Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Judge Sanctions Copyright Troll Attorney for "Staggering Chutzpah"

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Today, Northern District of Texas District Court Judge David C. Godbey granted EFF's and Public Citizen's sanctions motion against Evan Stone, attorney for Mick Haig Productions, who improperly issued subpoenas to ISPs without court permission in order to obtain the identities of alleged file sharers. The court's blistering opinion speaks for itself, and should be read in full. The court includes a brief overview of its findings thusly:

To summarize the staggering chutzpah involved in this case: Stone asked the Court to authorize sending subpoenas to the ISPs. The Court said “not yet.” Stone sent the subpoenas anyway. The Court appointed [EFF and Public Citizen] to argue whether Stone could send the subpoenas. Stone argued that the Court should allow him to – even though he had already done so – and eventually dismissed the case ostensibly because the Court was taking too long to make a decision. All the while, Stone was receiving identifying information and communicating with some Does, likely about settlement. The Court rarely has encountered a more textbook example of conduct deserving of sanctions.

We agree.

A Firefighter Remembers

Saturday, September 10th, 2011
A Laotian-American fireman recalls the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

FIRE, AAUP Warn University of Illinois about Proposed Electronic Communications Policy

Friday, September 9th, 2011

In a joint letter sent today to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Chancellor Robert Easter, FIRE and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) President Cary Nelson (who is also a professor at UIUC) issued a strong warning about a proposed electronic communications policy that would sharply restrict student and faculty speech on campus. The UIUC Academic Senate is scheduled to vote on the policy this Monday, September 12.

If enacted, the proposed policy, circulating under the title "Provisional Electronic Communications Policy Document," would establish a number of unconstitutional restrictions on campus speech, each of which is detailed and criticized in today's letter.

In highlighting one of those problems, Nelson and FIRE's Azhar Majeed write:

UIUC's proposed policy prohibits electronic communications that "interfere with the mission of the University," as well as "uses that violate other existing University and campus policies." While the policy does state that electronic resources are provided to meet the "academic, research, and outreach mission of the University" and links to the university's mission statement, the ban on speech that is deemed to interfere with UIUC's mission again vests far too much unbridled discretion in administrators who are charged with enforcing this provision. Given the ambiguity ...

Further Web Controls Feared

Friday, September 9th, 2011
Chinese authorities may boost Internet controls on 'sensitive' information.

CBLDF Comics College Kicks Off with Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak on September 17!

Friday, September 9th, 2011

The CBLDF is proud to announce Comics College, a series of Master Sessions held at our New York City offices, featuring expert advice and insight from professionals of the industry. These sessions will be an opportunity for aspiring creators to learn about the craft and business of comics from experts.

Our first session delves into the secrets of self-publishing with Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers, Incredible Hercules) and Greg Pak (Incredible Hercules, Incredible Hulk)! Join us for this in-depth workshop and q&a to learn the secrets of self-publishing from two of comics’ most popular creators.

Tickets are available at our webstore for a $50 donation. This session will be held on Saturday, September 17th from 12:00pm to 2:00pm at our New York office, located at 255 West 36th Street, Suite 501. Space is extremely limited, so get your tickets quick!

Renewed Focus on New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Law, But Little Recognition of Impact on College Student Speech

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Last week, The New York Times published a front page story on New Jersey's new anti-bullying law, which took effect on September 1. In the article, reporter Winnie Hu documents complaints about the law's requirements, which some school district officials throughout the state have found to be expensive, confusing, and burdensome.

Hu reports: 

The law, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, is considered the toughest legislation against bullying in the nation. Propelled by public outcry over the suicide of a Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, nearly a year ago, it demands that all public schools adopt comprehensive antibullying policies (there are 18 pages of "required components"), increase staff training and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.

Each school must designate an antibullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an antibullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site. Superintendents said that educators who failed to comply could lose their licenses.

"I think this has gone well overboard," Richard G. Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said. "Now we have to police the community 24 hours a day. Where are the ...

Clampdown Around Activist’s Trial

Friday, September 9th, 2011
Chinese authorities block shows of support for jailed rights campaigner.

The Cartoons that Shook the World

Friday, September 9th, 2011

When Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks drew political cartoons that depicted the prophet Muhammad, he probably didn’t recognize just how much danger he was putting himself into. In the six years since, he’s gone to extreme lengths to preserve his safety. The Sydney Morning Herald ran an interesting article this week discussing the fallout of Vilks’s cartoons, both for him and for other cartoonists.

Jytte Klausen, a professor of comparative politics at Brandeis University and the author of a new book entitled The Cartoons that Shook the World, noted that cartoonists now self-censor themselves, a distressing development and a blow to free speech around the world. You can read the full article here.

Support CBLDF’s defense of free speech and coverage of issues like this by making a donation or becoming a member today!

FOIA request reveals that the US Air Force internally blocks The Guardian, New York Times, and other news websites

Friday, September 9th, 2011

In response to a FOIA request and subsequent appeal, the US Air Force released a list of domain names they have blocked on their internal network due to posting of documents initially released by wikileaks.

Among the blocked domains are those of The Guardian and the New York Times.

See the full list of blocked domains here: http://www.muckrock.com/static/foia_documents/blocklist.pdf

Administrative record of the FOIA case and all records can be found on MuckRock: http://www.muckrock.com/foi/view/united-states-of-america/us-air-force-blocked-websites/355/#tabs-request

Tibetan Protester Sentenced

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Chinese court hands down verdict to participant in March unrest.

Police Detain Nanjing Activists

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
The group had tried to provide help to a women's-rights campaigner and his family.

Group Claims It Led Attacks

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
A little-known Islamist group says it carried out deadly attacks in Xinjiang.

The FCC Makes Its Indecency Case at the Supreme Court, But Has the Court Already Shown Its Cards?

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

The FCC today filed its Brief at the U.S. Supreme Court defending its actions against Fox and ABC programming it found to be indecent. In the case of Fox, the alleged indecency was celebrity expletives uttered during the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards, while ABC was fined for rear nudity shown during an episode of NYPD Blue. As I wrote earlier, the fact that the Court is reviewing such disparate forms of indecency (fleeting expletives during live programming versus nudity during scripted programming) increases the likelihood of a broader ruling by the court regarding indecency policy, as opposed to a decision limited to the very specific facts of these two cases.

When the Supreme Court was contemplating whether to hear the FCC’s appeal of the lower court decisions, some broadcasters urged the Court to look beyond these particular cases and rule on the continued viability of Red Lion. The Red Lion case is a 1969 decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional to limit broadcasters’ First Amendment rights based upon the scarcity of broadcast spectrum. The logic behind Red Lion was that since there isn’t enough spectrum available for everyone to have their ...

Controls Remain After Expo

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
China maintains security checks, riot training in its sensitive Xinjiang region.

Speech Code of the Month: University of Wisconsin Whitewater

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2011: University of Wisconsin Whitewater (UWW).

Remember a few years back when Taco Bell decided that three meals a day were not enough and created "fourthmeal," "the meal between dinner and breakfast"? Well, UWW has done something similar, but with extra censorship instead of melted cheese at midnight.

Legally, there are two types of sexual harassment. There is quid pro quo ("this for that") harassment, which occurs when someone requests sexual favors in exchange for a benefit such as a promotion or a better grade. Hostile environment harassment occurs when, as its name suggests, severe and pervasive sexual conduct renders a student's environment so hostile that he or she is essentially denied equal access to a university's educational opportunities and benefits.

Not satisfied with these categories, UWW has created a third category on its own: "Obnoxious jerk harassment." According to UWW's Human Resources & Diversity office, obnoxious jerk harassment is "not defined by law" but is "frequently employed by one student on another" and includes things like "sexual suggestiveness, jokes, catcalls, whistles, remarks, etc."

A public university inventing a third, extralegal category of harassment out of whole cloth ...

Speech Code of the Month: University of Wisconsin Whitewater

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2011: University of Wisconsin Whitewater (UWW).

Remember a few years back when Taco Bell decided that three meals a day were not enough and created "fourthmeal," "the meal between dinner and breakfast"? Well, UWW has done something similar, but with extra censorship instead of melted cheese at midnight.

Legally, there are two types of sexual harassment. There is quid pro quo ("this for that") harassment, which occurs when someone requests sexual favors in exchange for a benefit such as a promotion or a better grade. Hostile environment harassment occurs when, as its name suggests, severe and pervasive sexual conduct renders a student's environment so hostile that he or she is essentially denied equal access to a university's educational opportunities and benefits.

Not satisfied with these categories, UWW has created a third category on its own: "Obnoxious jerk harassment." According to UWW's Human Resources & Diversity office, obnoxious jerk harassment is "not defined by law" but is "frequently employed by one student on another" and includes things like "sexual suggestiveness, jokes, catcalls, whistles, remarks, etc."

A public university inventing a third, extralegal category of harassment out of whole cloth ...

FTC White Paper – “Google and the Media: How Google Is Leveraging Its Position in Search To Dominate the Media Economy”

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report, in June, that Google was about to be served with subpoenas as part of an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into “whether the Internet giant has abused its dominance in Web-search advertising.”  If the FTC gets around to asking (under subpoena and in confidence) what media companies think about that allegation, they better come prepared to stay awhile.

This, because although you won’t find many media companies willing to say so publicly, Google is roundly feared and detested, and for good reason.  Google dominates the online advertising market, “by skimming away the earnings of media companies as it scrapes up their content, denying them of the scale that would be required for effective competition with the gatekeeper to the Internet.”

This and other observations are among the findings in a white paper submitted to the FTC by The Media Institute last week.  Titled “Google and the Media: How Google Is Leveraging Its Position in Search To Dominate the Media Economy,” the paper amounts to an indictment of the business practices of a company that has achieved extraordinary success with consumers.

As stated in the press release: “Google has used two ...

Uyghur Flag Protesters Detained

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Chinese authorities hold a group of Uyghurs who opposed a national flag raising campaign.

Authorities Pull Teachers’ Website

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Chinese censors close a support site for laid-off teachers ahead of planned protests.

In South Korea, the Only Thing Worse Than Online Censorship is Secret Online Censorship

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

EFF is sending an open letter to the Korean Communications Standards Commission condemning attempts to shut the public out of their work and urging them to embrace online freedom of expression.

In South Korea, even the censors are being censored. Professor K.S. Park, who sits on South Korea’s nine-member Internet content regulatory board, has found his own blog under threat of censorship when he used it as platform to speak out for transparency and free expression.

South Korea is one of few global democracies that has enacted substantial controls on online communications. Earlier, the country’s Telecommunications Business Act (1991), which states that ‘‘a person in use of telecommunications shall not make communications with contents that harm the public peace and order or social morals and good customs”, as well as the Information and Communication Ethics Committee (ICEC), formed in 1995, set the stage for government restrictions on a wide variety of online content. Furthermore, the country’s anti-communist National Security Law (NSL), enacted in 1948, justifies the censorship of websites related to North Korea or communism. These nebulous, overbroad laws can be interpreted not only to cover content deemed obscene, but also content that ...

In South Korea, the Only Thing Worse Than Online Censorship is Secret Online Censorship

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

EFF is sending an open letter to the Korean Communications Standards Commission condemning attempts to shut the public out of their work and urging them to embrace online freedom of expression.

In South Korea, even the censors are being censored. Professor K.S. Park, who sits on South Korea’s nine-member Internet content regulatory board, has found his own blog under threat of censorship when he used it as platform to speak out for transparency and free expression.

South Korea is one of few global democracies that has enacted substantial controls on online communications. Earlier, the country’s Telecommunications Business Act (1991), which states that ‘‘a person in use of telecommunications shall not make communications with contents that harm the public peace and order or social morals and good customs”, as well as the Information and Communication Ethics Committee (ICEC), formed in 1995, set the stage for government restrictions on a wide variety of online content. Furthermore, the country’s anti-communist National Security Law (NSL), enacted in 1948, justifies the censorship of websites related to North Korea or communism. These nebulous, overbroad laws can be interpreted not only to cover content deemed obscene, but also content that ...

Quake Petitioners Held, Quizzed

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Victims continue to be harassed three years after the Sichuan earthquake.

In Verdict Against Sewanee, Federal Jury Sends Important Message About Proper Handling of Sexual Assault Cases

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Last week, a federal jury in Tennessee delivered a key verdict in a former student's suit against Sewanee: the University of the South after the school found him guilty of violating its sexual assault policy. In a decision that should send some rumblings through the world of higher education and make universities think twice about the way they adjudicate allegations of sexual misconduct and rape, the jury awarded $26,500 in compensatory damages to the former student for Sewanee's negligence in mishandling his disciplinary hearing.

The case began with a female student's 2008 accusation of rape. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, a faculty panel at Sewanee found the student responsible despite the fact that he never faced criminal charges. Filing anonymously under the name "John Doe," the student sued the university in federal court, arguing that the accusation against him was false and that the university's negligence in handling the matter ultimately harmed his reputation and career prospects. In finding for the former student, the jury initially arrived at a damages amount of $50,000, but reduced that figure to $26,500 because it deemed him 47 percent responsible himself for the negligent hearing. The jury also did not award ...

Whistleblowing UCLA Professor Wins One More Year

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Professor James Enstrom, whose department had tried to get rid of him for not fitting the department's "mission," has been granted an additional year of employment at UCLA, FIRE has learned. Dr. Enstrom had engaged in successful whistleblowing against a prominent member of his department, and there had been many years of debate between Enstrom and some of his colleagues over research on air pollution (a debate which continues today).

Enstrom's story is far from over. Giving a professor a final year is a positive step, but it does not resolve the free speech, academic freedom, and accounting concerns that FIRE has raised from the beginning.

FIRE will keep you updated here on The Torch as we are able to share more.

Whistleblowing UCLA Professor Wins One More Year

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Professor James Enstrom, whose department had tried to get rid of him for not fitting the department's "mission," has been granted an additional year of employment at UCLA, FIRE has learned. Dr. Enstrom had engaged in successful whistleblowing against a prominent member of his department, and there had been many years of debate between Enstrom and some of his colleagues over research on air pollution (a debate which continues today).

Enstrom's story is far from over. Giving a professor a final year is a positive step, but it does not resolve the free speech, academic freedom, and accounting concerns that FIRE has raised from the beginning.

FIRE will keep you updated here on The Torch as we are able to share more.

SPX 11: Jeff Alexander Memorial Auction Preview – UPDATED

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the organizers of SPX are proud to honor the memory of Jeff Alexander by launching an annual benefit auction in his name at this year’s convention. Jeff Alexander was a friend to the small press community, both as a cartoonist and an organizer of SPX and the Ignatz Awards. He passed away earlier this year.

The first annual Jeff Alexander Memorial Benefit Auction includes pieces from Jeff’s collection that he donated to the CBLDF, including original art by Charles Vess & Jeff Smith, Tony Millionaire, and Roger Langridge. The auction also includes contributions from the SPX community, including Keith Knight, Raina Telgemeier, Jeffrey Brown and many more.

Below is a full listing of items that will be available in the auction, which will happen this Saturday at 4:30 at SPX. Internet bids will be received by emailing charles.brownstein@cbldf.org by Saturday afternoon at 1 PM ET.

Charles Vess – Bone Prequel: Rose page signed by Charles Vess and Jeff Smith
Tony Millionaire – Billy Hazelnuts page
Hannibal King – Eyes Only
Pete Sickman Garner – Hey Mister page
Roger Langridge – The Pest in the Vest . Homage to Dr Suess
Billy Tucci – ...

SPEAKEASY: NYC

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Current Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) members and donors are invited to join Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York and Senior Activist Richard Esguerra at a secret location in New York City for drinks on Sunday, September 11th. Both Jillian and Richard will be speaking at the Open Video Conference that weekend at New York Law School. Find out about our latest work in intellectual property, online activism in the U.S. and abroad, and EFF's continuing fight to defend your privacy.

EFF's Speakeasy events are free, informal gatherings that give you a chance to mingle with local members and meet the people behind the world's leading digital civil liberties organization. It is also our chance to thank you, the EFF members who make this work possible.

SPEAKEASY: New York City
EFF Members-Only Happy Hour
Sunday, September 11, 2011 from 6-8 PM

New York-area members will receive a personal invitation with location details by email on Tuesday, September 6th. Your guests are welcome, but space is limited. Attendees must be 21 or older. No-host bar. For more information, contact membership@eff.org.

Not a member, or let your membership lapse this year? There's still time to sign up today at ...

East Georgia College Settles Lawsuit for $50,000 After Firing Professor Who Criticized Sexual Harassment Policy

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

East Georgia College (EGC) has paid $50,000 to Professor Thomas Thibeault and his attorneys after firing Thibeault and having him escorted away by police for criticizing the school's sexual harassment policy. Thibeault was reinstated due to lack of evidence, but EGC President John Bryant Black refused to renew Thibeault's faculty appointment. Ultimately, Thibeault sued, leading the college to settle last month.

"East Georgia College fired Professor Thibeault and had the police take him away, then changed its story, dropped that case for lack of evidence, reprimanded him for unspecified 'offensive' speech, and got rid of him," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said in today's press release. "And all of this got started when Thibeault stood up for due process rights for the accused in the school's sexual harassment policy."

Thibeault's ordeal started shortly after an August 5, 2009, faculty training session on the college's sexual harassment policy during which he related a story about another professor and asked, "What provision is there in the sexual harassment policy to protect the accused against complaints which are malicious or, in this case, ridiculous?" Vice President for Legal Affairs Mary Smith, who was conducting the session, replied that there was no such provision ...

East Georgia College Settles Lawsuit for $50,000 After Firing Professor Who Criticized Sexual Harassment Policy

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

East Georgia College (EGC) has paid $50,000 to Professor Thomas Thibeault and his attorneys after firing Thibeault and having him escorted away by police for criticizing the school's sexual harassment policy. Thibeault was reinstated due to lack of evidence, but EGC President John Bryant Black refused to renew Thibeault's faculty appointment. Ultimately, Thibeault sued, leading the college to settle last month.

"East Georgia College fired Professor Thibeault and had the police take him away, then changed its story, dropped that case for lack of evidence, reprimanded him for unspecified 'offensive' speech, and got rid of him," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said in today's press release. "And all of this got started when Thibeault stood up for due process rights for the accused in the school's sexual harassment policy."

Thibeault's ordeal started shortly after an August 5, 2009, faculty training session on the college's sexual harassment policy during which he related a story about another professor and asked, "What provision is there in the sexual harassment policy to protect the accused against complaints which are malicious or, in this case, ridiculous?" Vice President for Legal Affairs Mary Smith, who was conducting the session, replied that there was no such provision ...

Patent Reform Legislation Set to Become Law, But Will Make Few Meaningful Changes

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

After many years and many failed attempts, patent reform legislation is about to pass Congress and become law. (President Obama has signaled he will sign the current bill, which should make it out of Congress this week.) The good news: Washington, D.C. recognizes that the patent system is in dire need of reform. The bad news: the new law will do virtually nothing to fix many of the system’s fundamental problems.

To be certain, there are some big changes in the patent reform legislation. For example, the United States would begin the shift to a “first-to-file” system, where a patent is granted to the party who files her application first at the Patent Office. (Currently, we follow a “first-to-invent” regime, where a party who first invents and practices an invention gets rights to the patent.) There are also changes to the PTO’s funding and fee-setting authority. These latter changes are imperfect, since they continue to give Congress some ability to divert the PTO’s fees to other areas of the U.S. budget, which prevents the PTO from fully funding much-needed initiatives to improve patent quality.

The legislation also adds new procedures that allow parties to challenge patents. This sounds ...

‘Killing Fields’ Painter Dies

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
The death of a key witness to the Khmer Rouge's brutal era is viewed as a big loss to Cambodia's history.

Newspapers Face New Controls

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011
Beijing propaganda authorities take over the reins of two major papers.

Calvin and Hobbes visit the First Amendment Monument

Monday, September 5th, 2011
photo-11 photo-10 photo-9

Government Internet Surveillance Starts With Eyes Built in the West

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

What has long been an EFF issue is once again making headlines. In recent days, the world is seeing damning reports of authoritarian regimes spying on their citizens using American- and European-made surveillance technologies, with new evidence emerging from Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and Thailand.

Last week, Bloomberg reported on Bahrain’s use of Nokia-Siemens surveillance software to intercept messages and gather information on human rights activists, resulting in their arrest and torture. A Wall Street Journal article published this week alleges the use of products in Libya created by the French company Amesys and the South African firm VASTech SA Pty Ltd. New evidence uncovered by hacktivists suggests that American-made Bluecoat technologies have been used for deep packet inspection by Syrian authorities, and a report from Reporters Without Borders alleges that Canadian web hosting company Netfirms, Inc., which also has offices in the United States, turned over sensitive information about a US citizen of Thai origin that resulted in his arrest upon entering Thailand.

In the past, EFF has documented the sale of surveillance equipment by several companies, including Cisco and Nortel, to China. Two ongoing cases allege that surveillance technology sold to China by Cisco enabled human rights violations.

What's ...

EFF-Supported Bill Requiring Warrant for Cell Phone Searches Passes CA Legislature, Goes to Gov. Brown

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

In May, we asked EFF members to write their California legislators and urge them to support SB 914, a bill that requires the police to obtain a search warrant before searching a recent arrestee’s cell phone.

EFF is happy to report that yesterday, the California Senate passed SB 914 with a bipartisan vote of 31-4. SB 914 already passed in the California Assembly in August on a 28-9 bipartisan vote, and is now on its way to Governor Brown's desk.

Introduced by California Senator Mark Leno, and sponsored by the Northern California ACLU and the First Amendment Coalition, SB 914 was intended to reverse the California Supreme Court's decision in People v. Diaz, which permitted police officers to search the content of a person's cell phone under a narrow Fourth Amendment exception permitting warrantless searches of the area immediately around a recent arrestee as "incident to arrest."

We hope and expect that Governor Brown will sign SB 914 into law despite the furious opposition of law enforcement. Cell phones contain a treasure trove of personal information, far beyond a person's call history, that deserves protection from the prying eyes of the police. Without SB 914, officers can ...

EFF-Supported Bill Requiring Warrant for Cell Phone Searches Passes CA Legislature, Goes to Gov. Brown

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

In May, we asked EFF members to write their California legislators and urge them to support SB 914, a bill that requires the police to obtain a search warrant before searching a recent arrestee’s cell phone.

EFF is happy to report that yesterday, the California Senate passed SB 914 with a bipartisan vote of 31-4. SB 914 already passed in the California Assembly in August on a 28-9 bipartisan vote, and is now on its way to Governor Brown's desk.

Introduced by California Senator Mark Leno, and sponsored by the Northern California ACLU and the First Amendment Coalition, SB 914 was intended to reverse the California Supreme Court's decision in People v. Diaz, which permitted police officers to search the content of a person's cell phone under a narrow Fourth Amendment exception permitting warrantless searches of the area immediately around a recent arrestee as "incident to arrest."

We hope and expect that Governor Brown will sign SB 914 into law despite the furious opposition of law enforcement. Cell phones contain a treasure trove of personal information, far beyond a person's call history, that deserves protection from the prying eyes of the police. Without SB 914, officers can ...

Experts Debate China’s Reform Prospects

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
New leaders in Beijing may enact reforms while rejecting challenges to one-party rule.

This Week in FIRE News

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

As college students across the nation settle into their back-to-school routines, we've been reminding them on The Torch how to ensure that their free speech rights stay intact this year. If you haven't yet, check out our new "Free Speech Toolbox" for students, professors, parents, concerned citizens, and members of the legal community to access the best resources for defending free speech rights on campus.

Here's a recap of the campus free speech news that made headlines this week.

On back-to-school warnings:

On the threat to campus due process:

Robert in ‘Daily Caller’: How New Federal Regulations Are Making Some Higher Ed Lawyers Rich

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
In The Daily Caller, FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley criticizes the fact that some higher ed "risk management" lawyers are profiting from the new threat to campus due process prompted by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' April 4, 2011, guidance letter. Robert points out that the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM) grossed $425,000 from a single seminar about complying with the new regulations. To read more about the dangers of the new regulations and the people who benefit, be sure to check out Robert's full article at The Daily Caller.

Mike Diana Talks to Richardson Magazine

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

In 1997 — in spite of aid from CBLDF — Mike Diana became the first American artist to be convicted of obscenity in the United States. Diana is the controversial creator of the zine Boiled Angel, and his work contains graphic and often shocking depictions of society’s most serious problems: child abuse, date rape, and religious corruption.

Richardson Magazine recently interviewed Diana about his prosecution, conviction, and subsequent punishment. Diana describes his experience and how CBLDF got involved:

The first time I showed up to court to enter my plea I was mobbed with TV and radio reporters as well as two groups of concerned Christian citizens with protest signs. I plead not guilty and then contacted the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for help. They got me a lawyer, Luke Lerot, and after much red tape and attempting and failing to get the case thrown out or moved to Tampa, where we felt we would get a better chance at a fair jury, it was time a year later to go to trial.

I was railroaded in court, the prosecution told the jury I was a suspect in the Gainsville murders even though the real killer was caught ...

Peter Bonilla to Speak at University of Arizona Tuesday

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Peter Bonilla, Assistant Director of FIRE's Indivdiual Rights Defense Program, will discuss campus free speech rights and speech codes at the University of Arizona (UA) next Tuesday, September 6. The talk will be hosted by the UA College Republicans.

Liberty in Peril: Speech Codes on our Nation's College Campuses
6:30 p.m. MST
Park Student Union, Santa Fe room

All FIRE supporters on the Tuscon campus are encouraged to attend. Check the FIRE Calendar of Events for up-to-date information on all upcoming events, and to invite a FIRE speaker to your school, click here.

University of Arizona Eliminates Unconstitutional Civility Policy, Earns ‘Yellow Light’ Rating from FIRE

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Congratulations to the University of Arizona (UA) for eliminating its one remaining "red light" speech code, a policy on "Civility," from its Community Living Guide. As a result of this policy change, UA now has a "yellow light" rating from FIRE. UA's former policy required students to be "respectful" in all of their relationships and banned "verbally," "mentally," or "psychologically" "abus[ing]" another person, despite the fact that speech cannot be constitutionally prohibited simply for lacking respect or being abusive.The former policy also banned "bigotry" in "verbal" and "written" form, but failed both to define the term and to recognize that much speech many would characterize as "bigoted" is nevertheless protected by the First Amendment. As a public university bound by the First Amendment, UA has served its students well by rescinding this policy.

This change comes just in time for a talk at UA on free speech to be given on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. MT by FIRE's Peter Bonilla, Assistant Director of our Individual Rights Defense Program. In his talk, hosted by UA's College Republicans, Peter will discuss the prevalence of speech codes on American campuses and at the University of Arizona, as well as the threat to free ...

Prisoner’s Status Under Question

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
A long-serving Tibetan prisoner fights for his life under a cloud.

At University of North Carolina, Choral Group’s Vote Prompts Investigation–And Raises First Amendment Concerns

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

The Daily Tar Heel reports this week that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has launched an investigation into the decision of a Christian a capella student group's decision to expel one of its members.

Daily Tar Heel reporter Paula Seligson writes:

The University will investigate whether or not the Christian a cappella group Psalm 100 violated UNC's non-discrimination policy in dismissing senior Will Thomason, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said.

On Sunday, members of Psalm 100 unanimously voted to remove Thomason, who is gay, for his views on homosexuality. He had been a member of the group since his freshman year.

"We are on notice that there is a question as to whether or not a student organization has acted in compliance with the policy or not," Crisp said. "We take that very seriously and that will be investigated."

Seligson notes that Blake Templeton, Psalm 100's general director, has stated that Thomason was removed because his views regarding homosexuality conflicted with those of the group, not because of his sexual orientation. Psalm 100's constitution requires that members share the group's core religious beliefs.

UNC's student organization non-discrimination policy forbids student groups from rejecting or ...

Girl Can Wear Pro-Gay Shirt to School After SPLC Intervenes

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Wednesday sent a letter to Hoover High School in Alabama threatening a lawsuit and reminding administrators of pupils’ First Amendment rights after school staff made one girl take off a t-shirt with a pro-gay slogan over supposed concerns for her safety. Fortunately the SPLC reports the school has now reversed its decision.

The shirt worn by 15-year-old Sara Couvillon carries the slogan “gay? fine by me” and is similar to the one pictured above except in black.

According to reports, Couvillon said she wore the shirt throughout the previous school year without incident and so when she was told to take it off because of safety concerns she didn’t think it was fair. That’s when the SPLC got involved and on Wednesday sent a letter to the school informing them of an impending lawsuit if they didn’t reverse the decision.

The letter sent by Samuel Wolfe, staff attorney for the SPLC, contained the following:

Evidently, officials at your school told Sara that she could not wear the shirt because they were “concerned for her safety.” Yet, Sara did not experience any threats of violence, nor did the officials tell Sara that there were ...

Listen to EFF’s Courtroom Arguments Against Warrantless Wiretapping

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Update:The court has just released video of the arguments: Jewel and Hepting.

Yesterday, EFF lawyers urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle to allow our two lawsuits challenging the National Security Agency's illegal mass surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans to continue. For those who couldn't attend in person, we have the next best thing: audio recordings of the oral arguments in both Jewel v. NSA (MP3, WMA, OGG) and Hepting v. AT&T (MP3, WMA, OGG).

There are also a couple of excellent news reports on the courtroom action: the Associated Press story contains a detailed run-down of the legal issues while Wired's account of the arguments -- in addition to providing lots of background on the history of the cases -- includes high quality photos from inside the courthouse in Seattle.

We can't predict when the appeals court will rule on our cases, but we hope it's soon. We've been fighting to obtain a ruling on the legality of the NSA's surveillance program for over half a decade, and are still stuck at the starting gate thanks to the government’s repeated claims of state secrecy and the unconstitutional "immunity" law that Congress passed for the telcos that have collaborated in the spying. Hopefully, the upcoming decisions in these cases will get us a step closer to finally imposing the rule of law on the NSA, and stopping the spying.

This Week in Internet Censorship: Egyptian Blogger on Hunger Strike While China and Trinidad Crack Down

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

China cracks down on Sina Weibo

While China's "Great Firewall" prevents citizens from accessing popular social media networks Twitter and Facebook, Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform not unlike Twitter, provides a vibrant alternative for China's ever-increasing community of netizens.

Though speech on the platform is controlled, an outpouring of anger from netizens toward the treatment of a June 23 train crash near Wenzhou by authorities, followed by the flooding of the network with protest photographs from the city of Dalian, has lead to a crackdown on users.

According to the New York Times, on August 26, Sina Weibo notified its users that several bloggers "deemed to have spread unfounded rumors" would be suspended from the service for one month. That news is compounded by a rumor (discussed on Al Jazeera's Stream on September 1) that China might consider enforcing real ID registration, a policy that South Korea says it plans to abandon following a major security breach.

As perhaps the world's most restrictive country when it comes to regulating the Internet, China's attempts to further control networks may prove to have the opposite effect, angering netizens whose newfound freedom on platforms like Sina Weibo have offered a ...

Anti-Bullying Legislation: Good Intentions, but…

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

A New Jersey state law coming into effect today (Sept 1st)  is considered the “toughest legislation against bullying in the nation”. It may, however, also prove to be dangerously overbroad and stifle student speech on a variety of topics.

Called the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the law was adopted in the aftermath of the suicide of a Rutgers University student and the subsequent focus on teen suicide, especially among LGBT students, who are frequently subject to bullying.

The law requires schools and colleges to adopt procedures that would potentially subject every moment of school life to closely monitoring for anything that could be interpreted by someone as “harassment, intimidation or bullying.”  The key provisions prohibit:

▪ any verbal or physical communication, including a single incident

▪ that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by an actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic

▪ that takes place on school property, at a school-sponsored event, on a school bus, or off school grounds

▪ if it may cause substantial disruption of school ...

SXSW 2012 Panels to Pick

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

UPDATE: More privacy panels added below.

Every year, the South by Southwest (SXSW) media festival invites the Internet at large to contribute to the SXSW schedule by voting on thousands of submitted panels. Community votes—combined with editorial input from the SXSW staff and advisory board—ultimately decide the final panel schedule.

What follows are some choice panel proposals that address timely, interesting technology and freedom issues, and that usually feature EFF panelists and friends of EFF. If these catch your eye, grant them a thumbs-up vote!

  • Now that social media sites are being tied to political uprisings worldwide, companies need to be asking an important question: How can we better protect users in situations where using our platform puts them at risk of real, personal harm? "How to Run a Social Site and Not Get Users Killed," organized by EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York, aims to address what social media companies can do to keep users safe. The panel of activists and free expression advocates plans to address critical issues of sites' terms of service, anonymity/pseudonymity, and more.
  • "Fighting For Your Users Without Becoming A Target" is another panel directed towards Internet companies and covering free ...

EFF to Court: Don’t Let Government Hide Illegal Surveillance

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Seattle - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today to preserve lawsuits challenging the government's illegal mass surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. In oral arguments today, EFF asked the court to block the government's attempt to bury the suits with claims of state secrecy and an unconstitutional "immunity" law for telecoms that participated in the spying.

Appearing before the court in Seattle, EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn and Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston argued against the dismissal of EFF's two lawsuits, Hepting v. AT&T and Jewel v. NSA, along with the 32 other cases against various telecommunications carriers. At stake is whether the courts can judge the legality and constitutionality of the National Security Agency's (NSA's) bulk interception of Americans' phone calls and emails, accomplished through back-door access to AT&T's domestic telecom network and its databases of communications records.

"The scope and legality of the NSA program has been the subject of widespread reporting and debate for half a decade -- it is hardly a secret. And Congress long ago crafted balanced and comprehensive security procedures to govern courts' handling of secret evidence about electronic surveillance to ensure that the Judicial Branch ...