Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Anti-Wall Street Protester’s Twitter Posts Subpoenaed

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Prosecutors have subpoenaed the Twitter records of an Occupy Wall Street protester who was arrested in October during a mass protest on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The January 26 subpoena from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seeks “user information, including email address,” along with three months’ worth of tweets from @destructuremal, the Twitter handle for Malcolm Harris.

Harris, 23, a freelance writer and editor who lives in the New York borough of Brooklyn, said Tuesday that Twitter sent a copy of the subpoena to him on Monday. He posted it — where else? — on Twitter.

“When you get an email from Twitter Legal, you assume it’s a phishing scam, trying to get your password,” he said. “It turned out that it is a phishing scam, but it’s from the prosecutors.”

It is not clear what specific evidence prosecutors are after. But the subpoena is an example of posts on social media sites posing potential legal problems for authors.

Harris said his lawyer, Martin Stolar of the National Lawyers Guild, would file a motion to quash the subpoena. Twitter has agreed not to comply with the subpoena while Stolar prepares the motion, Harris said.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s ...

Vietnam Censorship Fuels Interest in Banned Comics

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Early comic book censorship in the United States was fueled by fears many adults had over a burgeoning youth culture that they could not understand and that they perceived as violent. Even today, would-be censors continually — and incorrectly — argue that comic books and other media are bad for children, something that has yet to be proven by valid scientific study.

The fear of youth culture as a driver for censorship isn’t unique to the United States, as a recent AFP article over at The Raw Story makes clear. The article relates how the banning of books in Vietnam, in particular books and comics aimed at youth culture, has actually driven sales of the books rather than keeping them out of readers’ hands. AFP interviewed a comic book creator about the banning of his book:

Nguyen Thanh Phong, whose collection of comic rhyming slang was recently banned, said his illustration of two gormless-looking soldiers kicking a grenade to each other may have caused the censors’ ire.

The caption reads “Being a soldier you must always get noticed”, an attempt to poke fun at the inflated, heroic image of the country’s military.

“I just thought it ...

Debate Over Religious Freedom Comes to a Head at Vanderbilt

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

This evening, Vanderbilt University will hold a town hall “discussion” about its new nondiscrimination policy that prevents belief-based student groups from making belief-based decisions about their leadership. Vanderbilt effectively is discriminating against political and religious groups that seek to promote a common message. Vanderbilt has told students that their organizations are engaging in prohibited discrimination if they require that leaders of the Vanderbilt College Democrats be Democrats, that Christian groups be Christian, that Muslim groups be Muslim, that single-sex singing groups maintain their identity, or that political publications exclude students who do not share their views.

This is huge news at Vanderbilt—it dominated the first page of yesterday's Vanderbilt Hustler, Vandy's main college newspaper, and its counterpart InsideVandy.com. But you wouldn't know it from the reaction of Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos and the Vanderbilt administration, which has stubbornly refused to respond to basic questions about its new policy, such as "If a leader of Vanderbilt's Muslim Student Assocation were to convert to Christianity, would the group be required to keep him or her as a leader, despite the fact that he or she is no longer Muslim?" That's the logical outcome of the policy that Vanderbilt is now choosing. ...

Oregon Community College Drops Free Speech Zone

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Last week, Chemeketa Community College (CCC) in Salem, Oregon, made significant changes to its "Free Speech Guidelines" and "Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy," which now allow students to spontaneously gather on campus. The revisions have done away with previous restrictions on constitutionally protected speech, as reported by the Alliance Defense Fund.

The flaws in the policies were brought into the public eye when, in October 2010, a student distributing pro-life literature was told he needed permission from campus officials to share his message. If approved by the administration, the student could then reserve the campus' "free speech zone"—space for a six-foot folding table and two chairs—to distribute literature. Students were required to give one week's notice to reserve the space, and could only reserve it twice per semester. An officer also told the student he could not wear his T-shirt, which expressed a pro-life sentiment.

Under the new policies, which were put into place after pressure from the Alliance Defense Fund, students may still reserve the table in the free speech zone, but may also speak elsewhere on campus spontaneously and without prior approval. The college also eliminated a speech code that banned "offensive" or "derogatory" speech.

Robust and ...

EFF Requests Information from Innocent Megaupload Users

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

In the media firestorm surrounding the recent Megaupload takedown, there has been little lacking in the way of drama (police helicopters, midnight raids, safe rooms, shotguns, and inflatable tanks, for starters). The legal battles between the government and Megaupload are unlikely to end soon. In the meantime, however, many ordinary users of Megaupload’s services have been swept up in the government’s dragnet, and, as a consequence, have lost access to their own data.

Megaupload, of course, had many lawful customers (see here and here, for example). Yet those people were given no notice that they might lose access to their data and no clear path to getting their property back. Setting aside the legal case against Megaupload, the government should try to avoid this kind of collateral damage, not create it.

We learned yesterday that the government has finished its investigation of Megaupload’s servers and claims that the companies that own those servers – Carpathia and Cogent – are free to delete their contents. Luckily, those companies aren't following the government's example of shooting first and asking later. To that end, Carpathia has put together a site at www.megaretrieval.com where Megaupload customers can contact EFF and provide ...

Data Privacy Day 2012: “Should Librarians Care About Privacy Anymore?” A Webinar Featuring Barbara Jones

Monday, January 30th, 2012

As part of Data Privacy Day 2012, the University of North Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science (SILS) is sponsoring a special program and webinar in honor of its 80th anniversary, “Should Librarians Care About Privacy Anymore?“  The program will take place this Friday, February 3, 2012 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern time in Peabody Hall, Room 08. The event will also be simulcast as a live webinar via Conference Streaming. There is no charge for admission.

The featured speaker is Barbara Jones, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Jones argues that libraries must continue to care about privacy and serve as a model for the world on how libraries protect their users’ privacy despite new technologies that may threaten library users’ privacy.   Jones will discuss how librarians can continue to play a leadership role in the privacy realm and review some of the groundbreaking privacy work the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has done with libraries and librarians, including the work done under its grant from the Open Society Foundations.

The program will include a panel discussion, which will include four panelists:

  • Anne Klinefelter, ...

In ‘Ward v. Polite,’ Sixth Circuit Reaches Right Result, but with Wrong Reasoning

Monday, January 30th, 2012

On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that expelled Eastern Michigan University (EMU) counseling student Julea Ward's First Amendment suit may continue, finding that a federal district court had improperly granted the EMU defendants summary judgment. Ward was expelled from EMU's graduate counseling program after she inquired about referring a gay client who sought counseling regarding a same-sex relationship. The Sixth Circuit found that Ward had presented sufficient evidence that, when viewed in the light most favorable to Ward (a necessary inference when deciding motions for summary judgment), could prompt a jury to conclude that Ward had been expelled because of "hostility toward her speech and faith." The Sixth Circuit's reversal returns the case to the district court.

The case is Ward v. Polite, and the Sixth Circuit's opinion is available here (.PDF). It's an interesting opinion, and you'll want to check out the court's discussion in full. The Sixth Circuit's close reading of the record is particularly noteworthy: the court constructs a strong case suggesting that Ward's expulsion was prompted not by her failure to abide by EMU policy, but rather by the faculty's hostility towards Ward's religious beliefs. But while ...

‘Harvard Crimson’ Exposes Violations of Free Speech in Policies Identified by FIRE

Monday, January 30th, 2012

FIRE's annual report on campus speech codes has reached more and more college and university campuses since we released it a few weeks ago. Today The Harvard Crimson's Rebecca D. Robbins reports on Harvard's poor, "red light" speech code rating in FIRE's report. We explained Harvard's rating in detail a couple of years ago, showing how Harvard's policies violate its own promises of free expression:

Even Harvard's Free Speech Guidelines [adopted by Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in 1990], which extol the university's unique status and its unique commitment to free speech, take with one hand as they give with the other. The Guidelines state that "Behavior evidently intended to dishonor such characteristics as race, gender, ethnic group, religious belief, or sexual orientation is contrary to the pursuit of inquiry and education. Such grave disrespect for the dignity of others can be punished under existing procedures because it violates a balance of rights on which the University is based." Harvard students wishing to express controversial opinions may well wonder what exactly constitutes "grave disrespect for the dignity of others." And they may, in fact, refrain from expressing those opinions to avoid potential punishment under this ridiculously vague ...

Censorship, Arizona Style

Monday, January 30th, 2012
Censorship, Arizona Style

1/17/2012 updated 1/30/2012 —
Update! See Joint Statement Below

Former Arizona State Senator, and now Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, has accomplished what few others can claim – censorship of books by the truckload. He is primarily responsible for a bill enacted in 2010 that prohibits public schools from teaching anything that promotes racial or ethnic “resentment,” or that is designed “primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or advocates “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” Having pushed the bill through the legislature, he’s now in charge of enforcing it.

As a result, the Tucson school district is being forced to dismantle its Mexican-American Studies program, throwing the district’s educational program into chaos. Books are being packed up and removed from classrooms, disrupting classes in the middle of the school year. Just a small sampling of what is going into cold storage: Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, Matt de la Pena's Mexican White Boy, Sherman Alexie's Ten Little Indians, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Teachers have been instructed to steer clear of discussions of race, ethnicity or oppression, a restriction ...

EFF Asks Judge to Prevent ‘Catch-22’ in Porn-Downloading Lawsuit

Monday, January 30th, 2012
Defendants Told They Must Reveal Their Identities Before Fighting to Protect Anonymity

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to protect the identities of individuals sued in a mass copyright lawsuit involving pornographic materials.

In this case, adult film company Hard Drive Productions sued 1495 unnamed Internet users, claiming they illegally downloaded copyrighted pornographic material. Some of these defendants moved to quash subpoenas aimed at revealing their identity. Many filed those motions under seal, to protect their anonymity until the motions are decided.

Last month, a judge issued a "Catch-22" order, requiring these individuals to reveal their identities before their motions – which were made to protect their identities – could proceed. In a friend of the court brief filed Monday, EFF argues that this requirement could induce defendants to settle their lawsuits in order to avoid the embarrassment, humiliation, or expense, instead of getting to the merits of the case.

"These subpoenas need to be considered in the context in which this case was brought," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "The plaintiffs here hope to take advantage of the stigma associated with pornography – as well as the threat ...

CBLDF Joins National Organizations in Condemning Arizona School Censorship

Monday, January 30th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

In response to an Arizona state law banning the teaching of ethnic studies courses, the Tucson Unified School District released a list of books that have been banned from the classroom. Popular textbooks, novels, and collections by revered Mexican American and Native American authors were among the titles removed from classrooms. CBLDF has joined a coalition of organizations — including the ACLU of Arizona, ABFFE, ALA’s Freedom to Read Coalition, and many more — in a joint statement decrying this censorship.

The coalition sent the following letter to TUSD:

JOINT STATEMENT IN OPPOSITION TO BOOK CENSORSHIP
IN THE TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
January 30, 2012

The undersigned organizations are committed to protecting free speech and intellectual freedom. We write to express our deep concern about the removal of books used in the Mexican-American Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District. This occurred in response to a determination by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal that the program “contained content promoting resentment toward a race or class of people” and that “materials repeatedly reference white people as being ‘oppressors….’ in violation of state law.” The books have been boxed up and put in storage; their fate ...

‘Daily Tar Heel’ Article Shows that Free Speech Has a Long Way to Go at UNC

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Fresh off reviewing our recently issued speech code report, the Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (UNC) highlights the fact that UNC at present maintains three "yellow light" speech codes infringing upon students' freedom of expression. These policies have no place at an institution like UNC that not only is legally obligated to uphold the First Amendment, but is morally obligated to follow through on its statements of being an institution committed to free speech and the exchange of ideas.

Writing for the Daily Tar Heel, Amanda Albright quotes our Samantha Harris, who points out that UNC's speech codes—as "yelllow light" policies are wont to be—are vague on their face and could be interpreted or misapplied to censor protected speech:

"Because of (several policies') vague wording, it is also difficult for students to know exactly what is prohibited and what is allowed, which leads to a chilling effect on student speech," she said.

An example of one of these policies is the University's Instrument of Student Governance - a policy that governs the Honor Court's actions. The policy prohibits conduct that "abuses ... or otherwise interferes with another so as to ...

Tenth Circuit Rules Criminalizing False Claims of Military Honors is Constitutional

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled on Friday that the Stolen Valor Act (SVA), which criminalizes the act of falsely claiming to have received a medal from the US military, is constitutional and not a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The SVA imposes a six month prison sentence on anyone who falsely claims to have received a military service medal or a one year sentence if the individual claimed to have received a Congressional Medal of Honor. The court stated that “knowingly false factual statements are not intrinsically protected under the First Amendment” as long as the law punishing false statements provides “breathing space” for protected speech: “knowingly false statements, in contrast even to incendiary ideas, are no part of the ‘the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole.’ Just because controversial ideas and opinions merit constitutional protection does not mean false facts deserve the same immunity.” The court further stated that there was no danger of the law suppressing free speech, because it only criminalizes knowing misstatements of fact and does not criminalize political speech, criticism or parody.

Read the full article at Jurist.org

Cartoonist Susie Cagle Arrested, Released During Weekend Occupy Oakland Protests

Monday, January 30th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Over the weekend, more than 400 people were taken in during a mass arrest in response to the latest Occupy Oakland protests. Cartoonist Susie Cagle, who was arrested during protests in November, was one of several credential journalists taken in during the mass arrest despite Oakland Police Department policy that members of the media never be targeted because of their status as journalists. This time, Cagle was released on site, when an officer recognized Cagle from her last arrest. Cagle was told that they were doing her a “favor” upon her release.

The Daily Cartoonist has a rundown of Cagle’s tweets during the arrest and release here. Cagle wrote an article for AlterNet a few days before the latest protests, outlining OPD’s new policies regarding protests. Gavin Aronsen with Mother Jones, another journalist arrested during the protests, details his experience — which seems to contravene the policy OPD laid out for Cagle — here.

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

Betsy Gomez is the Web Editor for CBLDF.

International Privacy Day: Top Concerns of Activists and Data Protection Authorities

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

This January 28 marks International Privacy Day. Different countries around the world are celebrating this day with their own events. This year, we are honoring the day by calling attention to recent international privacy threats and interviewing data protection authorities, government officials, and activists to gain insight into various aspects of privacy rights and related legislation in their own respective countries.

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As part of International Privacy Day, the EFF asked data protection authorities, politicians, and activists about privacy related issues and concerns for 2012. In addition to the individuals highlighted in our previous posts, EFF heard back from the Council of Europe, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), and activists from Canada, France and Spain. In various ways, all of the responses focused on government surveillance or data protection laws. For the Council of Europe and European Data Protection Supervisor, the focus was on data protection agreements, while the activists were mindful of the ever-increasing power of government authorities to surveil their citizens

This year, the Council of Europe will focus on modernizing the 1987 Recommendation on the use of personal data in the police sector. This recommendation created basic principles for collecting, storing, and ...

The Right to Anonymity is a Matter of Privacy

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

This January 28 marks International Privacy Day. Different countries around the world are celebrating this day with their own events. This year, we are honoring the day by calling attention to recent international privacy threats and interviewing data protection authorities, government officials, and activists to gain insight into various aspects of privacy rights and related legislation in their own respective countries.

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Throughout history, there have been a number of reasons why individuals have taken to writing or producing art under a pseudonym. In the 18th century, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay took on the pseudonym Publius to publish The Federalist Papers. In 19th century England, pseudonyms allowed women--like the Brontë sisters, who initially published under Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell--to be taken seriously as writers.

Today, pseudonyms continue to serve a range of individuals, and for a variety of reasons. At EFF, we view anonymity as both a matter of free speech and privacy, but in light of International Privacy Day, January 28, this piece will focus mainly on the latter, looking at the ways in which the right to anonymity--or pseudonymity--is truly a matter of privacy.

Privacy from employers

Human beings are complex creatures ...

This Week in Internet Censorship: Ethiopian Blogger Sentenced, Tunisians and Polish Keep Up Fight for Free Expression

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Ethiopian blogger smacked with life sentence

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ethiopian blogger Elias Kifle was handed a life sentence in absentia this week for his coverage of banned opposition groups.  Kifle, who lives in the United States, is editor of the Washington-based opposition website Ethiopian Review and was previously handed a life sentence, in 2007, on charges of treason. Kifle was sentenced along with columnist Reeyot Alemu and editor Woubshet Taye, both of whom live and work in Ethiopia and received 14-year prison sentences.

EFF condemns the decision by the Addis Ababa court and echoes CPJ's call to the Supreme Court to reverse the convictions.

Tunisian fight for Internet freedom continues

EFF has stood behind the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) in its fight to keep the Tunisian Internet free and open. Next month, reports Global Voices, the ATI will stand in Tunisia's highest court, the Court of Cassation, for a final appeal against the decision to force it to implement filtering of pornographic content.

In the article, author Afef Abrougui points out that now-President Moncef Marzouki had previously opposed the allocation of funds for the purchase of Internet censorship equipment, but now supports "red lines" ...

What Does Twitter’s Country-by-Country Takedown System Mean for Freedom of Expression?

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Yesterday, Twitter announced in a blog post that it was launching a system that would allow the company to take down content on a country-by-country basis, as opposed to taking it down across the Twitter system. The Internet immediately exploded with allegations of censorship, conspiracy theories about Twitter’s Saudi investors and automated content filtering, and calls for a January 28 protest. One thing is clear: there is widespread confusion over Twitter's new policy and what its implications are for freedom of expression all over the world.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Twitter already takes down some tweets and has done so for years. All of the other commercial platforms that we're aware of remove content, at a minimum, in response to valid court orders. Twitter removes some tweets because they are deemed to be abuse or spam, while others are removed in compliance with court orders or DMCA notifications. Until now, when Twitter has taken down content, it has had to do so globally. So for example, if Twitter had received a court order to take down a tweet that is defamatory to Ataturk--which is illegal under Turkish law--the only way it could comply would ...

Twitter’s Country-specific Censorship Tool Prompts User Protest

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Some Twitter users say they will stop using the service on Saturday in protest of the company’s new rule that allows for content to be blocked in specific countries.

The policy, announced Thursday, on the company’s blog will enable the company to block specific tweets on a country-by-country basis when the content runs afoul of local laws.

Several global companies, including Google and Facebook, already have similar policies to remove content to comply with individual countries’ laws regarding speech — one of the most commonly cited examples of a law like this is Germany’s prohibition against pro-Nazi content. Critics worry that Twitter’s policy will destroy its capability to work as a platform for impromptu social movements, a role it played so prominently during the Arab Spring.

“Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world,” the Twitter post read, in part. “We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.”

Posting messages with the hashtags “#TwitterBlackout” and “#TwitterCensored,” users vowed to let the company know that they opposed the new policy. Several ...

IFAction News Roundup, January 5-12, 2012

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Censorship in the Library

Bangladesh teacher arrested after banned book found in college library

Scheduled signing for book written in collaboration with convicted murderer spurs community outrage

Book to remain in school libraries, board rules

Plymouth-Canton Parent Group: ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’

Filtering and Free Exercise: ACLU vs. Salem Public Library

Harper wants vetting of public school books

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE Remains In School Library
Related:

Much more after the break…

 

Privacy/Technology

Why 2012 is starting to look like 1984 [Digital Trends]

Feds Want Judge to Force Suspect to Give Up Laptop Password

WikiLeaks Supporters Lose Court Bid to Protect Twitter Records

Privacy group calls for federal investigation of Facebook’s Timeline

California group creates complaint center for online privacy issues

Google ‘Search Plus Your World’ Brings Google+ Into Search Results
Related: Google Should Face Federal Trade Commission Probe Over New Personalized Search, Privacy Group Says

Google ‘surprised’ by Twitter’s criticism

Google search gets its biggest change in a decade with a dose of Google+

 

SOPA

Fighting Internet piracy: CES takes on SOPA vs. OPEN debate

Entities supporting SOPA of interest to the ...

Illinois High Court to Allow Cameras in Circuit Courts

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday authorized the use of television cameras and other recording devices in state courts. The order permits “extended media coverage” in courtrooms, which entails broadcasting of proceedings by the use of television, radio, photographic or recording equipment for the purpose of gathering and disseminating news to the public. While Illinois has permitted the use of news cameras in its Supreme Court and appellate courts since 1983, it has not allowed news cameras in trial courts until this decision. Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride championed the new policy:

This is another step to bring more transparency and more accountability to the Illinois court system. The provisions of this new policy keep discretion in the chief circuit judge and the trial judge to assure that a fair and impartial trial is not compromised, yet affords a closer look at the workings of our court system to the public through the eyes of the electronic news media and news photographers.

Prior to the order, Illinois was one of 14 states that either banned or severely restricted camera use in trial courtrooms.

Read more on Jurist.org

 

Golan v. Holder: A First Amendment Perspective

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

On Wednesday thousands of scholars joined millions of people around the world in online protest of two proposed laws, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). SOPA and PIPA would, in the view of many observers, authorize wide-ranging online censorship in the guise of stopping copyright infringement. So far, the protest appears to have been a success: Congressional support for the proposed laws is crumbling.

On that same day, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in a copyright case that may be just as important as SOPA and PIPA—and potentially just as harmful to the interests of scholars, librarians, and archivists. In Golan v. Holder, a group of conductors, educators, film distributors, and others challenged the constitutionality of Congress’s decision in 1994 to remove millions of books, films, songs, and other creative works, mostly foreign, from the public domain and “restore” their copyrights. It did so to conform to an international agreement, although it is far from clear that the move was required to put the United States in conformity. Some of the works taken from the public domain and put back under copyright are very famous; they include Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” ...

Student Paper Points Out Flaws in Iowa State’s ‘Red Light’ Harassment Policies

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Writing for the Iowa State Daily, Kaleb Warnock quotes FIRE Director of Speech Code Research Samantha Harris on Iowa State University’s (ISU’s) unconstitutional speech codes. Specifically, Warnock’s article draws attention to ISU’s two “red light” harassment policies, each of which prohibits a substantial amount of protected student expression. 

These policies constitute a severe misapplication of peer harassment law at ISU. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of two harassment policies at the same school that could more badly misinform students of their expressive rights. 

ISU’s policy on “Discrimination and Harassment” (PDF) explicitly states, in pertinent part: 

While grounded in state and federal non-discrimination laws, this policy may cover those activities which, although not severe, persistent, or pervasive enough to meet the legal definition of harassment, are inappropriate and unjustified in an educational or work environment. 

[Emphasis added.] 

As Warnock’s article points out, ISU’s Student Disciplinary Regulations policy on “Harassment and Discriminatory Harassment” (PDF) is also problematic: 

Section 4.2.7A of the Code of Conduct states, "Engaging in First Amendment protected speech activities shall be considered acts done with a legitimate purpose." 

However, it seems to contradict itself later in the same section, instead stating that whether or not ...

International Privacy Day: Fighting Data Retention Mandates Around the World

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

This January 28 marks International Privacy Day, the day that the first legally binding international privacy treaty was opened for signature to Member States in January 28, 1981. Different countries around the world are celebrating this day with their own events. This year, we are honoring the day by calling attention to recent privacy threats around the world and describing a few of the available tools that allow individuals to protect their privacy and anonymity.

Today, we are calling on governments to repeal mandatory data retention schemes. Mandatory data retention harms individuals' anonymity, which is crucial for whistle-blowers, investigators, journalists, and for political speech. It creates huge potential for abuse and should be rejected as a serious infringement on the rights and freedoms of all individuals.

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It has been six years since the highly controversial Data Retention Directive (DRD) was adopted in the European Union. Conceived in the EU and steamrolled by powerful U.S. and U.K. government lobbies, this mass-surveillance law compels EU-based Internet service providers to collect and retain traffic data revealing who communicates with whom by email, phone, and SMS, including the duration of the communication and the locations of ...

Man Sues US Supreme Court Marshal For Right to Hold Sign on Court Grounds

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

A Maryland man is suing U.S. Supreme Court Marshal Pamela Talkin, claiming that the rules barring protesters from displaying signs on the high court’s grounds are unconstitutional.

Harold Hodge Jr., according to the complaint (PDF) filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was arrested on Jan. 28, 2011 after he walked up the court’s steps wearing a sign around his neck that read: “The U.S. Gov. Allows Police To Illegally Murder And Brutalize African Americans And Hispanic People.”

Hodge was arrested by Supreme Court police and charged with violating a federal law that prohibits the display of flags, banners or other signs on the grounds of the high court. He agreed to stay away from the court and its grounds in exchange for having the charge dismissed on Sept. 14 by the U.S. attorney’s office.

According to the complaint, Hodge wants to go back to the Supreme Court to demonstrate, and wants a federal court judge to declare that the rules barring him from bringing a sign violate his First Amendment right to free speech.

“Hodge is deterred and chilled from engaging in peaceful, non-disruptive speech on the plaza of the Supreme Court building,” he wrote ...

Department of Justice Misdirection on Cloud Computing and Privacy

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Does using cloud computing services based in the United States create a risk of US law enforcement access to people's data?  The US Department of Justice (DOJ) seems to be trying to placate international concern by saying one thing in international fora; but it says something quite different in the US courts.

On January 18, a senior Justice Department official tried to reassure companies and people around the world that hosting their data in the United States creates no increased privacy risk for them from the US government. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz noted: "Cloud computing has important advantages to consumers (but) doesn't present any issues that have not always been present. Certainly not regarding Internet service issues, but even before that."

Apparently, the DOJ is reacting to decisions by foreign entities to drop US-based services due to concerns about US government access, including British company BAE dropping Microsoft Office 365 and the Dutch government's hesitation about allowing its contractors to use US-based cloud services.  In the past, Denmark and Canada have also voiced their concerns about the level of protection the United States can provide to their citizens’ data. EU public tenders of cloud services are also ...

DOJ Wants to Know Who’s Rejecting Your Friend Requests

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

In the latest turn in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records related to the government’s use of social networking websites, the Department of Justice finally agreed to release almost 100 pages of new records. These include draft search warrants and affidavits for Facebook and MySpace and several PowerPoint presentations and articles on how to use social networking sites for investigations. (For more on what we've learned from the documents so far, see our earlier blog posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

The draft search warrants are particularly interesting because they show the full extent of data the government regularly requests on a person it’s investigating. This includes not just your full profile information but also who you “poke” (and presumably who “pokes” you), who rejects your friend requests, which apps you use, what music you listen to, your privacy settings, all photos you upload as well as any photos you’re tagged in (whether or not you upload them), who’s in each of your Facebook groups, and IP logs that can show if and when you viewed a specific profile and from what IP address you did so.

More ...

Google+ and Pseudonyms: A Step in the Right Direction, Not the End of the Road

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Nearly four months after first announcing it would support pseudonyms, Google rolled out changes to the account creation process for Google+ yesterday. The changes will allow users the option of choosing a nickname/alternate name to display in his or her Google+ profile, or choosing a pseudonym which is not linked a real name.

Nicknames address the needs of users who want to display the alternate name they may be known by, or a maiden name, as well as foreign-language users who want to use an alternate name. Users who select a nickname should note, however, that Google plans to roll out nicknames to other services, so that funny college nickname you use on Google+ might appear on your professional Picasa account one day.

Users should also note that nicknames and alternate names are no substitute for pseudonyms, as Google still requires users to sign up with a “common name” which is publicly associated with the user’s account.

For users who want to use a real pseudonym—a name that is in no way associated with one’s commonly used name—there is an alternate procedure and a potential pitfall. Names that trigger Google’s pseudonym-detection algorithms, such as Doctor Popular or Skud, send users ...

Egyptian Blogger Maikel Nabil Released from Prison

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

EFF is thrilled by the news that Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil (Sanad), detained since March 2011, was released today, just one day prior to the anniversary of Egypt's January 25 uprising. Though earlier reports suggested Nabil would not be released until the 26th, Al Masry Al Youm reported his release late Tuesday evening.

Nabil, a prisoner of conscience whose unfair trial EFF has highlighted numerous times, was arrested last March after criticizing the army on his blog and was tried in a military court.  Though he successfully appealed an initial three year sentence, he was later sentenced to two years in prison by a Supreme Military Court of Appeals. Nabil committed to a hunger strike for more than 120 days, consuming only liquids, to protest his detention.

Nabil's release was announced alongside another that 1,959 other prisoners would also be freed to mark the anniversary of the revolution. 

In a video statement [in Arabic] released in the early hours of January 25, Nabil stated that he refuses the decision of the military dictator to grant him pardon, saying that he never committed a crime to be pardoned. "I was practicing my right to freedom of thought and speech. I committed no ...

Censored Auburn Student Shares Story with ‘Plainsman’

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

For weeks now, FIRE has been fighting for free speech at Auburn University, which continues to maintain an unwise and illiberal ban on window hangings in its dorms despite ample evidence pointing to its uneven enforcement of the policy. Now student Eric Philips—who came to FIRE after being forced to remove a banner supporting Ron Paul's presidential candidacy from his window—has told his story to Auburn's student newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman.

As Philips relates to the Plainsman:

"Well, I noticed everybody else hanging banners, at least in the sororities and some people inside my dorm with Auburn banners in their window," Philips said. "There's a sorority literally right across from me, right across the sidewalk. I look out my window and for all of October I saw this huge Halloween banner that was three times the size of my Ron Paul banner."

"I figured there's no rules against it, and as an effort to help support Ron Paul's campaign, me and three other people purchased a Ron Paul banner to hang up in my window." 

Auburn's policy banning "[h]anging or displaying items such as flags, banners, decals, or signs out of or obstructing residence hall windows," was adopted in summer ...

Texas Cancels Its Drone Program For Maintenance Issues

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Wasp Drone Beach LaunchAfter the Washington Post wrote about the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) and other domestic law enforcement agencies’ use of drones last January, EFF filed a Public Information Act request with the agency for more information. The Texas DPS was very forthcoming and not only sent us unredacted records of their program but also agreed to provide more information over the phone. The records they sent us are linked at the bottom of this post, and I was able to speak with Mr. Bill Nabors, chief pilot of Texas DPS’s Aircraft Section.

Interestingly, according to Mr. Nabors, Texas hasn’t flown its drones since a final training flight in August 2010. The drones were constantly having maintenance issues because they weren’t designed to land in a rocky environment like Texas and didn’t fly well in high winds. The supplier, AeroVironment (AV), took a long time to fix the drones so they were often out of service. There also may have been some issues with the frequency used to operate and control the device. Ultimately, according to Mr. Nabors, the drones did not offer Texas significant advantages over the agency’s existing airplanes and helicopters so the agency cancelled its 2010 ...

Two Days Left to Craft Best ‘Firefly’ Video Tweet; Win $500 in Prizes

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Only two days are left to enter FIRE's contest on Prizes.org for the best tweet promoting our video about the infamous Firefly censorship case at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, now with nearly 80,000 views on YouTube. The best tweet promoting the video will receive a grand prize of $300, with smaller prizes for runners-up. Take a look at the contest rules and feel free to vote on as many entries as you like. In two days, only 10 finalists will remain, and voting will begin to determine the grand prize winner. Submit your own entry now!

Resolution Opposing Restriction of Access to Materials and Open Inquiry in Ethnic and Cultural Studies Programs in Arizona

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

During the 2012 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas, TX, the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) believed it necessary that ALA respond with a unified voice to recent news reports highlighting the removal of educational materials in connection with the elimination of Mexican American Studies classes in the Tucson (AZ) Unified School District. REFORMA and other ethnic caucuses approached the IFC to draft a resolution addressing the threats to intellectual freedom that this restriction of access to educational materials represents. The IFC worked closely with the numerous ALA committees, divisions, and round tables to develop a resolution in response. This resolution affirms current ALA policy, which emphasizes the value of school libraries, and reiterates our professional commitment to intellectual freedom. We are pleased to announce that the resolution passed during ALA Council III on January 24, 2012.

This resolution received support from the ALA Committee on Diversity, ALA Committee on Legislation, American Association of School Librarians, American Indian Library Association, Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Chinese American Library Association, Intellectual Freedom Round Table, REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, Social Responsibilities Round Table, and the ...

Disappointing Ruling in Compelled Laptop Decryption Case

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

A federal district court in Colorado has handed down an unfortunate early ruling (pdf) in a case in which the government is attempting to force a criminal defendant to decrypt the contents of a laptop.

In United States v. Fricosu, the government seized several computers from the home of a woman charged with mortgage fraud, including a laptop containing encrypted information. Prosecutors asked the court (pdf) to force the woman to either type an encryption passphrase into the laptop to decrypt the information or turn over a decrypted version of the data, relying heavily on the fact that the government recorded a conversation between Fricosu and her ex-husband in which the government says she admitted that the laptop was hers and she knew the password.  EFF filed an amicus brief (pdf) in July, arguing she had a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination that prevented the government from compelling her to disclose the data.

The Fifth Amendment protects a person from being forced to be a witness against herself in a criminal case, a right often called the privilege against self-incrimination. The privilege doesn't prevent the government from gathering evidence from a person, but rather protects a person from being ...

Robert in ‘Daily Caller’: Syracuse’s Free Speech Promises Are Worthless

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley's latest piece for The Daily Caller highlights our recent case at Syracuse University's School of Education, which effectively expelled graduate student Matthew Werenczak from its teaching program after he posted on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader.

Thankfully, just hours after FIRE took the case public on January 18, Syracuse readmitted Werenczak, but blamed its actions on the standards of its accreditor, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

About this latest blow to free speech at Syracuse, Robert writes:

We've been hearing about runaway political correctness since the 1980s, and it's tempting to think that we might be past the worst of it. Matthew Werenczak knows better now, and his hard-earned lesson should be a warning to us all. College students across America are learning to keep their heads down and keep their opinions to themselves. Schools like Syracuse promise freedom of speech - the school's Student Handbook states that "[s]tudents have the right to express themselves freely on any subject" and that "Syracuse University ... welcomes and encourages the expression of dissent." Werenczak trusted in that promise - and found out what ...

Audio Recording for FCC v. Fox Television Stations is Now Available on Oyez

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The audio recording of the oral arguments for FCC v. Fox Television Stations is live on the Oyez website.

Check it out here!

Colorado Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Churchill Case

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

FIRE has been covering the case of Ward Churchill for some time now. As readers may recall, Professor Churchill lost his position at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2007 after the Board of Regents removed him for alleged research misconduct. According to Churchill, the grounds for the dismissal were pretextual: He maintains he was fired because of comments he made several years earlier in an article about the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

Churchill sued the University's Board of Regents in Colorado state court for both investigating him for his comments and dismissing him for pretextual reasons, alleging that the Board's actions violated his First Amendment rights. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reported, the trial court ruled twice against Churchill, directing a verdict for the Board on the issue of whether initiating an investigation was an "adverse employment decision," and vacating a jury verdict in Churchill's favor on the grounds that the Board was immune from lawsuit. The Colorado Court of Appeal affirmed, and now the Colorado Supreme Court is set to hear arguments. Churchill has filed an appellate brief, and several groups have filed amicus curiae briefs on his behalf (including ...

Unanimous Supreme Court Ensures Americans Have Protections from GPS Surveillance

Monday, January 23rd, 2012
EFF Amicus Brief Argued that Government Installation and Use of GPS is a Search

San Francisco - In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed that Americans have constitutional protections against GPS surveillance by law enforcement, holding in U.S. v. Jones that GPS tracking is a "search" under the Fourth Amendment.

In Jones, FBI agents planted a GPS device on a car and then tracked the position of the vehicle every ten seconds for a full month without court oversight. In its ruling today, the Supreme Court held that those actions violated the Fourth Amendment. The majority opinion did not address whether tracking that did not require the physical attachment of a device to property also constitutes a search. However, the concurring opinions of Justices Alito and Sotomayor show a majority of the judges agreed that such surveillance could violate the Fourth Amendment.

"This is a important ruling for all Americans," said Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "The Supreme Court has unanimously confirmed that the Constitution prevents unbridled police use of new technologies to monitor our movements."

EFF and the Center for Democracy and Technology filed an amicus brief in the case, ...

Ole Miss Scraps Speech Codes, Sets National Example by Protecting Student Rights

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Here's today's press release:

OXFORD, Miss., January 23, 2012—The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) has eliminated its speech codes, earning the highest "green light" rating for free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). While two-thirds of the nation's colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech, Ole Miss is now a proud exception, having fully reformed four policies that restricted speech protected by the First Amendment. Ole Miss is the 16th school nationwide to earn a green light, the fifth to do so in the last two years, and the first in Mississippi. Ole Miss administrators worked in close contact with FIRE attorneys to address the university’s speech codes. 

“The entire Ole Miss community—students, faculty, administrators, and alumni—has reason to be proud today,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Ole Miss’ commitment to First Amendment rights has made the university a shining example of how to respect and protect free expression on campus.”

FIRE began working on speech code reform with Ole Miss administrators in February of 2011. Samantha Harris, FIRE’s Director of Speech Code Research, and Scott Wallace, Ole Miss’ Assistant Dean of Students, led the effort. 

Among the policies reformed by Ole ...

Johns Hopkins University Continues to Defend Censorship

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Johns Hopkins University's utter lack of concern for its students' free speech rights is on display again, this time in comments the university's spokesman made to the Maryland Gazette last week. 

You may remember that in 2006, Hopkins threw the book at then-18-year-old student Justin Park for posting a Halloween party invitation deemed to be offensive on Facebook. Park's original punishment (reduced somewhat in the face of public pressure) included suspension from the university for a year, completion of 300 hours of community service, an assignment to read 12 books and to write a reflection paper on each, and mandatory attendance at a workshop on diversity and race relations.

In the face of criticism over this incident, Hopkins doubled down on its act of censorship, adopting a broad new speech code prohibiting any "rude, disrespectful behavior" on campus—a speech code that is still in force today. Then-president William Brody also stated, in a column for the Johns Hopkins Gazette, that breaches of "civility" were "unacceptable in our community of free and open discourse." Despite repeated requests from FIRE and from Hopkins' student government to defend students' free speech rights, Hopkins has never apologized for its actions or ...

Top Internet Sites Join Largest Online Protest Ever in Opposition to Pending Internet Censorship Leg

Monday, January 23rd, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT
Tiffiniy Cheng, Holmes Wilson
press@fightforthefuture.org
Phone: (508) 474-5248


Top Internet Sites Join Largest Online Protest Ever in Opposition to Pending Internet Censorship Legislation

The internet is currently engaged in the largest ever online protest in opposition to internet censorship legislation moving in Congress, PIPA and SOPA.

Three top-ten sites in the U.S. -- Google.com, Craigslist.org, and en.wikipedia.org -- have blacked out all or part of their sites in protest of the bill.

As of 10 a.m. ET,  eleven top 100 U.S. sites are participating in the strike (site rankings are from Alexa.com). Wordpress alone powers 16 percent of the top 1 million sites globally, and all of those sites are being blacked out.  

More than 62,000 sites have signed up to join at sopastrike.com. The exact number of sites that are participating is unknown at this point, but we believe 10,000 to be a conservative estimate.   

The protest is in response to legislation (S.968) scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Jan. 24th that would give the government and corporations new powers to block access to entire websites because of a single link in violation of copyright law. The website takedowns would effectively ...

Climate change skepticism seeps into science classrooms

Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Climate change skepticism seeps into science classrooms

By Neela Banerjee | McClatchy-Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON — A flash point has emerged in American science education that echoes the battle over evolution, as scientists and educators report mounting resistance to the study of man-made climate change in middle and high schools.

Although scientific evidence increasingly shows that fossil fuel consumption has caused the climate to change rapidly, the issue has grown so politicized that skepticism of the broad scientific consensus has seeped into classrooms.

Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom.

Last May, the school board of Los Alamitos, Calif., passed a measure, later rescinded, identifying climate science as a controversial topic that required special instructional oversight.

"Any time we have a meeting of 100 teachers, if you ask whether they're running into pushback on teaching climate change, 50 will raise their hands," said Frank Niepold, climate education coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who meets with hundreds of teachers ...

Supreme Court Gets It Wrong in Golan v. Holder, Public Domain Mourns

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Last week was a pretty good one for copyright law, what with a massive protest against disastrous legislation, that, hooray, got Congress to pay attention and put the legislation on hold.  Unfortunately, last week we also saw the results of another bad law that Congress did manage to push through, back before the Internet existed in anything like its present form.  Ignoring the pleas of musicians, composers, libraries, archives and public interest groups, the Supreme Court declared that Congress did not violate the Constitution when it yanked millions of foreign works out of the public domain.  Striking a sad blow against the traditional copyright balance between private and public interests, the Court declared: 

Neither the Copyright and Patent Clause nor the first Amendment . . . makes the public domain, in any and all cases, a territory that works may never exit.

At issue was Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, which took millions of works by foreign authors that were previously in the public domain and put them back under copyright protection. Works affected by this law include Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, music by Stravinski, paintings by Picasso and drawings ...

First Amendment Center Analyzes Supreme Court Decision on Golan v. Holder

Friday, January 20th, 2012

by Betsy Gomez

Last year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Golan v. Holder, a case that pitted copyright law against the First Amendment. This week, the Supreme Court passed down their decision on the case, a 6-2 vote that upheld the Uruguay Round Agreements Act that extended copyright protection to creative foreign works that had previously been in the public domain in the United States.

The decision is considered a blow to free speech because Golan and fellow petitioners argued that the removal of works from the public domain — works by Igor Stravinsky, Virginia Woolf, Alfred Hitchcock, and more — violates their First Amendment right to use the works to express themselves. Golan further argued that Congress overreached when they passed a law that removed the works from the public domain. Because the Supreme Court upheld the law, works that were once free to use now require payment to do so. As an example, an orchestra that plays a Stravinsky symphony may now have to pay for that right.

Ken Paulson, the President of the First Amendment Center, took a look at the decision. In his analysis, he writes:

Let’s be clear about what ...

The Internet Spoke and, Finally, Congress Listened!

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The misguided proponents of the disastrous Internet blacklist bills have blinked. Today, Senator Harry Reid announced he would postpone a cloture vote on PIPA scheduled for next Tuesday, which means, as a practical matter, that the bill is dead for now.  Shortly after that announcement, Representative Lamar Smith issued a statement conceding PIPA's evil House stepsister, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also wasn't ready for prime time.

This is great news, and it is a direct result of this week's mass protests. Together, we reminded the U.S. Congress who it works for. EFF alone helped users send more than 1,000,000 emails to Congress, and countless more came from other organizations. Web traffic briefly brought down some Senate websites. 162 million people visited Wikipedia and 8 million looked up their representatives’ phone numbers. Google received more than 7 million signatures on its petition. Everyone who wrote, called, and visited their Senators and Representatives this week sent a message that laws affecting the Internet can't be made in a backroom by  insiders bearing campaign cash.  

So be proud, Internet: we not only took back the democratic process, we dragged it into the 21st century and stopped the United States from ...

Media Hammers East Carolina University for Adviser’s Firing

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Here on The Torch, we last posted about East Carolina University's indefensible firing of student media adviser Paul Isom a week ago, as Adam took ECU to task for the school's embarrassing attempts at damage control. In the week since, we've been focused on our recent victories at Syracuse University and the University of Florida, but we certainly haven't forgotten about ECU's First Amendment violation—and the press hasn't, either. 

Let's start with the student media. Admirably defending the free press rights of their peer publications, editors at The Spinnaker of the University of North Florida penned an editorial last week blasting ECU for their decision to fire Isom. The Spinnaker argued that if ECU had a problem with the paper's content, it should have spoken to the students, not fired the adviser:

Beyond the mess ECU seems to be creating for itself, there is serious confusion about the role of the media adviser on college campuses.

Student-run college newspapers are just that — run by students, for students. The students write the stories, edit the stories, design the paper, take the photos and make the editorial decisions. They don't and shouldn't answer to the professional faculty of ...

Bonilla: Campus Free Speech Crucial During Election Season

Friday, January 20th, 2012

FIRE's Peter Bonilla has a new article on PolicyMic discussing the importance of freedom of expression on campus during election season. Referencing FIRE's past fights for free political speech at colleges nationwide, Peter writes: 

The University of Oklahoma, for example, in 2008 banned "the forwarding of political humor/commentary" using university e-mail accounts. That same year, the University of Illinois system issued warnings to faculty against engaging in basic political activities - including wearing campaign buttons, attending rallies, and even placing stickers on their cars. Then in 2011, Illinois' flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign proposed an electronic communications policy that would have banned any and all "political campaigning" by faculty and students. Fortunately, these policies were all revised or scrapped after FIRE objected. Yet such misconceptions by universities are common enough that FIRE has issued and re-issued a policy statement on political activity to guide universities in policy and practice.

Peter provides an excellent and timely reminder of why unfettered campus free speech is of vital importance as our democracy once more engages in the serious business of choosing our leaders. Check out the full piece here

Join EFF’s Senate Call-In Day and Tell Your Senator to Oppose PIPA

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Yesterday's anti-blacklist legislation protests were fantastically successful - in the past 24 hours, key lawmakers have withdrawn their support for the proposed legislation or come out against it - but we still have a long way to go in the fight to stop SOPA and PIPA from becoming law. On Monday the 23rd, the Senate is back in session and scheduled to vote on PIPA the next day. Now, more than ever, it's important to keep the pressure on, so call your Senator and tell him or her that it's time to stand with the Internet and against the Internet blacklist bills!

You can RVSP for our call-in day on Facebook and check back at our Action Center for instructions and suggestions about how to talk to your lawmakers about this important issue.

Will to Discuss Syracuse Expulsion Case on ‘Vicki McKenna Show’: Tune In at 6

Thursday, January 19th, 2012
FIRE’s Will Creeley will be discussing our case at Syracuse University today at 6:09 p.m. Eastern Time on The Vicki McKenna Show, broadcasting in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin.

Tune in!

Washington DC Fox Affiliate Attacks Comics

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Yesterday, Bleeding Cool broke the story about a news report from a Washington DC Fox TV affiliate attacking comics. In the teaser for the report, a commentator called comics “fictionalized Playboy.” CBLDF took immediate action, releasing guidelines for how retailers can defend themselves from media attacks.

ICv2 followed up today with video of the full report and commentary. As expected, the reporter who made the news report, Sherri Ly, used the same faulty reasoning that has formed the basis of so many attacks against comics: The mistaken belief that comics are created primarily for children, and the specious argument that violent or sexual content in comic books promotes violent behavior in children. From ICv2:

The report also included interview snippets with Neil Bernstein, a psychologist and author of How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble, who played along with the idea that the comics were directed at children and were bad for them.

The statement that “psychologists point out that overexposure to sex and violence for young children can encourage aggression” is also presented without attribution, and without distinguishing between real sex and violence and fantasy pictures in a publication (which most scientists would say have not ...