Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Federal Judge Says Groups Can’t Shield Campaign-ad Backers

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

The Federal Election Commission overstepped its bounds in allowing groups that fund certain election ads to keep their financiers anonymous, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s ruling March 30 could pave the way to requiring groups that spend money on electioneering communications — ads that refer to but don’t expressly advocate for or against a candidate running for federal office — to disclose their donors.

The FEC ruled in 2007 that corporations and nonprofits did not have to reveal the identities of those who financed such ads. That regulation came in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, which gave more latitude to nonprofit groups — like the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS and the President Barack Obama-leaning Priorities USA — on pre-election ads.

Campaign-finance regulations have received new scrutiny this election cycle, following federal court rulings that stripped away long-established limits on how much individuals and organizations may contribute to groups favoring certain candidates.

Read more on the

French Constitutional Court Bans Law Enforcement Use of National Biometric ID Database

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Last week, the Conseil Constitutionnel, the highest authority on the French Constitution, declared the provisions of a law permitting judicial and police use of a centralized national ID database to be unconstitutional. 200 members of the French Parliament referred the law to the Conseil following the law's adoption on March 6th. The Conseil determined that the use of the centralized database was incompatible with France's fundamental rights, including the right to privacy and the presumption of innocence.

The proposed legislation mandated compulsory civilian ID cards containing a chip designed to store personal and biometric information, including home address, marital status, eye colour, and fingerprints. Proponents argued that the biometric ID card would be used to stop “honest folk” from becoming the victims of identity fraud. In fact, the law would have enabled the "honest folk" database to be used for criminal and judicial purposes. The Conseil correctly determined that such uses constituted a serious incursion into the right to private life, disproportionate to the law’s stated objective.

Another provision in the law would have allowed for a second, optional chip to be used for online authentication in e-commerce transactions. The Conseil determined that such use would require too ...

Buy Your HOPE 9 Tickets in April and 10% of Proceeds Go to EFF

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

H.O.P.E. stands for Hackers On Planet Earth, one of the most creative and diverse hacker events in the world. HOPE Number Nine will be taking place on July 13, 14, and 15, 2012 at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. If you haven't been before, this is the year to attend. For every ticket purchased in the month of April, conference organizers 2600: The Hacker Quarterly are donating 10% of the proceeds to EFF--so buy your tickets today!

For three full days and nights you can explore hackerspace villages, film festivals, art installations, vintage computers, electronic workshops, savor the country's biggest supply of Club-Mate, and attend the host of provocative talks that HOPE has become well-known for offering. Join thousands of hackers to hear this year's keynote on hacking corporations by famous troublemakers and EFF clients The Yes Men, as well as these exciting talks from EFF staffers:

  • Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury will talk about the law on location data, and what the Supreme Court's recent U.S. v. Jones ruling means for the future of warrantless surveillance.
  • Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann will talk about protecting your data from the cops.
  • Activist Eva Galperin will talk about ...

Megaupload User Asks Court to Return His Video Files

Friday, March 30th, 2012
Case Raises Key Questions About User Rights in Cloud-Based Storage

San Francisco - A small business owner who used Megaupload's cloud-based storage system as part of his daily operations has asked a federal court to establish a process that would allow him and other lawful Megaupload users to get their files back. The procedure would help rectify the collateral damage caused by the government's seizure of as part of a copyright infringement investigation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents Kyle Goodwin, who runs a business reporting on high school sporting events in Ohio. Goodwin stored his video footage on Megaupload's servers as a backup to his hard drive. In January, the FBI shut down and executed search warrants on the company's servers, locking out all Megaupload customers in the process. When Goodwin's hard drive crashed, he could not get access to any of his own video files, which he needed to conduct his business.

"The court can help make Mr. Goodwin – an innocent party here – whole again," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "With government seizures growing, we're likely to see more and more cases like this, where lawful customers of a cloud service lose property ...

University of Delaware Reeducation Program’s Ringleader Becomes ACPA Vice President

Friday, March 30th, 2012

When a university administrator egregiously violates someone's rights, you might expect negative consequences. At Valdosta State University, for example, the president who expelled a student because of the student's environmental activism not only took an earlier than expected retirement, but has also lost his qualified immunity in a federal lawsuit and is personally liable for damages as a result.

So what happened to Kathleen Kerr, the ringleader of the infamous University of Delaware indoctrination scheme (video) that subjected nearly all of the university's freshmen to a highly invasive, ideological, coercive, mandatory reeducation program? She laid low for a few years, and now she has been elected vice president of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), which apparently approves of such people and programs.

And the University of Delaware is proud of it!

Top 12 Worst Schools for Free Speech Sunday on ‘Fox & Friends’

Friday, March 30th, 2012
FIRE's Robert Shibley will be on Fox & Friends on Fox News Channel at 7:45 a.m. Eastern this Sunday to discuss FIRE's list of the Top 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech. Be sure to tune in!

This Week in Censorship: UK, UAE, Pakistan, & Bangladesh

Friday, March 30th, 2012

United Kingdom

On Monday, a joint Commons and Lords committee published a report urging Google and other sites to take proactive steps to monitor their search results in order to protect the privacy of certain individuals. As a result, a committee of Parliamentary members has begun pushing for legislation to force search engines and social networks to censor themselves. The committee, set up by the prime minister, arose out of increasing controversies and injunctions to protect people’s online image.

Committee chair John Whittingale stated, "It is clear that media self-regulation under the [Press Complaints Commission] did not work. We therefore wish to see a stronger self-regulatory system that is seen to be effective and commands the confidence of the public." Citing the high cost of legal action, the committee claims that self-regulation by companies would be the optimal way of dealing with claims of privacy violation.

There have been an increasing number of censorship cases in the UK. In February, members of the UK Parliament concluded in a report that the Internet plays a major role in the radicalization of terrorists and called on the government to pressure Internet Service Providers in Britain and abroad to censor online speech. On ...

IFAction Round Up, March 23-29, 2012

Friday, March 30th, 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 March 23-29, 2012.


Occupy Wall Street Library Confiscated in Union Square

Sarkozy: Jail those who browse terror websites

Brooklyn High School Fines Students $100 For Using Facebook, Expulsion If They Don’t Stop


U.S. Relaxes Limits on Use of Data in Terror Analysis 

Related: New counterterrorism guidelines permit data on U.S. citizens to be held longer

Related: ACLU: New Domestic Intelligence Rules Undermine Privacy, Security

Related: How the U.S. Government’s ‘Big Cauldron of Data’ Affects Your Privacy

Senators Question Employer Requests for Facebook Passwords

FTC releases final privacy report, says ‘Do Not Track’ mechanism may be available by end of year

Related: U.S. Agency Seeks Tougher Consumer Privacy Rules

Yahoo To Implement ‘Do Not Track’ Mechanism Globally By Early Summer (Subscription only)

Ahead of the Bell: Internet Privacy Hearing

The Unsocial Network: Privacy Is Staging a Comeback on Facebook

Google releases account activity tool



Arizona Legislature Passes Sweeping Electronic Speech Censorship Bill

Friday, March 30th, 2012

By Charles Brownstein

Yesterday, the Arizona legislature passed Arizona House Bill 2549, which would update the state’s telephone harassment law to apply to the Internet and other electronic communications. The bill is sweepingly broad, and would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify,” as well as certain sexual speech. Because the bill is not limited to one-to-one communications, H.B. 2549 would apply to the Internet as a whole, thus criminalizing all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying. The Bill is currently on Governor Jan Brewer’s desk awaiting her decision on whether to veto or sign the bill.

Media Coalition
, a trade association protecting the First Amendment rights of content industries, whose membership includes CBLDF, has been active in opposing the bill. On March 14, Media Coalition sent a memo to the Senate Rules Committee regarding constitutional infirmities in H.B. 2549. Yesterday they sent a letter to Governor Brewer urging her to veto the bill.

That letter outlines the constitutional deficiencies in the bill:

H.B. 2549 would make it a crime to use any electronic or digital device to ...

‘No Political Links’ to Food Aid

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
An NGO slams the US decision to suspend food aid to North Korea.

‘Diplomatic Hitch’ Thwarts Church Visit

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
Vietnam revokes the visas of a Catholic delegation.

Court Urged to Arrest Ex-Governor

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
The victims of a shooting incident want the lone suspect arrested and tried.

Grenade Attack File Not Closed

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
The Cambodian government rejects a human rights watchdog claim that it is dragging its feet on the 15-year-old case.

Syrian Activists Targeted With Facebook Phishing Attack

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Facebook has been a popular place for Syrian Internet activists to share their opposition to the Assad regime ever since the site was unblocked by the Syrian government in early 2011. While some interpreted the Assad regime's decision to allow access to Facebook as a positive sign, others feared that the government had made Facebook available for the purpose of entrapping Syrian activists.

In the past month, EFF has reported on several instances of pro-Syrian-government hackers targeting Syrian Internet activists using malware spread through chats and emails, as well as updates downloaded from a fake YouTube site. Most recently, we've seen reports from Syrian opposition networking specialists of a phishing attack aimed at Syrian activists, spread primarily on pro-revolution forums on Facebook.

The screenshot below shows the phishing link accompanied by the following text in Arabic: Urgent and critical.. video leaked by security forces and thugs.. the revenge of Assad's thugs against the free men and women of Baba Amr in captivity and taking turns raping one of the women in captivity by Assad's dogs.. please spread this.

The screenshot below displays the link in a comment under a pro-revolution video. The phishing link is accompanied by the following ...

“Zero-day” exploit sales should be key point in cybersecurity debate

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Last week, Forbes’ Andy Greenberg investigated a dangerous but largely underreported problem in Internet security: the sale of zero-day exploits to customers not intending to fix the flaws. Zero-day exploits are hacking techniques that take advantage of software vulnerabilities that haven’t been disclosed to the developer or the public. Some companies have built successful businesses by discovering security flaws in software such as operating systems and popular browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer, and then selling zero-day exploits to high-paying customers—which are often governments.

France-based VUPEN is one of the highest-profile firms trafficking in zero-day exploits. Earlier this month at the CanSecWest information security conference, VUPEN declined to participate in the Google-sponsored Pwnium hacking competition, where security researchers were awarded up to $60,000 if they could defeat the Chrome browser’s security and then explain to Google how they did it. Instead, VUPEN—sitting feet away from Google engineers running the competition—successfully compromised Chrome, but then refused to disclose their method to Google to help fix the flaw and make the browser safer for users.

“We wouldn’t share this with Google for even $1 million,” said VUPEN founder Chaouki Bekrar. “We don’t want to give them any knowledge that can ...

Tomorrow in NYC: Gone To Amerikay Launch Party!

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Gone to Amerikay, the new Vertigo original graphic novel by Derek McCulloch and Colleen Doran, will have a book launch party, benefiting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. McCulloch and Doran will both be at Harbor Lights Restaurant in New York City on March 30 from 6 to 8 pm, celebrating the release of their new book and demonstrating their support of the CBLDF’s mission. All are welcome to join the celebration; admission will be free, though donations to the CBLDF are suggested. There will be complimentary hors d’oeurves, and special guests from the comics community will be on hand to inaugurate Gone to Amerikay. Copies of the book will be on sale, courtesy of Midtown Comics.

McCulloch, who sits on the board of The Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund, the Canadian counterpart to the CBLDF, said “I’m very proud of our work on Gone to Amerikay and all the more proud to be launching it with a benefit for the CBLDF. The CBLDF and the CLLDF recently worked together to defend a reader in a legal battle with Canada Customs, and I’m hoping that this benefit will help defray the costs of that defense.”

Hailed by J. ...

University of Cincinnati Needs to Learn to Read

Thursday, March 29th, 2012, a Cincinnati news and opinion website, features a story on FIRE's list of the 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech, the University of Cincinnati's placement on that list, and the ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit filed last month against UC for its free speech policies and practices. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to their problems with free speech, UC is still in a state of denial. As my colleague Will Creeley pointed out a few weeks ago, the spin coming out of UC is really something to behold. Alas, it continues. Everyone here at FIRE put palm to face when we read the latest comments from UC spokesman Greg Hand:

Greg Hand, a UC spokesman, said FIRE has mischaracterized the school's policies and calls its claims "a fiction." The policies require an advance notice of any controversial speech or activity so UC can provide protection for the speaker. Also, anyone who has ties to the campus generally doesn't have to stay within the free speech zone, he added.

"If you don't have a sponsor on campus, if you don't have a person to vouch for you, you need to use the free speech zone," Hand said. He estimated ...

FIRE Visit Marks Progress for Free Speech at UW-Stout

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Yesterday, I wrote that Adam would be at the University of Wisconsin - Stout this week. He spoke twice on campus yesterday, first addressing the campus community at a public lecture and then leading a discussion with students from a General Ethics class. His campus visit was reported by Pamela Powers of the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wisc.), which previously covered the Firefly poster controversy at on campus last fall. Powers writes:

FIRE vice president of programs Adam Kissel said it was rare that UW-Stout officials would invite him to campus after such an incident. FIRE has defended faculty and student free speech rights for the past dozen years. 

"I feel like you are going in the right direction and turning this negative into a positive," Kissel said of UW-Stout administration. 

The school's administration also seems to recognize that an open discussion about the situation and how to move forward is a positive sign. Powers quotes UW-Stout spokesman Doug Mell: 

"We brought him to campus today," Mell said of Kissel. "This is a group that made our life difficult for weeks, and we brought them to campus. The proof's in the pudding."

Although the pudding is not quite fully cooked (UW-Stout ...

Vanderbilt Drives Out the Catholics–Who’s Next?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

When Vanderbilt University introduced its new "nondiscrimination policy" for registered student organizations back in January of this year, the Vandy administration was met with an irate group of students from religious student organizations that would be negatively affected by the new rule.

As these students—along with many other organizations and individuals, including the Christian Legal Society, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nashville, the American Center for Law and Justice, more than half a dozen law professors, and 23 members of the U.S. Congress—pointed out at the time, the policy essentially dictates that religious and political organizations cannot determine their leadership based on the very things that make those groups unique: their beliefs and viewpoints. Not only are the opinions of potential leaders not to be a factor in determining their leadership, student group members are not allowed to vote out student leaders if they change their minds. For example, if the president of the College Democrats were to decide to disaffiliate with the Democratic Party and join the Tea Party Express, the members of the College Democrats could not oust him.

Now, unfortunately, we are beginning to see the full implications of this policy. Mollie Hemingway of Ricochet ...

PLA puts on great conference in Philly – an IF overview

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Kudos to the Public Library Association for a very well-run and informative conference earlier this month in Philadelphia! The week was chock-full of intellectual freedom offerings, including several programs featuring OIF staff and member leaders.

Of particular interest to me was the recurring theme in several sessions of challenges to library materials that go unreported. This really underscored the importance of OIF’s Challenge Reporting Campaign, “Defend the Freedom to Read: It’s Everybody’s Job.” Reporting formal challenges — whether or not the material was ultimately restricted or removed — is essential to OIF’s ability to report accurately on censorship efforts and to support librarians and teachers facing similar challenges. And remember: all reports submitted by individuals are kept confidential. For more information, watch OIF’s video overview of how and why to report challenges at

The Freedom to Read Foundation hosted a great meet-and-greet at PLA as well, introducing FTRF to a bunch of newer librarians! If you’re not yet a member, joining FTRF is a great way to support libraries facing challenges.

For those who missed PLA — or couldn’t make it to all of the many great sessions — most of the conference was recorded and ...

New York City Schools Want to Ban ‘Loaded Words’ From Tests

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television. These are a few of the 50-plus words and references the New York City Department of Education is hoping to ban from the city’s standardized tests.

The banned word list was made public – and attracted considerable criticism – when the city’s education department recently released this year’s “request for proposal” The request for proposal is sent to test publishers around the country trying to get the job of revamping math and English tests for the City of New York.

The Department of Education’s says that avoiding sensitive words on tests is nothing new, and that New York City is not the only locale to do so. California avoids the use of the word “weed” on tests and Florida avoids the phrases that use “Hurricane” or “Wildfires,” according to a statement by the New York City Department of Education.

In its request for proposal, the NYC Department of Education explained it wanted to avoid certain words if the “the topic is controversial among the adult population and might not be acceptable in a state-mandated testing situation; the topic has been overused in standardized tests or textbooks and is thus overly familiar and/or boring to ...

Shibley in ‘Daily Caller’ on FIRE’s 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley has a piece onThe Daily Caller covering FIRE's 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech. Check it out!    

Syracuse Press Takes Note of University’s Return to ‘Worst Colleges’ List

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

For the second straight year, Syracuse University has made FIRE's list of the "Worst Colleges for Free Speech," unveiled yesterday on The Huffington Post. Already, The Post-Standard, a local newspaper, has taken note of the university's dishonor.

Syracuse's road to the "Worst Colleges" list was aided this year by its retaliatory treatment of education student Matthew Werenczak, who was effectively expelled from Syracuse's graduate teacher education program after posting on his own Facebook page that he had found a comment by a community leader in his presence to be racially insensitive. As The Post-Standard's Matt Harrigan summarizes:

According to NewsChannel 9, Werenczak was student-teaching at Danforth Middle School when an African American community activist made a comment that offended him.

"We need to start hiring our teachers from historically black colleges," the activist said inside Danforth.

Werenczak complained about the comment on Facebook, posting "Mind you, two white tutors were in the room. I'll let you take your own inference from that."

SU deemed the post "unprofessional, offensive, and insensitive" in a letter informing Werenczak that he could be administratively removed from the school for his actions. He was forced to undergo anger-management counseling, complete ...

One Million Moms Can’t Stop LIFE WITH ARCHIE #16

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

In spite of an attempted boycott by the American Family Association’s One Million Moms, Life with Archie #16 – which featured the marriage of openly gay character Kevin Keller — sold out in record time. In the official press release from Archie Comics, C0-CEO Jon Goldwater says:

“Kevin will always be a major part of Riverdale, and we’re overjoyed, honored and humbled by the response to this issue,” said Jon Goldwater, Co-CEO of Archie Comics. “Our fans have come out full force to support Kevin. He is, without a doubt, the most important new character in Archie history. He’s here to stay.”

The issue attracted worldwide attention because of the subject matter. An early Huffington Post article on the addition of Kevin Keller to Life with Archie sums up the controversy:

Not surprisingly, the introduction of the fictional character, in addition to his marriage, has drawn both strong praise and harsh criticism. “I think it’s great that the reality of America’s loving couples are being portrayed in as many places as possible,” Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, told Fox News.“We all want to be part of family and community ...

Dissenting Judge Has Right Idea on Kid’s Violent Words

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Dissenting opinions obviously don’t have the force of law that majority opinions do. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t better reasoned. Recall that Justice John Marshall Harlan (the first one) was known as “the Great Dissenter” in part for his solitary dissent in the abhorrent Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), in which the Court sanctioned segregation and the noxious separate-but-equal doctrine.

Judge Rosemary Pooler’s March 22 dissent in the student-speech case Cuff v. Valley Central School District from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may not rise even close to that level of prominence. Yet it brought some much-needed perspective to an area of law in desperate need of it.

The case involved a class assignment in 2007 for fifth-graders at Berea Elementary School in Montgomery, N.Y., to color in a picture of an astronaut and write anything on it they wanted. The teacher allegedly told the class: “When I mean anything you want, anything. You can write about missiles.”

Hearing this, 10-year-old B.C. — in juvenile cases often only initials are used — wrote on his picture that he wanted to “blow up the school with all the teachers in it.” He showed the picture to his classmates and they laughed.


SLC Nerd and Night Flight Comics Show Their Support for CBLDF

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Last weekend, nerds in Salt Lake City gathered for a day of comics, costumes, gaming, and music with the 2012 edition of SLC Nerd, an all-day event embracing nerd culture. The folks with Night Flight Comics were on hand to pass out information about CBLDF and to run a silent auction on our behalf!

CBLDF would like to thank Mimi Cruz, Ben Fuller, the folks at Night Flight Comics, and the staff and volunteers of SLC Nerd for their support! Mimi sent us some photos of the event, on display below. If you want to see some interviews and costumes from the event, check out this You Tube video.

Wonder Woman and a young fan

Catwoman and Poison Ivy check out the silent auction at the Night Flight Comics table.

More superheroes check out the silent auction.

Batman boogies down...

FIRE VP to Address ‘Firefly’ Controversy on UW-Stout Campus Today

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
FIRE Vice President of Programs Adam Kissel will be at the University of Wisconsin - Stout today, March 28. In a public lecture sponsored by the Center for Applied Ethics, he will talk about about free speech on campus and discuss the recent controversy over a UW-Stout professor’s censored Firefly poster.

Fundamentals of Free Speech on College Campuses
Adam Kissel
10 a.m. - 12 p.m. CDT
Stout Memorial Student Center, Cedar/Maple Room
Sponsored by the Center for Applied Ethics

For more information about hosting a FIRE lecture, visit our Speakers Bureau page or email

This Week in Transparency: Faulty FOIA

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Issa Report Gives Federal Government C-minus on FOIA Processing

The US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Darrell Issa (R-CA), released a report (pdf) that graded the federal government and its agencies on their ability to manage FOIA requests. We've documented extensively the lack of transparency in the current administration, and, for advocates following the issue, there was no surprise that the Committee's report gave the federal government a C-minus. In addition to the government's C-minus grade overall, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) each individually received D’s.

To conduct the report, Rep. Issa sought information about the FOIA tracking systems of 100 federal agencies. In particular, Rep. Issa requested an electronic, sortable copy of the agency’s FOIA processing “logs,” containing various information on requests and the agency’s processing of those requests. Many agencies produced incomplete logs, produced logs that tracked FOIA requests inconsistently, or couldn’t produce logs in a sortable electronic format at all. The report concluded with an ominous warning: "When agencies cannot even produce FOIA logs with basic information to Congress, it raises serious concerns about their ability to meet their legal ...

Four Unanswered Questions About the Cybersecurity Bills

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The U.S. legislature has cybersecurity on the brain. In the coming months, Congress and the Senate will consider a confusing variety of cybersecurity bills--including H.R. 3523 (Rogers), H.R. 3674 (Lungren), S. 2105 (Lieberman), and S. 215 (McCain)--all of which purport to keep U.S. companies and infrastructure safe from “cyberattacks." But as Congress continues to weigh this legislation and negotiate potential amendments, users should ask some serious questions about how these proposals will affect civil liberties, and tell Congress that we won't stand for cybersecurity bills that undermine our civil liberties. Here are four hard questions that Congressmembers should be asking about these bills--the answers to which the bills disagree on or dodge entirely.

Who will be in charge of cybersecurity?

The Rogers bill (H.R. 3523) proposes to put the military-intelligence community in charge of cybersecurity while the Lungren bill (H.R. 3674) keeps it under civilian control by putting it in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security. Given the National Security Agency’s history of secrecy and over-classification, military control of cybersecurity is a potentially disastrous outcome for those who are concerned with counter-balancing hysteria over “cyberwarfare” and “cybercrime” with respect for privacy and civil liberties. Civilian control over cybersecurity ...

CBLDF Heads to Seattle for Emerald City Comicon

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

by Alex Cox

This weekend (March 30 – April 1), I am excited to represent the CBLDF at EMERALD CITY COMICON in Seattle, Washington! Continuing our cross-country marathon of fundraising, we will be in booth #1007 at the Washington State Convention Center. Stop by and say hello, and you’ll find a number of signings, exciting membership incentives, and member appreciation items! The CBLDF is currently raising money to pay down the $45,000 debt accrued in R. v. Matheson, so every contribution helps. If you live in the Seattle area, ECCC is the perfect chance to support the cause!

Throughout the weekend, artist Tony Harris (Ex Machina) and author Chris Roberson (iZombie) will be signing at our booth (see below for a complete schedule). Both Tony and Chris will have surprise exclusive items premiering at ECCC, and all proceeds will benefit the CBLDF! We will also have copies of the classic “IN RELIG ORAN” print on hand, featuring lovely painted artwork by Mr. Harris, which illuminates a poem by CBLDF board member and fantasist supreme Neil Gaiman!

CBLDF supporters in the Pacific Northwest will want to stop by booth #1007 and pick up a free copy ...

State Intellectual Freedom Committee report: Missouri

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Periodically, the OIF Blog features profiles of the intellectual freedom activities from ALA’s state chapters. Our fifth featured state is MissouriThe entire series can be found here.


The Statement on Intellectual Freedom from the Missouri Library Association’s Handbook was revised in December, 2011.

“The Missouri Library Association is directly concerned with the freedom of all members of a democratic society to read what they will in the course of making the social, educational, and political judgments on which that society is based. Libraries are a principal source where citizens can hope to find relevant facts concerning current and historical issues. It is appropriate that librarians, library staff and trustees should support free access to information as being of the utmost importance to the continued existence of democracy.”

The Missouri Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee saw tremendous growth in membership and interest for the 2012 year.  We are excited about the number of new Missouri librarians eager to learn about and promote intellectual freedom around the state in a variety of settings. We look forward to receiving training opportunities to strengthen our ability to support librarians facing challenges and interested in promoting privacy.

During the last ...

TV Reporter’s Worries Leads to Bethesda School Pulling Student Newspaper

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

TV journalist Andrea McCarren knows that news reporting sometimes has unintended consequences — especially since her own children were teased and bullied after her stories on underage drinking aired last month.

So when the student newspaper at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School published an article mentioning her reporting, McCarren objected. The article, she told the school’s principal, could create more trouble for her children, both students there.

Ironic result: A journalist triggered a bit of temporary censorship.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase principal Karen Lockard responded to McCarren’s concerns last week by ordering a “recall” of the paper the next school day after most copies had been distributed.

The episode began with publication of the March 16 edition of the Tattler, Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s school paper. The issue carried several articles exploring how the news media portrays teenagers, typically in negative ways.

McCarren’s photo — an image of her on the job for WUSA (Channel 9) — was used to illustrate a brief article about alcohol consumption by teens. The photo appears on page 7 of the issue under a three-line headline: “B-CC Teenagers / according to the media / Drunk.”

Read the full article at

FIRE’s 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2012

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Here's today's press release: 

PHILADELPHIA, March 27, 2012—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2012 list of the 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech in The Huffington Post today. Harvard is new to the list this year, joining Yale, Syracuse, and the University of Cincinnati at the top of the list.

"These colleges and universities have deeply violated the principles that are supposed to animate higher education," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "Sunlight is one of the best disinfectants, and the public needs to know which schools to watch out for." 

Although schools appear on the list in no particular order, the 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech are:

1. University of Cincinnati  7. Michigan State University  
2. Syracuse University8. Colorado College
3. Widener University9. Johns Hopkins University
4. Harvard University 10. Tufts University 
5. Yale University11. Bucknell University
6. St. Augustine's College 12. Brandeis University

Each of these schools earned its place on FIRE's list by severely violating the speech rights of students, faculty members, or both.

The University of Cincinnati tops the list due to its shockingly restrictive free speech zone that limits certain types of student expression to ...

EFF Files Comments Protesting Reexam Fee Hikes

Monday, March 26th, 2012

You might remember that late last year, Congress passed the America Invents Act, a largely toothless law that fails to address many of the biggest problems facing the patent system. In implementing that new law, the Patent and Trademark Office issued proposed guidelines for certain supplemental examination procedures. The PTO also recommended a huge increase in fees for filing certain patent reexaminations. As you might guess, this is a terrible idea.

The reexam process is an essential part of the patent ecosystem. It forms the basis for our Patent Busting Project and allows us to attack dangerous and overbroad patents like those that are asserted against cash-strapped municipalities.  

It's vitally important that public interest groups like EFF and small entities who may lack substantial resources be able to participate in reexams at the PTO. Raising the fees for filing reexams to $17,750 (for filing alone!) promises to discourage that important third-party participation, which the Patent Office claims to care much about. Today, we filed comments with the Patent Office saying as much, and urging the Office to reconsider the fee increase – or at least carve out an exception for public interest groups and other small entities. The Patent Office ...

Celebrate Free Speech Week with FIRE and Students For Liberty!

Monday, March 26th, 2012

This year, FIRE has partnered with Students For Liberty (SFL) to sponsor Free Speech Week, April 1-8. During Free Speech Week, students on college and university campuses across the country will celebrate by hosting activism events to promote free speech in academia, and we at FIRE are excited to help!

The Free Speech Week page lists many resources for students who want to get involved. SFL is providing Free Speech Week activism kits to any student or student group who requests them, free of charge. These kits include FIRE's Guide to Free Speech On Campus, as well as buttons and stickers, pocket Constitutions, and other assorted literature. There are just a few days left to order activism kits (the last day is Thursday, March 29), so be sure to fill out your order online soon.

Additionally, SFL is offering grants of up to $200 for free speech events to be held on campus. These include, but are certainly not limited to: 

For more information, contact Kelly Jemison ...

IDW Announces Redshirt Contest Winner!

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Late last year, IDW Publishing announced the “Be a Redshirt” contest, asking comics fans to make the ultimate Star Trek sacrifice to save their favorite retailer from censorship! Fans boldly went to bat for their favorite shops, explaining why their local comic shop is important to them and their communities. The winner of the contest has been announced: Coarey Trim, from St. Charles, Missouri! He defended his favorite comic book store, The Fantasy Shop, owned by Mike Brodeur. Trim and Brodeur will be featured on a special upcoming variant cover of the Star Trek comic book. Only 300 copies will be printed, 100 of which will go to CBLDF to help us raise the funds we need to fight for your First Amendment rights!

The official press release, courtesy of and IDW:

And the winner of IDW Publishing’s “Be a Redshirt”/”Save My Retailer” contest is… Coarey Trim, who hails from St. Charles, Missouri, and showed his support for his favorite retail store, The Fantasy Shop, owned by Mike Brodeur. And, yes, that will be Trim and Brodeur on the cover.

In his winning essay, Trim described The Fantasy Shop as a “staple for comic book fans ...

Federal Judge Orders MO. Teen Bloggers Back to School

Monday, March 26th, 2012

A federal judge has ordered two Kansas City area high school students to return to the school that suspended them over what administrators considered offensive blog posts.

Senior U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs issued a preliminary injunction on March 22, halting the remaining 69 days of the students’ 180-day suspensions from Lee’s Summit North High School, The Kansas City Star reported.

Sachs said the teens’ interest in returning to their school outweighed the district’s concerns. The judge cautioned that he was not deciding the merits of the case, which would include rulings on whether the district had violated the boys’ rights to freedom of speech and due process.

If the court rules in favor of the school district at the end of the case, the teens would have to finish serving their suspensions.

Jessica Bernard, a lawyer representing the school district, declined comment, saying she needed to speak with the school board about possible appeals of the judge’s injunction.

The 17-year-old high school juniors, who are twins, haven’t been identified in court documents because they’re minors.

School officials suspended the teens in December after they posted what officials considered sexually offensive and racially insensitive remarks on their website.

Read the full ...

SXSW: In Conclusion

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Earlier this month, OIF Director Barbara Jones attended her  first SXSW in Austin.  Here’s the fourth and final installment of her blog posts from the event.  See the other three herehere and here.

This is my last blog post on SXSW.  Thank you to those who wrote me about the other three!  Upon one week’s reflection, I believe that Springsteen’s keynote was the highlight of SXSW for me.

Bruce Springsteen’s Keynote

In a way The Boss’ keynote address related to everything else at SXSW, but I’m not interested in formal exploration of those links.  I simply enjoyed his talk!  If you have an hour for this passionate lecture, please treat yourself.  Springsteen’s reflections apply to all of us with career paths or life plans.  Even rock stars have to work hard at the beginning, be inspired by those who come before them, and take risks.  And there is a certain amount of luck and talent involved, too, though Springsteen was unbelievably modest about that.  Parents and relatives:  we must let our children have the privacy to practice being a star in front of a mirror!  It was so clear that Springsteen got a lot of family support—to ...

New Counterorrism Guidelines Gives Authorities Vast Access to Private Info of Innocent Americans

Monday, March 26th, 2012

On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signed expansive new guidelines for terrorism analysts, allowing the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) to mirror entire federal databases containing personal information and hold onto the information for an extended period of time—even if the person is not suspected of any involvement in terrorism. (Read the guidelines here).

Despite the “terrorism” justification, the new rules affect every single American.  The agency now has free rein to, as the New York Times’ Charlie Savage put it, “retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats ” and expands the amount of time the government can keep private information on innocent individuals by a factor of ten.

From the New York Times:

The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate ...

Doonesbury “Abortion” Strips: Who Didn’t Run Them, and How to Contact

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

With regularity, editors at some papers choose not to run an episode of Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” strip. The latest incident involved satirical commentary on state lawmakers requiring women to undergo invasive and medically unnecessary ultrasounds before abortions.  A large number of papers did not run the episode, some ran a substitute “rerun” episode offered by Trudeau, and others shifted it to their editorial page.

The decision to nix the cartoon was explained as an attempt to shield audiences from offensive political content or from risqué language. But the papers have already had an earful from audience members who believe they can make decisions for themselves and do not need to be protected from a satirical political cartoon. To add your voice, see a list of papers that have censored the cartoon below – is your local paper among them?

Universal UClick Syndicate, which distributes the comic strip, has heard from 40-50 newspapers requesting substitute “Doonesbury” strips (though this number seems rather low given the list of newspapers censoring the comic)

The following list comes from the Daily Cartoonist blog, and we’ve added contact information and details that we could find.

LA Times

- ran cartoon, but in ...

IFAction Round Up, March 19-22

Friday, March 23rd, 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 March 19-22, 2012.


Three books at heart of investigation in Schofield teacher’s administrative leave

Related: Police Drop Criminal Investigation into Middle School Teacher Who Read ‘Ender’s Game’ in Class

Complaint about book in Rochester schools will have to be refiled

After Massacre, Army Tried to Delete Accused Shooter From the Internet


Opposition Grows to Obama’s Refusal to Reveal Secret Patriot Act Powers

FBI Still Struggling With Supreme Court’s GPS Ruling

NSA Chief Denies, Denies, Denies Wired’s Domestic Spying Story

Supreme Court Will Not Review Ruling Upholding Federal Arrestee DNA Law

Big Brother on campus

Resume, references, password: Some employers ask job seekers to share their Facebook logins

Related: Senator: Ban bosses from asking for Facebook passwords

Border electronics search case to be re-heard

Facebook Changes Privacy Policy Again


Video games scrutinized, new bill seeks “violent” warning labels

Wyden Amendments to House’s JOBS Act ...

‘Streisand Effect’ at Work: Newspapers Covering Hazing Story Disappear at Georgia State

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Remember the lesson Popehat gave Peace College on the "Streisand Effect" a couple of weeks ago? If not, here's a quick recap: An attorney hired by the college tried to intimidate outside critics of the college into silence by sending them an ominous letter asking them to "desist" from their attacks on the university and its president. Popehat smartly pointed out that by trying to shut up its critics, the college had inadvertently ensured that the critics' arguments reached a far, far wider audience. (This phenomenon came to be known as the Streisand Effect, in short, after singer Barbra Streisand's attempt to have an aerial photo of her beachfront home removed from a government database not only failed, but made an internet sensation of the photo in question, ensuring it was seen by millions. More here.)

In other words, most attempts at censorship are profoundly counterproductive. And this same basic principlethat trying to suppress unflattering information tends to have the effect of amplifying its reach
applies to those who steal college newspapers from the racks as well. 

The Student Press Law Center reports that this week's case in point comes from Georgia State University, where roughly ...

Federal Ruling Goes Against Student Punished for Rap Song

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Public school officials in Fulton, Miss., did not violate the First Amendment free-speech rights of a former student when they suspended him for his rap song containing vulgar language about two athletic coaches, a federal district court has ruled.

In August 2011, Taylor Bell — then a senior at Itawamba Agricultural School — composed, sang and posted a rap song about two coaches at his school. He disseminated it to more than 1,300 friends on Facebook and posted it on YouTube.

The song accused the coaches of improper contact with female students and featured lyrics such as “looking down girls’ shirts / drool running down your mouth / messing with wrong one / going to get a pistol down your mouth.”

After learning of the song, school officials removed Bell from class in January 2011. The principal and others accused Bell of making threats and false allegations. Bell denied that his lyrics were threats and contended his statements about the coaches were true.

A week later, school officials suspended Bell indefinitely. A disciplinary committee concluded that Bell should be suspended for seven days and then placed in alternative school for five weeks. The Itawamba School Board approved this punishment on ...

Western Kentucky Removes Restrictions on Social Media, but Policy Remains a ‘Red Light’

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Western Kentucky University (WKU) has revised a "red light" policy in its Student Handbook regulating student use of social media, according to the WKU student newspaper the College Heights Herald. The move is a boon for WKU students' free speech rights, who will now enjoy greater freedoms when using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. We are pleased to report this development, and we commend WKU's administration for taking this step to uphold students' rights in this ever-expanding area of expression.

However, problems remain with the policy, labeled "Information Technology." (You can find it beginning on page 39 of WKU's Student Handbook (.PDF).) WKU has not completely removed the provisions that earn it a "red light" speech code rating from FIRE, and these restrictions will continue to hamper and chill student speech on campus. We urge WKU to finish the job it has started and revise the rest of the policy. As the lone "red light" policy at WKU, it is the only thing standing in the way of WKU improving to an overall "yellow light" rating as an institution.

WKU's policy on Information Technology previously read, in relevant part:

Communications on sites such as Facebook, etc. will not ...

Doonesbury Censorship Fosters Outrage, Debate

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

In response to the controversial nature of last week’s Doonesbury strips — which dealt with Texas’s mandatory sonogram law — many newspapers moved the strips to the editorial page or online only, or they declined to publish the strips entirely. In response, people across the nation have decried the move, arguing that newspapers should not be allowed to decide what they can or cannot read. Editors across the nation have had to defend their decisions, and several newspaper and online editorials have protested the censorship.

The editor of the Indianapolis Star, Dennis Ryerson, weighed in on why he chose not to run the comics: his belief that the strips advocated for the abortion of Texas Governor Rick Perry. He writes:

Yet people who know me can attest to my abhorrence of political discourse that so often is personal, vicious and far less than civil. How can we be critical of Rush Limbaugh and yet find the “Doonesbury” series acceptable? How can we detest comments such as that of the Rick Santorum supporter who said women should use the act of holding an aspirin between their legs as a means of birth control, then run a cartoon ...

News Roundup: The Ryan Matheson Case

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Last week, CBLDF announced that Canadian criminal charges against American comics fan Ryan Matheson had been dropped. In turn, Matheson spoke out on his own behalf in a lengthy statement about how he was treated by Canadian authorities, a statement that imparted the indignation and confusion any innocent comics fan would feel after being exonerated from a crime he or she did not commit.

Several news outlets covered the story. Brigid Alverson at Comic Book Resources has been on top of the story since CBLDF announced the case last year. In her reporting on the dropped charges, she details Matheson’s arrest and mistreatment:

The customs officer went to his supervisor’s office and checked the definition of child pornography in the Canadian criminal code before deciding to detain Matheson. (The border officers’ statements are unclear as to at what point Matheson was officially placed under arrest and whose decision it was to arrest him.) The officer read Matheson his rights, and Matheson said he did not want to contact a lawyer or the U.S. Embassy. Matheson said in the court papers that at this point “he did not think that anything was ‘seriously wrong,’” because the court officers ...

American Libraries covers the Merritt Fund

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Check out this American Libraries article about a recent grant given by the LeRoy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund to a Nebraska librarian.

Too many librarians still don’t know about the Merritt Fund and the support it provides.  Please help us spread the word to those who might need assistance!  (Grants are kept strictly confidential, but Karla allowed us to highlight her situation to help get the word out.) The Merritt Fund is supported by individual donors – if you would like to join, visit or call Jonathan Kelley at 800-545-2433 ext. 4226.

Karla Shafer, Merritt Fund grant recipient

Know Your Rights — Tools For Travelers Crossing International Borders

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

By Charles Brownstein

Last week, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced that criminal charges had been dropped in R. v. Matheson, a case involving an American manga reader who was wrongly accused of importing child pornography into Canada because of comic book images on his laptop. Ryan was extensively, wrongfully searched and detained by the Canadian government who charged him with a crime before he even entered the country. Read the story in his own words here. The CBLDF provided financial and substantive legal support in his case, and is currently fundraising to help pay off his $45,000 legal debt.

While the good news is that Ryan’s ordeal is now over, the bad news is that this kind of prosecution can happen again. To help travelers crossing borders with comics, the CBLDF is pleased to offer important resources that you should read before you cross a foreign border. These tools aren’t designed to take the place of your lawyer. Nothing in them is intended as legal advice. But they are important overviews of the concerns travelers now face when crossing borders with comic art in printed form and on their digital devices, and must reading for everyone ...

WARNING: Exposure to Video Game Labeling Laws May Be Hazardous to Freedom of Speech

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Reps. Joe Baca and Frank Wolf have introduced a bill this week that would require game publishers to add a "clear and conspicuous" warning label to most new video games. HR 4204, the Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, is only the most recent in a series of legislative attempts to restrict or otherwise hinder speech in the form of interactive media.

EFF has put together an action alert that lets you to tell your Congressmember that you stand against the unnecessary and burdensome regulation of speech in video games, and that she should too.

Even though it is not required by law, many video game developers have been self-regulating games for age-level and content with Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings since 1994. That system is widely understood in the marketplace, and allows consumers and parents to make informed decisions about their video game purchases.

But under the proposed law, a label that says "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior" would be a required addition for all games rated E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10 and older), M (Mature), or A (Adult), regardless of the contents of the game. Only games released with ...

In Defending Free Speech, Bollinger’s Rhetoric Doesn’t Match Results

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

The American Constitution Society's Harvard Law & Policy Review recently ran an engaging interview with Columbia University President Lee Bollinger in which Bollinger discusses free speech issues on both a national and global level. I recommend reading it in full.  

At one point in the interview, HLPR asks Bollinger about the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit's recent holding in Ward v. Polite, arising from a claim by former counseling graduate student Julea Ward against Eastern Michigan University. (For more on that case, read Will Creeley's two-part breakdown here and here.) Regarding the Sixth Circuit's opinion, HLPR asked Bollinger if he thought the legal standard of "legitimate pedagogical concerns" reached by the Supreme Court of the United States in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988), which gave K-12 schools broad authority to restrict student expression, should apply to colleges. Bollinger responded (emphasis added):

I definitely do not think, and have not thought, it should apply to public colleges and universities. The recognition for many decades has been that universities are basically dealing with adults, and our general conception of free speech and press very much applies in that context. Sure, there may be slight variations, to ...