Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Laid-Off Profs Reject Deal

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Uyghur teachers in Xinjiang call for an end to China’s bilingual education policy.

The Thomas Jefferson Center Banned Books Week Events

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

On Friday, September 30th, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, in partnership with Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, will help wrap up Banned Books Week by hosting a series of events at the First Amendment Monument on the Downtown Mall. Banned Books Week, September 24­­–October 1, is an annual event that celebrates books and the First Amendment. Participating organizations highlight the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship.

At 7:00 in the evening, the Monument will be converted to a movie screen for a showing of the 1966 film Fahrenheit 451. Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, the movie of a futuristic society in which reading is prohibited and  it is the job of firemen to burn books. Earlier in the day,  artist Sam Welty will illustrate this extreme form of censorship through a mural on the monument’s chalkboard. The Jefferson Madison Regional Library will display its award-winning Banned Books exhibit and hand out informational materials throughout the day. Visitors will be invited to participate in the day’s events by writing the names of their favorite books or authors, or by drawing scenes from their favorite books on the ...

Righthaven’s Losing Streak Continues in Colorado

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

In what is becoming a well-settled pattern, Righthaven again finds itself on the losing end of a motion, with its case thrown out and owing the defendant – here, Leland Wolf, proprietor of the It Makes Sense Blog – costs and attorneys' fees for bringing a baseless copyright case. The lawsuit, Righthaven v. Wolf, is also notable for being the leading case among more than 50 that were filed in Colorado. Pending a motion to dismiss, the Colorado court stayed the remaining cases. With this ruling, the court has hopefully rung the death knell for the other remaining live cases in that district (joining the Nevada cases that have also been dismissed.)

Some background: In March, Righthaven sued Mr. Wolf for alleging infringing a Denver Post photograph titled “TSA Agent performs enhanced pat-downs," by virtue of a parody of the photo posted on his blog. Mr. Wolf moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; EFF filed an amicus brief supporting that motion, explaining that Righthaven lacks ownership of any exclusive right granted under Section 106 of the Copyright Act.

Judge John L. Kane agreed, holding that Righthaven assigned to the Denver Post’s parent ...

Who’s Looking Over Your Digital Shoulder? A Reader Privacy Quiz for Californians

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Books are books whether we read them in a library or on a Kindle or iPad, but California laws are lagging when it comes to protecting reader privacy in the digital age. That's why EFF is a supporter of the Reader Privacy Act, a bill that has passed the California legislature and is awaiting Governor Brown's signature to become law.

Who's looking over Californians' digital shoulder and why does it matter? You can take our quiz to find out what's at risk -- and how Californians can protect their private reading records. Then tell Governor Brown to sign the Reader Privacy Act to ensure Californians don’t have to compromise their privacy when downloading electronic books, using online book services or even buying books from their local bookstore.

SHSU President Says Free Speech Wall Vandalism by Professor ‘Under Investigation’

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

The past few days have brought public scrutiny to bear on Sam Houston State University (SHSU) after its police department not only failed to address student complaints over a professor's vandalism—with a box cutter—of their "free speech wall," but also threatened to charge the students with disorderly conduct on the basis of four-letter words written on the wall. 

Late in the day on September 23, while readers nationwide were learning of the case in outlets such as The Daily Caller, SHSU President Dana Gibson sent a brief response to FIRE's letter. Here it is in full:

Sam Houston State University respects the principles of freedom of speech. In addition, the university supports the rights of individuals and organizations to exercise freedom of speech. The incident that occurred on Thursday, September 22nd between a member of the faculty and the student organizations that sponsored the 'Free Speech Wall,' is currently under investigation.

FIRE will keep Torch readers updated on SHSU's investigation, and hopes SHSU will remember its clear-cut obligations under the First Amendment.     

Who’s on the Intelligence Oversight Board? Government Won’t Say

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) demanding records of who is on the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) -- the presidentially appointed, civilian panel in charge of reviewing all misconduct reports for American intelligence agencies.

The IOB is supposed to alert the president and attorney general when it spots behavior that is unlawful or contrary to executive order. However, in his nearly three years in office, President Obama has not yet announced any appointments to the IOB. EFF's suit comes after the ODNI refused to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for membership, vacancies, and other information about the IOB made earlier this year.

"The IOB has a critically important mission – civilian oversight of America's intelligence activities. The board exists to make sure government agencies are not overstepping their authority and abusing citizens' rights," said EFF Open Government Legal Fellow Mark Rumold. "History has shown that intelligence agencies overseeing their own behavior is like the fox guarding the henhouse. If the IOB is ineffective, impaired, or short-staffed, that's information Americans need to know."

EFF's ongoing FOIA litigation work has already ...

24 Hours Later, 500 Emails to UW-Stout Chancellor Demanding Justice in ‘Firefly’ Case

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
FIRE knew yesterday's announcement of the University of Wisconsin-Stout's (UWS's) intimidation and bullying of theater professor James Miller would make a big splash, given its outrageous facts. Nonetheless, the response has been overwhelming, in the best of ways. Joanna noted yesterday the widespread attention the case has received in the media, which since then has only grown; today saw writeups of Miller's shocking treatment in Gawker and the Onion-affiliated pop culture site The A.V. Club.
 
Most incredible, however, has been the outpouring of support for Miller from free speech supporters (and more than a few Firefly devotees, spurred to action by actor Nathan Fillion's three tweets on the case) all over the country. In just over 24 hours, over 500 people have written to UWS Chancellor Charles Sorensen, demanding that he rectify the injustices done by UWS's investigation of Miller's protected satirical expression. We're humbled by the unprecedented number of the responses, which keep coming in even as I write this.
 
What has the outpouring of support yielded? Well, Professor Miller informs FIRE that UWS dean Raymond Hayes has decided to cancel a meeting scheduled for Friday, where they had been set ...

Will on the Radio Tonight Discussing ‘Firefly’ Case

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

In case you missed it yesterday, the outrageous censorship of University of Wisconsin-Stout (UWS) professor James Miller's Firefly poster has inspired lots of news media coverage. Be sure to check out today's stories in Gawker and The Onion's AV Club.

Tonight, FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley will be on "Thunk Tank Tuesdays" on WFMU (91.1 FM in the New York City area, and streaming online here) between 7:15 and 7:35 p.m. Eastern to discuss the case further. Don't forget to tune in and follow along here on The Torch for more coverage of this case.

Sam Houston State University Student Newspaper on Free Speech Wall Vandalism

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Today, The Houstonian, a student newspaper at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), has a thorough article about the vigilante censorship of four student groups' "Free Speech Wall" by SHSU professor Joe Kirk, and FIRE's efforts on behalf of the wronged students. The article points out that student Morgan Freeman has filed a complaint about the vandalism with the university police, and that the report has been sent to the Huntsville Municipal Court. FIRE will be watching to see if SHSU takes this complaint as seriously as is warranted.

Political Prisoners’ Release ‘Difficult’

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
A confidant of Burma's leader disputes the number of political prisoners.

Post photos of your Banned Books Week display on Flickr!

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

On the heels of last year’s successful Banned Books Week 2010 group in Flickr, OIF is pleased to bring you … the Banned Books Week 2011 group on Flickr!  If your library, school, bookstore, or other organization has a photo to share, you can either:

We also encourage you to tag any photos with Banned Books Week 2011.

Savannah, GA City Officials Deny Permit Request for A Fundraiser to Display Bras Throughout the City

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Even the most worthwhile cause can go too far for fundraising.

Savannah city officials say that’s the case with a campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month created by Clear Channel Communications.

The idea is called “Bras Across Broughton,” and the radio giant’s local affiliates wanted residents to donate bras that would be strung across Broughton at four major intersections. O.C. Welch Ford Lincoln agreed to donate $1 for each donation up to $5,000.

Local Clear Channel disc jockeys created a YouTube video with puns such as “Bra’dcasting” and “Bra-ton” street that finished with each man pulling a bra from his shirt to get donations started. Radio spots have prompted listeners to drop off donations at co-sponsor David’s Dry Cleaning.

City officials deemed the downtown display in poor taste and denied the permit request. City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney backed the decision and explained it in a memo to City Council members last week.

“We have always closely scrutinized for appropriateness any private use of our public spaces,” she wrote. “In this case, we weighed the goal of increased breast cancer awareness with the appropriateness of hanging underwear across one of our main streets.”

Read the rest of the article at savannahnow.com

Be Counted Week 2 Launches With SNL Tickets, Tom Brevoort, Chris Burnham & Bleeding Cool!

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

This week the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund continues its Be Counted membership drive with brand new membership rewards including Saturday Night Live tickets and a meet and greet with Seth Meyers; a professional development review with Marvel SVP of Publishing Tom Brevoort; a variety of thank you’s from Batman Incorporated artist Chris Burnham, and a chance for professionals to get out of (or into) Bleeding Cool free!

Since launching the Be Counted campaign last Thursday, the CBLDF has raised over $19,000 towards its goal of raising $100,000 by October 31 for its legal and program work. If you aren’t a member of the CBLDF, now is the time to Be Counted and sign up for membership, which starts for as little as $25 a year and includes rewards like a Green Lantern membership card, and at higher levels, CBLDF tote bags, prints, and original art. Membership contributions are tax deductible and you’ll be thanked on our CBLDF Member List.

Check out all of our Be Counted member rewards, which include opportunities to meet supporters like Brian Azzarello, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Mike Mignola, Gail Simone, Jeff Smith, Frank Quitely & more! Please join the ...

Charity Art Auction at Webcomics Con Benefits CBLDF

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Webcomics Con is a brand new convention celebrating online funnies October 1-2, 2011, in Norwalk, Connecticut. One of the events at the inaugural edition of Webcomics Con is a charity auction benefiting CBLDF and Hero Initiative! If you’re attending, don’t miss the auction, which will take place from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. in the Sawmill Room of the Dolce Hotel and Resort.

Police Block Saffron Observers

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Burmese authorities prevent gatherings in remembrance of a failed pro-democracy movement.

Police Block Saffron Observers

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
Burmese authorities prevent gatherings in remembrance of a failed pro-democracy movement.

Political Prisoners’ Release ‘Difficult’

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
A confidant of Burma's leader disputes the number of political prisoners.

‘Firefly’ Case in FIRE News

Monday, September 26th, 2011

This morning we reported that University of Wisconsin-Stout (UWS) professor James Miller has been censored twice, reported to the university's "threat assessment team," and threatened with criminal charges because of satirical postings on his office door. The first poster depicted a quotation from actor Nathan Fillion's character in the television series Firefly. After taking it down, the UWS Chief of Police threatened Miller with with criminal charges for disorderly conduct if he posted similar content in the future. After UWS censored his second poster, which stated, "Warning: Fascism," Miller came to FIRE for help.

Because of the absurdity of this censorship, the Web wires have erupted. Below are a few of the places you can view media coverage of this case:

In large part thanks to all this media exposure, more than 200 supporters have already written to UWS Chancellor Charles Sorensen, demanding that he respect free speech at UWS. If you want to add your voice to theirs, you can do so here.

Two More Monks Self-Immolate

Monday, September 26th, 2011
Tibetan monks at Kirti monastery protest Chinese rule in a 'desperate' act.

Scientist’s Award Defended

Monday, September 26th, 2011
Chinese academics say the woman who discovered an antimalarial treatment is entitled to her prize.

Morgan Freeman, Student Censored in ‘Box Cutter’ Case, Speaks Out

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Morgan Freeman, a student at Sam Houston State University and leader of the SHSU Lovers of Liberty, writes today on the Students for Liberty blog about her group's experience with Kafkaesque campus censorship. As we reported on The Torch last week, when a professor took a box cutter to the group's free speech wall, they reported his vandalism to campus police-who then threatened the students with a misdemeanor charge.

This incident is not the first time that a free speech wall on campus has sparked controversy. In the 2010-2011 school year, FIRE reported on two other incidents involving free speech walls: one wall torn down by a disgruntled student at Pepperdine University, and another threatened by a professor at the University of Texas San Antonio (luckily, this professor did not bring a box cutter to back up his threats).

FIRE is still waiting for a satisfactory response to our letter to SHSU President Dana L. Gibson (she has said that the matter is "under investigation"), but in the meantime, SHSU students are not taking the censorship lying down. Freeman writes:

It is not a good feeling to watch the free expression of your fellow students taken away because someone ...

Affirmative Action Bake Sale at Berkeley Causes Campus Consternation

Monday, September 26th, 2011

An "affirmative action bake sale" protest planned by the Berkeley College Republicans for tomorrow has caused an uproar at the University of California's flagship campus. Affirmative action bake sales, for those who don't know, are a widely used form of satirical protest against affirmative action (as viewed by the organizers). Organizers display a satirical bake sale price list in which, for example, black and Hispanic students are to be charged lower prices than Asian and white students for the same items. These events are intended to spark debate and awareness about affirmative action policies, not to raise revenue.

Thankfully, Berkeley has a great advocate for free expression in the person of student and former FIRE intern Casey Given. In an opinion column for the Berkeley student newspaper The Daily Californian, Casey brings the message of free speech to students who need to hear it:

However, just as I defend their opponents' right to voice their dissent, so too do I stand up for the College Republicans' right to express their contentious message - all in the name of free speech that Berkeley so strongly claims to cherish. Having completed their paperwork properly, the campus has no right to shut ...

University of Wisconsin-Madison To Pay $500,000 for Violating Religious Student Group’s First Amendment Rights

Monday, September 26th, 2011

A 5-year-old legal battle over First Amendment rights has culminated in an enormous, nearly $500,000 bill for the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Back in 2006, UW refused to officially recognize or fund, from student fees, the "Badger Catholic" (then, "Roman Catholic Foundation") student group. After a lawsuit and an injunction from a federal court, UW settled with the group and agreed to recognize it and release the suggested funding for the group's operation. But soon after, UW backtracked and refused to disburse the portion of the funds that would go toward events that included prayer, worship, or proselytizing.

The resulting protracted legal battle saw both a federal district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decide in favor of the Catholic student group, holding that UW could not engage in viewpoint discrimination and refuse funding to groups simply because they had a religious focus, and that funding for a religious group that comes from the pool of student fees does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

After the Supreme Court refused to hear UW's appeal in March, a Wisconsin state court last week ordered UW to pay nearly $500,000 in attorneys' ...

CBLDF Comics College Hits the Left Coast with PROMOTION AND PUBLICITY IN COMICS

Monday, September 26th, 2011

The CBLDF is proud to announce our next Comics College Master Session: Promotion and Publicity in Comics! Join author Sam Humphries (Our Love is Real, Fraggle Rock) and journalist Andy Khouri for this in-depth workshop and Q&A. Learn the secrets of promotion from both sides of the publicity equation! Humphries will be sharing lessons from the marketing of Our Love Is Real, and Khouri will be sharing insights from his experience as the Associate Editor of Comics Alliance.

This ticketed event will be held on September 27, 6:00 p.m. PDT, at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, California (7522 Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90046; 323-851-7223). Tickets are available for a $50 donation.

Don’t miss this singular opportunity for aspiring creators to learn about the craft and business of comics from experts. Space is extremely limited, so get your tickets quick!

If you can’t make it to this stellar event, you can still support CBLDF by bidding on rare items in the Our Love Is Real charity auction. The auction closes soon!

Stop the Piecemeal: Obama Administration Should Fully Free Communications Tech Exports to Syria (& Companies Should Help)

Monday, September 26th, 2011
Co-authored by Cindy Cohn

EFF has long complained about export restrictions by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce that deny citizens access to vital communications tools. In the past, this has affected, among others, Zimbabwean activists trying to obtain hosting providers, Syrian businesspeople networking on LinkedIn, and ordinary Iranians trying to download web browsers.

The government has been responding, albeit in piecemeal fashion: in 2010, technology companies were granted a general license from the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to export communications tools that could “boost Internet-based communication” and the “free flow of information” Iranian, Sudanese, and Cuban citizens – but since then we’ve seen a wave of democracy activism reach Syria too, something EFF commented upon in July.

Syria Two-Step

Now we've seen some movement on Syria, but not enough. On August 18, amidst increasing regime violence toward opposition forces, the White House issued an Executive Order blocking a new range of transactions, including (Section 2(b)) “the exportation, re-exportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any services to Syria,” in light of the Syrian government’s escalating violence against civilians. This ...

‘Firefly’ and Anti-Fascism Posters Get Professor Threatened with Criminal Charges on University of Wisconsin Campus

Monday, September 26th, 2011

"If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed."

If you post these words on the outside of your office door, be prepared to face charges of disorderly conduct at the University of Wisconsin–Stout (UWS). Don't think that you can avoid being reported to the threat assessment team, either, and to your dean. And after you're censored and threatened with charges by the campus police, definitely don't put up a new, satirical poster that states, "Warning: Fascism."

No matter that at UWS, the professor had posted the whole quotation, which comes from actor Nathan Fillion's character Mal at the end of the first episode of the television series Firefly: "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you ...." No matter that he included a photo of the character on the same poster. No matter that the professor later included the context of the quotation by providing a video clip to the Chief of Police.

Here's what happened.

On September 12, 2011, UWS theater professor James Miller posted on his office door the image of Nathan Fillion in Firefly and the quotation. Four days ...

It’s Banned Books Week!

Monday, September 26th, 2011

This week, we celebrate the freedom to read with Banned Books Week!

CBLDF is a sponsor of this important week-long event. You can show your support by reading some of the books and comics that have been challenged in libraries around the country and by becoming a member of the Fund. You can also join the celebration by posting a video of yourself advocating for your favorite banned comic in the Virtual Read-Out.

There are any number of ways to celebrate Banned Books Week and your freedom to read!

The official press release from www.ala.org:

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read ...

Uyghur Scholar’s Classes Canceled

Monday, September 26th, 2011
Many students wanting to attend classes are puzzled by the cancellation.

Dalai Lama Outlines Succession Time Frame

Monday, September 26th, 2011
Tibet’s spiritual leader says he will re-evaluate the institution in about 14 years.

Boosting a Role in Belarus

Monday, September 26th, 2011
Chinese loan support may ease pressure on Lukashenko.

Don’t Let Privacy Law Get Stuck in 1986: Demand a Digital Upgrade to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Sign now and we will add your name to this petition and also send a letter to your Representatives and Senators in time for the 25th anniversary of ECPA being signed into law:

Petiton language:
The government should be required to go to a judge and get a warrant before it can read our email, access private photographs and documents we store online, or track our location using our mobile phones. Please support legislation that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) to require warrants for this sensitive information and to require the government to report publicly on the use of its surveillance powers.

ECPA was forward-looking when it was signed into law in October of 1986, considering that the World Wide Web hadn't even been invented yet. But now, ECPA has become outdated. The privacy standards that it applies to new technologies are unclear and weak. For example, the law doesn't specifically address cell phone location tracking at all, and it allows the government to seize most emails without ever having to go to a judge. Meanwhile, no one is perfectly sure how it applies to newer online services like social networks and search engines.

This ...

Government Violates Free Speech Rights with Domain Name Seizure

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal appeals court in an amicus brief today to order the return of two domain names seized by the U.S. government in violation of the First Amendment.

The domain names -- Rojadirecta.com and Rojadirecta.org, owned by Spanish company Puerto 80 -- were seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of "Operation in Our Sites," an initiative ICE claims will help stop piracy. It appears ICE targeted the sites because they contained links to live sport video streams, but the domain seizures impeded access to all of the content on the websites, including obviously non-infringing content like user-created forums, discussions, and technical tutorials. Prior to the seizure, Spanish courts found that Puerto 80 had not violated copyright law.

"Domain name seizures are blunt instruments that cause unacceptable collateral damage to free speech rights," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Web site operators must have the confidence that government actions ostensibly targeting copyright infringement are undertaken legally. We urge the Court of Appeals to ensure that that happens."

Puerto 80 first tried to work with ICE and other U.S. government authorities to resolve the matter without court involvement, ...

Senate Committee Agrees That Violating Terms of Service Shouldn’t Be a Crime

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a trio of data security and data breach notification bills. One of the bills, which was sponsored by Committee Chairman Senator Leahy, includes a crucial amendment [pdf] to clarify that it's not illegal under the notoriously vague Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to violate agreements like website terms of service or acceptable use policies.

A bipartisan coalition of senators (including Chairman Leahy himself) voted for the amendment to the anti-hacking law, which private litigants and prosecutors alike have creatively used to try to punish violations of terms of use over the past few years in cases like United States v. Drew, Facebook v. Power Ventures, United States v. Lowson, and United States v. Nosal.

EFF, along with a group of civil liberties organizations and scholars, has twice urged [pdfs] the committee to ensure the CFAA doesn't punish ordinary computer users who happen to breach terms of use.

EFF is thankful to Senators Franken and Grassley for introducing this important amendment, which we believe is a huge step in the right direction. But the legislation could be better still. As the bill is currently written, government employees who violate employment ...

Austin Police Department’s "Operation Wardrive" Postponed in Light of Criticisms from Digital Rights Activists

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Earlier this week, digital activists alerted us to a concerning situation in Austin, Texas: officers at the local police department had announced a plan to search out all of the individuals running open wifi connections in Austin and warn them about potential dangers of running an open network. Thankfully, quick mobilization by our friends at EFF Austin helped stall this plan before it could take effect.

The officers at the Austin Police Department reportedly planned to seek out open wifi networks and then "make contact with residents who have open wireless connections and teach them the importance of securing them." They listed concerns such as exceeding the number of connections permitted by your ISP or being vulnerable to having someone piggy-back on your Internet connection to engage in illegal activity. To us, the police officers' plan was basically wardriving coupled with unsolicited scare-tactics from law enforcement agents. We’re also skeptical about the police’s role in educating users about ISP terms of service, which we submit is hardly the best use of law enforcement’s limited resources.

We were particularly concerned and disappointed by the Austin Police Department’s bleak characterization of open wifi. While the APD officers were keen to educate users ...

In ‘Daily Caller,’ Robert Rips on Sam Houston State ‘Box Cutter’ Case

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
FIRE has been quick to act on a ridiculous free speech case at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), where a professor took it upon himself to vandalize student speech on a "free speech wall" with no less than a box cutter.

As Adam wrote earlier, we have already sent a letter to SHSU President Dana L. Gibson, informing President Gibson that the professor's act-cutting out a section of the free speech wall where students had written "FUCK OBAMA," due to his apparent disagreement with that message-betrays the freedom of speech to which SHSU students are entitled at the public university. This would have been quite enough embarrassment to the institution, but when the students called the campus police to report the vandalism, they were threatened by a police officer with charges of disturbing the peace and required to remove all profanity from the wall, or else take it down.  

This afternoon, Robert has published a piece in the Daily Caller calling further attention to the case. Robert writes:

Insulting the president and other government officials is practically a national pastime in the United States. This is a testament to the freedom of our society; in some parts of the ...

Protests Intensify After Clashes

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
Residents are furious as land grabbed by the government remains idle for years.

Ten of the “Irvine 11″ Found Guilty of Disturbing a Public Meeting and Conspiracy

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Cries and wails erupted in the Santa Ana courtroom as the verdict was read. All 10 defendants in the Irvine 11 case have been found guilty of ​disturbing a public meeting and engaging in a conspiracy to do so.

Several people immediately bolted out the door, murmuring, “No justice, no justice.” About 10 armed security guards lined the room.

Mohamed Mohy-Eldeen Abdelgany, Khalid Gahgat Akari, Aslam Abbasi Akhtar, Joseph Tamim Haider, Taher Mutaz Herzallah, Shaheen Waleed Nassar, Mohammad Uns Qureashi, Ali Mohammad Sayeed, Osama Ahmen Shabaik and Asaad Mohamedidris Traina face up to a year in jail.

The case centers on a Feb. 8, 2010 incident. During a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren held at and sponsored by UC Irvine, members of the Muslim Student Union (MSU) stood up one after another and shouted scripted messages relating to the 2009 war on Gaza (“You, sir, are an accomplice to genocide!” “Murder is not free speech!”) before being escorted out by police.

See the OC Weekly Blog and the Los Angeles Times for more on this story.

 

This Week in Internet Censorship: Blocking Social Sites in Pakistan and Syria; Freedom House Releases New Report

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

This week brings new restrictions in Syria and Pakistan, while watchdog group Freedom House releases a new brief on the growing challenges to Internet freedom.

Syria Blocks WordPress

This has been a tumultuous year for Syrians and for the Syrian Internet. In response to protests beginning in February, the Syrian government unblocked Facebook, Blogspot, and YouTube for the first time since 2007. While some observers saw it as a move toward a freer Internet, others viewed it as better enabling surveillance; the latter turned out to be right.

Now, amidst a new wave of protests, the Syrian government has reverted to their old methods, blocking WordPress on at least one ISP. But as one circumvention-savvy Syrian Twitter user said, "They blocked WordPress… as if people are still using the Syrian proxy." If you want to help support Syrian Internet users, one thing you can do is set up a Tor relay.

Pakistan Inches Closer to Facebook Ban

Pakistan, no stranger to Internet censorship, has made new moves this week to block Facebook and other social sites. First, Interior Minister Rehman Malik threatened to block Google and YouTube, saying that if the companies weren't willing to help Pakistan fight terrorism, ...

Professor Cuts Out Insult to Obama on Students’ ‘Free Speech Wall’ with Box Cutter; Police Threaten Students with Misdemeanor for Public Profanity

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Sometimes here at FIRE we think we've seen it all. Yesterday, however, we were shocked by the outrageous violations of free speech at Sam Houston State University (SHSU).  

To protest a controversial new social media policy, four SHSU student groups organized a "free speech wall," a large field of paper with a wooden frame, upon which students could write the message of their choice. Someone wrote "FUCK OBAMA" on one section of the wall, and other students replied in kind: "FUCK BUSH" followed, as well as other comments. 

But what happened next is what's so outrageous. An SHSU faculty member offended by the insult to President Obama reportedly used a box cutter to cut the expletive out of the wall after students refused to accede to his demand to censor that particular speech. The shocked students were advised by an SHSU dean to contact the campus police, and they did so. But after the students called the campus police to report the vandalism, they were threatened by a campus police officer with charges of disturbing the peace and required to remove all profanity from the wall, or else take it down! Under this pressure, the students dismantled their "free ...

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Clears Tennessee State Senate Panel

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

After some convoluted maneuvers, a Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill that will prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality in kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms.

The measure (SB49) is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, who unsuccessfully pushed the same idea – nicknamed the “don’t say gay” bill – for six years as a member of the state House before he was elected to the Senate.

As introduced, the bill would have put into law a declaration that it is illegal to discuss any sexual behavior other than heterosexuality prior to the ninth grade.

But when it came before the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, contended current law already prohibits such instruction by deeming it a misdemeanor to teach any sex education that is not part of the “family life curriculum” adopted by the state Board of Education.

Tracy proposed an amendment to rewrite Campfield’s bill to require the Board of Education to study the issue and determine whether any teaching about homosexuality is occurring and, if so, recommend what should be done about it.

Read more here

Privacy Win: Apple and Dropbox Join Fight to Reform Electronic Privacy Law

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

In April we launched "Who Has Your Back", a campaign calling on major Internet companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft to stand with their users when it comes to government demands for users’ data. Today, we’re pleased to see that two of the thirteen companies highlighted in our petition, Apple and Dropbox, have agreed to one of our requests: that they stand up for user privacy in Congress by joining the Digital Due Process coalition.

Digital Due Process is a diverse coalition of privacy advocates like EFF, ACLU and the Center for Democracy & Technology and major companies like AT&T, eBay and Comcast that has come together with the shared goal of modernizing surveillance laws for the Internet age. The DDP coalition is especially focused on pressing Congress to update the woefully-outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act or "ECPA."

ECPA was passed by Congress in 1986, before the World Wide Web was even invented and when cell phones were still a rarity. Yet to this day, ECPA is the primary law governing how and when law enforcement can access personal information and private communications stored by communications providers like Google, Facebook, your cell phone company or your ISP.

Unfortunately, ...

EFF’s Open Source Security Audit Uncovers Security Vulnerabilities in Messaging Software

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Part one in a short series on EFF’s Open Source Security Audit

By Dan Auerbach and Chris Palmer

We recently did a security audit in which we uncovered and helped to fix vulnerabilities in the popular open source messaging clients Pidgin and Adium. We were motivated by our desire to bolster the security of cryptographic software that we often recommend to individuals and organizations as a defense against surveillance. In particular, one tool that we are enthusiastic about is the widely-used Off-The-Record (OTR) plugin for Pidgin and Adium.

Not to be confused with Google’s similarly named “Off The Record” chat, the plugin can be used with any popular instant messaging services enabled in Pidgin or Adium, including MSN, AIM, Yahoo!, and Google talk itself. OTR is an anti-surveillance tool used by people around the world, from activists in authoritarian regimes to business folk looking to communicate securely with clients to families who want a private conversation with a distant loved one. If you are using Pidgin to talk from a Google account and have the OTR plugin enabled, then nobody---including Google---is in a position to read your encrypted communications en route to the other party. Though there are ...

EFF Advocates for User Privacy in W3C Workshop on Do Not Track

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

There's been a lot of action on consumer privacy in DC over the past year, and while some of that action seems to have stalled (more on that in another post), there's still movement in the private sector—mainly around "Do Not Track (DNT) and Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs).

Follow the W3C Discussion!

W3C is an open process that invites participation from many different stakeholders. Even if you can't make it to Boston, you can follow along by visiting:

Raised Issues

In April, DNT and TPL were subjects of a W3C workshop on Web Tracking and User Privacy in Princeton, New Jersey. The workshop report and presentations are available here. Since then, Mozilla—the first major browser to support DNT—has released its "field guide" to DNT for developers.

These issues are now being tackled in the W3C's Tracking Protection Working Group (TPWG), co-chaired by Aleecia McDonald of Mozilla and Matthias Schunter of IBM Research-Zurich, which aims to develop consensus standards around DNT and TPLs.

EFF is participating in the W3C process to advocate for user privacy. EFF Technology Projects Director Peter Eckersley is attending the first face-to-face workshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts this week, as is Stanford's Jonathan Mayer, ...

NYC: Volunteer Recruitment Party on Sep 27!

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Join the CBLDF at Jim Hanley’s Universe (4 West 33rd St.) this Tuesday evening from 6:30pm-8:00pm for an open call for volunteers. As New York Comic-Con approaches, the CBLDF needs the help of dedicated volunteers more than ever.

You can volunteer for the CBLDF in any number of ways. In the office, volunteers may be asked to help with inventory, membership fulfillment, design work, copywriting, and more. As the CBLDF hosts many events outside of the office, we also need volunteers to assist at conventions, fundraisers, and special events such as creator Q&As and CBLDF Master Sessions.

If you have a talent and the desire to put it to work for a good cause, we want you on board! As a volunteer for CBLDF, you’ll have a chance to boost your resume, build teamwork and leadership skills, and meet some great people along the way. This event is an opportunity for volunteers past and present to mingle, learn about what the Fund has been up to, and how you can help. Pizza will be served.

Please email Dave Grilli with any questions.

Victory at Harvard: University Stands Up for Rights of Controversial Professor

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

While Harvard has been the target of much deserved criticism of late due to its stumbles with the new "Class of 2015 Freshman Pledge" pressuring students to commit to vague notions of "kindness" as well as "inclusiveness and civility," it has acquitted itself better in one recent situation where many students—on their own—have been pushing their own values to a fault. Against student pressure to fire him, Harvard has successfully defended free speech for economics instructor Subramanian Swamy, who published a controversial column in an Indian newspaper advocating drastic solutions to the issue of Islamic terrorism in India. Swamy's ideas included a call to "[r]emove the masjid [mosque] in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites."

A petition (having 457 signatures as of this writing, including 68 Harvard undergraduates) calls on Harvard to "repudiate Swamy's remarks and terminate his association with the University." The Harvard Crimson reported that Harvard Summer School Dean Donald Pfister said, "We will give this matter our serious attention." FIRE wrote to Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, reminding her of Harvard's duties to protect Swamy's right to free speech.

Fortunately, it seems Harvard got the point this time. A spokesperson ...

Victory at Harvard: University Stands Up for Rights of Controversial Professor

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

While Harvard has been the target of much deserved criticism of late due to its stumbles with the new "Class of 2015 Freshman Pledge" pressuring students to commit to vague notions of "kindness" as well as "inclusiveness and civility," it has acquitted itself better in one recent situation where many students—on their own—have been pushing their own values to a fault. Against student pressure to fire him, Harvard has successfully defended free speech for economics instructor Subramanian Swamy, who published a controversial column in an Indian newspaper advocating drastic solutions to the issue of Islamic terrorism in India. Swamy's ideas included a call to "[r]emove the masjid [mosque] in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites."

A petition (having 457 signatures as of this writing, including 68 Harvard undergraduates) calls on Harvard to "repudiate Swamy's remarks and terminate his association with the University." The Harvard Crimson reported that Harvard Summer School Dean Donald Pfister said, "We will give this matter our serious attention." FIRE wrote to Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, reminding her of Harvard's duties to protect Swamy's right to free speech.

Fortunately, it seems Harvard got the point this time. A spokesperson ...

Health Petitioner Detained

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
A woman who blames a hospital for her son's illness is held after petitioning China's health ministry.

Newly Released Documents Reveal Defense Department Intelligence Violations

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

EFF just received documents that reveal additional post-9/11 Defense Department misconduct, including attempts by the Army to investigate participants at a conference on Islamic law at the University of Texas Law School and Army-issued National Security Letters (NSLs) to telecommunications providers in violation of the law.

EFF received these documents in response to a 2009 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that we filed against the DoD and a half-dozen other federal agencies involved in intelligence gathering. In the lawsuit, we demanded the immediate release of reports about potential and actual agency misconduct, and the agencies have since released thousands of heavily-redacted pages, some of which we have discussed here, here, here and here.

Now, thanks to a recent Supreme Court case, we have more. In March 2011, after the DoD released most of its records to EFF, the Supreme Court decided an important FOIA case called Milner v. Department of Navy, 131 S.Ct. 1259 (2011). The case involved one of the exemptions to FOIA, 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(2), that allows agencies to withhold information “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.” A 1981 case from the DC Circuit Court of ...

Newly Released Documents Reveal Defense Department Intelligence Violations

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

EFF just received documents that reveal additional post-9/11 Defense Department misconduct, including attempts by the Army to investigate participants at a conference on Islamic law at the University of Texas Law School and Army-issued National Security Letters (NSLs) to telecommunications providers in violation of the law.

EFF received these documents in response to a 2009 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that we filed against the DoD and a half-dozen other federal agencies involved in intelligence gathering. In the lawsuit, we demanded the immediate release of reports about potential and actual agency misconduct, and the agencies have since released thousands of heavily-redacted pages, some of which we have discussed here, here, here and here.

Now, thanks to a recent Supreme Court case, we have more. In March 2011, after the DoD released most of its records to EFF, the Supreme Court decided an important FOIA case called Milner v. Department of Navy, 131 S.Ct. 1259 (2011). The case involved one of the exemptions to FOIA, 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(2), that allows agencies to withhold information “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.” A 1981 case from the DC Circuit Court of ...

JMU ‘Breeze’ Brings Further Recognition to ‘Green Light’ Rating

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

We're glad that James Madison University's (JMU's) student newspaper, The Breeze, is bringing awareness to the university's recently earned spot on FIRE's "green light" list, with articles published today and Monday. As we reported last week, JMU eliminated the last of its unconstitutional speech codes, upgrading the school to a "green light," the best rating in our Spotlight database.

In today's article, reporter Zachary Mehan writes:

For students, a recent change to the speech code at JMU, means they can speak freely and openly in class and around campus. The change led to recognition by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, Pa.

JMU's free speech rating was updated to "green light" rating earlier this month, indicating the highest level of free speech. The change from a "yellow light" to a "green light" rating came about after recent changes to JMU's speech code J26-103, which is held under J26-100, the Personal Abuse Code.

Monday's Breeze article pointed out that while it is praiseworthy that JMU joins The College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia as Virginia schools to go green, there is still much work to be ...