, Rick Parker, Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, and Kazu Kibuishi. Admission is only $5, and everyone in New England should be there!

Alex Cox is the Deputy Director of CBLDF.

EFF Joins Coalition Denouncing Secretive WCIT Planning Process

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Civil Society Seeks Access to Planning Documents for Secret Negotiations Around Internet Regulation

An upcoming treaty renegotiation process could prove to have dire implications for digital civil rights. As we have explained, the World Conference on International Telecommunications – "WCIT" for short, pronounced “wicket” by insiders – will be held in Dubai this coming December, and preparations for this important treaty-writing conference are in full swing. The forum is being organized by a secretive United Nations agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The fear that’s been bouncing around the blogosphere amid civil society organizations this week is that the WCIT could be used to push through expansion of the ITU’s mandate beyond telecommunications, to encompass the Internet

This does not bode well for the future of the Internet.

At the WCIT, member states will hash out revisions to a set of regulations that make up a treaty called the International Telecommunication Regulations, or ITRs. Some proposed revisions to the ITRs have already been made, but they haven’t been made public. This renegotiation process could prove to have a serious impact on online civil liberties – yet the talks are being held in secret, without adequate input from ...

Goodbye Jean Craighead George, “Julie of the Wolves” author

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

It’s been a rough week for the world of arts and letters–Maurice Sendak, Carlos Fuentes, now Donna Summer. And the great and prolific author Jean Craighead George, who died yesterday at the age of 92. I doubt Craighead George’s name is as immediately recognizable to the general public, but as one of the many people who grew up on her books, I was a little sad.

And nostalgic, too, for the time when I spent hours upon hours in the company of books like Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain. These two books in particular were among my favorite titles in elementary school and coincidentally, Julie of the Wolves was also one of the top banned books in the 1990s and 2000s. Everything has really come full circle, hasn’t it?

Like many banned books, Julie of the Wolves was an award-winner, having garnered the Newberry Medal.  Parents objected to a specific scene in the book in which Julie’s husband through an arranged marriage assaults her. This event precipitates  Julie’s adventures in the wilderness. Side note: Julie also eats food regurgitated by her dogs, but apparently this grossness isn’t a moral issue for anyone.

Craighead George ...

With New Privacy Policy, Twitter Commits to Respecting Do Not Track

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Under a new policy announced today, Twitter will be suggesting accounts for Twitter users to follow based on data collected from an individual’s browsing habits on websites that have embedded Twitter buttons. While this is sure to garner scrutiny from the press and public, Twitter is also taking a pioneering step toward respecting users’ privacy choices: it has committed to respecting Do Not Track -- a simple browser setting users can turn on to tell website they don’t want to be tracked. Often framed as a signal from users to behavioral advertisers, Do Not Track isn’t actually about ads we see online; it’s about user control over tracking of our web usage that could be used to build an intimate portrait of our online lives. Twitter is showing an inventive way that websites other than behavioral advertisers can respect Do Not Track. We’re heartened to see this forward-thinking approach and hope other sites with embedded widgets will follow suit.

If you haven’t done so already, this is a great reminder to turn on Do Not Track; Twitter has a tutorial for doing this on different browsers.

Here’s how the suggested accounts will work under the new Twitter privacy policy: ...

Kissel to Georgetown: Honor Commitment to Free Speech

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

FIRE Vice President of Programs Adam Kissel comments on a commencement controversy at Georgetown University in The Huffington Post today, arguing that the university should honor its commitment to free speech. Adam contrasts Georgetown's laudable decision to stick by its promises of free expression in allowing Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to speak at commencement with the university's past failure to provide equal treatment to pro-choice student group H*yas for Choice. As Adam notes, Georgetown's guarantee of freedom of expression cannot be selectively applied.

Three Cheers for Broken Arrow School Board!

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

After a busy week working to fight back against book bans and challenges, we were thrilled to see some good news. A Tulsa school district recently heard a parent’s challenge to the book Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford. 

The parent who challenged the book called the book “vulgar, vulgar, vulgar,” objecting to its references to masturbation, pornography and an instance of bullying a kid with special needs.

Others spoke on behalf of keeping the book and ultimately the members of the Board of Education voted 3-0 (two were absent) to keep the book in school libraries.

The school superintendent sagely noted that if any parent doesn’t want their child reading the book, “they don’t have to check the book out. It is a parental choice if they want to or not.”

It is totally appropriate for residents to submit a complaint if they wish their voice to be heard. And its harder for school board members, administrators, librarians and teachers to do the right thing and see a challenge through. It would be easy to say, “Ok, fine,” and acquiesce to the complaints of a loud objector (see: Sumner County, TN) and make the problem go away. The ...