Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

OIF urges Alamogordo, N.M, schools to reinstate Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has sent a letter to the superintendent of the Alamogordo, N. M., Public Schools, asking that the district rescind its removal of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from Alamogordo High School classrooms and the library.

The ban, which was reported last week, came after a parent complained about content on one page of the book.  In interviews, Superintendent George Straface has stated that the removal is temporary, pending a review of the book by school administrators.

In the letter, OIF Director Barbara Jones points out that the removal of the book goes against the interests of students – as well as against the stated policies of the school district:

As your own policies emphasize, “Resources shall be recommended for their strengths rather than rejected for their weaknesses, and shall be judged as a whole.”

Follow @oif on Twitter for the latest updates on this ongoing situations.

ALA letter to Dr Straface

EFF Files Challenge With Patent Office Against Troll’s Podcasting Patent

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Massive Crowdsourcing Effort Leads to Strong Petition Before the USPTO

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a formal challenge to the so-called "podcasting patent" used by a patent troll to shake down podcasters big and small for licensing fees. The petition for inter partes review, presented today to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), is the first legal filing in EFF's "Save Podcasting" campaign launched in May.

In January 2013, Personal Audio, LLC, began suing a number of podcasters, including comedian Adam Carolla (The Adam Carolla Show) and three major television networks, claiming they infringe U.S. Patent No. 8,112,504. In addition to filing these lawsuits, Personal Audio has sent demand letters to a variety of podcasters demanding that they pay a license fee. Because Personal Audio's business model is entirely based on leveraging its patents and it does not do any podcasting itself, the company fits the definition of a "non-practicing entity," or—as everyone from EFF to the White House calls these entities—a "patent troll."

"As we show in our petition, Personal Audio is not the true inventor of this technology and should not be demanding a payout from today's podcasters," ...

CBLDF Defends Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere In New Mexico Challenge

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

This week, NeverwhereCBLDF took a leadership role in a coalition of anti-censorship advocates — including the National Coalition Against Censorship,  American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, and the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom — to defend Neil Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere, which has been removed from shelves in Alamogordo High School pending review.

Last week, CBLDF learned that Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was under attack in the New Mexico school system. A parent filed a complaint over the book, claiming the content was “rated R” and inappropriate for her 15-year-old daughter. The book was subsequently removed for review. CBLDF learned of the removal late last week after a biased news report by CBS affiliate KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was posted online. (You can view the report here.)

Neverwhere has been on the school’s reading list since 2004 based on a recommendation from the textbook program that the school uses, but this is the first complaint it has received. Wilmott’s complaint is not focused on the work as a whole, only on the content on p. 86; no other passages appear to be under contention.

The letter in defense of Neverwhere ...

EFF Files Brief to Reveal the DEA’s Secret Use of Electronic Surveillance in Criminal Cases

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Given the recent revelations about just how pervasive the government's electronic surveillance has been, it's no surprise these surveillance programs are popping up in criminal cases, as defense attorneys are finding gaps in how the government collected particular pieces of electronic evidence on their clients. A new amicus brief we filed today with the ACLU and the ACLU of Northern California in a drug case in San Francisco federal district court asks the court to order the government to fill these gaps.

The case involves 20 co-defendants charged with transporting and distributing drugs from San Francisco to Seattle. During the investigation, the government obtained records on over 700,000 phone calls made by more than 600 different phone numbers, including records such as numbers dialed or dialing in, the date, time and duration of the calls, and in some cases location information. Yet despite the sheer volume of calls at issue, the government produced to the defense attorneys court orders authorizing collection on only 52 of these phone numbers. The enormous discrepancy between the call data actually collected and the court orders authorizing the collection raises serious questions about whether the government took advantage of the controversial surveillance programs recently leaked to ...

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl Stays in NC Library

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

indexIn September, CBLDF joined the CBLDF-sponsored Kids’ Right to Read Project to send a letter to the Currituck County High School Board of Education in defense of A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, a critically-acclaimed novel by Tanya Lee Stone. The school board finally decided the book’s fate, voting 4-1 to keep the book in the library

Parent Elissa Cooper wrote a letter to the school board, demanding the removal of the book from the high school library due to sexual content. The book, which focuses on three girls and their decisions regarding a single boy who has made it his goal to seduce all of the girls in school, has been praised as a frank and relevant take on how teenagers handle sexuality. Ultimately, the girls in the book stand up to the predatory behaviors of the boy — and for themselves in the process — but Cooper chose to focus only on the sexual component of the story.

Cooper expressed disappointment with the school board’s decision, but it rightly upholds the decisions made by committees at the high school and district levels, both of which found value in keeping the book in the ...

An Open Letter to All the Comic Cons: Protect Our Secret Identities

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Dear comic/sci-fi/fantasy/etc. convention organizers:

You may have read about the galactic frack-up at New York Comic-Con last week, in which hundreds of convention-goers learned that NYCC was posting hideously uncreative, gratuitously gleeful promotional tweets from their personal Twitter accounts. As a convention organizer yourself, these tweets and the subsequently trollful complaints may have filled up your feed. Nightmares of similar PR disasters may have (should have) have kept your heart racing as you tried to sleep.

NYCC attendees contacted us to ask what can be done about it, and that's why I entreat you today to think thoroughly through future attempts to lever technology against the fandoms, particularly when it comes to linking convention badges to personal data, including location.

Here's what happened, according to Polygon:

Within hours of the show opening its doors, members of the press, professionals and attendees discovered that their Twitter accounts were automatically sending out messages praising the show. Among those whose accounts tweeted without their knowledge were my own, IGN's Greg Miller, Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles, Attract Mode's Matt Hawkins and, according to Twitter, hundreds of others.

The pre-written tweets — more than 500 of them — were sent out on ...

Another Year, Another Electronic Privacy Veto for California Governor Brown

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Close your eyes, can't happen here
Big bro' on white horse is near
The hippies won't come back you say
Mellow out or you will pay
Mellow out or you will pay!
Now it's 1984
Knock-knock at your front door
It's the suede denim secret police
They have come for your uncool niece

- "California Über Alles," Dead Kennedys

For the third straight year, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed common sense electronic privacy legislation, ensuring that California remains behind the rest of the country when it comes to technology law and policy.

On Saturday he vetoed SB 467, an EFF-sponsored bill that would have required state law enforcement officials to obtain a search warrant in order to get the contents of electronic communications from an Internet or online service provider. Federal electronic privacy legislation is woefully outdated and 1986's Stored Communications Act ("SCA") permits police to obtain the contents of electronic communications without a search warrant if it has been stored online for more than 180 days. Most states, including California, have adopted the SCA. Congress has considered proposals to update the statute, but as the effort stalls in DC, courts, companies and state legislatures stepped up instead.


Watch Diane Rehm at TJ Center’s “Evening of Expression”

Monday, October 14th, 2013

You can now watch the entire interview with Diane Rehm […]

The post Watch Diane Rehm at TJ Center’s “Evening of Expression” appeared first on Thomas Jefferson Center.

More Details Emerge in Neverwhere Challenge

Monday, October 14th, 2013

NeverwhereLast week, CBLDF learned that Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was under attack at Alamogordo High School in New Mexico. A parent filed a complaint over the book, claiming the content was “rated R” and inappropriate for her 15-year-old daughter. The book was subsequently removed for review.

Over the weekend, more details in the challenge emerged. Michael Johnson with Alamogordo newsource Daily News reached out to Nancy Wilmott, the parent who filed the complaint:

“I really think that the school needs to let the parents know what their students are going to read beforehand, not the day before or after,” Wilmott wrote in an e-mail to the Daily News. “I am not a closed-minded parent that thinks my kids should hear no evil. Just not something with such graphic detail — a intimate situation between two adults.”

Wilmott took exception to a passage on p. 86 of the paperback edition of the book, which reads as follows:

A late-night couple, who had been slowly walking along the Embankment toward them, holding hands, sat down in the middle of the bench, between Richard and Anaesthesia, and commenced to kiss each other, passionately. “Excuse me,” said Richard to them. The man had his hand ...

Supreme Court Hears First Free Speech Case of New Term

Monday, October 14th, 2013

On October 8, 2013 the Supreme Court convened to hear t […]

The post Supreme Court Hears First Free Speech Case of New Term appeared first on Thomas Jefferson Center.

Fourth Circuit Says Facebook “Likes” are Protected Expression

Monday, October 14th, 2013

The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has determined […]

The post Fourth Circuit Says Facebook “Likes” are Protected Expression appeared first on Thomas Jefferson Center.

New Report Finds Obama’s Policies Threaten an Independent Press

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

The Committee to Protect Journalists has released its first-ever special report on freedom of the press in the United States. For many years, CPJ has documented attacks on journalists in many countries around the world. The report focused on how policies and practices of the Obama administration disrupt relationships between journalists and government sources, allow officials to circumvent scrutiny by the press, and create a chilling environment for whistleblowers who might otherwise serve as journalistic sources. The report also discusses the ramifications of NSA surveillance, which leaves journalists and their sources reluctant to communicate electronically.

The report paints a picture of increasing press restrictions beginning just after 9/11 and culminating with the current administration, which is described as uniquely resistant to accountability to the press. Written by former executive editor of the Washington Post Leonard Downie Jr and CPJ’s Sara Rafsky, the report relied on information gathered through extensive interviews with dozens of members of the press. Individual journalists are cited throughout to provide candid insights into the daily experiences of journalists in the United States today.

In total, the report and the concomitant recommendations show that Obama Administration policies around classification, whistle-blower prosecution, and surveillance are threatening investigative ...

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere Banned in New Mexico School District

Friday, October 11th, 2013

NeverwhereYesterday, the Alamogordo High School removed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere from shelves after parent Nancy Wilmott complained over content she deemed innapropriate for her 15-year-old daughter. The book has been on district required reading lists since 2004, but it has not been challenged before Wilmott took exception to language and what she called “sexual innuendo” in the book, claiming that “This is rated R material, and she cannot get into a rated R movie.”

The story was discovered after typically skewed coverage of the ban was posted online by CBS affiliate KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (KRQE won’t be winning any awards for their biased coverage, which can be viewed here.) Upon hearing of the ban, Neil Gaiman took to Twitter, asking, “Is anyone fighting back?” If the comments section on the KRQE video is any indication, the school district can expect immediate opposition to the ban.

NPR reached out to Gaiman, who responded via email:

“I’m faintly baffled by this. NEVERWHERE’s a book that’s been taught in schools for years: it’s an adult novel that kids love (and won the YALSA award as an adult book that Young Adults enjoy). It’s an adventure, with themes of social ...

CBLDF Defends Comics at the Alternative Press Expo!

Friday, October 11th, 2013

ape_logoThis weekend, CBLDF returns to San Francisco for the Alternative Press Expo, the West Coast’s celebration of independent and self-published comics! CBLDF will be on hand at booth 318 with exclusive signed premiums, panels, and more!

Join us Saturday, October at 2:00 p.m. for a special signing with investigative journalist Bob Levin, whose book The Pirates and the Mouse: Disney’s War Against The Underground dug into Disney’s epic legal attacks on the Air Pirates, a rag-tag group of independent cartoonists.

During the show, CBLDF is delighted to present two of our most popular panels:

CBLDF: Raising a Reader

Saturday, October 12 • 12:00 -12:45 p.m. • Programming Room

An all-star panel of kids comics creators and educators discuss ways to get children excited about reading, encourage creativity, and cultivate a love of literature using great graphic novels and comics. Panelists include Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), Alexis Fajardo (Kid Beowulf, Peanuts), and Jack Baur (Teen Services Librarian at the Berkeley Public Library). Moderated by Betsy Gomez (CBLDF) with a Q&A to follow.

CBLDF: Banned Comics!

Sunday, October 13 • 2:15 – 3:00 p.m. • Programming Room

Every year comics are banned ...

The Real Panels That Inspired Wertham’s Attacks on Comics

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Designer Michael Dooley recently reexamined some of the comics titles attacked by Frederic Wertham in his 1954 “expose” on comics, Seduction of the Innocent. Wertham’s condemnation of comics led to decades of self-censorship by the comics industry.

In examining the titles that Wertham targeted, Dooley noted variability in the quality of the books, but also noted that there’s no justification for censorship:

…it’s time to take a fresh look at the text of this nearly 60 year old document—and naturally, at those evil, decadent comics he referenced —for a contemporary perspective on just how graphic these images actually were.

Some stories were literate, clever, well illustrated and worthy of respect; the EC line, for example. But many others were vulgar and poorly drawn, with gratuitous violence and crude depictions of women and minorities. Obviously, parents should—and must—decide what their children are exposed to, and at what ages. But instituting formal censorship is another matter entirely.

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the two-article series. Let’s start with one of Wertham’s frequent targets, Batman:


World’s Finest #44

Sometimes Batman ends up in bed injured and young Robin is shown sitting next to him. At home ...

Unspoken Words: The Chilling Effect of NSA Surveillance Abuses

Friday, October 11th, 2013

In early 2012 when the news first went mainstream that the NSA was building its “Spy Center” in Utah, public reaction was much closer to Area 51-esque skepticism than the warranted level of alarm.  However, recent events show that we can barely go a week without another accusation of the National Security Agency abusing its mass surveillance powers.  Critics are blaming the Feds.  The Feds are blaming the realities of the Digital Age.  Me?  Well, I’m blaming all of us. 

‘Mass surveillance’ is the legitimized monitoring and data mining of people, governments, and businesses across the globe by the United States federal government.  Ostensibly, its purposes range from furthering domestic intelligence and ensuring national security, to essentially whatever reason the NSA provides on any given day.  So when it comes right down to it, mass surveillance means spying.  Nothing new, right?  Government agencies all over the world have used clandestine surveillance efforts to gather data for decades.  So why the hysteria?  Two words: the Internet.  Per usual, the federal government is exploiting the lag between law and technology to further an allegedly altruistic agenda, while ...

CBLDF at NYCC – Panels, Parties, Manga, Exclusives & More!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

This weekend, the comics world converges on New York City for New York Comic-Con, which goes down October 10 – 13 at the Javits Center. CBLDF will be at booth #965 throughout the show, and we’ll have parties, panels, signings, and more! All proceeds from the show will benefit CBLDF’s important work defending the First Amendment rights of the comics community!


NYCC Welcome Party & CBLDF Member Drive

nycc party inviteDynamite Entertainment & The Beat kick NYCC off with a big bang on Thursday, October 10! Come join comics’ greatest creators and Be Counted as a member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at the Smithfield in the heart of NYC! This party is free for all CBLDF members, and if you join or renew at the event you’ll get in for free and receive special gifts from Dynamite & CBLDF! Donors joining or renewing their CBLDF Membership at the $50 level or higher will receive a free open bar wristband, while supplies last!

Thursday, October 10, 2013
8:00 – 11:00 p.m.
215 West 28th Street (Between 7th and 8th Avenues)

Free for CBLDF members!
$10 for non-members
$50 donation or membership fee gets open bar wristband ...

EFF Resigns from Global Network Initiative

Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Citing Concerns Over NSA’s Impact on Corporate Members, EFF Leaves Industry Group

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today withdrew from the Global Network Initiative (GNI), citing a fundamental breakdown in confidence that the group's corporate members are able to speak freely about their own internal privacy and security systems in the wake of the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance revelations.

EFF has been a civil society member of the multi-stakeholder human rights group since GNI was founded in 2008 to advance freedom of expression and privacy in the global information and communication technologies sector. While much has been accomplished in these five years, EFF can no longer sign its name on joint statements knowing now that GNI's corporate members have been blocked from sharing crucial information about how the US government has meddled with these companies' security practices through programs such as PRISM and BULLRUN.

"We know that many within the industry do not like or approve of such government interference, and GNI has, in statements, made it clear that member companies want permission from the US government to engage in greater transparency," EFF's International Director Danny O'Brien and Director for International Freedom of Expression ...

Jeff Smith on Why He Joined the CBLDF Board

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Jeff Headshot 2013Last week, CBLDF announced that acclaimed creator Jeff Smith was named to the CBLDF Board of Directors. The creator behind the perennially popular Bone series is no stranger to censorship — a parent in Minnesota tried to get Bone banned from her son’s library.

Michael Cavna with the Comic Riffs blog on The Washington Post website spoke with Smith about his appointment, starting with Smith’s brush with censorship:

“A school in Minnesota wanted to ban it,” Smith tells Comic Riffs this week. “It was because [it depicts] cigars and beer…when it takes place in a medieval town. And my main characters…don’t even partake.”

Smith tells Cavna about why CBLDF is so important:

“It’s always been a really important organization,” Smith tells us, “that has to protect the people who create comics and those who distribute them and those who read them.”

Smith also spoke about his experience as a comics fan in an era when retailers were attacked for carrying adult comics and how comics are still targeted despite the demise of the Comics Code:

Now in his 50s, Smith says he can remember the era when comic shops would get raided and “authorities were kind of [cracking] ...

The Government Shutdown is Great News For Those Who Don’t Want NSA Accountability

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

While many federal employees and the American public have been negatively affected by the US government shutdown, there is one group of people who can probably take solace: those who need to be held to account for the NSA surveillance scandal.

Before the shutdown, there were two allegedly “independent” investigations into NSA spying activities taking place—one through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and one through the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). We have heavily criticized these committees for being beholden to the White House and DNI, the same bodies in charge of the NSA, but certainly some investigation is better than nothing.

Now it seems both unpaid boards will be scaling back or shutting down operations even though they are not required to by the shutdown.

The DNI “review group,” has decided to shutdown operations because its underlying staff is furloughed. According to an unnamed source in Politico, the five-member panel was still set to meet this week until one of its members—former CIA deputy director Michael Morrell—declined to participate. (Politico needed a source to tell them when the review group was meeting because the DNI exempted the group from US transparency rules that ...

Barefoot Gen Translator Disinvited from Speaking at Japanese School

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

hadashi_no_gen_1969A little more than a month after Keiji Nakazawa’s manga classic Barefoot Gen was restored to school libraries in the Japanese city of Matsue, an English-language translator of the series has been abruptly disinvited from speaking at a junior high school in suburban Tokyo, 400 miles away. School officials there obliquely cite “recent circumstances” and “social trends” as their reason for cancelling the translator’s visit.

Alan Gleason, who lives in Japan and has been involved in translating Nakazawa’s work since 1977, was originally invited to speak at Iogi Junior High School in Suginami Ward approximately two months ago — after Barefoot Gen had been quietly removed from Matsue school libraries last December, but before the ban became public knowledge and received international coverage. According to newspaper Mainichi Shimbun’s English-language site, Iogi principal Chieko Akaogi asked Gleason to speak on October 4 before 350 students about “what he had wanted to express through the translation of Barefoot Gen, what words from the work had stuck with him and how he chose words for the translation.”

As the appointed date drew closer, however, Akaogi herself says she “asked that Gleason not focus the speech on Barefoot Gen [and] he refused.” ...

Understanding Your Rights FAQ – “Graphic” Sex: Comics, Controversial Content and Crossing the Border

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Manga-is-not-a-crime-300x300Comic Book Legal Defense Fund frequently receives questions about the legality of the creation, collection, possession, and/or transporting of comics and related graphic publications that may contain content of a sexual nature. Past inquires have involved “adult” comic books, hentai, manga, and various sub-genres. We accordingly requested that General Counsel Robert Corn-Revere provide some general guidance for our members. The following frequently asked questions, and the answers to them, may be helpful.*

What legal protections do I have?

In the United States, freedoms of speech and of the press are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. State constitutions also protect freedom of expression. While these legal protections are powerful, they are not unlimited. Depending on the nature of the regulation, and type of content involved and/or circumstances under which it is disseminated, the government may impose restrictions or requirements. Also, the federal and state constitutions do not protect you outside the United States.

Do comics receive the same constitutional protections as newspapers?

Yes. It has long been settled that graphic arts – including comic books – qualify as “speech” or “press” entitled to the same First Amendment protection under the Constitution as any other mode of expression.

What ...

Supreme Court of India – Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails Must Be Used

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Three years ago, I wrote of the controversy surrounding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in India. A study by 2010 EFF Pioneer Award winner Hari Prasad and others showed that the EVMs could be hacked. For his troubles, Prasad was charged criminally for alleged theft of the EVM that was studied.

The charges against Prasad have long since been dropped, but the controversy surrounding India's electronic voting machines continues. Some have advocated that the EVMs be abandoned completely, and that India should go back to using old fashioned paper ballots. Others have claimed that the EVMs can be made more secure, but only if a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is added.

For a significant time, the Election Commission of India continued to maintain that the EVMs were tamper proof. However, a number of different lawsuits were brought challenging the use of EVMs without VVPATs. The most significant was a public interest litigation action brought by Dr. Subramanian Swamy. Yesterday, the Supreme Court of India ruled in favor of Dr. Swamy, reversing an earlier ruling by the High Court of Delhi.

The Court had issued a number of related orders to the Election Commission, directing ...

Obscenity Case Files: Jenkins v. Georgia

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Carnal Knowledge (c) MGM

Carnal Knowledge (c) MGM

In 1972, a movie theater manager in Albany, Georgia, was convicted under a Georgia statute for the crime of distributing obscene material for showing the film Carnal Knowledge. The conviction took place during an odd limbo period between the decisions of Memoirs v. Massachusetts and Miller v. California. In Jenkins v. Georgia, the Supreme Court held in light of the new Miller standard for obscenity that lower courts had gone too far in classifying the movie as obscene, and the conviction was reversed.

Mr. Jenkins was managing a movie theater, who, like many other movie theaters at the time, was showing the film Carnal Knowledge, a 1971 comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols that starred Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, and Ann Margret. The movie focuses on two college roommates and lifelong friends, played by Nicholson and Garfunkel. It follows their friendship from their college years until middle age. The film focuses Nicholson and Garfunkel’s relationships with various women throughout the years. The film received many positive reviews and appeared on many “Ten Best” lists for 1971. It also received nominations for two Golden Globes and one Academy Award.

On January ...

EFF Submits Comments to ‘Independent’ Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Review Group

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

There's an eerie similarity between the National Security Agency spying uncovered in the 1970s, which included the intelligence community spying on political activists and the NSA's collection of every single international telegram being sent from the United States, and the NSA spying today. Back then, after journalists reported on the illegal actions of the NSA, President Gerald Ford appointed Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to spearhead a commission to look into the allegations of illegal actions by the intelligence community. The Rockefeller Commission was not sufficient to make serious reforms, which only arrived later, after the Congress created the Church Committee

Today, after the Snowden leaks, President Barack Obama asked Gen. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence—whose office oversees the entire intelligence community, which includes the NSA—to form a "Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies." The presidential memorandum establishing the Review Group did not mention the word privacy or civil liberties once, but the group is asking for comments on how the United States can "employ [its] technical collection capabilities…while respecting our commitment to privacy and civil liberties."

The Review Group, which has been furloughed during the government shutdown, will be collecting comments even after the ...

How The NSA Deploys Malware: An In-Depth Look at the New Revelations

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

We've long suspected that the NSA, the world's premiere spy agency, was pretty good at breaking into computers. But now, thanks to an article by security expert Bruce Schneier—who is working with the Guardian to go through the Snowden documents—we have a much more detailed view of how the NSA uses exploits in order to infect the computers of targeted users. The template for attacking people with malware used by the NSA is in widespread use by criminals and fraudsters, as well as foreign intelligence agencies, so it's important to understand and defend against this threat to avoid being a victim to the plethora of attackers out there.

How Does Malware Work Exactly?

Deploying malware over the web generally involves two steps. First, as an attacker, you have to get your victim to visit a website under your control. Second, you have to get software—known as malware—installed on the victim's computer in order to gain control of that machine. This formula isn't universal, but is often how web-based malware attacks proceed.

In order to accomplish the first step of getting a user to visit a site under your control, an attacker might email the victim text that contains a link ...

Vietnamese Dissident Meets Family Members for First Time Since Arrest

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Jailed Vietnamese dissident lawyer Le Quoc Quan told family members Tuesday in his first meeting with them since his detention nearly a year ago that his conviction is unfounded and he plans to lodge an appeal, according to his brother.

Authorities allowed Quan a half-hour meeting with five family members at the Hoa Lo No. 1 Prison in Hanoi, where he has been held since he was handed a 30-month sentence on tax evasion charges last week after being detained in December.

“He is not happy about the verdict and does not agree with it,” his brother and fellow activist Le Quoc Quyet told RFA’s Vietnamese Service after the meeting.

“He said … he should have been acquitted,” Quyet said, adding that his brother had drafted an appeal on Monday.

International rights groups have contended that the charges are part of a government campaign to silence Quan, a prominent Catholic blogger and activist who had defended victims of religious persecution and written critically of the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party online.

Quan had rejected the charges at the trial last week, saying they were part of a political vendetta against him and vowing to continue his fight against corruption.

Quyet said ...

Students’ Free Speech Victory Upheld at Oregon State as Supreme Court Denies Cert Petition

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Last October, my colleague Will Creeley wrote a post here on The Torch describing an important victory for students’ free speech rights from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Oregon State University Student Alliance v. Ray. That decision will now stand, as the United States Supreme Court denied defendants’ petition for certiorari in an order issued yesterday.

As you may recall, the case arose when Oregon State University (OSU) administrators apparently attempted to push the Liberty, a conservative student newspaper, off campus—initially by removing and throwing out the Liberty’s newsbins (picture here), then by enforcing an unwritten “policy” to forbid the paper from being distributed on campus like other publications. The students filed suit. 

The federal district court concluded that the student journalists provided insufficient evidence to prove their claims, refused to allow them to amend their complaint to satisfy the deficiencies, and dismissed the case. But last year, the Ninth Circuit reversed that decision, allowing the suit to proceed. The appellate court also held that the top university administrators were properly named as defendants, as the complaint properly alleged that they knew employees under their supervision “denied plaintiffs’ publication ...

Is UW-La Crosse Prof Being Railroaded over ‘Partisan’ Speech?

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Professor Rachel Slocum

A concerning report out of Wisconsin suggests that administrators at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) have inappropriately pressured a professor there to apologize for sending her class an email critical of the government shutdown and to refrain from using “politically partisan language” in the future. 

According to The Daily Caller, UW-L geography professor Rachel Slocum sent her class the following email:

hi everyone

Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/tea party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government. The Census website, for example, is closed. Please do what you can on the assignment. Those parts that you’re unable to do because of the shutdown will have to wait until Congress decides we actually need a government. Please listen to the news and be prepared to turn in the assignment quickly once our nation re-opens.


Someone forwarded this email to an organization called Media Trackers, which in turn contacted the university’s chancellor, Joe Gow, for an explanation. This is where things get troubling. According to Media Trackers, Gow responded that he shared the organization’s concern over the “inappropriate use” of “overly partisan” language in an ...

Tenlegs and Midtown Comics Sponsor NYCC Charity Event Benefiting CBLDF

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

tenlegs-logo-256x256NYC-based online artist community Tenlegs, found at, announced that it will co-sponsor the SonicBoomBox New York Comic Con After Party in conjunction with Midtown Comics and other sponsors.

Held on Friday, October 11, 2013 at The Hudson Bond, the after party will be geared toward comic book artists and fans and hosted by Vampy Bit Me. The party offers an opportunity for attendees to gather over drinks, music, and video games after the day’s NYCC events.

Tenlegs’ involvement helps add a special charitable aspect to the event. Working with comic pros, including Khary Randolph (host of Drink & Draw NYC), Ken Lashley, Siya Oum, Edwin Huang and Jason Narvaez, Tenlegs will facilitate fundraising events at the party with proceeds benefiting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (

“Comic illustrators represent a significant group of artists on our site, so we approached Midtown Comics and the CBLDF with the idea of turning this event into a benefit,” said Tenlegs CEO Amit Gupta. “We’re thrilled that Tenlegs is able to help turn what is already an exciting event into one that also impacts the comic book art community”

Midtown-Comics-Logo-Hi-Res_fullSonicBoomBox NYCC After Party will be held on Friday, October ...

Uma Cervejinha Na Praça Com a EFF?

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Praça São Salvador - Laranjeiras Rio de Janeiro - RJ 22210-080
Friday, October 11th at 7:00 pm

(Português abaixo)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is proud to host our next happy hour in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. EFF International Team, Danny O'Brien and Katitza Rodriguez, would like to invite you to raise a glass of cervejinha at Praça São Salvador, Rio de Janeiro on Friday, October 11 at 7:00 pm. Meet at the water fountain. We will be wearing EFF t-shirts.

EFF happy hour events are free, informal meetups that give you a chance to mingle with local online rights supporters and speak with EFF staff. It is also our chance to thank you, the supporters who make it possible. For this round, we are pleased to welcome EFF members as well as all friends and guests. No host bar.

  • When: Friday, October 11th at 7:00 pm
  • Where: Praça São Salvador  - Laranjeiras. Rio de Janeiro - RJ 22210-080.
  • Meet at the water fountain. We will be wearing EFF t-shirts.
  • Contact Katitza Rodri­guez at  katitza @ for more information.

Uma Cervejinha Na Praça Com A EFF?

A equipe Internacional da Electronic Frontier Foundation - EFF, Danny ...

Lawsuit Proceeds Against U. at Buffalo Officials Accused of Allowing Censorship

Monday, October 7th, 2013

On June 4, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of students at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) after the school’s police allegedly refused to interfere when an April demonstration by pro-life students was effectively blocked by pro-choice counter-protesters. Last week, AFLC announced that a federal magistrate judge has recommended (PDF) that the lawsuit proceed despite UB officials’ request that the suit be dismissed.

AFLC summarizes the facts of the case on its website:

[The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. and Students for Life] followed the university’s procedures to reserve a prime location outside of the Student Union for the anti-abortion display. The request was initially met with resistance from university officials. However, ... [t]he officials reluctantly approved the request.

During the actual GAP display, however, university officials permitted protestors to purposely block the graphic, anti-abortion images. At times, the student protestors would use umbrellas and bed sheets to accomplish their task. When the organizers of the event requested assistance from the university police, including its chief of police, they refused, thus prompting this lawsuit.

As FIRE reported back in April, the police didn’t entirely fail to respond—an officer actually arrested ...

NYCC, The Panels: Secret Origins of Comics Censorship! Raising a Reader!

Monday, October 7th, 2013

nycc logoNew York Comic-Con starts this Thursday, and CBLDF will be along for the ride, first with our NYCC Welcome Party, and then with our panels — CBLDF will reveal the secret origins of comics censorship and how you can use comics to make kids into lifelong readers!

Let’s take a look at waht CBLDF has in store for NYCC:

CBLDF: The Secret Origins of Comics Censorship!

Friday, October 11, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Location: 1A03
Speakers: Charles Brownstein, Carol Tilley, Charles Kochman

In 1954, comic books were put on trial by the US Government whose Senate investigation prompted the birth of the Comics Code, a censorship body that shackled the medium for decades. New research by scholar Carol Tilley reveals a secret history behind the trials, including insights into the methods of Dr. Frederic Wertham whose findings weren’t merely faulty, but also fabricated! Go behind the scenes of this fateful moment in comics history and learn the untold stories of Frederic Wertham, Estes Kefauver and the kids who tried to fight the tide of anti-comics momentum.

If you want a warm up for this panel, check out this nifty two-part series from designer Michael Dooley on the comics that ...

FIRE President to Speak at ‘Kindly Inquisitors’ 20th Anniversary Event in D.C. on October 16

Monday, October 7th, 2013

This Wednesday, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will speak on a panel at the Cato Institute’s 20th anniversary celebration of Jonathan Rauch’s influential treatise on the importance of freedom of inquiry, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. The event will take place at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, October 16, at Cato’s Hayek Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Joining Greg on the panel will be author and Brookings Institution scholar Jonathan Rauch, the Human Rights Campaign’s Legal Director Brian Moulton, and Director of Cato Institute Press John Samples.

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. A free luncheon will follow.

Kindly Inquisitors, 20th Anniversary Book Forum at the Cato Institute 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 12 p.m. (EDT)
Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20001-5403

Register to attend here!

Boston College Students Experience the Benefits of True Civil Debate

Monday, October 7th, 2013

“Civility” is one of the words that sets off alarm bells at FIRE. (No, it’s not because we’re unusually rude.) Many universities have enacted “civility codes,” ostensibly to maintain a respectful and inclusive atmosphere on campus. But, as my colleague Samantha Harris has pointed out, this is often censorship by another name. If you curtail how someone expresses him or herself, you may also restrict the message they can convey. Free speech cannot be subjected to a politeness requirement. As Justice Harlan observed in Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15, 25 (1971):

For, while the particular four-letter word being litigated here is perhaps more distasteful than most others of its genre, it is nevertheless often true that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric. Indeed, we think it is largely because governmental officials cannot make principled distinctions in this area that the Constitution leaves matters of taste and style so largely to the individual.

Although FIRE opposes speech codes, civility in its true sense is one of FIRE’s core values. It is the theme of FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. The term “civility code” trivializes the meaning of ...

Polls Continue to Show Majority of Americans Against NSA Spying

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Shortly after the June leaks, numerous polls asked the American people if they approved or disapproved of the NSA spying, which includes collecting telephone records using Section 215 of the Patriot Act and collecting phone calls and emails using Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The answer then was a resounding no, and new polls released in August and September clearly show Americans' increasing concern about privacy has continued.

Since July, many of the polls not only confirm the American people think the NSA's actions violates their privacy, but think the surveillance should be stopped. For instance in an AP poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans said they oppose the NSA collecting data about their telephone and Internet usage. In another national poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, 74 percent of respondents said the NSA's spying intrudes on their privacy rights. This majority should come as no surprise, as we've seen a sea change in opinion polls on privacy since the Edward Snowden revelations started in June.

What's also important is that it crosses political party lines. The Washington Post/ABC News poll found 70 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans believe ...

47 Prominent Technologists to NSA Review Panel: We Need Better Technical Oversight

Friday, October 4th, 2013

A group of prominent technologists submitted a letter today to the NSA Review Group, a body charged with conducting a review of NSA activities that does not currently have a technologist as a member. The letter urges the Review Group to seek assistance from independent technologists in order to conduct a thorough review, and that NSA oversight more broadly requires greater transparency with respect to the technical mechanisms used to conduct surveillance.

The letter also stressed that the National Security Agency's efforts to undermine encryption and secure communications technology have sabotaged the general security and privacy of users worldwide, and that much greater respect should be afforded to security and civil liberties considerations in order to prevent further damage to our country's values and to our economy.

The letter's delivery was coordinated by technologists from Center for Democracy and Technology and EFF as part of the NSA Review Group's request for public comments. The full list of 47 technologists who have signed the document is re-printed below. Affiliations are for identification purposes only.

Ben Adida
Ross Anderson, University of Cambridge
Dan Auerbach, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Brian Behlendorf, Board Member at EFF, Mozilla, and Benetech
Steven M. Bellovin, Columbia University

NSA Tracked US Cell Phone Locations For Two Years, Senator Says More Is Still Secret

Friday, October 4th, 2013

The National Security Agency (NSA) has finally admitted to tracking the cell phone location of Americans. For two years, in 2010 and 2011, the spy agency ran an “experiment” pilot project in which they wanted to test how location information would flow into their massive databases containing other information on Americans.

As the New York Times reported on Wednesday, “it was unclear how many Americans’ locational data was collected as part of the project, whether the agency has held on to that information or why the program did not go forward.”

What’s clear to us is this was a massive invasion of privacy.

Cell phone location data is among the most sensitive data your cell phone emits, perhaps even more so than the phone metadata the NSA already collects, which is already incredibly invasive. Cell phones, which many Americans carry on them wherever they go, create a rich data trail of your movements over weeks or months at a time. With access to such data, the government could learn your most intimate daily habits, movements, and whereabouts—information many people’s closest friends and family would not even know.

During a Senate hearing last week, NSA chief Keith Alexander was whether ...

Dynamite Entertainment & The Beat’s NYCC Welcome Party & CBLDF Member Drive

Friday, October 4th, 2013

nycc party inviteDynamite Entertainment & The Beat kick NYCC off with a big bang on Thursday, October 10! Come join comics’ greatest creators and Be Counted as a member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at the Smithfield in the heart of NYC! This party is free for all CBLDF members, and if you join or renew at the event you’ll get in for free and receive special gifts from Dynamite & CBLDF! Donors joining or renewing their CBLDF Membership at the $50 level or higher will receive a free open bar wristband, while supplies last!

Dynamite CEO and Publisher Nick Barrucci says, “New York Comic Con is the east coast home show for many pros, and the home turf of one of the most important organizations in comics — The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. I’m thrilled to welcome all of Dynamite’s friends and fans out to support a cause that’s very important to all of us, as the CBLDF fights to ensure everyone’s freedom to read all comics and graphic  novels. This is a great party to come, hang, and donate to to support one of the most worth while causes in comics — the CBLDF. And if you ...

FIRE Fans in Cleveland: Greg Is in Your Area Next Week for Four Public Speeches

Friday, October 4th, 2013

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will be in the Cleveland, Ohio, area next week to give a number of speeches, all of which are free and open to the public. Greg will discuss the current state of free expression on campus and the premise of his book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

Speech at University of Akron Law School

When: 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 8
Where: University of Akron (UA) Law School Auditorium
Who: Sponsored by the UA Law School Federalist Society


Speech at Case Western Reserve University School of Law

When: 12:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 9
Where: Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Law, Room A58
Who: Sponsored by CWRU School of Law Federalist Society


Speech at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

When: 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 9
Where: Cleveland-Marshall (CM) College of Law, LB 138, Room 202
Who: Sponsored by CM College of Law Federalist Society



Speech at Case Western Reserve University

When: 6:30 p.m., Thursday, October 10
Where: Clark Hall, Room 309
Who: Sponsored by the CWRU Young Americans for Liberty


FIRE supporters in the ...

EFF Gives Expert Testimony on NSA Spying in Challenge to British Surveillance Program

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Three major British privacy organizations on Thursday launched an important legal challenge to the United Kingdom’s participation in the massive global surveillance scandal. To support the case as an expert witness, I submitted a 32-page statement laying out much that is publicly known about the National Security Agency’s PRISM and UPSTREAM programs, and explained how US law offers no protections for non-US persons against spying by the agency.

Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group and English PEN, together with German internet activist Constanze Kurz, all filed papers with the European Court of Human Rights alleging that GCHQ—the UK’s version of the NSA—is invading the privacy of millions of European citizens. Specifically, the organizations point to violations of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees an individual’s right to a private life, including private correspondence.

The British and US governments both need to be held accountable for the practices of the NSA and GCHQ, and this case is a vital step in that work and a complement to our cases in the US.

The application—what we would call a “complaint” in the US judicial system—attacks two aspects of the UK’s participation in the mass ...

Everybody Let’s Stop the TPP: Share These Videos and Spread the Word

Friday, October 4th, 2013

President Obama was scheduled to meet with the leaders of the other eleven countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali, supposedly to plan the “end-game” for this massive trade deal. However, he has made a sudden decision to cancel his trip, claiming that this was a casualty of the government shutdown. Obama's announcement adds to the impression that goal of completing TPP at APEC has become unobtainable and reveal how precariously the negotiations are going.

There are reports that the remaining TPP country leaders who will be attending the APEC meeting will still be convening “with the aim of hammering out a framework.” As we've also previously mentioned, smaller issue-specific intersessional meetings have also grown more frequent and gone even further underground. So while the news of his trip getting cancelled is indeed welcome news, the TPP still could be signed even as its contents remain hidden from the public.

We only know what kind of copyright enforcement provisions are in this agreement due to leaks, but what we do know for sure is that this agreement is driven by corporate interests who want to enact their own digital policy ...

Persecuted Cartoonists Converse About Censorship

Friday, October 4th, 2013
(c) Leslie Chew

(c) Leslie Chew

Cartoonists Rights Network International recently shared in interview between Malaysian cartoonist Zunar and Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew — both of whom have been arrested and persecuted in their home countries for their political cartoons. Zunar visited Singapore and interviewed Chew for the CRNI website.

Zunar was awarded the Cartoonists Rights Network International’s annual Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning. Zunar, the pen name of Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, was arrested and detained in 2010, hours before a collection of his new political cartoons was published. Despite being cleared of sedition charges, Zunar had to sue for the return of dozens of seized books and artwork. Further, Malaysian courts ruled the sedition arrest was lawful. Zunar appealed the latter decision, and a hearing was scheduled for September 30. The hearing has been moved back several times, and it could not be determined whether the hearing took place as scheduled at the time of this writing.

Leslie Chew was arrested by authorities for alleged racial insensitivity and sedition. Chew shares his comic, Demon-cratic Singopore, on Facebook, and his arrest was the result of a complaint filed by a private citizen who took issue with the content of some of ...

A Revealing Cover Up: The Censoring of the “Legendary Children” Exhibit

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Jennifer Lu is a sophomore at NYU studying Media, Culture, and Communication, and she is a programs intern at NCAC. She hopes to learn more about the relationship between censorship, media, and freedom of expression, and ultimately to pursue her post-academic career in First Amendment Law.

drag queen blog pic 1 Gallery 1526 in Atlanta has always embodied the spirit of the city’s large drag scene and promoted artistic freedom. Previous exhibitions reflected openness towards representations of nudity, and references to drag culture and homosexuality. That is why the controversy over the gallery’s newest show, “Legendary Children,” came as a surprise.

The exhibition consists of pictures of the city’s drag scene and culture, featuring the works of Matthew Terrell, Jon Dean, and Blake England, among thirteen others. In one of England’s images, drag queen Violet Chacki’s penis is in plain view, while in another, her rear end is the focus, along with a gaff (a piece of underwear worn to hide a drag queen’s private parts). Jon Dean’s most provocative piece was one in which the background is an image of lips and saliva.

Individuals who worked in the building where the gallery is expressed their discomfort at having to see these “disturbing” images ...

Speech Code of the Month: Salem State University

Friday, October 4th, 2013

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2013: Salem State University

The Guide to Living on Campus for Massachusetts’ Salem State includes a Policy Against Racism (PDF) that applies to all students living in the university’s residence halls, spaces where students often speak the most freely. That policy “prohibits racism, anti-Semitism and ethnic or cultural intolerance.” It also prohibits

all actions or omissions—including all acts of verbal harassment or abuse—that deny or have the effect of denying anyone his or her rights to equality, dignity and security on the basis of his or her race, color, ethnicity, culture, or religion. 

While the intentions behind this policy are good, its overly broad language subjects large amounts of constitutionally protected speech and expression—including core political speech—to punishment. While things like “anti-Semitism” and “cultural intolerance” sound bad, who decides what qualifies for punishment? Obviously the university can and should take action if a Jewish student routinely finds swastikas drawn on her dorm whiteboard or is continually harassed on the basis of her religious beliefs. But what if someone is deeply offended by, say, a Palestinian student’s passionate expression of anti-Israel views? Or by anyone else who makes a statement ...

Webinar Focuses on the Use of Graphic Novels in Classrooms

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Dr. Meryl Jaffe has graciously donated her time to write our ongoing series Using Graphic Novels in Education. So far, she has provided teaching tips and Common Core State Standards correlations for Persepolis, American Born Chinese, The Silence of Our Friends, and Barefoot Gen. Dr. Jaffe recently participated in a webinar for teachers about using graphic novels in classrooms.

Dr. Jaffe and Capstone Professional kindly granted their permission to share the webinar, which is embedded below. From the webinar description:

In the messages we encounter every day – conversations, media resources, textbooks, Internet – words and visual input are concisely interwoven to relay information, perspectives, and ideas. Common Core Standards mandate that we teach our students how to critically evaluate fiction and non-fiction books, reports, and photo essays, which will serve them well in our world of typically subjective online and informal news tweets and YouTube clips. This webinar will illustrate how graphic novels, news reports and non-fiction books can be integrated in middle school classrooms to teach visual and verbal literacies and social studies while addressing Common Core Standards of using multiple literacy sources and multi-media tools.

Dr. Meryl Jaffe is an instructor for Johns ...

Early Reviews Are In: Get Your Copy of CBLDF Liberty Annual 2013 Now!

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

CBLDF13-MARQUEZ-FC-FNLCBLDF Presents Liberty Annual hit shelves yesterday, and early reviews are already singing its praises! When you buy a copy, not only do you get some of the best creators in comics — edited by Dark Horse Comics Editor-in Chief Scott Allie, it features original work from Richard Corben, Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko, Art Baltazar, Franco, Paul Tobin, Emi Lenox, and many, many more — you also support Free Speech!

Bloody Disgusting gives the Annual 4.5 out of 5 skulls and urges readers to “rush to your nearest comic shop and buy it,” saying:

Five bucks is a small price to pay for all this talent. There is no easy way to tackle a book as robust as this, so I’ll be breaking each story down individually. As a whole the book is impressive, varied, and entirely worth supporting.

Adventures in Poor Taste asked “Is It Good?” to resounding approval:

Hell yes. There is so much to love in this series, and on top of all that the proceeds go towards a good cause. Anyone worried about nudity or vulgarity shouldn’t be too worried either. There’s a bit of swearing, but generally the messages are more about why censorship ...

U. of Kansas Faculty, Staff Declare Support for Suspended Professor’s First Amendment Rights

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

As FIRE’s Peter Bonilla reported yesterday, 13 faculty members of the University of Kansas (KU) journalism department released a disappointing statement supporting the university’s suspension of journalism professor David Guth after he posted a controversial statement on Twitter regarding the National Rifle Association and September’s Navy Yard shootings. Thankfully, more than 100 current and former KU staff and faculty members have recognized the importance of freedom of expression and have signed on to a declaration of support for Guth’s First Amendment rights. The statement reads:

As members of the faculty and staff of the University of Kansas, the undersigned individuals strongly support the freedoms of expression specified in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Whatever one may think of Professor David Guth’s recent comments, we support his right to express his ideas, just as we support the rights of others to express their own opinions about his comments. Promoting freedom of expression should be a core value of any university.

It is encouraging that these staff and faculty members have demonstrated an understanding of First Amendment principles. 

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, KU Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Tim Caboni has said that KU is ...

Host a FIRE Speaker at Your School!

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Did you know that FIRE staff are available to speak at your school? As the month of October begins, now is a great time to start planning a FIRE lecture!

If you want to start a conversation about free speech and protecting student rights on your campus, then hosting a speaker from FIRE’s Speakers Bureau is an important step. For example, after a FIRE lecture at the University of Virginia, FIRE worked with the dean of students, and within months, the university’s restrictive speech codes were gone and the university earned a “green light” from FIRE! With your help, this could happen at your school too.

FIRE advocates for rights that protect all students, so any campus group can host a lecture. A political group, a student government, a women’s studies department, an art club—any student organization can serve as a host for a FIRE event! Also, any number of diverse groups can co-host a FIRE lecture. At a FIRE lecture at the University of California, San Diego, 11 different publications and political groups from across the political spectrum were co-sponsors. Co-hosting a lecture with another group not only is a great way to utilize your First ...

In the Silk Road Case, Don’t Blame the Technology

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

The man alleged to be "Dread Pirate Roberts," the founder and operator of the Silk Road—an online marketplace where bitcoins were traded for a range of goods and services, including drugs—was arrested by the FBI in San Francisco yesterday. The criminal complaint, released today, provides many details about how the site and its users relied on widespread anonymity technology, including Tor and Bitcoin. 

The increased attention on this technology is a good reminder about how important it is not to blame these tools for the actions of a small portion of their users. The public wouldn't tolerate a campaign to malign the car because of its utility as a getaway vehicle for bank robbers; we must apply the same critical thinking to essential privacy-preserving technology.

In certain parts of the complaint, even the federal agent behind the investigation and the Justice Department attorney in charge of the case acknowledge this. In describing how Tor was required to access the Silk Road (the site was configured as a Tor hidden service), they state that "Tor has known legitimate uses". Similarly, "Bitcoins are not illegal in and of themselves and have known legitimate uses."

Elsewhere the complaint goes astray. ...