Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Reporters Beaten in Zhejiang

Friday, February 17th, 2012
Land protests in an eastern Chinese province are reminiscent of the recent dispute in the rebel Guangdong village of Wukan.

This Month in FIRE History: San Francisco State University Investigates Students for Anti-Terrorism Protest

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Five years ago this month, FIRE first publicized a case at San Francisco State University (SFSU) that ignited public attention and eventually led to a significant legal victory for student rights. 

In October 2006, the College Republicans at San Francisco State University held an anti-terrorism rally on campus, during which they stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. In response, several students filed complaints with the school, protesting that they were offended because the flags bore the word "Allah" (written in Arabic), a fact unknown to the College Republicans. Rather than defend the constitutional rights of its students to peaceably protest, SFSU initiated an investigation into charges of incitement, creation of a hostile environment, and incivility. 

When FIRE intervened, we reminded SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan that the First Amendment guarantees the right to offensive expression, even the kind that may denigrate the beliefs of others. Furthermore, as our Robert Shibley pointed out, "stepping on a flag—even burning an American flag—is without question a constitutionally protected act of political protest." Despite this, SFSU moved forward with its investigation, referring the case for a hearing before the Student Organization Hearing Panel (SOHP). Fortunately, the panel found no grounds for ...

Wasilla High School Sculpture Covered After Concerns Voiced

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Jim Dault and Shala Dobson are proud to display their artwork at Wasilla High School. After all, the Meadow Lakes artists are Valley residents and have a familial connection with the school.

That’s why Jan. 29 was an exciting day, Dault said. That’s the day they installed their sculpture “Warrior Within” in front of the Mat-Su Borough School District’s largest high school. Three days later, however, the $100,000 work of art, contracted through the state’s Percent For Art Program, was covered by tarps and has remained under wraps since.

The reason? Some students think the stone and concrete sculpture that features a pair of shields surrounded by feathers resembles female genitalia. The oblong shields, one made of aluminum and another of bronze, are emblazoned with warrior symbolism, the artists say in a description of their project.

“Emerging from the powerful stone form are two warrior shields encircled by glowing feathers,” the description says, adding the art is a monument to the warrior spirit. “The bronze shield has a hand impression showing ‘good deeds.’ The aluminum shield has a flame symbol representing the ‘spark of inspiration.’ The stone form represents the strong material from which a warrior is made.”

That’s the ...

Ultimate Comics Gives Back to CBLDF with Muppet Show Auction!

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Did you ever want to see what Frank Cho, Eric Powell, or David Mack would do with an assignment to draw the Muppets? North Carolina retailer Ultimate Comics made it happen! They are proud to announce that it will be auctioning two dozen of its store exclusive The Muppet Show #1 variant covers, hand sketched by some of the greatest talent in the comics industry, with all proceeds going to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! Now is great opportunity for any fan to own one of these extremely rare variants sketched by an industry professional.

Artists Include:
David Petersen
Roger Landgridge
Robert Atkins
Guy Davis
Jeff Smith
Steve Epting
Frank Cho
Andy Kuhn
Georges Jeanty
Jonathan Hickman
David Mack
Chris Giarrusso
Erik Powel
Scott Wegener
And More!

Interested parties should visit the Ultimate Comics Online store on E-Bay. The auctions will be begin February 17 and run until March 9. Each week a different set of sketch covers will be available to bid on. Auctions start on Friday and run through the following Friday. 100% of the proceeds will go to the CBLDF.

Muppets Cover - Andy Kuhn Muppets Cover - Guy Davis Muppets Cover - Robert Atkins Muppets Cover - Roger Langridge Muppets Cover - Scott Wegener

About Ultimate Comics
Ultimate Comics is a comics seller in the Raleigh-Durham area of North ...

Google Circumvents Safari Privacy Protections – This is Why We Need Do Not Track

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal published evidence that Google has been circumventing the privacy settings of Safari and iPhone users, tracking them on non-Google sites despite Apple's default settings, which were intended to prevent such tracking.

This tracking, discovered by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer, was a technical side-effect—probably an unintended side-effect—of a system that Google built to pass social personalization information (like, “your friend Suzy +1'ed this ad about candy”) from the domain to the domain. Further technical explanation can be found below.

Coming on the heels of Google’s controversial decision to tear down the privacy-protective walls between some of its other services, this is bad news for the company. It’s time for Google to acknowledge that it can do a better job of respecting the privacy of Web users. One way that Google can prove itself as a good actor in the online privacy debate is by providing meaningful ways for users to limit what data Google collects about them. Specifically, it’s time that Google's third-party web servers start respecting Do Not Track requests, and time for Google to offer a built-in Do Not Track option.

Meanwhile, users who want to be safe against web ...

Syria Arrests Razan Ghazzawi and Eleven Other Activists in Renewed Crackdown of Online Dissent

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Razan Ghazzawi and eleven of her colleagues at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression were arrested today during a raid on their office. The Syrian Air Force's Intelligence Division in civilian dress and vehicles took the arrestees to an undisclosed location. This is the second time Ghazzawi has been arrested in the past few months; she was freed 15 days after the previous arrest. She is a U.S.-born Syrian who contributes to Global Voices Online and Global Voices Advocacy and has been an outspoken about her opposition to the Syrian regime. Mazen Darwish, the director of the organization and long time human rights advocate, was also one of those arrested. Here is a list of all of those detained:

  1. Mazen Darwish
  2. Razan Ghazzawi
  3. Rita Dayyoub
  4. Houssein Ghazeer
  5. Hani Zeitani
  6. Jwan Faraso
  7. Mayada Khaleel
  8. Maha Al-Sablati
  9. Hanadi Zahlout
  10. Sanaa Zeitani
  11. Hani Zeitani
  12. Yara Bader

These arrests may be a sign of broad new efforts to crack down on bloggers and activists amid the horrifying state violence against political dissidents in the past few weeks. The regime may also be planning to exploit the online network of those arrested to find other activists and bloggers, and to continue ...

Oakland University’s Punishment of Student Makes National and International Press

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

The national press has lit up over the news of Oakland University student Joseph Corlett's suspension (and additional punishment) from the university over the contents of a writing journal for his writing class, where he wrote of finding his instructors attractive. Corlett's appearance on MSNBC provided national TV exposure of the case and of Oakland's very troubling punishment of his protected expression. You can watch the video of his appearance here

Elsewhere, numerous ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliate networks have covered the story of Corlett's suspension (ABC News has provided national online coverage, and please also check out the latest from CBS's Detroit affiliate). The Detroit Free Press has been there as well (its coverage has run also in numerous Gannett-owned newspapers regionally and around the country). See also the coverage in the Detroit News and Oakland Press, a pair of articles by Monica Drake in the Oakland County Daily Tribune, and coverage in The Oakland Post, Oakland University's student newspaper. 

The case also has reached the Associated Press and United Press International (UPI). It has been written up in Inside Higher Ed, by KC Johnson for Minding the Campus, ...

‘Hot for Teacher’ FOIA: ‘Continuous inaccurate characterization and attacks’

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

FIRE has posted two new documents in the Oakland University case, in which the university suspended a student for "unlawful" activity after he wrote about his attraction to his professors in his writing journal for a writing class. Both documents were supplied by the university in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the student, Joseph Corlett. 

The first document is a November 15, 2011, email from Oakland University Dean and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Glenn McIntosh to Susan Hawkins, Department Chair and Associate Professor of English. McIntosh writes, in relevant part:

I believe you need to clarify to Professor Mitzelfeld that I did not contact you to request her to have additional contact, of any type, with Corlet[t]. I contacted you as the department chair to support an administrative withdrawal from the course, or other options, which did not involve Professor Mitzelfeld. I am totally dismayed by her continuous inaccurate characterization and attacks. ... Since Corlet[t] has not made any threats to anyone, our only recourse is an administrative withdrawal, or the options we discussed. 
[Emphasis added.]

The second document is a November 23, 2011, email from Mitzelfeld to McIntosh, with copies to ...

Idaho State Faculty Sue University and President Alleging First Amendment Violations

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

On Tuesday, a group of faculty members at Idaho State University (ISU) filed a federal lawsuit against their institution and ISU President Arthur C. Vailas, alleging violations of their First Amendment rights. 

The group, called the Idaho State University Faculty Association for the Preservation of the First Amendment, alleges that the university blocked ISU's Provisional Faculty Senate from sending emails to the entire faculty at ISU, thereby preventing the Provisional Faculty Senate from effectively communicating with its constituents regarding the important matter of a new faculty constitution. The group's federal complaint further alleges that as a result of this tactic, ISU was able to prepare an alternative faculty constitution that is much more desirable for the university administration and disadvantageous to the faculty. In fact, the administration brazenly deleted one of our country's best-known and most widely adopted standards for academic freedom from the document.

These developments are the latest in a series of disputes over academic freedom and shared governance between the ISU faculty and President Vailas and the ISU administration. Torch readers may remember that last year, Vailas and the Idaho State Board of Education unilaterally ordered the suspension of the Faculty Senate, ISU's representative faculty body, and ...

The Thomas Jefferson Center Gets the Comic Book Treatment

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Bluewater Productions, a full-service publishing and production company specializing in comic books, graphic novels and Multimedia, is showing its support for free speech by including a full page promotion of the Thomas Jefferson Center in a number of its recent publications.  Readers of Bluewater’s biographies of John Lennon and Cher, or the continuing adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Alan Quatermain, will find the full back cover devoted to the Thomas Jefferson Center.  Blueswater productions is dedicated to pairing high-quality art with innovative storytelling, creating a wide variety of intellectual properties that engage a growing readership and bridge the gap between comic books and the diverse multimedia marketplace.

Check out some of the comics here:


Holmes and Quartermain






A Decade of Open Access (And the Challenges Ahead)

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Ten years ago this week, the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) was released to the public. This seminal document explained how technology could revolutionize academic publishing, and defined "open access" as the free and unrestricted availability of peer-reviewed journal literature online. Perhaps most importantly, the BOAI laid out a strategy for making open access a reality. In the decade since its publication, the 13 original signatories behind the initiative have been joined by a still-growing collection of over 5500 individuals and 600 organizations.

The history of the movement goes deeper, of course, and is intertwined with that of the Internet; given the academic roots of the Internet and the World Wide Web, that connection is hardly a surprise. Tim Berners-Lee's announcement introducing the Web stated that the Web "project started with the philosophy that much academic information should be freely available to anyone." Academics newly connecting to the network intuitively understood the appeal of online publication, and the first major collection of self-archived papers,, appeared a full decade before the BOAI in 1991.

But BOAI marked a crucial turning point. In the years since, the open access movement has established itself as a real force in academia. ...

State Chapter Intellectual Freedom Report: Texas

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

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

by Victoria Kemp, Chair, Texas Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee

In 2012, the Texas Library Association will celebrate their 110th year! Congratulations to all our members. TLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee is hard at work updating the state’s Intellectual Freedom Handbook. The Texas Intellectual Freedom Handbook is dedicated to John Henry Faulk (1913-1999):

‘Freedom, the joys of a democratic society, had to extend to all people or it was a myth.’ John Henry Faulk was an eloquent speaker for civil liberties, and these words reflect his intense belief in the rights of the individual. Texans will always revere Faulk as one of their greatest storytellers, an Austin native whose folksy, salty humor perfectly embodied the character of their land. He will also be remembered as one of America’s most outspoken defenders of the First Amendment and freedom of speech. In the late fifties, Faulk fought back against McCarthyism by winning a libel suit against AWARE, Inc., a major contributor to the blacklist tyranny that had brought his successful career ...

Spy Tech Companies & Their Authoritarian Customers, Part I: FinFisher And Amesys

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Last week, EFF gave its recommendations to EU parliament on what steps to take to combat a growing and dangerous civil liberties concern: Western companies marketing and selling mass surveillance technology to authoritarian regimes. This technology has been linked to harassment, arrests, and even torture of journalists, human rights advocates, and democratic activists in many Middle East countries over the past year.

EFF recommended parliament approach the problem through a “know your customer” program whereby companies would investigate purchasers of surveillance technology and would refrain from doing business with a government or its agents if the sale would be used to assist in human rights abuses. This program would be voluntary for companies and encouraged via incentives but could, if necessary, become a formal requirement. As we’ve seen, transparency can be a powerful tool. The industry is notoriously secretive and a little sunlight can help spur protests and force companies to change their business practices.

Privacy International recently released a mapping of companies and countries that have attended the notorious I.S.S. World trade shows, where this technology is bought and sold. But their investigation is far from over and you can go here to help them file Freedom ...

Artist in Her Own Right

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Photographs by Liu Xia, wife of imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, showcase the couple’s political struggles.

Weeks Later, No Answers from East Carolina University on Firing of Newspaper Advisor

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

For weeks now, East Carolina University (ECU) has been under pressure from FIRE, the media, and the general public after its firing of Paul Isom, adviser to The East Carolinian student newspaper, after controversial photos of a streaker appeared in the paper's front pages. 

ECU has been torched in the press and deservedly so, given its ham-fisted handling of the case in addition to the firing itself. ECU's public statements have only fanned the flames, and Adam has appropriately dissected them in a pair of blog posts—the first, on ECU's statement essentially telling the public, "trust us, we've got this"; the second, on its statement saying, among other things, that ECU would be happy to tell the world about its reasons for firing Isom if only it could release his file's confidential contents to the public (notably, ECU said this without informing Isom). 

Since then, ECU has remained mostly silent, though it did pipe up for just long enough to respond to FIRE's January 6 letter asking for Isom's reinstatement. ECU's one-page response is incredibly light on content. Much of the letter is spent defending ECU against accusations that were not made in the first place. Instead, ...

Members of UK Parliament Recommend Censoring Online Extremism

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

In a report published last week, members of the United Kingdom Parliament concluded 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. The Roots of Violent Radicalisation places the Internet ahead of prisons, universities, and religious establishments in propagating radical beliefs and ultimately recommends that the government “develop a code of practice for the removal of material which promotes violent extremism” binding ISPs. 

While the Terrorism Act 2006 authorizes British law enforcement agencies to order certain material to be removed from websites, lawmakers on the Home Affairs Committee stated that “service providers themselves should be more active in monitoring the material they host.” Their report raises serious concerns that political and religious speech will be suppressed. Security expert Peter Neumann who testified before the Committee asked why websites like YouTube and Facebook can’t be as “effective at removing . . . extremist Islamist or extremist right-wing content” as they are at removing sexually explicit content or copyrighted material that violates their own terms of service.

Citing “persuasive evidence about the potential threat from extreme far-right terrorism” and lauding ...

Rights Lawyer in Hong Kong Poll Bid

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Election is widely believed to be controlled by Beijing.

Moroccan Activist’s Arrest Signals Crackdown on Speech

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

News emerged from Morocco last week that 18-year-old Walid Bahomane was sent to a juvenile facility to await trial on charges of “defaming Morocco's sacred values” for a Facebook post about the country's monarch. There is now news that yet another young Moroccan is in trouble for online comments about the king.

As the Washington Post reports, a Moroccan court sentenced 25-year-old Abdelsamad Haydour in the city of Taza for “violating the sacred values” of the North African monarchy after posting a YouTube video in which he accused King Mohammed VI of oppressing the Moroccan people, calling the monarch "a dog, a dictator and a murderer."

The country's press law criminalizes "defaming" the monarchy and challenging Morocco's claim to Western Sahara. Over the years, a handful of bloggers and social media users have been charged in Morocco for crossing the country's red lines, however the arrests had been few and far between, with most cases leading to a pardon. Furthermore, the Moroccan Internet is largely uncensored. The proximity of these two cases coupled with reports from activists that no lawyer agreed to defend Haydour, indicates a serious new crackdown on speech in the kingdom.

EFF is disappointed to ...

Why the Patent System Doesn’t Play Well with Software: If Eolas Went the Other Way

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Everyone, take a deep breath: it seems we’ve had a moment of sanity in the patent wars. Last week, a jury invalidated the dangerous Eolas patents, which their owner claimed covered, well, essentially the whole Internet. The patents were originally granted for an invention that helped doctors to view images of embryos over the early Web. A few years later, smelling quick cash, their owner insisted that they had a veto right on any mechanism used to embed an object in a web document. Really? The patents were obvious—now in 2012, and back in 1994, when the first one was filed. Thankfully, a jury realized that and did what should have happened years ago: it invalidated these dangerous patents.

That's the good news. The bad news: it came after the patents already caused plenty of damage. Companies large and small have taken licenses from Eolas rather than pay millions to fight in court. Many, such as Tim Berners-Lee (who testified during trial), warned about the dangers of the Eolas patents: 

The existence of the patent and associated licensing demands compels many developers of Web browsers, Web pages, and many other important components of the Web to deviate from ...

Gregory Germain Isn’t the Only One at Syracuse Who Disdains Free Speech

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Remember Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL) "independent prosecutor" Gregory Germain, who complained at a law student meeting last year that "I think there are a lot of people who have a sense of entitlement to free speech"? He's at it again, this time in Syracuse's student newspaper, The Daily Orange, and he's not the only one disdainful of free speech rights.

Journalist Debbie Truong's article, "A blurry line: Following criticism, faculty struggle to distinguish between free speech, harassment," shows that Syracuse has quite a long way to go just to define basic terms. 

For example, take harassment in the educational context. The Supreme Court has carefully defined student-on-student hostile environment harassment in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629, 652 (1999): in order for student behavior to be actionable harassment, it must be conduct that is (1) unwelcome; (2) discriminatory; (3) on the basis of gender or another protected status, like race; (4) directed at an individual; and (5) "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and ... [that] so undermines and detracts from the victims' educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities." The Davis standard ...

MSNBC Covers ‘Hot for Teacher’ Case

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
FIRE's case at Oakland University, which suspended a student who wrote about his attraction to his professors in his writing journal, has lit up the airwaves all over Metro Detroit. It even has started to hit music sites such as the Van Halen News Desk, since the student's essay was titled "Hot for Teacher," the name of a 1980s Van Halen song.

Now MSNBC has posted about the case as well, picking up an article from The student in the case, Joseph Corlett, says: "It's an encroachment on the Bill of Rights by our own government. ... My wife is behind me 100 percent."

FIRE has learned that Corlett is going on MSNBC around 2:30 pm today (we don't know if it will be live or recorded), but you might want to turn on your television if you want to see and hear from the person at the center of FIRE's latest case.

CBLDF Founder Denis Kitchen Talks Underground Comix and Free Speech at St. Mary’s College

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

CBLDF founder Denis Kitchen recently shared his love for underground comics and his experience as an editor and defender of Free Speech during a presentation at St. Mary’s College in Maryland. The Point News, St. Mary’s student newspaper, covered the presentation, getting takes from students who saw the lecture:

“I like that [Kitchen] used a lot of the art in his presentation and I think what was also nice was having someone lecture who is an insider. He’s not necessarily an academic historian, but he knew all the guys. It gives you a different kind of perspective that you maybe don’t get from a normal historian.”

During the presentation, Kitchen discussed the retailer arrests that led to the formation of CBLDF and CBLDF’s role in protecting retailers and creators. For more about Kitchen’s presentation, visit The Point News here.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Tibetan Culture Advocate ‘Detained’

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Chinese authorities continue crackdown as self-immolations rage in Tibetan-populated areas.

Connecticut Supreme Court Says UConn Can Keep Donor Info Secret

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The state Supreme Court backed the University of Connecticut yesterday in its battle against identifying its supporters, ruling that the school may invoke a trade-secret exemption to shield information.

The justices voted 7-0 to uphold a lower court ruling siding with UConn. The university said lists naming its donors and other supporters amount to trade secrets that other institutions could use to lure away its fans’ dollars and loyalty.

The Supreme Court said easy access through Freedom of Information requests would undermine UConn’s ability to recoup costs or reap financial benefits of its work.

“It cannot reasonably be questioned that the university expends considerable resources of the state, on its own or in partnership with others for the research and development of intellectual property,” the justices said.

University spokesman Mike Kirk said safeguarding certain information is vital to UConn.

“The university is pleased that the court affirmed that these trade secrets can be protected,” he said in an email.


New book details intellectual freedom struggles of librarians

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

ALA Editions, the American Library Association’s publishing arm, has announced a new volume of stories from librarians who have found themselves facing censorship issues.  Edited by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco, with a forward by frequently challenged author Ellen Hopkins, “True Stories of Censorship in America’s Libraries” compiles 31 anecdotes written from the front lines.  Included in the collection are stories about the West Bend, Wisc., multi-book challenge situation; the Jessamine County, Ky., kerfuffle over “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen;” Madonna’s “Sex,” and much, much more.

You can purchase “True Stories of Censorship in American’s Libraries” at the ALA Store. 

Researchers Use EFF’s SSL Observatory To Discover Widespread Cryptographic Vulnerabilities

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Using previously published and new data from EFF's SSL Observatory project, a team of researchers led by Arjen Lenstra at EPFL conducted an audit of the public keys used to protect HTTPS. Lenstra's team has discovered tens of thousands of keys that offer effectively no security due to weak random number generation algorithms.

The consequences of these vulnerabilities are extremely serious. In all cases, a weak key would allow an eavesdropper on the network to learn confidential information, such as passwords or the content of messages, exchanged with a vulnerable server. Secondly, unless servers were configured to use perfect forward secrecy, sophisticated attackers could extract passwords and data from stored copies of previous encrypted sessions. Thirdly, attackers could use man-in-the-middle or server impersonation attacks to inject malicious data into encrypted sessions. Given the seriousness of these problems, EFF will be working around the clock with the EPFL group to warn the operators of servers that are affected by this vulnerability, and encourage them to switch to new keys as soon as possible.

While we have observed and warned about vulnerabilities due to insufficient randomness in the past, Lenstra's group was able to discover more subtle RNG bugs by searching ...

EFF Calls on Tunisian Court to Uphold Right of Free Expression

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

On February 15, a verdict will be handed down that determines whether or not the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) will need to censor pornography on the Internet. Last May, after receiving--and unsuccessfully attempting to block--an order to censor such websites, the ATI appealed the decision citing, among other things, a lack of financial resources. As a result, the case was sent to the Court of Cassation, Tunisia’s highest court

All Tunisians have a reason to be concerned: Under the rule of Ben Ali, it wasn’t just obscene content that was unavailable to citizens, but political opposition websites, information on human rights, even YouTube.

As a result, Tunisian digital rights activists are wary of letting the government force the ATI to re-install the tools that allowed such overreaching censorship (which in the Ben Ali era were made by American company SmartFilter, owned by Intel). For others--such as the activist community that was active in fighting censorship during the Ben Ali era--it’s a matter of principle. Or as Moez Chakchouk, CEO of the ATI, has argued: “It's not a matter of pornography or not, it's a matter of whether we have censorship or not in Tunisia.”

Indeed, though the current ...

Monks Expelled Over Chinese Flag

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
Tibetan monasteries resist Chinese authorities' intrusions and interference.

Forbidden Love (of Reading): Censored and Challenged Books for Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

by Michael O’Neil

The book is a romantic thing. From spotting potential sweeties by the books they’re reading, to the countless authors who have feverishly committed tales of love to paper for the form, books engage the mind and elicit passion, intrigue and a cozy kind of intimacy perhaps unmatched by any other medium.

So to celebrate Valentine’s Day, let’s raise a glass (or perhaps a comically large, chocolate-covered peanut butter heart…DON’T JUDGE ME) to books that have been banned or censored for breaking conventions of love, sex or relationships!

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Let’s kick off with a classic, powerhouse love story that for years was a perennial target of school curriculum challenges. The subjects of sex and young people’s emotional challenges, individually, frequently raise censors’ hackles. Put them together (as you’ll see further on this list), and the angry letters just start flying.

One of the most notorious insults to the Bard’s plays was The Family Shakespeare, published in 1807 by Thomas Bowdler, which replaced Shakespeare’s bawdier bits with sanitized phrases. The family name became forever associated with the “castration of text” through the term bowdlerization.

More recently, the 1968 film version of Romeo ...

Belgian Court Keeps TINTIN IN THE CONGO on Shelves

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

After a recent ruling by a Belgian court, Hergé’s controversial second book in the Tintin series, Tintin in the Congo, remains on shelves. The book faced charges that it broke several of Belgium’s laws against racism and incited racial hatred, but the court ruled that the book, which was serialized from 1930 to 1931 and collected in 1946 with significant revisions, was a product of its time and did not intend to incite racial hatred.

Tintin in the Congo was not translated into English until 1991, but it has faced significant backlash over its depiction of the Congolese and treatment of animals. Attempts have been made to ban it in the United Kingdom, where it is often sold with a warning about offensive content, and several other countries.

Hergé often expressed regret over the book. From a 2010 article in The Guardian:

Hergé redrew the book for a colour edition in the 1940s and made many changes, including excising a scene where Tintin killed a rhinoceros by blowing it up with dynamite. He also dropped all references to the “Belgian Congo”, and changed a geography lesson Tintin gave about Belgium to a maths lesson. Despite ...

Political Cartoonist Charged with Treason in India

Monday, February 13th, 2012

By Betsy Gomez

Aseem Trivedi, a freelance political cartoonist in India, faces imprisonment and fines over charges of treason and insulting Indian national emblems. His cartoons criticized India’s government, and he may face additional charges because another complaint alleges that his work is “defamatory and derogatory.” The latter complaint has led to the suspension of Trivedi’s website,

The censorship comes as no surprise, even from the world’s largest democracy. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the rights of journalists worldwide:

Banning cartoons and harassing cartoonists, though rare, is not unheard of in India. In 1987, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the editor of a weekly magazine was arrested and sentenced to three months of rigorous imprisonment for publishing a cartoon mocking politicians, according to a 2003 account in Frontline magazine. The ensuing furor from the media community saw him released within a few days.

For more on this story, visit the Wall Street Journal’s India Realtime blog here and CPJ’s blog here.

Few countries protect Free Speech as adamantly as the United States does, and censorship has a chilling effect worldwide. Please help support CBLDF’s important ...

Criminal Trial of Jiew, Thai Free Expression Advocate, Resumes This Week

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Update: The hearing has concluded and the verdict will be read out on April 30th.

The trial of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of one of Thailand’s most popular alternative news sites who was arrested in October 2010 continues on Tuesday, 14 February following a 5-month recess. Jiew, as she is more commonly known, was charged with Lèse Majesté and intermediary liability under Thailand’s 2007 Computer Crime Act when comments left on an article published on her site Prachatai were deemed to be defamatory against Thai royalty. She faces a combined sentence of 82 years for these two alleged crimes. Her trial first began February 2011, was suspended until September, and was again put on hold until this week.

Jiew has been an outspoken proponent for free expression online for many years. We conducted an interview with her about how things unfolded shortly after her arrest. EFF will be following the proceedings closely. We stand with Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) in condemning Jiew’s arrest and demand that Thai authorities immediately drop all charges against her.


For more updates and to sign a petition to Thailand's National Human Rights Commission, visit FACT's website.

U.S. Government Seeks to Mine Social Media to Help Predict the Future

Monday, February 13th, 2012

The U.S. government is seeking software that can mine social media to predict everything from future terrorist attacks to foreign uprisings, according to requests posted online by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Hundreds of intelligence analysts already sift overseas Twitter and Facebook posts to track events such as the Arab Spring. But in a formal “request for information” from potential contractors, the FBI recently outlined its desire for a digital tool to scan the entire universe of social media — more data than humans could ever crunch.

The Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence also have solicited the private sector for ways to automate the process of identifying emerging threats and upheavals using the billions of posts people around the world share every day.

“Social media has emerged to be the first instance of communication about a crisis, trumping traditional first responders that included police, firefighters, EMT, and journalists,” the FBI wrote in its request. “Social media is rivaling 911 services in crisis response and reporting.”

The proposals already have raised privacy concerns among advocates who worry that such monitoring efforts could have a chilling effect on users. Ginger McCall, director of the ...

IFAction News Round Up February 3-9, 2012

Monday, February 13th, 2012

OIF sponsors 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 February 2-9, 2012.


Over 3 years later, “deleted” Facebook photos are still online

News Analysis:  Should Personal Data Be Personal? 

National worker ID card a bad idea, says UC Berkeley study

Path deletes contact data, updates app

Congress Welcomes the Drones

Google to Pay Users to Track Their Movements Online

Federal court expedites case on Google privacy policies



Google, Facebook remove content as India threatens lawsuits for offending religious sentiments

Ban on same-sex stories in romance competition causes outcry



Why an International Trade Agreement Could Be as Bad as SOPA

Op-Ed Columnist:  Steal This Column 

FCC Commissioning New Study on Information Needs of Public

Open access journals: are we asking the right questions?

New bill would make open access to federal research mandatory


EFF Unveils New Project: Bloggers Under Fire

Monday, February 13th, 2012

2011 was by many accounts ‘the year of the protester.’  From Tunisia to Oakland, activists took to the streets—and to social networks—to express themselves and their grievances.  But while many were successful in using online tools in their activism, others faced grave consequences.

Creeping Someone Out Does Not Equal Threats or Intimidation

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Last week, FIRE drew attention to a free speech case at Oakland University near Detroit, which wildly overreacted after a student wrote in his writing journal for class that he was attracted to his professors. Student Joseph Corlett appears to have been charged with no crime outside of campus, but Oakland found him guilty of "unlawful individual activities," even though the journal assignment specifically permitted students to write creatively about any topic. Corlett was suspended for three semesters, barred from campus, and required to undergo "sensitivity" counseling. That's right: Far from seeing Corlett as the next Virginia Tech shooter, Oakland explicitly labeled insensitivity as Corlett's problem.

I will go into more detail on the allegations in my next post, using documentary evidence so that everyone can judge the facts for themselves. Here, I focus on the huge difference between being perceived as creepy and insensitive, on the one hand, and making threats, intimidating, or harassing someone on the other hand. As I said to Inside Higher Ed for an article published this morning, "It is not against the law to be—or to be perceived as—a creep." And as I wrote back in 2007, insensitivity is not a crime.

For ...

Spinoza’s Vision of Freedom, and Ours: The Continuing Value of A 17th Century Philosopher’s Views of Free Expression

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Baruch Spinoza, the 17th-century Dutch thinker, may be among the more enigmatic (and mythologized) philosophers in Western thought, but he also remains one of the most relevant, to his time and to ours. He was an eloquent proponent of a secular, democratic society, and was the strongest advocate for freedom and tolerance in the early modern period. The ultimate goal of his “Theological-Political Treatise” — published anonymously to great alarm in 1670, when it was called by one of its many critics “a book forged in hell by the devil himself”— is enshrined both in the book’s subtitle and in the argument of its final chapter: to show that the “freedom of philosophizing” not only can be granted “without detriment to public peace, to piety, and to the right of the sovereign, but also that it must be granted if these are to be preserved.”

Spinoza was incited to write the “Treatise” when he recognized that the Dutch Republic, and his own province of Holland in particular, was wavering from its uncommonly liberal and relatively tolerant traditions. He feared that with the rising political influence in the 1660s of the more orthodox and narrow-minded elements in the Dutch Reformed Church, ...

The DOJ’s Escalating Criminalization of Speech

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Over the past several years, the Justice Department has increasingly attempted to criminalize what is clearly protected political speech by prosecuting numerous individuals (Muslims, needless to say) for disseminating political views the government dislikes or considers threatening.  The latest episode emerged on Friday, when the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, charged with “providing material support” to a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)).

What is the “material support” he allegedly gave?  He produced and uploaded a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of U.S. abuses in Abu Ghraib, video of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs, prayer messages about “jihad” from LeT’s leader, and — according to the FBI’s Affidavit — “a number of terrorist logos.”  That, in turn, led the FBI agent who signed the affidavit to assert that ”based on [his] training and experience, it is evident that the video . . . is designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT and to recruit jihadists to LeT.”  The FBI also claims Ahmad spoke with the son of an LeT leader about the contents of the video and had attended an LeT camp when he was a teenager in Pakistan.  For the act of uploading ...

Iran Ratchets Up Its Internet Censorship

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

This week has seen a marked increase in the blocking and filtering of certain kinds of Internet traffic in Iran. The Iranian government has not openly acknowledged these new measures, but they are widely thought to be preliminary steps towards a nation-wide Halal Internet that would cut off a majority of citizens from the global web and replace it with one that would effectively block all foreign sites and only allow state-controlled content to e accessed within Iran.

Fear of Extradition for Saudi Blogger Facing Possible Execution

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Hamza Kashgari is under threat. The blogger and journalist fled to Malaysia from Saudi Arabia on February 8 after tweets he wrote about the Prophet Mohammed provoked clerics to demand he be tried for apostasy and members of the public to call for his murder. After arriving in Malaysia on his way to a third country, however, he was arrested by security officials at Kuala Lumpur airport, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

EFF Legal Director Honored as First Amendment Champion

Friday, February 10th, 2012

EFF is pleased to announce that our legal director and general counsel, Cindy Cohn, will be honored as a champion of the First Amendment by the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter.

Writing about Attraction to Professors Gets Oakland U. Student Suspended

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Here is today's press release: 

DETROIT, February 10, 2012—Oakland University near Detroit has suspended a student for three semesters, barred him from campus, and demanded he undergo "sensitivity" counseling because he wrote in a class assignment that he found his instructors attractive. While the course specifically permitted students to write creatively about any topic, the university bizarrely chose to classify his writing as "unlawful individual activities." Joseph Corlett came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. 

"This is a wild overreaction to a student's creative writing," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "The university has essentially issued a straitjacket to every writing student to protect the delicate sensibilities of faculty and staff." 

Corlett's ordeal began when Corlett submitted his writing journal to his Advanced Critical Writing professor in early November 2011. Her course materials describe a student journal as "a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations," and state that it should contain "freewriting/brainstorming" and "creative entries."

One entry in Corlett's journal, titled "Hot for Teacher," tells a story of being worried about being distracted in class by attractive professors. A separate September 23 entry states that his professor is ...

Official Denies Refugee Crisis

Friday, February 10th, 2012
Thousands flee Burma to escape fighting between government and ethnic armies.

Sixth Circuit Relies on High School Cases to Assess Graduate Student’s Rights

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Last week here on The Torch, I discussed the interesting ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Ward v. Polite (.PDF). Before discussing the facts of the case and the Sixth Circuit's holding, I noted that while the court reached the right result by allowing the First Amendment lawsuit brought by expelled graduate student Julea Ward to continue, it did so in a way that may harm college student rights in the future.

Here's why: In analyzing Ward's claim that her First Amendment right to freedom of expression had been violated by Eastern Michigan University's decision to expel her, the Sixth Circuit relied on case law regarding student rights in public high schools. 

This is problematic because courts have long recognized a distinct difference in the First Amendment rights available to K-12 students and college students, granting far more limited rights to high school students while affording public college students full First Amendment protection. The reasons for the discrepancy revolve around several factors: the differences in pedagogical mission between high schools and college; the fact that high schools are presumed to act in loco parentis (in place of the parent); and the average ...

Richard Epstein and John Yoo on OCR, Due Process, and Title IX

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Over at Ricochet, law professors Richard Epstein of NYU and John Yoo of UC Berkeley have a podcast this week that is well worth a listen. Among other topics, Epstein and Yoo discuss the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and its harmful intrusion upon due process rights on campus through the April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter. The discussion, which begins around the 15-minute mark of the podcast, is enlightening and comes highly recommended.

For more from Epstein on these and related issues, you can read his piece, "Title IX or Bust," for the Hoover Institution journal Defining Ideas.

Of the "Dear Colleague" letter's impact on the due process rights of those accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault, Epstein writes:

Secure in her invulnerable political position, Ms. Ali starts with the major premise that the procedures in question must afford "the complainant a prompt and equitable resolution" of the dispute. That framing of the issue gets her discussion off on the wrong foot, because the objective of any legal procedure is not to supply the complainant with that kind of protection, but at a minimum to ensure that both parties to the dispute ...

LOCAL, signed by Brian Wood

Friday, February 10th, 2012

(W) Brian Wood (A) Ryan Kelly
Crossing genres as it crosses the country, Local examines Megan McKeenan, a young woman who sets off from Portland, Oregon with nothing but a backpack and a bad case of wanderlust. Set in twelve real life cities across the United States and Canada, this painstakingly researched and meticulously illustrated volume earned G4 TV’s “Indie Book of the Year.”

Get a signed copy of Local here.

Seven Words You Can Say on Radio: Carlin’s Daughter (and TJ Center Board Member) Gets a Comedy Interview Show

Friday, February 10th, 2012

At a time when it seems that everyone and his brother has a show or podcast about comedians, Sirius XM believes it has found a new wrinkle on the format: a program hosted by Kelly Carlin, the daughter of the famous stand-up George Carlin.

On Thursday the satellite radio broadcaster is expected to announce that it will carry “The Kelly Carlin Show,” a new monthly program on which Ms. Carlin will speak with comedy personalities about their work and their lives. The first installment, scheduled for Sunday, will feature an interview with Robin Williams and will be heard on Sirius XM’s Raw Dog Comedy channel as well as a new channel, Carlin’s Corner, that will focus on George Carlin’s performances and material.

Ms. Carlin, who grew up in close proximity to stand-up comedians, said that she did not really begin engaging with these performers until after her father’s death in 2008.

“The day after he died,” she said in a telephone interview, “many started calling me and we started connecting. These amazing, kindhearted comedians, like Lewis Black and Garry Shandling, just took me into the fold. I felt like I’d gained a whole new family.”

Read the full article from ...

Seven Years in Jail For a Poem

Friday, February 10th, 2012
A veteran Chinese dissident is the latest in a string of political activists to receive heavy jail terms for 'subversion.'

Embalmer Takes Speech Case to Mass. High Court

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Troy Schoeller admits he could have chosen his words more carefully when he talked to a reporter about bodies he worked on as an embalmer at a funeral home.

Among a litany of graphic remarks Schoeller made was that he hates embalming fat people. He also described the body of a baby as a “bearskin rug” and made other crude observations about the difficulties of his work.

After his comments were published in The Boston Phoenix, the state board that licenses funeral directors and embalmers revoked his license. Now Schoeller is challenging that punishment before the highest court in Massachusetts, arguing the revocation violates his constitutional right to free speech.

“I didn’t lie about anything,” he said. “I didn’t say anything that was wrong.”

Schoeller argues that state regulators chose to enforce a vague and overly broad provision of the code of conduct that prohibits funeral directors and embalmers from commenting on the condition of a body entrusted to their care.

Funeral directors and embalmers routinely talk about their work in trade journals and other publications to inform a curious public, and the provision should not be interpreted as barring them from ever talking publicly about what they do, said ...

Towson University Should Not ‘Absolutely Want’ to be a ‘Yellow Light’ School

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The Towerlight, a student newspaper at Maryland's Towson University, ran an article earlier this week on Towson's "yellow light" rating in FIRE's recent speech code report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2012: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation's Campuses. The article does a good job of explaining Towson's speech code rating, which could certainly be the subject of a thoroughly exhausting piece given that the university maintains no fewer than seven "yellow light" policies. As a public institution legally bound by the First Amendment, this is simply unacceptable.

Perhaps more noteworthy than that, though, are some of the statements made in the article by the Towson administration. These comments warrant a full response here.

The main issue relates to Towson's Policy on Time, Place, and Manner (.pdf), which states that "Students, Student Groups, faculty or staff planning Expressive Activity must contact the following offices in advance of any planned Expressive Activity: the Office of Campus Life (Students and Student groups); the Provost's Office (faculty); and the Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance (staff)."

FIRE has written before about the limited reach of the "time, place, and manner" doctrine; it allows government restrictions ...