Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Encrypt the Web with HTTPS Everywhere

Thursday, August 4th, 2011
San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in collaboration with the Tor Project, has launched an official 1.0 version of HTTPS Everywhere, a tool for the Firefox web browser that helps secure web browsing by encrypting connections to more than 1,000 websites. HTTPS Everywhere was first released as a beta test version in June of 2010. Today's 1.0 version includes support for hundreds of additional websites, using carefully crafted rules to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. HTTPS protects against numerous Internet security and privacy problems, including the search hijacking on U.S. networks that was revealed by an article published today in New Scientist magazine. The article, entitled "US internet providers hijacking users' search queries," documents how a company called Paxfire has been intercepting and altering search traffic on a number of ISPs' networks. HTTPS can prevent such attacks. "HTTPS secures web browsing by encrypting both requests from your browser to websites and the resulting pages that are displayed," said EFF Senior Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley. "Without HTTPS, your online reading habits and activities are vulnerable to eavesdropping, and your accounts are vulnerable to hijacking. Today's Paxfire revelations are a grand example of how things can go wrong. EFF created ...

EFF Calls on Cisco to Do the Right Thing

Thursday, August 4th, 2011
Last month, we wrote about Cisco’s plans to help the Chinese government build a massive camera surveillance network in the city of Chongqing. This is the same company that sold equipment to China to build the Great Firewall, which prevents Chinese Internet users from accessing much of the Internet, including online references to the Tiananmen Square protests, information on China’s human rights abuses, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Reports indicate that Cisco has also customized its technology to help China with surveillance of political activists. We've had our eye on Cisco for years; in 2010, they were at the top of our list of "companies of interest" selling surveillance technologies to repressive regimes. A lawsuit brought by Ward & Ward, PLLC against Cisco Systems, Inc., alleges that the company knowingly enabled the Chinese Communist Party’s harassment, arrest, and torture of Chinese political activists. Yesterday, as outlined in a blog post by his lawyers, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, dissident writer Du Daobin, was questioned by Party officials regarding his involvement. According to his lawyers, "Mr. Du's persecution began in 2003, when he was arrested while his house was raided by Chinese authorities. ...

State Representative Demands University Stop Selling Candy Satirizing President Obama

Thursday, August 4th, 2011
Today's episode of "ridiculous things people get worked up over" comes to us from Tennessee,  where the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) bookstore has been browbeat into pulling a line of breathmints poking fun at President Obama called "Disappointmints." Democratic State Representative Joe Armstrong was offended by the candy—he told reporters that he believed it was "defaming the president"—and told the bookstore's director that the mints were inappropriate merchandise for the bookstore to be selling because they targeted a particular government official. (It's worth noting that the bookstore sold similar mints directed at former President George W. Bush during his tenure.) It's hard to decide where to begin, but I'll start with defamation. Defamation requires a false statement of fact. Here we have what is clearly an opinion, and an opinion about a political figure, no less, thus subject to the most stringent of defamation standards. Nowhere in the United States could this come even close to constituting defamation. Second, while certain regulations do prohibit universities from taking an official political stance as an institution—you can learn more about them in FIRE's Statement on Political Activity on Campus—the sale of candy in a university bookstore is very, very unlikely to ...

‘Minding the Campus’ Highlights Delaware Professor Jan Blits’ Keynote Address from CFN Conference

Thursday, August 4th, 2011
Just a few short weeks ago, FIRE wrapped up a successful Campus Freedom Network (CFN) conference, our fourth. Headlining three days of speakers, student panels, and breakout sessions was University of Delaware (UD) Professor Jan Blits, our keynote speaker for the final day of the conference. Professor Blits, in addition to being a member of the University Honors Faculty at UD, was a recipient this year of the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award, and in 2009 received FIRE's Prometheus Award for his efforts in ending UD's illiberal thought reform program in its residence halls. Today, Minding the Campus has reprinted Professor Blits' keynote address in its entirety. In his speech, which discussed the particulars of UD's now-dismantled program at length, Professor Blits explained why efforts to coerce students into advocating for certain outcomes aren't protected by academic freedom:
Now, some people defended the program by arguing that administrators have the same academic freedom as faculty. ResLife administrators should therefore be as free as faculty to educate students. This argument may sound plausible, especially to those who support academic freedom (as I do), but it overlooks something crucial. No faculty member (at least at my institution) may do what ...

Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!

Thursday, August 4th, 2011
Reports indicate that networking giant Cisco Systems, Inc., an American company based in Silicon Valley, has been knowingly selling Internet surveillance and censorship tools to the Chinese government for years. The Chinese government's "Great Firewall" prevents Internet users in China from accessing much of the Internet, including online references to Tiananmen Square and the Jasmine Revolution, as well as social media sites like Facebook. In addition to blocking access to information, these tools have enabled the Chinese government to spy on its citizens and may include special customization to target individuals who are working to protect human rights and build democracy in China. Du Daobin, a dissident writer in China, has reportedly been detained by the Chinese government and has been interrogated about a lawsuit he and other Chinese dissidents brought against Cisco in the United States. He has since been released, but Mr. Du is facing the possibility of more imprisonment and torture for challenging an American company's policies and speaking out against censorship. Help us defend this political activist, and call on American companies to defend human rights rather than selling the tools of repression! Sign our petition to tell Cisco to intervene on behalf of Mr. Du ...

The Privacy Network

Thursday, August 4th, 2011
As Facebook continues to dominate the social media sphere, new competitors emerge to challenge the weaknesses apparent in its design.  One of the most recent of this breed is the social networking site Pidder. Drawing on fears of data-mining and even “social media background checks”, Pidder focuses on privacy protection to a user-unfriendly extreme. After [...]

Mexican Newspaper Uncovers Systemic Monitoring Plans of Public Online Sources

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Two weeks ago, the Mexican newspaper El Milenio reported on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPC) initiative to monitor social media sites, blogs, and forums throughout the world. The document, obtained by El Milenio through a U.S. Freedom of Information Act request, discloses how OPC’s National Operations Center (NOC) plans to initiate systematic monitoring of publicly available online data including “information posted by individual account users” on social media. The NOC monitors, collects and fuses information from a variety of sources to provide a “real-time snap shot of the [U.S.] nation’s threat environment at any moment.” The NOC also coordinates information sharing to “help deter, detect, and prevent terrorist acts and to manage [U.S.] domestic incidents.” The NOC has initiated systemic monitoring of publicly available, user-generated data to follow real-time developments in U.S. crisis activities such as natural disasters as well as to help corroborate data received through official sources with ‘on-the-ground’ input. The monitoring program appears to have its basis in a similar program used by NOC in its Haitian disaster relief efforts, where information from social media sources provided a vital source of real-time input that assisted NOC’s response, recovery ...

Thomas Jefferson Center Awarded Grant for “Banned Books Week” Event

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Following 2010′s very successful inaugural effort, the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), via its Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund, is pleased to announce grants to six organizations in support of events during Banned Books Week, Sept. 24-Oct.1, 2011.  Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to access information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship. The Bay County (Fla.) Public Library and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression were named recipients of the largest grants, of $2,500 each. The North Dakota Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, Bennett College Thomas F. Holgate Library, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library, and Springfield-Greene County (Mo.) Library District each received $1,000 grants. “The strength of the applications for Judith Krug Fund grants this year was really impressive,” said Kent Oliver, FTRF president.  “The six winners have very unique projects that were chosen based on many criteria, including their creativity, sustainability and commitment to Judith Krug’s vision and legacy.  In many cases, the events will bring attention to past or ongoing incidents of censorship – or successful defenses of free speech. From commemorating the 25th anniversary of a censorship incident that rocked a community in Florida to heightening awareness of a ...

Mass Copyright Litigation: Another Court Gets It Right

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
In a major blow to one of the most pernicious copyright trolls now operating, the US Copyright Group (USCG), federal judge Robert Wilkins of the District of Columbia has effectively dismissed thousands of Doe defendants due to lack of jurisdiction. The ruling, which partially echoes arguments EFF has made in cases around the country, comes in a mass copyright case that was notable for just how very massive it was -- 23,322 Doe defendants. The plaintiff in the case, represented by USCG, is Nu Image, a California corporation that claims to own the rights to the movie "The Expendables." Following the normal protocol in these cases, Nu Image/USCG filed a copyright infringement complaint again anonymous BitTorrent users who had allegedly downloaded the movie, listing their supposed IP addresses, and then asked the court for permission to subpoena their identities. The court initially granted the request. Two months later, however, when it learned that Nu Image/USCG hadn't gotten around to issuing a single subpoena and that the vast majority of the defendants likely did not reside in D.C., the court ordered Nu Image/USCG to explain why the suit should proceed there. Nu Image/USCG responded with the now-familiar theories that courts apply ...

Eighth Circuit Applies ‘Tinker’ to Off-Campus Speech in Disappointing High School Ruling

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Fresh on the heels of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit's poorly conceived decision in Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools, which I wrote about last week, the Eighth Circuit has similarly expanded the ability of secondary schools to punish off-campus student speech in this week's decision in the case of D.J.M. v. Hannibal Public School District No. 60. Coupled with the Fourth Circuit case, this decision deals another blow to students' First Amendment rights in the high school setting, and threatens those same rights in the realm of higher education. Unanimously affirming a federal district court's rejection of the student's First Amendment claims, the Eighth Circuit's three-judge panel held both that the student's speech constituted a "true threat" and was therefore unprotected by the First Amendment, and that because the student could reasonably foresee that the online conversation would reach the school's administration, the school could properly punish the speech as it caused "substantial disruption" in the school's operation. D.J.M. v. Hannibal Public School District No. 60 centers on online instant messaging conversations between D.J.M., a student at Hannibal High School (Hannibal), and C.M., a classmate and friend. D.J.M had been recently spurned by ...

Take a Look at Cryptozoic’s CBLDF Liberty Cards Gallery

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Thanks to Crytptozoic Entertainment, we will soon see the release of the CBLDF Liberty Trading Cards! Dozens of creators have contributed bonus cards, including autograph cards and sketch cards, to the series! Cryptozoic has been keeping a running tally of the creators who’ve lent their talents, and you can find the latest updates here. Cryptozoic is also running their own gallery of images from the series, so be sure to check their site for new images and the latest updates on the autograph and sketch cards!

CBLDF and Cryptozoic Entertainment’s Liberty Trading Cards are 72 card set telling the story of comics censorship, including bonus sketch and autograph chase cards by the greatest talent in the comics industry! ALL proceeds from this set benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s fight to protect the Fist Amendment rights of the entire comic book community. DIAMOND INFO: MAY111393 I CBLDF LIBERTY T/C BOX Support CBLDF’s defense of free speech by making a donation or becoming a member today!

Line Noise: Electronic Device Search and Seizure

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
EFF activist Eva Galperin interviews EFF criminal defense attorney, Hanni Fakhoury, on the newest edition of Line Noise, the EFF podcast. Whether law enforcement wants to search your home computer, tries to browse through your smart phone at a traffic stop, or seeks to thumb through your camera at customs, you should know your rights. Learn more about your privacy rights by reading our Know Your Rights guide, or test your skills with our quiz. This edition of Line Noise was recorded on-site from the San Francisco studio of Bamm.tv

Privacy webinar next week — register now!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
The second offering in OIF’s “Intellectual Freedom Summer School” series is a webinar on privacy issues for libraries of all types. “Privacy in the Library: Law, Ethics, and Policy” will take place Tuesday, August 9 from 10-11 a.m. Central and provide an overview of the following topics:
  • Privacy laws and ethical codes protecting user privacy in the library
  • Creating and implementing library policies to protect user privacy
  • Hot  topics in library privacy: self-serve holds, surveillance cameras, and  third party library vendors (e-books)
Speaker:  Deborah Caldwell-Stone is the Deputy Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom and an attorney who works closely with librarians, teachers, and library trustees on a wide range of intellectual freedom issues, including library privacy and confidentiality. She is on the faculty of the ALA-sponsored Lawyers for Libraries and Law for Librarians workshops and speaks frequently to library groups around the country. “Intellectual Freedom Summer School” sessions cost $39 for ALA members; $49 for nonmembers; and $95 for groups of two or more attendees at the same location. To register online, click here. To register by fax, please print and submit the PDF registration form here. NOTE: Discount pricing is available for those participating ...

EFF Backs Another Blogger Fighting Off Baseless Righthaven Lawsuit

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Despite a string of courtroom losses, copyright troll Righthaven continues to pursue its misguided infringement litigation. Tuesday, EFF filed an amicus brief in support of a defendant moving to dismiss Righthaven v. Wolf, the lead case in the federal court in Colorado. Righthaven sued blogger Leland Wolf and his It Makes Sense blog for a parody of a photo printed in the Denver Post documenting a TSA agent performing a pat-down search. In a pattern used in dozens of other cases, Righthaven created the lawsuit by first scouring the Internet for blogs and discussion forums that posted the photo, and then sued for infringement, claiming it had acquired the copyright of the photo before it started legal action. As those following the Righthaven developments know, a critical document unearthed by EFF shows that the copyright assignments done in Righthaven lawsuits based on Las Vegas Journal Review content are a sham -- a discovery that has led to the dismissal of six Righthaven suits in Nevada. In this case, Wolf's lawyers found a similar agreement with Denver Post owner MediaNews Group. As EFF's brief explains, the agreement makes any assignment of MNG copyrights to Righthaven -- including its rights in ...

Congratulations to the 2011 Judith Krug Fund Banned Books Week grant recipients!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
The Freedom to Read Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2011 Judith Krug Fund Banned Books Week event grants. Six libraries and organizations have been selected to receive grants to sponsor Read-outs or similar events during Banned Books Week, September 24-October 1. The Bay County (Fla.) Public Library and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression were named recipients of the largest grants, of $2,500 each. The North Dakota Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, Bennett College Thomas F. Holgate Library, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library, and Springfield-Greene County (Mo.) Library District each received $1,000 grants. In addition to the cash award, the Freedom to Read Foundation is providing Banned Books Week merchandise, sold by the American Library Association Store, to the grant recipients. Many other Banned Books Week events around the country will be listed at www.bannedbooksweek.org. Check out the press release here to see the great events these groups have planned! If you’re in the area, we encourage you to check them out.

FIRE Cases Figure Strongly in ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ Article on Retaliation Against Faculty Speech

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
The Chronicle of Higher Education's Peter Schmidt has an excellent article on the hair-trigger sensibilities of the college classroom, in which many professors have found themselves under fire for remarks seen as violent or threatening. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the free speech and academic freedom issues involved, several of the cases Schmidt cites in his piece are cases in which FIRE has been—or is currently—involved. Two of the cases Schmidt devotes significant coverage to in his article are cases with which FIRE has been intimately involved in recent months. The first, involving law professor Lawrence Connell of Widener University, concerns Widener University School of Law Dean Linda Ammons' trumped-up charges in attempts to fire him—including Widener's alleged inducement of two students to file complaints against him—after, among other things, Connell used Ammons as a character in hypothetical discussions of homicide in his class. Ammons placed Connell on administrative leave and asked campus security to give her special protections, so fearful she allegedly was for her safety. Despite Ammons' alarmist reaction to Connell's class exercises (if it was not just a pretext to go after him for his political opinions), the use of such hypothetical examples is common in ...

Verdict ‘Known in Advance’

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
A Vietnamese court rejects the appeal of a well-known dissident.

Listen to CBLDF: 25 Years of Protecting Creativity Panel from SDCC

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Bleeding Cool has posted audio and video for several panels from Comic-Con International. Among them is a recording of CBLDF: 25 Years of Protecting Creativity, which took place on Saturday, July 23, from 3:00 – 4:00 pm in Room 9. The panel description:

When the CBLDF was established in 1986 it was to defend a retailer who faced jail time for selling mature comics to an adult reader, because the common belief was that comics were for kids. Today, comics are a widely respected literary form, and they got there in part thanks to the Fund’s 25 years of protecting the industry’s creativity in court. Come learn how the CBLDF has stood up for comics in this informative presentation of their history, and look ahead towards the issues facing readers today.

Moderated by CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein, the panel offered a comprehensive history of comic book censorship and CBLDF’s work to prevent it. You can listen to the entire panel here.

Support CBLDF’s defense of free speech by making a donation or becoming a member today!

Randi Zuckerberg Runs in the Wrong Direction on Pseudonymity Online

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

The Nymwars rage on. Over the past several weeks Google has been engaged in a very public struggle with its users over its “real names” policy on Google+, prompting blog posts and editorials debating the pros and cons of allowing pseudonymous accounts on social networking sites. But there is one person for whom insisting on the use of real names on social networking sites is not enough. Unsurprisingly, that person is Facebook’s Marketing Director, Randi Zuckerberg. Speaking last week on a panel discussion about social media hosted by Marie Claire magazine, Zuckerberg said,

I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away. People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.

Take a moment and let that sink in. Randi Zuckberg doesn’t just think that you should be using your real name on Facebook or Google+ or LinkedIn -- she thinks pseudonyms have no place on the Internet at all. And why should we take the radical step of stripping all Internet users of the right to speak anonymously? Because of the Greater Internet F***wad Theory...

Fourth Annual ‘Freedom In Academia’ Scholarship Contest Now Accepting Submissions

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
FIRE is pleased to announce that we are now accepting submissions for the fourth annual "Freedom in Academia" essay contest. Part of FIRE's mission is "to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to rights on our campuses." We believe students should know their rights before they go to college, and one of their considerations when choosing a college should be whether a school honors its commitment to free expression. This is why we are inviting all graduating high school students to write an essay explaining why free speech and First Amendment rights are crucial to higher education. The contest is open to high school students anywhere in the country who will be graduating in 2012 and attending college in the fall of 2012. To enter, students should watch two short FIRE documentaries—FIRE in Action: Valdosta State University and Think What We Think Or Else: Thought Control on the American Campus—and write an essay explaining how the featured universities violated the First Amendment freedoms of their students. FIRE will award one first-place winner a $5,000 scholarship, one second-place winner a $2,500 scholarship, and five runners-up $1,000 scholarships. Last year's contest garnered almost 1,500 ...

Untangling the Web of Federal Regulations on Campus Sexual Assault

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
In his latest piece for PolicyMic, FIRE's Peter Bonilla writes about the impact that federal regulations have had on colleges and universities as they try to address issues of campus sexual assault and other criminal behavior. Peter follows up on a previous piece for PolicyMic in which he assessed the fallout from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' (OCR's) April 4 letter to universities; OCR's policy guidance, as we've written in many places, represents a major threat to the due process rights of students accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment. In this week's follow-up, Peter points out that further muddying the waters are federal laws such as the Clery Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which universities all too often have interpreted in ways that apparently have harmed student victims of sexual misconduct. These harms add to those suffered by accused students in the wake of OCR's April 4 letter, Peter writes, yet the way to fix these problems regarding the Clery Act and FERPA is not to reduce protections for accused students. Of the Clery Act, Peter writes:
The Clery Act requires universities to compile and disclose data on campus ...

This Week in Internet Censorship: China, India, and Faith-Based Censorship

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Opposition to India's New Intermediary Liability Regulations

The world’s largest democracy has been known to censor online content from time to time, typically under the guise of national security or obscenity. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team is tasked with issuing blocking orders, while Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure allows police commissioners to identify and order the blocking of material that contains a threat or nuisance to society.

As we noted on June 10, a new regulation [pdf] set to take effect soon prohibits intermediaries--such as content hosts and service providers--from hosting a slew of content, including: blasphemous or defamatory content, content which invades another’s privacy, content that is ‘racially or ethnically objectionable’, content that ‘harms minors in any way,’ and content that ‘infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or other proprietary rights.’

The directive also prohibits the hosting of content that "threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation."

Intermediaries must remove such content within 36 hours of being notified of a complaint, while those ...

Speech Code of the Month: Mansfield University of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2011: Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.

Mansfield's student handbook, the Mountie Manual, includes a Student Rights and Responsibilities document. Under the heading of "freedom from discrimination," the policy states:

It is everyone's responsibility to create a social order that is free of discrimination. We are obligated to examine our own behavior and to provide role models for others which are free of racism and other actions which either diminish the self-esteem or any person or create an atmosphere in which their striving for competence is diminished. ... If any member of the university community is subjected to behavior which they believe is racist or discriminatory, they should contact the Social Equity and Multicultural Affairs Office ....

This policy exemplifies the condescending attitude that underlies so many student conduct policies (such as, for example, definitions of "consent" in sexual assault policies under which women are presumed to lose all sexual agency the moment they begin to feel the effects of alcohol). The underlying assumption of this policy is that Mansfield students are so weak that they cannot be exposed to anything that would "diminish [their] self-esteem" or their "striving for ...

Greg Examines Freedom of Association and Fraternities in ‘The Huffington Post’

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Following up on his recent article for The Huffington Post, Greg has a new Huffington Post piece today that analyzes the First Amendment right to freedom of association as it relates to fraternities on campus. Greg writes:

A lot of fraternities seem to know that their freedom of association is protected by the First Amendment. (While the freedom to join and form groups is not technically listed in the text of the First Amendment, it is understood to arise from the protections of freedom of speech and the right to assembly.) What fraternities often do not know, however, is that there are several different kinds of freedom of association protected by the First Amendment, and they are not all made equal.

Greg reviews some of the relevant case law on freedom of association and argues that in order for fraternities to guard their individual rights, they should establish themselves as more than simply social clubs. Read Greg's whole piece at The Huffington Post.

Harvard, India, Swamy, and the Right to Advocate for Radical Social Change

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Last week, FIRE wrote Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust after learning from The Harvard Crimson that the university was giving "serious attention" to student calls to fire economics professor Subramanian Swamy because of his expression in a column he wrote for a newspaper in India. The news of FIRE's involvement has gone worldwide, appearing in the Times of IndiaDeccan Herald (India), Oman Tribune, North Korea Times (yes, that's weird), and elsewhere, mainly via an Indo-Asian News Service article based on an update in the Crimson.

Swamy's July 16 column, in response to a terrorist bombing a few days earlier in Mumbai, offered ideas on how to "negate the political goals of Islamic terrorism in India," including the ideas that India "[e]nact a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion," "[r]emove the masjid [mosque] in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites," and "declare India a Hindu Rashtra [nation] in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus."

Those ideas seem to represent radical social and cultural change for India if they were implemented. And in the United States, at least, the ...

Harvard, India, Swamy, and the Right to Advocate for Radical Social Change

Monday, August 1st, 2011
Last week, FIRE wrote Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust after learning from The Harvard Crimson that the university was giving "serious attention" to student calls to fire economics professor Subramanian Swamy because of his expression in a column he wrote for a newspaper in India. The news of FIRE's involvement has gone worldwide, appearing in the Times of IndiaDeccan Herald (India), Oman Tribune, North Korea Times (yes, that's weird), and elsewhere, mainly via an Indo-Asian News Service article based on an update in the Crimson. Swamy's July 16 column, in response to a terrorist bombing a few days earlier in Mumbai, offered ideas on how to "negate the political goals of Islamic terrorism in India," including the ideas that India "[e]nact a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion," "[r]emove the masjid [mosque] in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites," and "declare India a Hindu Rashtra [nation] in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus." Those ideas seem to represent radical social and cultural change for India if they were implemented. And in the United States, at least, the right ...

First Amendment Rodeo 7/11-7/25, 2011

Monday, August 1st, 2011
A round-up of intellectual freedom issues in the news Privacy/Technology Lengthy Privacy Policy Discussions Leads to No Changes at Library Anti Child-Porn Act Runs Into Trouble Over Privacy Senators Ask Spy Chief: Are You Tracking Us Through Our iPhones? Should warrantless GPS tracking be allowed?  USA Today Opposing view: Warrantless GPS tracking needed: Jon Adler How Facebook Secretly Aids Government Searches Court OKs Airport Body Scanners, Rejects Constitutional Challenge See also NY Times See also EPIC Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle Free Speech Library cancels White Pride Meeting See also Some parents don’t think porn belongs in library Gloucester library’s gay pride exhibit causes conflict Censorship/Books Richland School Board reverses course on book ban Woman wins appeal to have ‘Diaper Baby’ book banned Tea Party Says Textbook Is Pro-Islam See also:   Virginia Department of Education Responds To Tea Party Complaints D303 parent joins conservatives pushing for textbook ban Albemarle School Board to vote on expelling ‘A Study in Scarlet’ See also: School Board Likely to Remove Challenged Book Committee Member Explains Decision on Controversial Boook Board Delays Decision On Controversial Book School Board Delays Vote on Challenged Book Maryland prison bans lifer’s book See also: The right ...

Fourth Circuit Expands Schools’ Abilities to Punish Off-Campus Speech

Friday, July 29th, 2011
In a decision setting back student free speech rights, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its opinion in the case of Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools earlier this week. In 2005, Kara Kowalski, then a senior at Musselman High School in West Virginia, created a group webpage on MySpace called "S.A.S.H." While she claimed that it stood for "Students Against Slut Herpes," another student admitted that it actually stood for "Students Against Shay's Herpes" -- Shay (referred to as "Shay N." in the opinion) being a fellow student at Musselman High.  After Kowalski created the page and invited others to join and post content, a number of participants (mostly fellow Musselman students) posted derogatory images and comments relating to Shay. Shay's parents complained about the page to the Musselman administration, which decided after investigation that Kowalski had created a "hate website" in contravention of school anti-bullying policies. Kowalski was suspended from school, and placed on a "social suspension," which restricted her ability to participate in certain school social activities. Musselman High School's policy, under which Kowalski was punished, prohibited Any form of . . . sexual harassment . . . or any bullying or intimidation ...

“Banned in Bama” Wine Label Appears in Charlottesville

Friday, July 29th, 2011
  In 2009, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board banned the sale of the wine Cycles Gladiator because the label on the bottle violated the Board’s advertising prohibition of “person[s] posed in an immoral or sensuous manner,” a decision that earned the Board a Jefferson Muzzle in 2010.  In October 29, 2011, attendees of the Tribute to Robert O’Neil will be invited to partake of the forbidden wine “banned in Bama.”  In anticipation of that event, artist Sam Welty recreated the Cycles Gladiator label — in chalk — on the First Amendment Monument in Charlottesville.  See how he did it.  

Vague Anti-Stalking Law Threatens Protected Speech Online

Friday, July 29th, 2011
San Francisco - EFF filed a friend-of-the-court brief today urging a federal court to block the government's use of the federal anti-stalking law to prosecute a man for posting criticism of a public figure to Twitter. At issue is a federal law originally enacted to criminalize traveling across state lines for the purpose of stalking. In 2005, the law was modified to make the "intentional infliction of emotional distress" by the use of "any interactive computer service" a crime. In this case, the government has presented the novel and dangerous theory that the use of a public communication service like Twitter to criticize a well-known individual can result in criminal liability based on the personal sensibilities of the person being criticized. "Wielding the threat of criminal sanctions to punish the pointed, online criticism of public figures is not only bad policy, it is unconstitutional," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "While true threats can and should be opposed, public speech about prominent people must be vigorously protected." In the brief, EFF argues that an indictment of a Twitter user pursuant to the federal anti-stalking statute violates the First Amendment, not only because the speech is protected, but also because ...

AAUP to Office for Civil Rights: New Evidence Requirement Conflicts with Our Standards, Jeopardizes Academic Freedom and Tenure

Friday, July 29th, 2011
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has joined FIRE in asking the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to rescind its new mandate that colleges use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof when adjudicating cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault. The AAUP's stance on this issue defends fundamental fairness and due process in higher education, and we are grateful for this important support. In a June 27, 2011, letter to OCR, Gregory F. Scholtz, Director of the AAUP's Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, explained that the requirement demands a "lower standard of proof than what we consider necessary to protect academic freedom and tenure," and noted that the lowered standard conflicts with AAUP recommendations. (The AAUP has not commented on other new OCR efforts in this area, here focusing only on the issue regarding evidentiary standards.) As regular Torch readers know, OCR is demanding that nearly all colleges in America use our judiciary's lowest standard of proof, the "preponderance of the evidence" standard--basically, a mere 50.01% certainty of guilt. But this demand will ensure that a lot more innocent students and faculty members will be found guilty of sexual harassment or ...

A Case for Pseudonyms

Friday, July 29th, 2011
pseu·do·nym [sood-n-im] –noun a fictitious name used by an author to conceal his or her identity; pen name. There are myriad reasons why individuals may wish to use a name other than the one they were born with. They may be concerned about threats to their lives or livelihoods, or they may risk political or economic retribution. They may wish to prevent discrimination or they may use a name that’s easier to pronounce or spell in a given culture. Online, the reasons multiply. Internet culture has long encouraged the use of "handles" or "user names," pseudonyms that may or may not be tied to a person’s offline identity. Longtime online inhabitants may have handles that have spanned over twenty years. Pseudonymous speech has played a critical role throughout history as well. From the literary efforts of George Eliot and Mark Twain to the explicitly political advocacy of Publius in the Federalist Papers or Junius' letters to the Public Advertiser in 18th century London, people have contributed strongly to public debate under pseudonyms and continue to do so to this day. A new debate around pseudonymity on online platforms has arisen as a result of the identification policy of Google+, which ...

House Committee Approves Bill Mandating That Internet Companies Spy on Their Users

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Despite serious privacy concerns being voiced by both Democratic and Republican leaders and by thousands of digital rights activists using EFF's Action Center, this afternoon the House Judiciary Committee voted 19 to 10 to recommend passage of H.R. 1981. That bill contains a mandatory data retention provision that would require your Internet service providers to retain 12 months' worth of personal information that could be used to identify what web sites you visit and what content you post online. EFF had previously joined with 29 other civil liberties and consumer privacy groups in signing a letter to the Committee members that condemned the bill as a "direct assault on the privacy of Internet users."

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston had this to say about today's vote:

The data retention mandate in this bill would treat every Internet user like a criminal and threaten the online privacy and free speech rights of every American, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have recognized. Requiring Internet companies to redesign and reconfigure their systems to facilitate government surveillance of Americans' expressive activities is simply un-American. Such a scheme would be as objectionable to our Founders as the requiring of ...

The Humble Indie Bundle: Epic Win for Creators, Customers, and Digital Civil Liberties

Friday, July 29th, 2011

The ground-breaking Humble Indie Bundle asks customers to pay whatever price they want for five DRM-free games, and then gives customers the option of distributing their donation among the developers, promoters, EFF, and the Child's Play charity. Since first naming EFF as a non-profit beneficiary in 2010, the smart and savvy folks at Humble Bundle have rallied freedom-minded gamers throughout the world to donate over half a million dollars for the defense of digital civil liberties.

In some ways, EFF wouldn't be around to fight for users' rights if it weren't for gamers. In 1990, EFF sued the Secret Service for the unconstitutional search and seizure of computers from Steve Jackson Games, a roleplaying and tabletop game company. In the decades since then, we've continued to fight for gamers' rights, most recently urging the Supreme Court to strike down a California law banning the sale of "violent" video games. (They did!)

Last year, donations from Humble Indie Bundles made up 14% of EFF's total revenue, resources that were put to use immediately to defend individuals from bullying lawsuits, educate courts nationwide about online free speech and privacy issues, highlight important digital civil liberties conflicts worldwide, ...

Harvard Must Remember Free Speech Promises, End Investigation of Professor’s Newspaper Column

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
FIRE has written to Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust after learning from The Harvard Crimson that the university was giving "serious attention" to student calls to fire economics professor Subramanian Swamy because of his expression in a column he wrote for a newspaper in India. On July 16, in the Indian newspaper Daily News & Analysis, Swamy wrote the column in response to a terrorist bombing a few days earlier in Mumbai, offering strongly-worded ideas on how to "negate the political goals of Islamic terrorism in India." Among his ideas were that India "[e]nact a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion," "[r]emove the masjid [mosque] in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites," and "declare India a Hindu Rashtra [nation] in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus." Students at Harvard began circulating a petition calling for Swamy's ouster, demanding "that the Harvard administration repudiate Swamy's remarks and terminate his association with the University." More than 270 had signed the petition as of this afternoon. The right to free speech includes, of course, the right to advocate for reduced free speech rights ...

EFF Warns Congress: Data Retention Would Endanger Privacy, Gain Little

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

EFF has joined civil liberties and consumer organizations in publicly opposing H.R. 1981, a bill that would threaten online privacy and anonymous speech by requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to retain logs of customer-identifying information that can be tied to the web sites that you read and the content that you post online.

The House Judiciary Committee will likely be voting this afternoon on whether to send the bill to the House floor, so there's still time to oppose this bill: contact your Representative now.

A coalition letter sent yesterday to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on behalf of 30 civil liberties and consumer advocacy organizations criticized Section 4 of the proposed bill, which requires ISPs to keep hold of temporarily assigned network addresses, or IP addresses, in case law enforcement officials demand them for any reason. These addresses can be used to identify you personally online and, when the right information is stored, may be used to track what websites you visit and what content you post. When access to such valuable information is made readily available, the data becomes ripe for abuse by law enforcement officials. It is particularly troublesome because the laws designed to protect the private ...

Bill Willingham Auctions DOWN THE MYSTERLY RIVER to Benefit CBLDF

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Bill Willingham is the writer of the ever-popular and award-winning series Fables. He has also authored prose spin-offs of the series, including Down the Mysterly River, which will be in stores in mid-September.

To support CBLDF, Willingham has donated an advance reading copy of the book, which you can bid on now!

During Comic-Con, Willingham took a moment to talk to CBLDF about the donation:

About Down the Mysterly River:

Max “the Wolf” is a top-notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering, and a master of being prepared. So it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat) — all of whom talk — and who are as clueless as Max.

Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds. Armed with powerful blue swords and known as the Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey. For what purpose, Max can’t ...

American Association of University Professors Asks Office for Civil Rights to Withdraw New Evidence Requirement

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has joined FIRE in asking the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to rescind its new mandate that colleges use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof when adjudicating cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault. In a June 27 letter to OCR, Gregory F. Scholtz, Director of the AAUP's Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, explained that the requirement demands a "lower standard of proof than what we consider necessary to protect academic freedom and tenure," and noted that the lowered standard conflicts with AAUP recommendations. (The AAUP has not commented on other new OCR efforts in this area.) The AAUP's stance on OCR's new evidentiary standard is welcome support of fundamental fairness and due process in higher education.    

American Association of University Professors Asks Office for Civil Rights to Withdraw New Evidence Requirement

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has joined FIRE in asking the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to rescind its new mandate that colleges use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof when adjudicating cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault. In a June 27 letter to OCR, Gregory F. Scholtz, Director of the AAUP's Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance, explained that the requirement demands a "lower standard of proof than what we consider necessary to protect academic freedom and tenure," and noted that the lowered standard conflicts with AAUP recommendations. (The AAUP has not commented on other new OCR efforts in this area.) The AAUP's stance on OCR's new evidentiary standard is welcome support of fundamental fairness and due process in higher education.

Register now for OIF webinar for academic libraries!

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The first offering in OIF’s “Intellectual Freedom Summer School” series is a webinar on current issues in intellectual freedom today that are relevant to academic libraries. “Hot Topics in Academic Libraries” will take place Tuesday, August 2 from 10-11 a.m. Central and provide an overview of the following issues as they apply to academic settings:

  • Privacy and Technology
  • Collection Development
  • Private and Public Academic Libraries – what’s the difference?

Speakers: Barbara Jones, Director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, and author of Intellectual Freedom in Academic Libraries; and Mike Wright, Head of Acquisitions and Rapid Cataloging at the University of Iowa Libraries, and member of the City Council of Iowa City. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, attorney and Deputy Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, will be available for the Q&A.

“Intellectual Freedom Summer School” sessions cost $39 for ALA members; $49 for nonmembers; and $95 for groups of two or more attendees at the same location.

To register online, click here.

To register by fax, please print and submit the PDF registration form here.

For more information, visit http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/oifprograms/webinars/index.cfm. Contact Angela Maycock at amaycock@ala.org with any questions about Intellectual Freedom Summer School offerings.

Victory for a School and its Students: Lack of Censorship Prevents Libel Suit Against School District

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
In a tremendous victory for the First Amendment rights of high school journalists, the Student Press Law Center reports that a Washington state court judge has ruled that public high schools are not liable for the content of student-run newspapers. In March 2009, students writing for The Roosevelt News, a student-run publication at Roosevelt High School, published a piece suggesting that a Seattle landlord had been accused of "racist renting policies." Notably, the school was already aware of, and sensitive to, the students' First Amendment rights: the paper has an advisor, who merely advises, and takes no editorial or censorship role. The landlord then filed a libel lawsuit against the school, arguing that the students were agents of the school, and therefore that the school should have censored the alleged libel. Impressively, the school argued back that even if the school was liable for its students, they still could not have censored the paper due to the students' First Amendment rights. The judge would have none of the landlord's arguments and granted summary judgment in favor of the school. But the judge didn't stop at finding that the articles did not contain actionable libel. She went even further, ruling ...

Greg in ‘The Huffington Post’: Are Fraternities Disastrous for Free Speech on Campus?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
In his newest article for The Huffington Post, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff examines how fraternities are often the most targeted and the least sympathetic victims of censorship on campus—and the repercussions this dynamic has for the free speech rights of all students. Highlighting the recent Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) case at Yale University, Greg urges fraternities like DKE to stand up for their rights:
Yes, the university may still punish you for behavior that actually breaks Yale's rules, or it may redefine its charges as hazing, rather than harassment, and perhaps retry the case, but this case has become much bigger than you. It's true that your members have provided the fraternity with an extremely unsympathetic set of facts with which to argue your case, but keep in mind that the principles at stake are the same ones that allow students to question authority and ask the kind of provocative questions that need to be asked on a college campus.
Read Greg's entire piece at The Huffington Post.

Forced DNA Collection Without Search Warrant Violates Privacy Rights

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
The forced collection of DNA samples from arrestees without search warrants violates their Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told a federal appeals court in an amicus brief filed Monday. A federal law mandates DNA collection as a condition for bail for people who have been arrested for felonies. The FBI receives the DNA samples, conducts an analysis, and places a profile into CODIS, a national database. Those who are not eventually convicted of a crime must make a request if they want their information removed from the FBI's system, while the data collected without cause from other individuals remains permanently. In its amicus brief filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, EFF argues that this collection and storage is unconstitutional, violating the Fourth Amendment prohibition on baseless search and seizure of private information. "DNA reveals an extraordinary amount of private information about you—your family background, your current health, your future propensity for disease, and possibly even your behavioral tendencies," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "This data is bound to get even more sensitive as technology advances and we learn more about DNA." The widespread data collection mandated by this unconstitutional law was ...

Can a College that Protects Free Speech be ‘Gay-Friendly’?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Some college administrators seem to incorrectly believe that the only way to develop a "welcoming" environment for LGBT students is to limit student speech rights by prohibiting and punishing language that officials find to be offensive or derogatory. For example, at William Paterson University, an anti-harassment policy was used to stifle the private religious expression of a Muslim student-employee who had emailed a professor requesting that he not be sent any more emails "about 'Connie and Sally' and 'Adam and Steve.'" This policy may have been intended to provide a "welcoming" environment for LGBT students, but what it did was censor protected student speech, in this case making the environment decidedly unwelcoming for a traditional believer in Islam.

That's a trade-off that does not need to be made (and that a free society shouldn't make). There's no need to sacrifice free speech for a campus to be accepting of LGBT students.

As evidence of this, the University of Pennsylvania was recently ranked first in Newsweek's list of the "best gay-friendly schools" in the United States. At the same time, Penn is one of just 14 universities in the country that maintains policies fully honoring its students' ...

Summer school is in session for intellectual freedom!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

This August, OIF is offering “Intellectual Freedom Summer School,” a series of online learning opportunities with specific programs for public, academic, and school librarians. These hour-long, interactive sessions will focus on current issues and feature speakers from OIF as well as practicing librarians in the field. The Summer School courses will be:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 2: “Intellectual Freedom Summer School: Hot Topics in Academic Libraries” featuring Barbara Jones, Deborah Caldwell-Stone and Mike Wright
  • Tuesday, Aug. 9: “Intellectual Freedom Summer School: Privacy Law, Ethics and Policy in the Library” featuring Deborah Caldwell-Stone
  • Thursday, Aug. 18: “Intellectual Freedom Summer School: Hot Topics in School Libraries” featuring Angela Maycock and Frances Jacobson Harris
  • Wednesday, Aug. 24: “Intellectual Freedom Summer School: Collection Diversity and Self-Censorship” featuring Angela Maycock
  • Tuesday, Aug. 30: “Intellectual Freedom Summer School: Hot Topics in Public Libraries” featuring Angela Maycock and Kent Oliver

“Intellectual Freedom Summer School” sessions cost $39 for ALA members; $49 for nonmembers; and $95 for groups of two or more attendees at the same location. Registration is now available for the August 2 and August 9 webinars, and will be open for the remaining sessions on Wednesday, July 27. For more information and to register, visit http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/oifprograms/webinars/index.cfm.

FIRE Guides Now Available in HTML Format

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
FIRE's Guides to Student Rights on Campus, which have been viewed or downloaded hundreds of thousands of times in PDF or print form, are now all available online in the web-native HTML format. FIRE's guides have been widely praised as a key part of our effort to educate the public on the significance of free speech, protect victims of campus censorship, and ensure that the urge to restrict speech is eclipsed by a recognition of the importance of open inquiry and debate at our universities. Put our guides on your must-read list today, and go no further than the comfort of your own computer!

FIRE Guides Now Available in HTML Format

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
FIRE's Guides to Student Rights on Campus, which have been viewed or downloaded hundreds of thousands of times in PDF or print form, are now all available online in the web-native HTML format. FIRE's guides have been widely praised as a key part of our effort to educate the public on the significance of free speech, protect victims of campus censorship, and ensure that the urge to restrict speech is eclipsed by a recognition of the importance of open inquiry and debate at our universities. Put our guides on your must-read list today, and go no further than the comfort of your own computer!

The First Amendment Day ‘Liberty Tree’ at Iowa State

Monday, July 25th, 2011
Photo by Kelsey Kremer, Iowa State Daily Back in April, FIRE Vice President of Programs Adam Kissel traveled to Ames, Iowa, to speak at the First Amendment Day 2011 celebration at Iowa State University (ISU). Here he is with ISU student Ivy Christianson and Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center Frank LoMonte, helping plant the "Liberty Tree" on April 7 on ISU's Central Campus. According to the Iowa State Daily, the Liberty Tree was planted "as part of the Liberty Tree initiative, which promotes First Amendment activities across the nation." Gene Policinski, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the First Amendment Center, described this initiative on the occasion at Iowa State; it is an effort of the "1 for All" First Amendment campaign, of which FIRE is a member.

ENCRYPTION SAVES

Monday, July 25th, 2011
Say hello to EFF's second, limited-edition, DEF CON membership t-shirt! Only 340 premium-level donors who attend this year's DEF CON 19 in Las Vegas will be able to get these new "ENCRYPTION SAVES" shirts, specially designed by Joe Alterio of the creative charity Robots & Monsters. The front is emblazoned with a mashup of the DEF CON and EFF logos in a subtle homage to our mutual support (as well as a shout-out to EFF's advocacy for remix culture and fair use). Under UV light, the orange, white and blue design on the shirt's back glows white with acid green bits of code. In complete darkness, a secret message is revealed, illuminating the plain text truth that strong encryption saves lives. Mouse over the image below to experience the glow-in-the-dark awesomeness.
If you can't make it to Vegas, take heart. We have lots of other great swag available when you join or renew online, including our Bit-Blaster Mecha t-shirt! Hope to see you in Vegas!

Widener Law Prof Fully Cleared of ‘Harassment’ and ‘Discrimination’ Charges for Using Hypothetical Scenarios

Monday, July 25th, 2011

A unanimous hearing panel at Widener University School of Law in Delaware has fully cleared Professor Lawrence Connell of charges of "harassment" and "discrimination" for his use of the term "black folks" in class and for using law school dean Linda L. Ammons, who is black, as a character in hypothetical scenarios during lectures. A faculty panel had recommended that Widener drop its attempts to dismiss the tenured professor, but administrators reportedly induced students to issue further complaints to keep the prosecution going. Represented by attorney Thomas S. Neuberger, Connell is suing Ammons and Widener for defamation.

Connell's ordeal began on December 10, 2010, when Vice Dean J. Patrick Kelly presented him with a binder full of charges alleging violations of Widener's Faculty Member Discrimination and Harassment Code. Widener charged Connell with a long list of supposed violations, many of which were redundant. One of the most frivolous charges was that he was wrong to use the term "black folks" to describe African-Americans, which Widener apparently saw as necessarily racist despite the fact that the term is widely used by people including President Barack Obama. Other allegations involved Connell's use of hypothetical examples of violent crimes in his criminal ...