Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Including Your Location

Friday, April 20th, 2012

At first blush, it seems obvious that a picture could reveal your location. A picture of you standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge sensibly leads to the conclusion you're in the San Francisco Bay Area when the photo was taken. But now that smartphones are quickly supplanting traditional digital cameras, and even traditional cameras now have wifi built in, many more pictures are finding their way onto the web, in places like Twitter, Flickr, Google+ and Tumblr. In a span of 10 days, popular photo social network Instagram added 10 million new users as a result of the release of its Android app and its acquisition by Facebook. And the location data hidden in these quick and candid pictures -- even when your location isn't as obvious as "standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge" -- is becoming another easy way for anyone, including law enforcement, to figure out where you are.

Take the case of "w0rmer," a member of an Anonymous offshoot called "CabinCr3w," for example. According to the federal government (PDF), "w0rmer" broke into a number of different law enforcement databases and obtained a wealth of sensitive information. In a Twitter post, "w0rmer" provided a ...

This Month in FIRE History: Missouri State’s Attack on Press Freedom

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Eight years ago this month, FIRE continued its fight for freedom of the press at Southwest Missouri State University (SMSU, currently known as Missouri State University), renewing pressure on the school after it targeted the campus paper The Standard for an "offensive" cartoon.  

The controversy began in November 2003, when The Standard printed the following cartoon entitled "The 2nd Thanksgiving." 

The cartoonist (who is, himself, of Native American descent) later explained, "The point of the cartoon has nothing to do with Native Americans or Pilgrims ... I was trying to reflect a common Thanksgiving tradition of a host griping about what their guest has brought to the dinner." 

Nonetheless, the SMSU student group American Indian Leaders of Today and Tomorrow filed a discrimination complaint and on December 5, Jana Estergard of SMSU's Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) contacted Professor Wanda Brandon, the faculty advisor for The Standard, explaining that an investigation had been opened into the paper, its editor-in-chief Mandy Phillips, and Brandon herself. After more than a month, Estergard finally provided the details of the complaint, which alleged that The Standard had violated a religious freedom law, a civil rights act, and university policy-all simply by publishing ...

CBLDF Heads to LA for the Festival of Books!

Friday, April 20th, 2012

CBLDF Deputy Director Alex Cox is headed to the West Coast this weekend for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, joining a cadre of authors and book lovers for the annual celebration of the printed word! If you live in the area, head over the University of Southern California campus this weekend for sunshine and literature!

Come by booth #856 to show your support for CBLDF and mingle with fellow supporters of Free Speech. CBLDF will have a vast array of signed premiums on hand for readers of all ages. We’ll have some of the world’s greatest comics, including Maus, Watchmen, Sandman, The Walking Dead, and Understanding Comics, all signed by their creators to support the fight for Free Speech! And that’s just the beginning! You’ll also be able to pick up your own “I Read Banned Comics” t-shirt and other apparel, tote bags, button sets, and more.

CBLDF is also delighted to have some amazing creators signing at booth #856. On Saturday, at 2:00 p.m, you’ll be able to get autographs from Sam Humphries, the writer behind the cult hit Our Love Is Real and Fraggle Rock and The Ultimates. On noon on Sunday, we’ll ...

FAA Releases Lists of Drone Certificates—Many Questions Left Unanswered

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

View Map of Domestic Drone Authorizations in a larger map

This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally released its first round of records in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for information on the agency's drone authorization program. The agency says the two lists it released include the names of all public and private entities that have applied for authorizations to fly drones domestically. These lists—which include the Certificates of Authorizations (COAs), issued to public entities like police departments, and the Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs), issued to private drone manufacturers—show for the first time who is authorized to fly drones in the United States.

Some of the entities on the COA list are unsurprising. For example, journalists have reported that Customs and Border Protection uses Predator drones to patrol the borders. It is also well known that DARPA and other branches of the military are authorized to fly drones in the US. However, this is the first time we have seen the broad and varied list of other authorized organizations, including universities, police departments, and small towns and counties across the United States. The COA list includes universities and colleges like Cornell, the University of ...

Voices of Opposition Against CISPA

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

By Patrick Steele, EFF Activist Intern

CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (HR 3523), is the new bill threatening civil liberties moving quickly through the House. In the past, we've documented the numerous problems with the bill and with other cybersecurity legislation.

Here is a list of organizations and influential people that expressed concerns about the dangerous civil liberties implications of the bill. Though each organization or person may differ in their terminology, they all reach the same conclusion—CISPA is not a "sharing of information bill only." It is an expansive bill that enables spying on users and allows for unaccountable companies and government agencies that can skirt privacy laws.

To add your organization to this list, please email

Access Now in CISPA: The latest attempt to establish a massive surveillance state

“Rogers (the bill’s author) says that the bill aims to 'help the private sector defend itself from advanced cyber threats,' but what it does is allow unlimited sharing of personally identifiable data amongst and between private companies and the government, without a single safeguard for privacy or civil liberty.”

Access Now's petition for companies to withdraw support of ...

Vanderbilt Update: Board of Trust Urged to Reverse Discriminatory Policy

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Vanderbilt University's Board of Trust is meeting late this week in the context of a hailstorm of local and national criticism of Vanderbilt's new, discriminatory policy. The new policy, which prohibits belief-based student organizations from requiring that their leaders share the group's beliefs, has sent the organization Vanderbilt Catholic off campus (the organization may not use Vanderbilt's name anymore) and led 11 student organizations to defy the ban. FIRE has been fighting for religious liberty at Vanderbilt since last September, and in October, 23 members of Congress intervened to no avail. 

State legislators in Tennessee are now working to ban policies like Vanderbilt's at public universities in the state-and maybe also private universities such as Vanderbilt. The City Paper (Nashville) reports: 

Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) and 22 other Republican House members addressed a letter to the board of trust and asked them to reconsider the application of all-comers to religious groups. Dunn's office confirmed that the letter was supposed to be sent yesterday [Tuesday]. 

"We acknowledge that private institutions such as Vanderbilt University have the freedom to establish its associations and maintain the integrity of its institutional mission," Dunn wrote to the Board. "But the state has a right ...

The Benefits of Listening to Other Views

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Writing for the Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University (IU) student and former FIRE intern Nico Perrino comments on a recent episode in which IU students heckled a campus speaker, Pastor Douglas Wilson, and prevented others from hearing him speak. The students evidently found his views so noxious that they were deemed unfit for airing at all on IU's campus. This mob censorship seems to have been, as Nico puts it, "prejudice revealed by a crowd of people who have adopted a viewpoint and let it ferment for so long without going unchallenged that they regard themselves as maintaining a monopoly on truth." 

Yet, as Nico points out in a lengthy comment piece, shutting down certain discussion from taking place ultimately hurts all of us when different ideas are not exchanged and our views are not challenged: 

When it comes to the point when someone claims the authority to decide truth for all of mankind by refusing the right of others to judge truth for themselves, it is clear that that person no longer harbors a true, living belief but rather, as Mill might describe it, a dead dogma. 


Is it not true that truth becomes more powerful and ...

Watch FIRE on ‘Stossel’ This Week

Thursday, April 19th, 2012
FIRE President Greg Lukianoff appears on ‘Stossel' this week to discuss free speech on campus. The show also features students from FIRE's cases at Auburn University, which selectively ordered a student's Ron Paul banner to be taken down despite leaving many others on display, and the University of Cincinnati, which threatened to arrest students if they tried to gather petition signatures outside the university's tiny "free speech zone." The episode first airs Thursday evening at 9 pm Eastern on Fox Business Network. Tune in!

UVA Law Students Recognized for Clinic Work With the TJ Center

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

In response to a motion prepared by students in the University of Virginia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic, a federal judge on Monday ordered American International Group Inc. and the Securities and Exchange Commission to publicly release corporate monitor reports on AIG leading up to the financial meltdown in 2008.

Senior U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, D.C., ordered AIG and the SEC to release corporate monitor reports that resulted from a $126 million securities violations settlement between the two parties in 2004.

The clinic’s involvement began after American Lawyer/Corporate Counsel magazine reporter Sue Reisinger wanted to examine the monitor’s reports. When the government declined, she contacted the clinic’s co-director, Bruce Brown, a D.C. media attorney at Baker Hostetler. Three Virginia Law students — Tiffany Parrish Rainbolt, Kelsey Hazzard and Hallee Morgan — largely wrote the motion filed on Reisinger’s behalf.

“I was thrilled to hear that Judge Kessler granted the motion,” said Rainbolt, a second-year law student. “It is nice to see a year’s worth of hard work pay off, and I know we are all looking forward to the article that Ms. Reisinger will write with the forthcoming information.”

The judge, in issuing her order, said ...

FIRE’s ‘Firefly’ case in ‘Reason’ Magazine

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
In the May issue of Reason, you'll find a whole page devoted to FIRE's case involving University of Wisconsin-Stout Professor James Miller, whose Firefly poster was removed by campus authorities because "it [could] be interpreted as a threat." The case is featured in the Artifact section of the magazine.

The case drew widespread attention this past fall. Firefly stars Adam Baldwin and Nathan Fillion and legendary science fiction author Neil Gaiman all tweeted FIRE's coverage of the case to their combined nearly 3 million followers; more than 1,000 people were inspired to take action and write to Stout's president; and on the very first day of its release, FIRE's Firefly video attracted 25,000 views.

So pick up the latest Reason and check out FIRE's video to learn about this unbelievable case and how the overwhelming amount of public pressure led University of Wisconsin-Stout to back down and reaffirm the importance of free speech on campus.

Time for Technology Companies to Stand Up for Human Rights

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
EFF White Paper Outlines How Businesses Can Avoid Assisting Repressive Regimes

San Francisco - It's time for technology companies that sell surveillance and filtering equipment to step up and ensure they aren't helping governments in committing human rights violations. In a white paper released today entitled "Human Rights and Technology Sales," EFF outlines how corporations can avoid assisting repressive regimes.

The paper calls on companies to increase transparency of their dealings with potentially repressive regimes and to implement "Know Your Customer" standards for auditing technology sales, including review of the purchasing government's technical questions and customization requests. If the review indicates that the technologies or transactions may be used to facilitate human rights violations, the company should refrain from participating.

"Authoritarian governments around the world often rely on technologies built in North America and Europe to spy on their citizens – including listening in to cell phone calls, scanning crowd photographs with facial recognition tools, and monitoring mobile networks with voice recognition technology. These can have deadly ramifications for activists and others in repressive regimes," said EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York. "We're asking companies to take responsibility for the uses that governments make of their products, ...

Global Online Freedom Act 2012 Is An Important Step Forward

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Over the past decade, and particularly in the past year, media and civil society have had success through naming and shaming companies acting as “repression’s little helper”: U.S. and E.U. companies who have helped authoritarian countries censor the Internet and surveil their citizens with sophisticated technology. Today, EFF published a whitepaper outlining our suggestions for how companies selling surveillance and filtering technologies can avoid assisting repressive regimes. 

In that vein, the newly-amended Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA), just passed by a House Sub-Committee, while far from perfect, is an important step toward protecting human rights and free expression online.  

This is not the first time that GOFA has been proposed, nor is it even the first time the bill has been approved by the House sub-committee; a 2007 version, which literally named the countries to which filtering technology would be restricted (Belarus, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Tunisia, and Vietnam), was also approved by the House but never came to the floor for a vote.

In the past, EFF has had extreme reservations about GOFA in part because it sought to add more items to the U.S. export restrictions, which could ...

Northern Kentucky Students Arrested for Vandalizing Pro-Life Display

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Hopefully the experiences of four Northern Kentucky University students arrested for vandalizing the display of a pro-life student group will serve as another useful lesson to those on campus who still think that destroying the expression of other students is a legitimate act of First Amendment expression.

The student group in question here is Northern Right to Life, which according to set up a display which "consisted of baby clothes on a line with a red ‘x' through every fourth one." A spokesperson for the student group said the "x" was supposed to represent "that every fourth baby is aborted in America."

After the group's display was vandalized twice, frustrated members staked out the display in the hopes of catching the perpetrators in the act. As reports:

When [the vandalism] happened a second time, NRTL member Nathaniel Hall said, "I was tired of it."

So he and a friend from Thomas Moore [sic] College decided to hide in plain sight to catch the troublemakers. They hid in a metal boxlike sculpture a few feet away during the night.

They weren't disappointed.

"I saw one of the guys run over and start cutting it down," Hall said.

He ...

The Impending Cybersecurity Power Grab – It’s not just for the United States

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

EFF,, CIPPIC and a number of civil society organizations have declared this to be ‘Stop Cyber Spying Week’ in protest of several controversial U.S. cybersecurity legislative proposals, including the bill currently before Congress and the Senate called CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protection Act of 2011. While ‘Stop Cyber Spying Week’ is focused on U.S. initiatives, Canadians should be concerned as well as the adoption of a privacy-invasive U.S. cybersecurity strategy is likely to have serious implications for Canadian civil liberties. For this reason, Canadian civil society groups have joined the protest. In general, Canadians would do well to remain vigilant.

Using the guise of ‘cybersecurity’, CISPA aims to mobilize Internet intermediaries to institute a sweeping, privacy-invasive, voluntary information-sharing regime with few safeguards. The U.S. cybersecurity strategy, embodied in CISPA and other legislative proposals, also seeks to empower Internet companies to deploy ill-defined ‘countermeasures’ in order to combat these threats. Use of these powers is purportedly limited to situations addressing ‘cybersecurity’ threats, yet this term is so loosely defined that it can encompass almost anything – even, potentially, to investigate potential breaches of intellectual property rights!

The cornerstone of the privacy-invasive CISPA component is ...

Yes, CISPA Could Allow Companies to Filter or Block Internet Traffic

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Rep. Rogers is adamant that CISPA, the Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, is cybersecurity legislation intended to help protect critical infrastructure intrusions and private and government information. But as we've written in the past, CISPA is a bill that allows for companies to spy on users, pass along the information to government agencies like the NSA, and potentially filter or block Internet traffic, which could serve as justification for action against sites like Wikileaks. That's why we're calling on users to contact Congress to speak out against this bill.

One of the scariest parts of CISPA is that the bill goes above and beyond information sharing. Its definitions allow for countermeasures to be taken by private entities, and we think these provisions are ripe for abuse. Indeed, the bill defines "cybersecurity purpose" as any threat related to safeguarding or protecting a network. As long as companies act in "good faith" to combat such a cybersecurity threat, they have leeway to protect against “efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy [a] system or network.” This opens the door for ISPs and other companies to perform aggressive countermeasures like dropping or altering packets, so long as this is used ...

Local: Sam Welty Strikes Again!

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

In honor of the 2012 Jefferson Muzzles,  Sam Welty creates another masterpiece  on the First Amendment Monument in Charlottesville.

Watch its creation in time-lapse video:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Initial Media Coverage of CISPA Protests

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

by Patrick Steele, EFF Activism intern

Yesterday EFF and a coalition of digital civil liberties organizations launched Stop Cyber Spying Week. The week focuses on CISPA, dangerously vague cybersecurity legislation that would allow companies to spy on our online communications and share sensitive user data with the government. The goal of the week of action is simple: to get as many folks as possible contacting Congress to express concern about the civil liberties implications of this cyber spying bill. We've created a new Congressional Representative Twitter Handle Detection Tool, which lets users find their Representatitves on Twitter and send them directed tweets. We're encouraging individuals to tweet about the (often sensitive) way we use the Internet to communicate. The tweets will showcase how much unnecessary personal data could be collected under this bill. Twitter users should use the hashtags #CongressTMI and #CISPA.

Since we launched, there's been an explosion of news coverage around the web. Here's a quick roundup of some of the important news coverage about "Stop Cyber Spying Week."

EFF Joins Two Coalition Letters Opposing CISPA

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Continuing our campaign against the cyberspying bill better known as CISPA, EFF has signed on to two coalition letters urging legislators to drop their support for the Rogers cybersecurity bill (HR 3523). One coalition is focused on the disastrous privacy implications of the bill, while the other identifies major government accountability issues it would introduce.

The coalition behind the privacy letter represents dozens of groups, including the ACLU, the American Library Association, the American Policy Center, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and many others. In the letter, the groups explain how CISPA as written would be devastating to our privacy rights:

CISPA creates an exception to all privacy laws to permit companies to share our information with each other and with the government in the name of cybersecurity. ... CISPA’s ‘information sharing’ regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like internet use history or the content of emails, to any agency in the government including military and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency or the Department of Defense Cyber Command. Once in government hands, this information can be used for any non-regulatory purpose so long as one significant ...

Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter to the Man Who Burnt His Books

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

On occasion, the victims of censorship take the opportunity to face their censors directly. However, few artists respond with the humor and aplomb exhibited in a letter written in 1973 to Charles McCarthy, the head of the school board at Drake High School in North Dakota. The author of this letter? Kurt Vonnegut.

Vonnegut is no stranger to censorship. His work, in particular his classic novel Slaughterhouse Five, is frequently challenged in schools and libraries. McCarthy is one of the many people who called for the removal of the book from classrooms, but he took things a step further in 1973 by having the book burned in the school’s furnace. McCarthy cited “obscene language” in his opposition to Slaughterhouse Five, but the book has also faced opposition for “explicit sex scenes,” “depicting a picture of an act of bestiality,” and promoting “deviant sexual behavior” (source: ALA). Slaughterhouse Five wasn’t McCarthy’s only target; other books that he found objectionable soon followed it into the furnace.

Letters of Note recently resurrected Vonnegut’s letter to McCarthy. In his letter, Vonnegut addresses McCarthy’s concern over obscene language:

If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as ...

Free Speech Week Fallout at American University

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Last week here on The Torch, Jaclyn penned a roundup of the Free Speech Week activities that took place nationwide during the first week of April. While the vast majority of events went off without a hitch, students at American University had a disappointing experience:

Not all groups were so lucky, disappointingly. The Free Speech Wall at American University was removed by campus police without any notice between Monday night and Tuesday morning. According to AU student Alex McHugh, when the AU Students For Liberty contacted the Student Activities office (which had approved the event, and an identical one last fall), the office "stated that they support the removal and would have done the same." After negotiations last week, AUSFL was allowed to rebuild the wall this Wednesday once the group agreed to "staff" the wall while it was up.

Frustrated by the heavy-handed censorship his group encountered, McHugh took to the pages of AU's student newspaper, The Eagle, to express his dismay with AU's actions in an op-ed. Taking on the "culture of political correctness" that prompted "the ‘destroy first, ask questions later' action taken by Public Safety," McHugh wrote:

A culture of restriction, let alone ...

Villagers Attacked for Protesting Graft

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Tibetan tenants face unexpected charges for 'free housing.'

Twitter’s IPA Is a Powerful New Tool in the Patent Wars

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Today, Twitter announced the Innovator’s Patent Agreement (“IPA”), an important tool in the fight to improve a broken patent system. They've posted the agreement to the collaborative development platform GitHub and are looking for feedback. It's become clear that traditional patent approaches just don’t make sense when we’re talking about software, so we’re encouraged to see Twitter’s efforts to let people take matters into their own hands.

The IPA is simple: if you assign your patent to Twitter, Twitter promises it won’t use that patent to sue anyone, except for defensive purposes. So, for example , unless a party sues Twitter first, Twitter won't use the patent in a lawsuit. The IPA also provides the inventor who assigns her patent with tools to ensure that the patent is not used offensively in a suit even if a totally different party owns it down the line.

To be clear, what we really need are fundamental changes to the patent system. Unfortunately, Congress and the courts have failed to make that happen. In the meantime, Twitter’s IPA gives companies and inventors the means to take control of their own fate by ensuring that their patents will not end up in the ...

Internet to Congress: CISPA is TMI

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Yesterday, EFF and other civil liberties organizations launched a campaign to change the public discussion around the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a cybersecurity bill introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) (H.R. 3523). The bill would carve out huge exemptions to bedrock privacy law and allow companies to share private user data with the government without any judicial oversight. The result? Untold and unfettered personal data flowing from online service providers like AT&T and Google to government agencies like the NSA.

Not surprisingly, we think this is a terrible idea. We're huge proponents of network securitybut we know that sacrificing the civil liberties of Internet users is an unnecessary and unwanted tradeoff.

We called on the Internet community to use our new Congressional Twitter Handle Detection Tool to find their members of Congress and tweet to them in protest of CISPA. We asked the Internet to showcase the types of unnecessary private data that could be swept up under CISPA. If companies could spy on your online interactions and share it with the government, what would the government receive?

Twitter users began using the hashtags #CongressTMI and #CISPA to showcase ...

Court Orders Megaupload Parties to Come Up with a Plan

Monday, April 16th, 2012

On Friday, EFF went to court to argue that innocent Megaupload customers like Kyle Goodwin should be able to get their lost files back. We were particularly concerned because the government, which had originally seized the files and still apparently holds all of Megaupload's financial assets, had argued that it had no obligation to make sure the files of innocent Megaupload users were returned and, in fact, believed that they could be destroyed.

The good news is that the court ordered all the parties – Megaupload, EFF, Carpathia (the service provider), the MPAA, and the government – to work together to devise a plan that protects everyone’s interests. The court plainly did not adopt the government's troubling view and ultimately everyone else in the hearing, including the MPAA, seemed to agree that destruction of the files would be problematic (you can read more about the hearing here and here).

Of course, the situation poses some big logistical hurdles. First, there is a huge amount of data here – more than 25 petabytes. Second, the parties have diverging views on what should be done even if they agree on preserving the data. Who should store the data? Where should it be stored? And of ...

Will Industry Agree to a Meaningful Do Not Track?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

The fifth W3C meeting on Do Not Track was held in Washington DC last week. While progress has been made on many aspects of the standard for Do Not Track, several deep disagreements remain between privacy advocates and representatives of the online tracking industry.

Most seriously, ad industry representatives maintain that they need to be allowed to continue setting third-party tracking cookies on browsers that send the Do Not Track HTTP header. This coalition of companies say they "only" want to track opted-out users for security purposes, market research, testing and improving their various advertising and tracking products, auditing, copyright enforcement and other "legal compliance" purposes, and "frequency capping" in order to manage online advertising campaigns — but not any other purposes.

Privacy advocates have offered to make enormous concessions in order to make Do Not Track adoption practical for Internet advertisers. Most extremely, this could allow companies to retain IP addresses and User Agents for short periods — and for a number of months in order to defend against clickfraud, "impression fraud," and security attacks, provided it is kept separate from other data.1

Despite these extreme concessions, most of the third-party tracking companies in the W3C ...

Tufts Student Government: For Freedom of Expression, ‘Now and Forever’

Monday, April 16th, 2012
Tufts University, a longtime member of FIRE's Red Alert list and one of the 12 Worst Colleges for free speech, has ample room for progress when it comes to respecting the fundamental rights of its students and faculty members. Highlighting Tufts' record of suppressing speech again and again, as well as maintaining overly restrictive speech codes, FIRE has urged the administration to pursue comprehensive reform-and it seems we're not the only ones.

In response to Tufts' distinction as one of the "dirty dozen," student Jon Danzig (a member of FIRE's Campus Freedom Network) co-authored and co-sponsored a resolution within the student senate supporting free speech:                

S.12-9 A Resolution Supporting Freedom of Expression

WHEREAS the Tufts' Board of Trustees adopted a university-wide Declaration on Freedom of Expression in November 2009, articulating that "[f]reedom of expression and inquiry are fundamental to the academic enterprise"; and

WHEREAS the Tufts Vision Statement reads, "Knowledge is important but alone is not enough. Learning must be lifelong. We will teach our students how to obtain, evaluate, and use information. We will prepare them to use historical perspective and to be receptive to new ideas. Our students will be ...

TJ Center Wins Release of AIG Independent Monitor Reports

Monday, April 16th, 2012

A federal judge Monday ordered American International Group Inc. and the Securities and Exchange Commission to make public the corporate monitor reports on AIG leading up to the economic collapse of 2008. It is believed to be the first time a court has ordered a monitor’s reports to be released.

The motion seeking access was filed by senior reporter Sue Reisinger of CorpCounsel and its parent company ALM Media. In granting it, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, D.C., said the monitor reports could be redacted to delete AIG’s proprietary information.

Kessler wrote[PDF]:

Given the financial meltdown of 2008, the recession it spawned, and the suffering the country has endured because of it, and given the role that AIG played in that financial meltdown, the public needs to know whether the obligations AIG undertook in [a 2004] consent order were complied with, whether the SEC was carrying out its enforcement and monitoring responsibilities . . . , and what, if any, role the compliance—or noncompliance—with the consent order may have played in the devastating events of 2008.

The motion was prepared by attorney Joshua Wheeler, of the Thomas Jefferson Center For The Protection Of Free Expression, based in ...

April Student Spotlight: Christe Thompson ’14, Drexel University

Monday, April 16th, 2012
Each month, the CFN Student Spotlight features a student member who is working to promote individual rights on his or her campus. For April, I am pleased to announce that our featured student is Christe Thompson ‘14 of Drexel University. A third-year student at Drexel, Christe began working at FIRE through her school's co-op program during her sophomore year. Using the lessons about free speech that she's learned at FIRE, Christe has been lobbying administrators to get rid of Drexel's restrictive speech codes.

Read Christe's story at our Student Spotlight page, and keep checking The Torch to hear more about CFN students' accomplishments!

Civil Disobedience and Free Speech on Campus

Monday, April 16th, 2012

In a thought-provoking article for Jurist published last week, University of California, Davis, School of Law Professors Alan Brownstein and Vikram Amar explore the intersection between freedom of speech and civil disobedience on campus. Prompted by a recent protest at UC Davis in which 11 students and one faculty member "repeatedly obstructed access to a branch of a bank located on-campus" and now face criminal charges, Brownstein and Amar analyze the First Amendment considerations relevant in formulating responses to such activity.  

While taking no position on either the protest's message or the charges the protestors now face, Brownstein and Amar criticize one faculty group's reaction to the situation. "The Board of the Davis Faculty Association (DFA)," they write, "challenged the administration's decision to seek prosecution of the identified students, not because the students were innocent of the charges against them or because campus disciplinary procedures would be a more appropriate response for certain kinds of violations of law on-campus, but because the obstruction of the bank was politically motivated and morally just from the DFA's point of view." 

Brownstein and Amar use the DFA's reaction to highlight two important points. First, engaging in certain forms of civil disobedience-like setting ...

Stop Cyber Spying Week – Join EFF in a Week of Action Opposing CISPA

Monday, April 16th, 2012

You may have already heard about CISPA, the cybersecurity bill moving quickly through the House that would let companies like Google, Facebook, and AT&T snoop on our communications and hand sensitive user data to the government without a court order. Promoted under the guise of protecting America from cybersecurity attacks, the truth is that this legislation would carve out shockingly large exceptions to the bedrock privacy rights of Internet users. 

That’s why EFF is joining a coalition of other organizations in speaking out against this cyber spying bill – and we’re calling on the Internet community to join us.

The goal of Stop Cyber Spying Week is simple: get Congress to back off of any cybersnooping legislation that sacrifices the civil liberties of Internet users. Here’s what you can do to help:

1. Join the Twitter campaign – because Congress is vacuuming up Too Much Information. We’re engaging in a revolutionary kind of Twitter activism. Use our new Congressional Twitter handle detection tool to find your member of Congress on Twitter. Then write them tweets about the kind of things you do online that are none of the government business. Show your congressperson the many things you do online ...

IFAction Round Up April 6–12, 2012

Monday, April 16th, 2012

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

It’s time to take ownership of our personal data
Activists fight “cyber-security” bill that would give NSA more data
Strip-Search Case Reflects Death of American Privacy
Digital Diary: Instagram and the Internet’s ‘Secret’ Places – Selling You on Facebook
Do Not Track Web Browser Option Gains Steam
This Internet provider pledges to put your privacy first. Always.
Facebook Offers More Disclosure to Users
A Primer on Domestic Drones: Legal, Policy, and Privacy Implications
CISPA bill targeted by activists

Censorship and Access
Iran plans to unplug the Internet, launch its own “clean” alternative
Q&A with Eric Adams, who is seeking to have the book, ‘Nickel and Dimed’ removed (PA)
Row in America over gay characters in EA video games
Richland School Board continues battle of the books
University Employees Hid Paper from Guests (VA)
Fond du Lac Public Library says ‘no’ to ...

Stop Cyber Spying Week Launches to Protest CISPA

Monday, April 16th, 2012
Internet Advocacy Coalition Announces Twitter Campaign to Fight Privacy-Invasive Bill

San Francisco - Civil liberties organizations are launching a week of Internet-wide protests today against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA), the controversial cybersecurity legislation that would negate existing privacy laws and allow companies to share user data with the government without a court order.

The coalition is urging the public to take part in a Twitter protest directed at their lawmakers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has created an interactive tool for people to find their representatives and their Twitter handles, and to share how CISPA's privacy invasions would affect their day-to-day lives.

"CISPA would allow ISPs, social networking sites, and anyone else handling Internet communications to monitor users and pass information to the government without any judicial oversight," said EFF Activism Director Rainey Reitman. "The language of this bill is dangerously vague, so that personal online activity – from the mundane to the intimate – could be implicated."

The campaign will use the hashtags #CongressTMI and #CISPA. In addition to the Twitter protest, organizations are planning letters of opposition and publishing articles outlining the civil liberties implications of the bill.

"Some people believe that ...

Cybersecurity Bill FAQ: The Disturbing Privacy Dangers in CISPA and How To Stop It

Monday, April 16th, 2012

This week, EFF—along with a host of other civil liberties groups—are protesting the dangerous new cybersecurity bill known as CISPA that will be voted on in the House on April 23. Here is everything you need to know about the bill and why we are protesting:

What is “CISPA”?

CISPA stands for The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a cybersecurity bill written by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) (H.R. 3523). The bill purports to allow companies and the federal government to share ...

What Facebook Wants in Cybersecurity Doesn’t Require Trampling On Our Privacy Rights

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Numerous commentators have noted the sore thumb in the group of supporters for The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA): Facebook. Why would a social network be endorsing a bill that would allow companies to pass personal information about Internet users to the government without any form of judicial oversight? A number of recent articles have discussed the issue, and already one digital rights group has launched a campaign to convince Facebook to drop support of the bill. In response to the criticisms, Facebook’s Vice President of US Public Policy Joel Kaplan published a statement on Friday admitting that there were privacy concerns with the bill. He also noted that Facebook’s major cybersecurity goal is to receive more data about cybersecurity threats from the government—something that doesn’t necessitate the sweeping data sharing provisions currently outlined in CISPA.

In the statement, Kaplan stated:

[W]e recognize that a number of privacy and civil liberties groups have raised concerns about the bill—in particular about provisions that enable private companies to voluntarily share cyber threat data with the government. The concern is that companies will share sensitive personal information with the government in the name of protecting cybersecurity.

Even as he noted the ...

Trouble in Trolltown

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Judges Increasingly Catching On to Copyright Trolls' Unfair Tactics

Life under the bridge is a bit less comfortable for copyright trolls these days, as a series of legal losses continues to undermine their misguided business model. Trolls make their money through variations on a simple scheme: file mass copyright lawsuits against thousands of people at once without regard for whether they're in the right court, get a judge to give them power to obtain identifying information for the anonymous “Does,” and then send settlement demand letters threatening to name these Does in a lawsuit if he or she doesn’t pay up. In many cases, troll lawsuits are based on allegations of downloading pornography, creating additional pressure to settle rather than risk the embarrassment of being publicly named as watching dirty movies online.

The strategy may be simple, but courts are increasingly rejecting it. In the past few months, judges around the country have picked up the pace and gone after both the legal tactics used for trolling and the lawyers engaging in them.

One battleground is in Florida, where copyright trolls are on a real losing streak.  Earlier this month a federal judge in the Northern District of Florida dismissed ...

Threadless Design Challenge Opens Submissions to Comics-On Tees Vol. 6 by Neil Gaiman!

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Threadless kicked off the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) last night with a benefit party for Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at Threadless Headquarters where a new fundraising effort for the non-profit organization was announced. In July, Threadless will launch Comics-On Tees Vol. 6, a series of four tees based on the poem The Day the Saucers Came, written by bestselling author and CBLDF board member Neil Gaiman. Artists have a chance to design the first tee in the four-part series, and 25% of the proceeds from the chosen design will benefit CBLDF.

Submissions for the first The Day the Saucers Came t-shirt will be scored by the Threadless community, and its 1.8 million community members will help pick the final chosen design. Designs can be submitted through Threadless, and the chosen shirt will be revealed at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The other three tees in the series will feature art from John Cassaday (Planetary, Astonishing X-Men), Ben Templesmith (Fell, 30 Days of Night), and Brandon Graham (King City, Prophet). To submit designs & learn more about this project please visit:

Threadless spokesperson Lance Curran said, “We are excited to be supporting the CBLDF on Vol. 6 ...

Judge Hears Arguments in Case Against Utah Law Restricting Speech on Internet

Friday, April 13th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Last June, CBLDF joined the ACLU of Utah and the Media Coalition in an effort to bar the enforcement of Utah House Bill 260, a law that seeks to restrict constitutionally-protected speech. US District Judge Dee Benson heard arguments about the case this week, but he didn’t issue a ruling. Instead, he directed the parties involved with the case to resolve their differences over two contentious sections of code in the law within the next 30 days.

House Bill 260, introduced in 2005, called for a rating system for websites and a registry of websites that contain adult content, tools that consumers could use to block sites. According to lawmakers, only internet providers in Utah would be subject to the regulations, but the the organizations challenging the law felt it violated interstate commerce laws and placed unconstitutional limits on speech.

The Salt Lake Tribune covered the this week’s arguments, relating the concerns free speech advocates have over the law:

“Meant to restrict children’s access to harmful material on the Internet, the law instead unconstitutionally limits the free speech rights of Internet content providers, may negatively impact Internet users who have no wish to restrict the sites to ...

Purdue University Calumet Declares Professor Guilty of ‘Retaliation’

Friday, April 13th, 2012

As we wrote here a few weeks ago, Purdue University Calumet (PUC) professor Maurice Eisenstein was recently the subject of a months-long harassment investigation based on charged remarks about Islam he made on his personal Facebook page and while teaching. A number of students, calling the remarks offensive, submitted complaints to PUC.  

But merely causing offense, even serious offense, does not constitute harassment in the educational setting. Indeed, speech has to be more than simply "offensive" to lose First Amendment protection and become actionable harassment. This is why we were glad that, following a letter from FIRE, PUC dismissed all nine harassment claims that had been filed against Eisenstein, even though it took far too long for the university to do so.  

Unfortunately, the saga isn't over for Eisenstein. While PUC threw out the harassment claims against him, it still found him guilty on two charges of "retaliation" for remarks he allegedly made during the course of the investigation to two of his faculty colleagues who had filed complaints. The substance of the comments at issue is as follows, as described in our March 5 letter to PUC

First, a professor accused Eisenstein of retaliation for ...

Berkeley Student Gov’t President Voids Referendum for Paper’s Funding

Friday, April 13th, 2012

The Daily Californian, a student newspaper at the University of California at Berkeley, is reporting that a measure for direct student organization funding on the student ballot has been voided by the president of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), Vishalli Loomba.  

The "V.O.I.C.E. Initiative" would have subsidized the printing and production of The Daily Californian to the tune of $2 per student per semester, coming out to roughly $93,800 annually. The Daily Californian writes: 

Loomba's order comes just as the second of three voting days for the election begins. In the order, she cites a UC policy which states that the student referendum process shall not be used to establish a new fee for the purpose of supporting a non-university organization.

This policy applies to the Daily Cal, Loomba said in the order, because it is an independent organization that does not receive funding from the university. Rather, the Daily Cal pays rent for its office space in Eshleman Hall and has an agreement to distribute its papers on campus.

In addition to conflicting with UC policy, this type of student group funding mechanism is likely unconstitutional. As we discussed with respect to a ...

Miami-Dade PD Releases Information about Its Drone Program; Will the FAA Follow Suit?

Friday, April 13th, 2012

EFF recently received records from the Miami-Dade Police Department in response to a Public Records request for information on its drone program. These records provide additional insight into domestic drone use in the United States, and they reinforce the importance of public access to information on who is authorized to fly drones inside US borders.

The records the Miami-Dade PD released include the Federal Aviation Administration-issued Certificate of Authorization (COA) to fly the MDPD drones. This appears to be the first time a law enforcement agency has made its COA available to the public without redactions.

The COA and the other records EFF received show that Miami-Dade’s drone program is quite limited in scope. The two small drones the MDPD is flying—Honeywell T-Hawks—are able to fly up to 10,000 feet high, can record video or still images in daylight or infrared, and can “Hover and stare; [and] follow and zoom,” (pdf) according to the manufacturer. However, the COA limits their use to flights below 300 feet. The drones also must remain within visual line of sight of both a pilot and an observer and can only be flown during the day. They cannot be ...

MUZZLED! The Thomas Jefferson Center “Awards” Censorship

Friday, April 13th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

This week, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression announced the Jefferson Muzzles, which “are awarded as a means to draw national attention to abridgments of free speech and press and, at the same time, foster an appreciation for those tenets of the First Amendment.” Among the dubious honorees on the 2012 list are the US State Department for banning the participation of a Palestinian political cartoonist in a conference on free speech and the Salem, Missouri, Public Library Board of Trustees for blocking access to websites related to minority religions.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The Thomas Jefferson Center gives the awards to ten individuals or organizations, but they start with a very large list of nominees, an indication that Free Speech is still very much at risk. You can read the entire Jefferson Muzzles list here.

Have your say and stop people from being muzzled! Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

‘Free Speech Week’ Celebrated on Campuses Nationwide

Friday, April 13th, 2012

FIRE celebrated Free Speech Week last week by teaming up with Students For Liberty to send FIRE speakers and materials to student groups across the country. We're pleased to announce it was a great success!

I <3 the Constitution 

To mark the occasion, 72 student groups distributed FIRE materials and pocket-sized Constitutions on campus. More than 20 student groups also organized expressive events. Many decided to build Free Speech Walls at schools including American University, Boston University, Harvard University, Kansas State University, Winthrop University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Texas San Antonio.

Adam Kissel

FIRE's Campus Freedom Network (CFN) also worked with students to arrange FIRE speaking events at seven schools across the country. More than 250 students, faculty, and administrators attended these speeches to hear about FIRE's work promoting individual rights. For students who could not attend one of these talks in person, we also hosted FIRE's first ever webinar on Tuesday, April 3. This interactive online discussion featured FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley, who explained the case law supporting speech rights on campus. Will wrote a great Torch post answering questions that came up during the webinar, which is worth checking out here. We are ...

UAE Signs Deal to Integrate National IDs Into Mobile Phones

Friday, April 13th, 2012

The United Arab Emirates signed a deal with telecommunications company, Etisalat, to embed citizens' national ID information into mobile phones. They will now be exploring a system that would utilize an NFC or Near Field Communication application, which allows cell phones to communicate data via radio frequency within very close range. The UAE has had a national ID system since 2004, with IDs carrying a chip similar to one on a credit card and holding a person's name, birthday, gender, photograph, fingerprint, and ID number.

Etisalat, based in the UAE, has had a history working with the Emirati government on various initiatives. Notably, the company helped the government develop surveillance malware to be installed on Blackberry devices. However, it was quickly revealed that the "network upgrade" in disguise was in fact meant to spy on its mobile users.

EFF has long opposed national ID systems because they are fraught with potential abuse in every aspect of their creation and operation. Not only is it extremely costly to implement, the risk of fraudulent and flawed identification cards is very serious: these cards needs to distributed on such a scale that even a small percentage of errors could cause major social disruption. ...

This Week in Censorship: The Increasingly Censorious World

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

47% of All Internet Users Experience Censorship, Says OpenNet Initiative

According to the OpenNet Initiative (ONI)--a joint initiative of Harvard University, the University of Toronto and the SecDev Group--47% of the world's Internet users experience some form of fractured Internet. ONI bases their research on technical testing in 74 countries, 42 of which the researchers found engage in "some form of filtering of content." Though the aforementioned statistic (47%, or 960 million Internet users) includes countries like Morocco that engage only in "selective" blocking of websites, 31% of the world's Internet users live in countries that engage in "substantial" or "pervasive" online censorship.

Vietnam Aiming to be Enemy #1 (of the Internet)

Vietnam--which has been named an "enemy of the Internet" by Reporters Without Borders two years in a row--appears to be vying for first place on that list, in light of two recent news items. The first is a report that claims that the trial of eleven detained activists, including several bloggers, is "imminent." The report, from Radio Free Asia, calls the charges against the activists as "part of a larger crackdown" on activists and citizen journalists in the country.

In separate news, a brief from ...

Members-Only Speakeasy: Boston

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Meet up with EFF in Boston next Thursday, April 19th! Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann and Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen will be at SOURCE Boston to present "Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices," and they are looking forward to speaking with EFF members in the area.

Raise a glass with us and discover our latest work protecting digital innovation, privacy, and free speech, and learn more about the continuing fight to defend your freedom online. EFF's Speakeasy events are free, informal meetups that give you a chance to mingle with local members and speak with the people behind the world's leading digital civil liberties organization. It is also our chance to thank you, the EFF supporters who make it possible.

EFF Members-Only Happy Hour
Thursday, April 19, 2012 from 6-8 PM

Current donors in the Boston Area received an email invitation with location details on Tuesday, 4/10. Space is limited, so reserve your spot. If you are traveling through Boston that day and would like an invitation, contact

Not a member yet? Help defend our future when you join today!

Thomas Jefferson Center Awards "Muzzles" to Censors at Catawba Valley, Sam Houston State

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Every year since 1992, the good folks at the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression award their annual "Jefferson Muzzles" to recognize those across the nation "who in the preceding year committed some of the more egregious or ridiculous affronts to the First Amendment right of free speech." And just about every year, a Muzzle or two ends up being awarded to someone on a college campus. Surprised? Neither are we! 

This year, two schools earned well-deserved Muzzles by stifling student speech in shocking ways. Torch readers will remember that FIRE intervened in both cases. 

First, the Thomas Jefferson Center awarded Catawba Valley Community College administrators a Muzzle for banning student Marc Bechtol from campus. His offense? Criticizing the college's cozy relationship with a financial services provider on Facebook. The Thomas Jefferson Center explains

Like most colleges, Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) requires students to have a school identification card. Starting in 2011, CVCC added a debit function to the student IDs, partnering with Mastercard and financial services company Higher One to allow students to receive tuition refunds and grant transfers with the cards. Many schools across the country have implemented similar plans, raising concerns ...

Ninth Circuit: School, Employer Terms of Use Are Not the Law

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an en banc decision (.PDF) in United States v. Nosal, affirming a federal district court's dismissal of several counts of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). At The Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Orin Kerr has been following this case closely for a few years, and in a recent post he highlights the broad importance of the Ninth Circuit's decision, which was authored by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.

The decision holds that violating employee restrictions on workplace computer use is not criminalized by the CFAA. Why is this important for FIRE? Well, the CFAA contains a provision that makes it a federal crime, punishable for up to ten years imprisonment, to "exceed[] authorized access" on a computer. (18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(4).) Lawyers and rights advocates have been worried that this would allow federal prosecutors to enforce the computer use policies of employers and colleges. 

As FIRE has pointed out before, university computer use policies often are not in compliance with the First Amendment, and many schools (for example, Lehigh University) maintain computer use policies that contribute to their red light rating. These ...

TPP: Continuing to Nudge Toward Agreement

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Informal negotiations are underway in Chile this week on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Up for negotiation are provisions dealing with intellectual property – including online copyright enforcement, DMCA-style digital locks, and Internet intermediary liability.  

TPP countries are holding informal inter-sessional discussions this week to nudge countries closer to agreement on the controversial intellectual property provisions ahead of the next formal round of negotiations in May. While there is no public stakeholder forum, legal academics and civil society experts from various TPP countries are holding an informative seminar tomorrow [PDF] to highlight how leaked TPP texts would harm access to knowledge and affordable medicine.

The USTR has announced the dates for the next round of formal negotiations to take place in Dallas from May 8th through 18th 2012. However, unlike previous negotiation rounds, there will be no forum for stakeholders to present their views to the assembled TPP country negotiators. Instead, stakeholders are being asked to register their interest in sponsoring a table to provide negotiators who might so happen to stroll past with information on particular topics. The US Trade Representative’s Office has said it wants to finalize TPP by July.

UPDATE: There is a change of venue. ...

Vietnam Drafts New Online Censorship Rules

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Internet giants like Google and Facebook may have to cooperate with government censors.

CBLDF Blows Into The Windy City For C2E2!

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

By Charles Brownstein

This weekend the CBLDF takes to the road once more for C2E2 and the Diamond Retailer Summit in Chicago! Deputy Director Alex Cox & I will be there with great rewards planned for card-carrying CBLDF Members, including a big open bar welcome bash hosted by CBLDF Corporate Member THREADLESS on Friday night and copies of the CBLDF Exclusive edition of Glory #23 signed by Joe Keatinge or Liberty Annual 2011 signed by Frank Quitely both COMPLETELY FREE for card-carrying CBLDF members.

We’ll be set up all weekend on the C2E2 show floor at booth 102 where Alex pulled a terrific range of signed graphic novels, t-shirts, and other rewards to thank you for donating to the Fund’s important work. This is also the place to redeem your free copy of Glory #23 or Liberty Annual 2011, which you can get by showing us your current year membership card featuring Liberty by Cliff Chiang or an unexpired 2011 membership card featuring Green Lantern. CBLDF membership dues are annual and provide a baseline for our program work, so we’re happy to thank everyone who helps support our mission with these great gifts!

Beyond the booth, on Sunday I’m ...