Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Heartbreaking Truth About Online Dating Privacy

Friday, February 10th, 2012

San Francisco - Millions of people use Internet dating sites to search for love and connection every day, but it could come a big cost for their privacy and security. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has found that many services are taking shortcuts in safeguarding users' profiles and other sensitive data.

Date Released: 
Fri, 02/10/2012

Hey OkCupid – How about some SSL Love?

Friday, February 10th, 2012

For the hundreds of thousands of users searching for that special someone through one of the largest free online dating sites, the love fest may be coming to an end.  OkCupid is putting users’ privacy in danger by failing to support secure access to its entire website through HTTPS. Every OkCupid email, chat session, search, clicked link, page viewed, and username is transmitted over the Internet in unencrypted plaintext, where it can be intercepted and read by anyone on the network.

Comparing Privacy and Security Practices on Online Dating Sites

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Concerned about your privacy when you use online dating sites? You should be. We recently examined 8 popular online dating sites to see how well they were safeguarding user privacy through the use of standard encryption practices. We found that the majority of the sites we examined did not take even basic security precautions, leaving users vulnerable to having their personal information exposed or their entire account taken over when using shared networks, such as at coffee shops or libraries.

Six Heartbreaking Truths about Online Dating Privacy

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Millions of people are using online dating sites to search for love or connection, but users should beware: many online dating sites are taking short cuts in safeguarding the privacy and security of users. Whether it’s due to counter-intuitive privacy settings or serious security flaws, users of online dating profiles risk their privacy and security every day. Here are six sobering facts about online dating services and a few suggestions for routing around the privacy pitfalls.

IFRT Oboler Award Winner Announced!

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

The Intellectual Freedom Round Table is pleased to announce that this year’s recipient of the Eli M. Oboler Award is Evgeny Morozov, for his book The Net Delusion:  The Dark Side of Internet Freedom.

Jim Teliha, Chair of the Eli M. Oboler Award Committee, on the choice of Morozov:  “Mozorov asks a number of vital and important questions in his book: Does the internet empower dictators and their opponents in equal measures?   Are there some overlooked unfair advantages that the internet bestows upon the dictators?  Is there something inherently liberating about the internet or might it simply follow in the footsteps of radio and television, becoming just another tool of propaganda and brainwashing in the arsenal of media-savvy dictators?  Above all, if the internet is not the catalyst of social change that we thought it would be, could it be the glue that prevents authoritarian regimes from falling apart?  Morozov tackles these questions with relentless energy and analytical savvy.  Marshaling a compelling set of case studies, he shows why we must stop thinking of the internet and social media as instant cures for repression and how, in some cases, they can even threaten democracy.”

The Eli M. Oboler Memorial ...

Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on Eleventh Circuit’s Important Message to University Administrators

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff weighs in today at The Huffington Post on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit's important ruling in Barnes v. Zaccari. As we highlighted in on our press release yesterday, the Eleventh Circuit's unanimous decision affirms a lower court's denial of qualified immunity to former Valdosta State University (VSU) president Ronald M. Zaccari for violating former VSU student Hayden Barnes' due process rights.

Greg observes the following about the significance of this ruling:

The Eleventh Circuit's ruling is a clear sign that university presidents and administrators that choose to brazenly violate student rights will not be able to do so without real consequences. As a result of yesterday's ruling, Zaccari may be found personally liable for damages. That's the equivalent of a bright neon warning sign to all would-be violators of student rights: Think twice!

 Be sure to read Greg's full piece here

For more coverage of the decision, check out Frank LoMonte's article for the Student Press Law Center (SPLC). LoMonte's article echoes Greg's in noting what the ruling could mean for student rights going forward, and has quotes from Bob Corn-Revere, Barnes' attorney:

Barnes' attorney, Bob Corn-Revere of Davis ...

Does the Supreme Court’s ‘Hosanna-Tabor’ Decision Apply to Religious Student Organizations?

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Here at FIRE, we review a wide variety of legal material that never makes it onto The Torch. Court decisions come down all the time that are relevant but not directly related to our core mission (decisions about civil procedure or election law, for example). One such case that we have followed closely is the Supreme Court of the United States' recent unanimous decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC. For a primer on this case, there is a useful battery of case materials and analysis over at SCOTUSBlog.

In Hosanna-Tabor, the Supreme Court held that the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment precluded courts from hearing employment discrimination suits brought by "ministers" against religious employers under the "ministerial exception."  

Some are citing Hosanna-Tabor as relevant to the context of religious student organizations who seek First Amendment protection from onerous "anti-discrimination" policies in managing their groups. In fact, in the ongoing freedom of association controversy at Vanderbilt University, students in a town hall meeting explicitly brought up Hosanna-Tabor at least twice. Vanderbilt administrators responded to both questions dismissively, indicating that in discussions with outside counsel, Vanderbilt found Hosanna-Tabor ...

Continuing Series on Presidential Candidates and the First Amendment: Newt Gingrich and Religious Liberty

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

One in a series of articles on the First Amendment record and views of 2012 presidential candidates.

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich’s stances as a presidential candidate and actions in Congress have implicated a few key First Amendment issues.

In the House of Representatives

Gingrich was not heavily involved with First Amendment issues during his tenure (1979-1999) in the House of Representatives. However, he did support at least two First Amendment-related initiatives, school vouchers and religious freedom, and continues to do so, in his 2012 Republicans presidential campaign.

Gingrich co-sponsored the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which provides that the “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” unless it can show that the burden is “in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” The law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997 as applied to state and local governments but is still applicable to the federal government.

Gingrich led the House in passing legislation to provide school vouchers for students in Washington, D.C. The bill, vetoed by President ...

Minnesota Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in ‘Tatro,’ with Student Speech Rights at Stake

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Tatro v. University of Minnesota. As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tatro concerns the University of Minnesota's punishment of mortuary sciences student Amanda Tatro for off-campus comments she posted on Facebook that her school labeled as threatening. However, as FIRE argued in an amici curiae brief filed along with the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) before the Minnesota Supreme Court, Tatro's expression was clearly protected and non-threatening, and the implications of granting the universities the right to police such off-campus, online speech would be very damaging to student First Amendment rights. 

You can read much more about this important case for students' expressive rights, including an excellent piece by the SPLC's Frank LoMonte, Will's analysis of the faulty appellate court decision that prompted the appeal to the state supreme court, and of course today's coverage in the Chronicle.

A Better Path for Apps: Respecting Users and Their Privacy

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Earlier this week, a Singapore-based iOS software developer made a startling discovery while working with the popular social-networking app Path: in the course of every new account creation, Path uploads the new user’s entire iPhone address book to their servers.

India’s Downward Spiral

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

How India is losing its footing on free expression.

New Signers to Tucson Statement

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

We’re happy to welcome two new national organizations to our joint statement against the censorship of Mexican-American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District: the National Association for Ethnic Studies and the National Association for Bilingual Education!

Greg Takes On Proposed Arizona Law in ‘The Huffington Post’

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
In his latest piece for The Huffington Post, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff criticizes a newly proposed Arizona law dictating that all educational institutions follow FCC regulations concerning "indecent speech." Greg argues that the law is not only "hilariously" unconstitutional, but also threatens the ability of schools to educate their students about controversial subjects and classic materials. Read his entire article here.

What the RIAA Won’t Tell You: Users Matter

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

We really have to wonder when the message is going to sink in.  On January 18, millions of Internet users spoke out together in one of the most profound and effective uses of technology to organize political opposition in U.S. history, sending a clear message to Congress that voters will not tolerate crippling of the Internet. But big content remains tone deaf to this chorus of Internet users. 

Widener Settles Lawsuit Filed by Law Professor who was Punished for Protected Speech

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

For a year now, FIRE has been reporting on the case of wronged law professor Lawrence Connell, who was the target of a campaign spearheaded by Widener Law Dean Linda Ammons. Ammons sought Connell's termination and banishment from Widener mainly on the basis of Connell's use of hypothetical legal scenarios that used Ammons as a character (quite a common practice in law schools). Ammons also allegedly induced two students to file charges against Connell. (The law school even indemnified the students.) Connell was exonerated of the original charges but Widener kept pursuing him, bizarrely finding that Connell's efforts to defend himself constituted "retaliation."

Today, FIRE has learned from Connell's attorney, Thomas S. Neuberger, that his lawsuit against Widener University, Dean Ammons, and students Jennifer R. Perez and Nadege Tandoh has been resolved amicably and confidentially.

Neuberger's announcement says that Connell is no longer at Widener. I know that if I were Connell I wouldn't be too thrilled about sticking around Widener University School of Law while Linda Ammons was running it. Why Ammons is still running the law school is a question people should probably be asking Widener.

While Connell may be prevented by the terms ...

Arizona State Senate to Colleges: Get Rid of Those Non-G-Rated Professors!

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

In what has to be the most hilariously unconstitutional piece of legislation that I’ve seen in quite some time, senators in the Arizona state legislature have introduced a bill that would require all educational institutions in the state — including state universities — to suspend or fire professors who say or do things that aren’t allowed on network TV. Yes, you read that right: at the same time the Supreme Court is poised to decide if FCC-imposed limits on “indecent” content in broadcast media are an anachronism from a bygone era, Arizona state legislators want to limit what college professors say and do to only what is fit for a Disney movie (excluding, of course, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. After all, those films are PG-13!).

But don’t take my word for it, here is the full text of the bill (SB 1467) as it currently stands:

15-108. Public classrooms; compliance with federal standards for media broadcasts concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity; violations; definition
A. If a person who provides classroom instruction in a public school engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the federal communications commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that ...

Video of John Green at Freedom to Read Foundation author event in Dallas

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

For more information on the Freedom to Read Foundation, or to become a member, visit

Chinese Flag Pulled Down

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
Tibetans continue protests despite a security clampdown in Chinese provinces.

TN Bill Would Amend Bullying Law to Protect Expression of Religious Belief

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

The national phenomenon of cyberbullying continues to cause consternation in Tennessee, as legislators grapple with whether to amend the state’s existing law.

The proposed Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 would expand on the definition of “hostile educational environment” in the state law. The measure, which has been introduced in the State House and Senate, provides that:

“creating a hostile educational environment or causing emotional distress shall not be construed to include mere discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular, not shared by other students, or not shared by teachers or school officials.”

An article in The Tennessean of Nashville reports that the proposed measure, introduced in January, represents an attempt to protect the rights of students to engage in religious expression, including a religious viewpoint that homosexuality is wrong. The article also says opponents of the bill fear it will give license to some to bully gay and lesbian students.

Under current Tennessee law, school districts must adopt an anti-bullying policy that includes a prohibition on cyberbullying. T.C.A. 49-6-1016 provides: “Each school district shall adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyber-bullying. School districts are encouraged to develop the policy ...

Letters to the Copyright Office: Why I Jailbreak

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Indecency Intrigue: Why NBC May Not Face Fines for M.I.A.’s Finger Malfunction

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Between M.I.A.’s flipping the bird and a TV commercial we didn’t see thanks to a last-minute FCC decision, Super Bowl XLVI gave those who practice First Amendment law a lot to chew on this year. NBC is probably safe from another FCC indecency crackdown, but that doesn’t mean this year’s Super Bowl won’t be remembered as an important one in the ongoing struggle to square free speech with tasteful broadcast television.

Up first is the middle finger by M.I.A., the British musician who delivered a verse and a whole lot more during Madonna’s performance on Sunday.

The surprise gesture caught NBC sleeping, as an attempt to censor it came too late. The episode also evoked memories from the Super Bowl halftime performance eight years ago of Janet Jackson, whose “wardrobe malfunction” set off a lot of hemming and hawing about indecency standards on television.

This time, however, NBC is unlikely to face any fines over M.I.A.’s act, according to various broadcast lawyers we’ve consulted.

Read the full article and a unique take on the prospect of NBC facing fines at

Time to Act on Companies Selling Mass Spy Gear to Authoritarian Regimes

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

On Wednesday, EFF will give recommendations to the European Parliament for how to combat one of the most troubling problems facing democracy activists around the world: the fact that European and American companies are providing key surveillance technology to authoritarian governments that is then being used to aid repression.

This Week in Censorship: Oman, South Korea, and China Crack Down on Dissent

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Omani Blogger Arrested

PlayStation 3 "Other OS" Saga Shows: Jailbreaking Is Not a Crime

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Every three years, the Copyright Office reviews requests for exemptions to the "anti-circumvention" rules in the DMCA. EFF has successfully lobbied for a number of exemptions in the past, and we're working to renew and expand those exemptions now. You can get behind our efforts by signing on today to letters of support: the filmmaker Kirby Ferguson is telling the Copyright Office why video ripping is so important to filmmakers and video artists, and the game system hacker bunnie Huang is addressing why we need to keep jailbreaking legal for all devices.

If you still aren't sure why jailbreaking is important, one prime example of the problem is the Sony PlayStation 3. That game system initially shipped with the ability to install Linux and other Unix derivatives. As a result, not only did hobbyists use PS3s as homebrew computers, but Unix-based PS3s were also linked in labs to make affordable supercomputers.

However, in April 2010, Sony’s mandatory firmware update -- version 3.21 -- removed the ability to install "Other OS" -- meaning no more Linux on your PlayStation. To add legal muscle to its firmware, Sony sued several security researchers for publishing information about ...

Art Censorship in 2011: Nudity, Sexuality, Religion, Politics, and… Meat?!

Monday, February 6th, 2012

2012 has already brought a few cases of censored art to our attention: Microsoft Skydrive froze UK blogger Michael Ohajuru‘s storage account because Modigliani’s painting “Reclining Nude” violated Microsoft’s Code of Conduct which prohibits images that “depict nudity of any sort”; and İzmir Metropolitan Municipality removed three photographs (below) from the exhibition “Aykırı” (Contrary) at the İzmir Art Center in Turkey as they reportedly “insult religious values.”


But let’s reflect on the hot topics of art censorship in 2011: nudity, sexuality, religion, politics, and… meat?!

Frode Steinicke’s upload

Facebook; too prude for nude?  Throughout 2011, and to this day, artists are in a constant battle with Facebook and their no nudity policy that results in the repeated removal of images that contain even the slightest hint of nudity.  Such measures include: removing artist Frode Steinicke’s upload of Gustave Courbet’s “The Origin of the World”; declaring a Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project by Michael Colanero “pornography”; removing drawings of nudes from the page of the New York Academy of Art (later reinstated); and pulling the account of curator Savannah Spirit for uploading images from the exhibit ...

Arizona State Restores Access to after National Outcry

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Arizona State University (ASU) has restored access to the petition website after blocking it due to dubious concerns about "spam" emails coming from the site related to a petition advocating lower tuition costs at the university. On Friday, FIRE wrote ASU asking that it immediately restore access to and assure its students that it does not block access to websites that host content critical of the university. Responding to the national outcry, which was first launched by media reform organization Free Press, that is just what ASU did late on Friday.

ASU blocked access to in December 2011, shortly after an ASU student started a petition on the site calling on ASU to "Reduce The Costs Of Education For Arizona State University Students." ASU did not provide any notice or explanation of its action to students at the time, but the story rapidly began to gain notoriety last week, prompting the university to release a statement: 

ASU began blocking messages from the server in December after it was discovered as the source of such a spamming action. Although the individual who sent the email may not consider himself a spammer, he acquired a significant number ...

GA Supreme Court Strikes Down Assisted-suicide Restrictions on Free Speech Grounds

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Georgia’s top court struck down a state law that restricted assisted suicides, siding today with four members of a suicide group who said the law violated their free-speech rights.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling found that the law violates the free-speech clauses of the U.S. and Georgia constitutions. It means that four members of the Final Exit Network who were charged in February 2009 with helping a 58-year-old cancer-stricken man die won’t have to stand trial, defense attorneys said.

Georgia law doesn’t expressly forbid assisted suicide. But lawmakers in 1994 adopted a law that bans people from publicly advertising suicide, hoping to prevent assisted suicide from the likes of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the late physician who sparked the national right-to-die debate.

The law makes it a felony for anyone who “publicly advertises, offers or holds himself out as offering that he or she will intentionally and actively assist another person in the commission of suicide and commits any overt act to further that purpose.”

The court’s opinion, written by Justice Hugh Thompson, found that lawmakers could have imposed a ban on all assisted suicides with no restriction of free speech, or sought to prohibit all offers to assist in ...

FIRE in ‘National Review Online’ on Impact of Discriminatory ‘All-Comers’ Policy at Vanderbilt

Monday, February 6th, 2012

This morning in National Review Online, FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley explores the negative impact of the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez for students at Vanderbilt and nationwide.

Focusing on Vanderbilt University's recent invocation of the case to justify its decision to ban belief-based student groups from requiring that group leaders actually share the group's stated values, Robert writes:

The complications of adopting ["all-comers"] policies have delayed their adoption by many public universities. Ohio even passed a law against such policies at its state schools. Yet the Supreme Court's seeming endorsement inspired Vanderbilt to jump in with both feet - despite the fact that the Supreme Court's decision did not affect private universities. (Private universities are not subject to the First Amendment and may completely abolish religious freedom if they wish; few do.) Last fall, it announced that a new "all comers" policy would soon be enforced, and after months of avoiding questions from nearly everyone under the sun, including FIRE, the National Association of Evangelicals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and 23 members of Congress, Vanderbilt finally held a "town hall" discussion on its decision on January 31. While the ...

SPLC’s LoMonte: High Stakes for Student Speech in ‘Tatro’

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center, has an excellent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education discussing what's at stake for student speech rights in Tatro v. University of Minnesota, which the Minnesota Supreme Court will hear this Wednesday.

Frank writes:

Hard cases, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes cautioned in a 1904 Supreme Court opinion, make bad law. What ­Holmes meant is that cases with distasteful facts and unlikeable parties tempt judges to back into the desired outcome without regard for the broader legal principles at stake. When that happens, future parties with more sympathetic cases become collateral damage.

Tatro v. University of Minnesota is one of those hard cases. If the justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court lose sight of the larger constitutional issues, the outcome in the case could give colleges virtually limitless authority to silence speech critical of their programs, no matter where it is uttered.

Be sure to read Frank's piece in full. The amici curiae brief FIRE co-authored with SPLC is available here

Wednesday's oral arguments will take place in St. Paul on the second floor of the State Capitol Building. Arguments are open to the public, and FIRE ...

Arizona State Blocks Access to

Saturday, February 4th, 2012
Arizona State University has reportedly blocked access to the petition website, citing concerns with "spam" emails coming from the site in the wake of a petition posted on the site that advocated lower tuition costs at the university. Today, FIRE wrote a letter to the university asking that Arizona State immediately restore access to the website and assure its students that its IT department does not block access to websites that might host content critical of the university.

At Yale, Political Expediency Trumps Basic Rights

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Last week, The New York Times ran an article on Patrick Witt, the star quarterback at Yale University whose candidacy for a Rhodes scholarship was suspended after the Rhodes selection committee learned of an "informal" complaint of sexual assault lodged against him within Yale's judicial system. 

Several days later, Yale released its first-ever "Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct," part of Yale's effort to overhaul its handling of sexual misconduct claims. The report provides details both about Yale's various methods for handling such claims (including the "informal complaint" process used by Patrick Witt's accuser) and about the actual claims brought. According to the official press release for the report,

The comprehensive report, which exceeds any legal mandate, provides a level of transparency expected to motivate the Yale community to improve the campus climate, administrators said. It reports all complaints of misconduct, including verbal harassment and sexual assault.

The Witt case and the new Yale report paint a picture of a university more concerned with protecting its reputation and its federal funding (which is threatened by the Department of Education's investigation into Yale's handling of sexual misconduct complaints) than with its students' rights to free speech and due process. ...

‘Tulane Hullabaloo’ on Tulane’s Speech Codes

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Today, the editorial board of The Tulane Hullabaloo, the student paper at Tulane University, has written an editorial in support of FIRE's analysis of Tulane's "red light" policies. The piece quotes FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley and calls for the university to promote free speech on campus.

The editorial board writes, in part:

"There's the concern that it's very difficult to define what is ‘inappropriate'"... Shibley said. "Those are definitions that depend on the opinion of the person you ask, and what's inappropriate to somebody might not be to their friend or roommate."

Efforts to create a positive campus environment should stem from movements like One Wave - the campus-wide effort to make Tulane a friendlier place - not from restrictive free speech policies in the Student Guide of Policy, Procedures and Resources.

Tulane should work with FIRE to ensure that its policies give students real freedom of speech. Though students currently have little or no reason to complain about the administration's actions regarding freedom of speech, we need to protect our rights for the future.

FIRE hopes that the Tulane administration will take the Hullabaloo's request seriously and will seek to revise the policies that ...

‘6 Tips to Protect Your Rights’ Published in ‘The Delta’

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

I'm happy to report that an earlier piece I wrote for The Torch, "6 Tips to Protect Your Rights in College," has been reprinted by The Delta, the national magazine of the Sigma Nu fraternity. This entry, originally published during back-to-school season in September, offers students practical advice on how to protect themselves when dealing with possible violations of their rights or having to defend themselves to campus authorities. (You can read it in The Delta's interactive issue, page 16.)

I encourage all students to read and reread the whole post (and the many other materials we make available to students at no charge), but will reprint the piece's final point here, for any student in a bind:

6. Don't wait—contact FIRE. Don't wait until you've been found responsible for violating campus policies before asking FIRE for help. We have more than a decade of experience defending student rights, and we have won or helped to resolve hundreds of cases involving students. We stand ready to help students whose rights have been violated by their colleges, and we know where to refer students whose cases are outside of our mission. It's usually far better to get us ...

IFAction News Round Up, January 27-February 2, 2012

Friday, February 3rd, 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 January 27-February 2, 2012.

Freedom of Expression

Should Parents Control What Kids Learn at School?

Related: The New Hampshire bill HB-542 is linked here

Indiana Senate backs teaching creationism proposal

Beyond ACTA: next secret copyright agreement negotiated this week—in Hollywood



Censoring of Tweets Sets Off #Outrage

Related: Twitter Censorship Move Sparks Backlash: Is It Justified?

In censorship, Twitter fails to defend free speech

Libraries, Sexual Content and the Internet: Striking a Balance Between Rights, Access, And Comfort (OIF Director Barbara Jones Huffington Post editorial)

Joint Statement in Opposition to Book Censorship in the Tucson Unified School District (statement from FTRF, ABFFE, NCAC and many others)

Related: Tucson Teacher’s Campaign Against Book Ban Gains Support

Banned authors, activists to smuggle contraband wet books into Tucson

Comic book ban highlights Vietnam’s censorship struggle

Google changes enable ‘per country’ blog takedowns



LEAHY Statement At ...

Candidates Ruled Out of Poll

Friday, February 3rd, 2012
Chinese authorities block independent candidates in local legislative elections.

Mitt Romney’s record on First Amendment issues: religion and more

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

As it has done in previously,  The First Amendment Center will run a series of articles on the First Amendment record and views of  presidential candidates. The first in the series is on Mitt Romney and is available now.

Final Chance to Vote on Best ‘Firefly’ Tweet at

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

FIRE has selected ten finalists for our contest for the best tweet promoting our newest video, about FIRE's case at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where Professor James Miller was ordered to take down a poster featuring a quote from the science fiction show Firefly. With more than 80,000 views, the video is among FIRE's most popular. $500 in prizes is at stake for the participants, so please go to and vote on your favorite today—on Monday, it's all over!


A ‘Bake Sale’ Protest at Aquinas College (Bucknell, Are You Listening?)

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

A perennial topic of consternation on college campuses is the "affirmative action bake sale" protest that groups opposed to affirmative action hold with some regularity on college campuses. If you don't recall or haven't heard of these protests, they take the form of bake sales where people of different ethnicities are charged different suggested amounts for baked goods, with whites and Asians paying the most and African-Americans and Native Americans paying the least. The different prices are meant to signify the advantage in college admissions that opponents of affirmative action argue such policies give to certain ethnicities.

Probably the most (in)famous of these bake sales happened at Bucknell University, where administrators shut down an affirmative action bake sale protest by misapplying university policies, telling students they could reapply for a permit to hold a controversial event, later denying them a permit on the erroneous basis that such a bake sale would be illegal discrimination, and then telling the students that affirmative action couldn't even be debated on the "public property of the campus." It was truly a low point for free speech on America's campuses, and helped earn Bucknell FIRE's dreaded "Red Alert" status.

Adam wrote last October ...

Who Would You Team With Lady Liberty?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Comics Should Be Good over at CBR is having some fun with Twitter in honor of CBLDF! Brian Cronin with The Line Is Drawn posted this week’s challenge, calling for entries from CSBG’s Twitter followers:

In honor of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s 2012 Membership Drive, team-up various comic book characters with Lady Liberty, the symbol of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund!

Get the details on how you can enter your Lady Liberty dream team here!

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Betsy Gomez is the Web Editor for CBLDF.

Tell Congress: No Backroom Deals to Regulate the Internet

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Right now, representatives from nine countries including the United States are secretly meeting in a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade agreement with the potential to contain intellectual property provisions that go beyond ACTA. These secret meetings could create over-reaching new rules and standards that will choke off the online speech of individuals, websites, and platforms accused of copyright infringement.

But because the meetings are held behind closed doors and the text has not been released to the public, the citizens who will be affected do not know the details and don’t have a voice.

Click here to join EFF in demanding a Congressional hearing so lawmakers can learn what’s in the TPP and hear from all affected stakeholders, not just the content industry.

Yesterday, EFF International Rights Director Katitza Rogriguez checked in with protestors outside ongoing TPP meetings in Los Angeles. Katitza reported:

The energy at the rally was intoxicating. And the people were right to protest: TPP is one more in a long line of global copyright initiatives that are putting Internet users last. All over the world, people are saying enough is enough.

This week of negotiations in Los Angeles ...

Will Columbia University Students Respect Jim Gilchrist’s Right to Free Speech This Time?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Recent articles in the Columbia Spectator address the recently announced plans of the Columbia University College Republicans (CUCRs) to bring Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the controversial Minuteman Project, to speak at Columbia this spring. Given the melee that ensued when he spoke at Columbia in 2006 (also as a guest of the CUCRs), this is no small event.

When Gilchrist spoke at Columbia on October 4, 2006, several protesters of Gilchrist's and the Minutemen's anti-illegal immigration views and tactics forcibly took the stage to disrupt the event. The protesters' violence was roundly condemned, and several students were ultimately disciplined for their roles in the disruption. Yet while the protesters faced some consequences for their actions, the debacle continues to stand as a snapshot of all that has gone wrong with the quality of campus discourse today, with students—wrongly empowered by the false right not to be offended—seeing no harm in using forcible means to suppress speech and ideas with which they disagree. Adding further insult to free speech, such intolerant actions are frequently perpetrated in the name of preserving a more "tolerant" campus atmosphere. 

From the Spectator's coverage, it seems that Columbia students are determined to do ...

Megaupload’s Innocent Users Deserve Their Data Back

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
EFF Formally Requests Retention of Materials Stored on Megaupload’s Services

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today formally requested the preservation of the data seized when the U.S. government shut down and related sites, notifying the court and attorneys involved in the case that Megaupload's innocent users deserve a fair process to control and retrieve their lawful material.

"The government knows that Megaupload had many customers who followed the law. Yet it gave those users no notice that their data was at risk and no information about how they might be able to eventually get that data back," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "Our client, and the many other innocent Megaupload users, are entitled to a clear process for obtaining access to their own property, and the first step is to make sure that property is not deleted or damaged until the court can sort this out."

Instead of assisting the innocents caught up in the seizure, the U.S government summarily announced this week that it had finished its examination of Megaupload's servers and announced that the companies that owned those servers – Carpathia and Cogent – were free to delete the contents. The government even ...

IFAction News Round Up, January 13-25, 2012

Thursday, February 2nd, 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 January 13-25, 2012.


Tucson book removal: Rejected in Tucson
Related: Hispanic Caucus Letter to Dept. of Education Calling for Civil Rights Investigation

Bills Aimed at Undermining Teaching of Evolution Filed in Four States

Plymouth-Canton committee takes ‘Beloved’ off the hook

Petition to Indian PM Seeks to ‘Unban’ Rushdie Book

OK, So SOPA And PIPA Are Both On Hold: Where Do We Go From Here?
Related: Amidst SOPA, PIPA Blackouts, Issa Introduces Rival OPEN Act

Justices leave questions on online student speech unanswered

You Can’t Read This Book: why libel tourists love London


Homeland Security watches Twitter, social media

Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt out

Europe Weighs Tough Law on Online Privacy 

Opinion: Do Drones Undermine Democracy?

Justices Say GPS Tracker Violated Privacy Rights
Related: SCOTUS GPS Ruling


Who Owns Government-Funded Research Papers?

U.S. appeals court says sex offenders have right to libraries

Cyberbullying Bill Introduced in N.Y. Assembly

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

A bill currently in the New York General Assembly would address the problem of cyberbullying, a phenomenon that has attracted national attention over the last several years. In January, New York Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin introduced A.8895, which defines cyberbullying as:

“engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts of abusive behavior over a period of time by communicating or causing a communication to be sent by mechanical or electronic means, posting statements on the Internet or through a computer network.”

The measure further defines “abusive behavior” as:

“taunting; threatening; intimidating; insulting; tormenting; humiliating; disseminating embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs, either actual or modified, of a minor; disseminating the private, personal or sexual information, either factual or false, of a minor; or sending hate mail.

Corwin introduced the measure in part in response to the September 2011 suicide of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of Williamsville, N.Y. The Buffalo News reported that Rodemeyer was the subject of cyberbullying and other forms of bullying because he was gay.

“Bullying is a long-standing problem among school-aged children in New York State, and throughout the nation,” Corwin said in a news release. “With the increasing accessibility of electronic means of communication, bullying has transformed from ...

100 Tibetan Protesters Held

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
More than a week after the protests in a troubled Chinese province, news surfaces about the number detained.

After Vandy’s Ill-Advised Choice, Revisiting ‘CLS v. Martinez’ Warning

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Last night, Vanderbilt University held a "town hall"discussion of its decision to require registered student groups to accept all students in leadership positions, barring belief-based student groups from requiring that leaders actually agree with the group's stated mission. According to The Tennessean, more than 200 students participated, and FIRE has received reports from students that the discussion, planned for 90 minutes, ran for over three hours.  

Vanderbilt student publication reported that tensions were extraordinarily high: 

    This pressure reached its breaking point when starting quarterback for the Vanderbilt Commodores Jordan Rodgers spoke out on behalf of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes, a group currently on provisional status because it restricts its leadership positions to only members who affirm the organization's core beliefs. 

    Taking a confrontational tone with the university representatives - Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty and David Williams, vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics, general counsel and university secretary - Rodgers delivered a defense for religious organizations before walking out with a small group of audience members. 

Considering how much control schools generally demand over student athletes'expression, it's  stunning indeed that this happened. 

As Robert discussed here on The Torch yesterday, ...

What Actually Changed in Google’s Privacy Policy

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

It Shouldn't Take a Letter from Congress for Google to Give Straight Answers About Privacy Policy Changes

Last week, Google announced a new, simplified privacy policy. They did a great job of informing users that the privacy policy had been changed through emails and notifications, and several experts (including Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian) have praised the shift toward a simpler, more unified policy. Unfortunately, while the policy might be easier to understand, Google did a less impressive job of publicly explaining what in the policy had actually been changed.  In fact, it took a letter from eight Representatives to persuade them to provide straightforward answers to the public about their new policy.   

Here’s what you need to know about the substantive changes in the new policy:

  1. Up until March 1, 2012, the data Google collected on you when you used YouTube was carefully cabined away from your other Google products. So, in effect, Google could use data they collected on YouTube to improve and customize the users’ YouTube experience, but couldn’t use the data to customize and improve user experience on, say, Google+.
  2. The same siloing took place for your search history. Previously, Google search data was ...

Filmmaker Josh Fox Arrested While Attempting to Record EPA Hearing

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Josh Fox was arrested Wednesday morning after attempting to film a House Science Committee hearing on hydraulic fracturing.

Fox was led out in handcuffs by the Capitol police shortly after 10 a.m., before the hearing could be gaveled into order. The “Gasland” director was attempting to film the hearing looking into EPA’s investigation of potential water contamination from natural gas drilling in Pavillion, Wyo.

“I’m within my First Amendment rights, and I’m being taken out,” Fox shouted as he was led away.

Fox has been charged with unlawful entry, according to Capitol police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

Fox is working on a sequel to his Oscar-nominated “Gasland.”

An ABC news crew was also turned away from the hearing. The committee chairman has the discretion on whether to allow uncredentialed members of the media to film hearings, according to a democratic staffer.

The committee recessed after Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) called a motion to suspend the committee rules and allow for Fox and the ABC crew to film the hearing.

Second Chance for New Jersey to Protect Free Speech in Anti-Bullying Law

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Here is today's press release from FIRE: 

TRENTON, N.J., February 1, 2012—Following a state council's ruling that New Jersey's new anti-bullying law is an unfunded mandate in violation of the New Jersey Constitution, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) notes that the law also violates college students' First Amendment rights. The law ignores the fact that harassment in the educational context has a precise legal definition, crafted by the Supreme Court with specific attention to balancing the right to freedom of expression with the government's interest in prohibiting real harassment. The law also conflicts with recent rulings on campus speech from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, whose jurisdiction includes New Jersey.

"The Council on Local Mandates' ruling has provided New Jersey legislators a chance to fix restrictions on student speech that are both impermissibly vague and startlingly broad," said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "This 'anti-bullying' law, as it is currently written, makes opening one's mouth on a college campus in the state of New Jersey a serious risk. FIRE knows all too well that even well-intentioned rules that provide vague proscriptions on speech that challenges or offends are a true disaster for free ...

Former FIRE Intern: UNC Should Not Be Comfortable With Unconstitutional Policies

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

David Deerson, a former FIRE intern and current University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill junior, penned an excellent letter to the editor published in today’s edition of The Daily Tar Heel. His letter responds to an article from Tuesday, which reported that UNC’s vice chancellor for student affairs Winston Crisp is comfortable with the school’s “yellow light” rating from FIRE. David writes: 


It is disturbing to read that Winston Crisp is comfortable with UNC’s yellow light rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. 

UNC is a state institution and it receives funding from both local and federal governments. If the institution’s policies stand in violation of the Constitution, it doesn’t matter much whether UNC administrators are comfortable with them or not. 

The fact of the matter is that UNC has certain policies that have already been declared unconstitutional at other universities. What makes UNC’s complacency with its problematic policies especially frustrating is that the solutions to them are so simple. For example, the Supreme Court has already laid down a clear definition of student-on-student sexual harassment in the educational context. Why not simply borrow the court’s language and ensure that the University’s policies ...