Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Faced With Hateful Protest and Calls for Censorship, Indiana U. Admins Reaffirm Free Speech Rights

Friday, September 6th, 2013

There is little that will make a full-time free speech advocate prouder of his university than when the school comes out strongly in defense of free expression. Last week, in response to a protest by the campus’ registered chapter of the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN), administrators at my alma mater, Indiana University (IU), did just that.

Though reports from my old stomping ground maintain that the group’s protest outside of a local bookstore was hateful and offensive, IU Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs James Wimbush correctly noted that members of TYN have a right to publicly express themselves.

“This is a place where we allow for the diversity of thought, the diversity of opinion,” Wimbush told the Indiana Daily Student (IDS). “We don’t necessarily agree with what this particular group is spouting. But unless they violate the Code of Conduct, unless they violate the criteria of being a group, we do allow students to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

IU Dean of Students Harold “Pete” Goldsmith echoed Wimbush’s sentiment.

“I’m very sorry that people were offended by what was chalked or what was said,” Goldsmith told the IDS. “It’s not in the spirit of ...

Virginia Tech Supports the Troops and the First Amendment at the Same Time

Friday, September 6th, 2013

My favorite bumper sticker is an American flag with the caption: “Think. It’s patriotic.” That’s essentially what Steven Salaita, a professor of English at Virginia Tech, was trying to say when he posted commentary on Salon arguing against uncritical support of the military. But he chose to do so in a deliberately provocative way, framing his essay as an explanation for why he declined to donate his change (18 cents) from a convenience store purchase “to support the troops.” The result, according to The Washington Post, was a “backlash” against him that has grown from “outrage on social media into calls for Salaita’s firing, his deportation and death[.]” Luckily, none of the threats of violence have materialized.

Professor Salaita believes it’s his job to come up with ideas to make people think. This incident is yet another frustrating example of an important discussion—whether we as a nation are supporting our troops in a meaningful way—disintegrating into name-calling and threats because the author dared to voice some views that some might find offensive.

But there is a silver lining: namely, Virginia Tech’s response to the controversy. The school issued a statement that is not what FIRE would have written, but ...

Obscenity Case Files: Stanley v. Georgia

Friday, September 6th, 2013

In previous editions of Obscenity Case Files we looked at cases involving mailing obscene circulars and stores selling obscene books, but we have yet to explore the private possession of obscene materials in one’s own home. In Stanley v. Georgia (1969), the Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to prohibit the mere private possession of obscene materials.

(c) TheaterSeatStore.com

(c) TheaterSeatStore.com

After Robert Eli Stanley was convicted for illegal gambling activity, police obtained a warrant to search his house for gambling paraphernalia. Although they didn’t find what they were looking for, they did come across three reels of 8mm film in a bedroom dresser. Finding a projector in a nearby room, the police viewed the films and discovered that they contained pornography. The film reels were declared obscene and seized by the police, Stanley was then convicted under a Georgia law for knowingly possessing obscene matter. The case was appealed until it eventually made its way to the United States Supreme Court, where the decision was unanimously overturned.

All the obscenity cases that the Supreme Court had dealt with priot to Stanley v. Georgia involved the commercial distribution of obscene material. Justice Marshall, in writing the majority opinion, recognizes the ...

Speech Code of the Month: Syracuse University

Friday, September 6th, 2013

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2013: Syracuse University

Syracuse has just one “red light” speech code on its books, but it’s a doozy. The university’s Computing and Electronic Communications Policy (PDF) prohibits using its computer systems to send “offensive messages,” including “sexually, ethnically, racially, or religiously offensive messages.” This broad policy could apply to virtually any online expression that another person finds offensive, including earnest discussions of politically charged topics like immigration, affirmative action, and gay marriage. As such, it is wholly inconsistent with Syracuse’s commitment to “freedom of discussion” and “the expression of dissent.”

FIRE’s concern over Syracuse students’ online free speech rights is far from hypothetical: In the past three years, the university has threatened a law student with serious disciplinary action for a blog satirizing law school life and expelled an education graduate student for complaining on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader. 

Last December, Syracuse’s student newspaper, The Daily Orange, ran a story about the policy and about the university’s red light rating from FIRE. In that article, Syracuse College of Law Professor Lisa Dolak suggested that the policy “should be ...

Cartoon Movement Gives Voice to Cartoonists Worldwide

Friday, September 6th, 2013
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Tjeerd Royaards (Source: Sampsonia Way)

Cartoon Movement is an international platform for cartoonists, editors, and fans of editorial cartooning and political satire to come together as a community. Founded in 2010 by Dutch journalists Thomas Loudon and Arend Jan van den Beld, the website unites cartoonists across the globe and promotes a financially stable future for cartoonists. Additionally, Cartoon Movement draws attention to issues of censorship that comic artists and journalists are facing throughout the world.

Tjeerd Royaards, an editorial cartoonist who joined Loudon and Jan van den Beld in launching Cartoon Movement, spoke with Olivia Stransky at Sampsonia Way about the mission of the site and his own experiences with controversial comics. Royaards shared that one of the standout moments of the organization so far was being able to help Serif Arafa, an Egyptian cartoonist living in the United Arab Emirates during the Arab Spring:

When there was an Internet blackout in Egypt, he was one of the few cartoonists able to draw about Egypt from an insider’s perspective and share them outside of the country.

In addition to a presence in Egypt, Royaards described the diversity of other contributors to the site:

We have about ten cartoonists ...

Leaks Show NSA is Working to Undermine Encrypted Communications, Here’s How You Can Fight Back

Friday, September 6th, 2013

In one of the most significant leaks to date regarding National Security Agency (NSA) spying, the New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica reported today that the NSA has gone to extraordinary lengths to secretly undermine our secure communications infrastructure, collaborating with GCHQ (Britain's NSA equivalent) and a select few intelligence organizations worldwide.

These frightening revelations imply that the NSA has not only pursued an aggressive program of obtaining private encryption keys for commercial products—allowing the organization to decrypt vast amounts of Internet traffic that use these products—but that the agency has also attempted to put backdoors into cryptographic standards designed to secure users' communications. Additionally, the leaked documents make clear that companies have been complicit in allowing this unprecedented spying to take place, though the identities of cooperating companies remain unknown.

Many important details about this program, codenamed Bullrun, are still unclear. For example, what communications are targeted? What service providers or software developers are cooperating with the NSA? What percentage of private encryption keys of targeted commercial products are successfully obtained? Does this store of private encryption keys (presumably procured through theft or company cooperation) contain those of popular web-based communication providers like Facebook and ...

Ninth Circuit: Professor’s Speech Protected Under First Amendment

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

In a victory for free speech on campus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling yesterday addressing a question raised but not answered by the Supreme Court of the United States in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006): whether the First Amendment protects public college faculty members’ speech “related to scholarship or teaching,” despite the Court’s holding in Garcetti that public employees may be disciplined for “speech made pursuant to the employee’s official duties.” Writing for a unanimous Ninth Circuit panel in yesterday’s opinion (PDF), Judge William Fletcher stated unequivocally that “Garcetti does not—indeed, consistent with the First Amendment, cannot—apply to teaching and academic writing that are performed ‘pursuant to the official duties’ of a teacher and professor.”

This ruling, Demers v. Austin, is an important victory for public university professors in the nine states that the Ninth Circuit comprises and affirms First Amendment principles in an area of law left unsettled after Garcetti.

The First Amendment, of course, normally protects citizens from punishment or retaliation by the government in response to speech. But the Court has long recognized that when acting as an employer, the government may exercise degrees of control ...

Universities on the Cusp of a Better Speech Code Rating, Part 3: Notre Dame

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

As FIRE wraps up our annual review of university speech codes for our upcoming speech code report, we are running a blog series about colleges and universities that are just one policy away from dropping their poor, “red light,” speech code ratings. If these universities revise their red light policies before our data collection period ends on September 30, they will earn an improved speech code rating in this year’s report.

Today’s featured school is the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s policy on Responsible Use of Information Technologies (PDF) provides (emphasis added):

Never use University resources to post, view, print, store, or send obscene, pornographic, sexually explicit, or offensive material, except for officially approved, legitimate academic or University purposes.

While Notre Dame is a private university, and thus not legally bound by the First Amendment, it promises that:

Notre Dame students and student organizations are free to examine and to discuss all questions of interest to them and to express opinions publicly and privately.

But this is not freedom at all if it does not extend to the expression of opinions that others find “offensive”! Indeed, as we noted in last week’s blog post, ...

Back to School with Comics: CBLDF Presents Manga

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Manga-is-not-a-crime-300x300Manga is worldwide phenomenon: One of the most widely read types of literature in its home country of Japan, it has crossed the world to become a very popular category here in the United States.

With burgeoning collections in libraries and bookstores around the U.S., manga has faced an increasing number of challenges and bans (some of them even in Japan!). CBLDF has been on the forefront of defending manga here in the U.S. and abroad. Executive Director Charles Brownstein recently traveled to Japan for the Manga Freedom speaking tour.

Often, manga is challenged because of its foreign source — many of the people who want manga banned simply don’t understand it. CBLDF works to educate people about manga, and recently released CBLDF Presents Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, an authoritative yet accessible handbook designed to help librarians, educators, and parents navigate the vast and popular field of manga.

Made possible with a grant from the Gaiman Foundation and published by Dark Horse, CBLDF Presents Manga is a handbook designed to provide a concise and informed overview of manga — its history, genres, and issues. This educational work delves into the history of manga, its ...

Alabama Lawmaker, Board of Ed Members Call for Ban on Bluest Eye

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

bluesteyeOnly a few months after Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye was challenged in an Adams County, Colorado, school district, an Alabama state senator is calling the book “just completely objectionable” and says that it should be removed from classrooms and school libraries. Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) called for the ban last week, citing references to rape, incest, and child molestation.

Holtzclaw, who is currently running for re-election, ruffled state and local GOP feathers earlier this year because he failed to support a bill that would have blocked implementation of Common Core curriculum standards in Alabama. Common Core began as a bipartisan effort by governors and state education commissioners to develop standard nationwide benchmarks for K-12 students in public schools and has been adopted in 45 states (including Alabama) and the District of Columbia. But the actual implementation of the standards has met with resistance from some conservatives, who see Common Core as a federal takeover of education even though it’s not a federal program.

Since The Bluest Eye is listed as an exemplar text for meeting the 11th grade English Language Arts standards, out-of-context excerpts from the novel have recently been turning up on right-wing blogs and resistance ...

Hundreds of Pages of NSA Spying Documents to be Released As Result of EFF Lawsuit

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

In a major victory in one of EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, the Justice Department conceded yesterday that it will release hundreds of pages of documents, including FISA court opinions, related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law the NSA has relied upon for years to mass collect the phone records of millions of innocent Americans.

In a court filing, the Justice Department, responding to a judge’s order, said that they would make public a host of material that will “total hundreds of pages” by next week, including:

[O]rders and opinions of the FISC issued from January 1, 2004, to June 6, 2011, that contain a significant legal interpretation of the government’s authority or use of its authority under Section 215; and responsive “significant documents, procedures, or legal analyses incorporated into FISC opinions or orders and treated as binding by the Department of Justice or the National Security Agency.”

While the government finally released a white paper detailing its expansive (and unconstitutional) interpretation of Section 215 last month, more important FISA court opinions adopting at least part of that interpretation have remained secret. The results of EFF’s FOIA lawsuit ...

The Cost of Censorship in Libraries: 10 Years Under the Children’s Internet Protection Act

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the enforcement of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which brought new levels of Internet censorship to libraries across the country. CIPA was signed into law in 2000 and found constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003. The law is supposed to encourage public libraries and schools to filter child pornography and obscene or “harmful to minors” images from the library’s Internet connection in exchange for continued federal funding. Unfortunately, as Deborah Caldwell-Stone explains in Filtering and the First Amendment, aggressive interpretations of this law have resulted in extensive and unnecessary censorship in libraries, often because libraries go beyond the legal requirements of CIPA when implementing content filters. As a result, students and library patrons across the country are routinely and unnecessarily blocked from accessing constitutionally protected websites.

First, libraries don’t actually have to comply with CIPA, which only applies to libraries that accept e-rate discounts or Library Services and Technology Act grants for Internet access; libraries that turn down this funding need not comply with the law. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in San Jose has successfully fought initiatives to install Internet filters, even at the cost of ...

EFF Files Brief on Behalf of Rep. Sensenbrenner in NSA Spying Case

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
Original Patriot Act Author Says Call-Data Collection Exceeds Congressional Intent

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a brief on behalf of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author of the original USA PATRIOT Act, in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the National Security Agency (NSA). In the brief, Sensenbrenner argues that Congress never intended the Patriot Act to permit the NSA's collection of the records of every telephone call made to, from and within the United States. Sensenbrenner urges the court to deny the NSA's motion to dismiss and grant the ACLU's motion for a preliminary injunction, which would halt the program until the case is decided.

In early June, The Guardian published a classified document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden detailing how the agency is vacuuming up call data from the Verizon phone network under the auspices of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Within days, the ACLU filed a lawsuit to defend Americans' rights to privacy, due process, and free speech. Meanwhile, a coalition of legislators—led by Sensenbrenner, who served as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when the Patriot Act passed—openly criticized ...

Finland Censors Anti-Censorship Site

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

from-Frank-Millers-CBLDF-imageOn August 28, the Supreme Administrative Court in Finland ruled that Finnish police adding a prominent anti-censorship website to its blacklist was a perfectly reasonable, not in any way illegal thing to do. Except was it?

The site in question, lapsiporno.info (which translates to “child porn dot info”), is a site that examines the absurd bureaucracy of Finland’s censorship legislation that was implemented in 2006 as a way to block child porn sites from the national ISP. The site, founded by Matti Nikki, contains absolutely zero child pornography. What it does contain is a list of websites being blocked illegally for nebulous reasons, except that someone, somewhere, somehow thought they were vaguely related to child porn. While the Finnish government is happy to block sites, they aren’t as transparent regarding how to have your site reinstated once it has been targeted. Nikki’s site examined these idiosyncrasies and was subsequently included in the blacklist.

Nikki sued the National Bureau of Investigation and won by a loophole, but not because he was innocent. From techdirt:

[T]he Administrative Court of Helsinki ruled that inclusion of his site was illegal on the grounds that the block list was meant to block only sites ...

Back to School with Comics: Raising a Reader!

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

RasingaReaderCoverOur monthly column Using Graphic Novels in Education provides some great tips for using graphic novels in the classroom, but how can you use comics to get your kids reading from a young age? CBLDF’s publication for parents and teachers – Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read! — offers tips on how comics can foster a love for reading!

Written by Dr. Meryl Jaffe with an introduction by multiple Newbery Medal honoree Jennifer L. Holm (Babymouse, Squish), this resource includes illustrations by Eisner Award winner Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama) and Eisner Award nominee Matthew Holm (Babymouse, Squish).

“Comics are an incredible tool for helping create a genuine love of reading,” said Jennifer L. Holm, who also serves on the CBLDF Board of Directors.  “With Raising A Reader!, we set out to create a resource all about what graphic novels offer kids that includes vital information about how to read comics, how to create reading dialogues with them, and how comics are important tools for 21st century learners. We’re very proud of the work Dr. Jaffe has done to make Raising A Reader! an accessible yet ...

An Open Letter to John Kerry: Tell Ethiopia to Release Eskinder Nega and Stop Imprisoning Bloggers

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

"Individuals can be penalised, made to suffer (oh, how I miss my child) and even killed. But democracy is a destiny of humanity which can not be averted. It can be delayed but not defeated… I sleep in peace, even if only in the company of lice, behind bars."
      - a letter attributed to imprisoned blogger Eskinder Nega, serving 18 years for journalism in Ethiopia

September 4, 2013

Dear Secretary of State John Kerry,

This month marks the second anniversary of Eskinder Nega’s imprisonment.  When you visited Ethiopia in May, Eskinder Nega had already been imprisoned – and thus silenced - for over a year. It’s time for the United States to use its considerable influence to vigorously and directly advocate Nega’s freedom and, in the process, to promote free expression and independent journalism throughout Ethiopia.

Now is a crucial moment for the Secretary to speak out. Over the weekend, Ethiopian security forces in Addis Ababa brutally suppressed a demonstration calling for political reforms and the release of jailed journalists and dissidents.

Eskinder Nega is an internationally recognized Ethiopian reporter-turned-blogger.  His award-winning journalism on political issues in Ethiopia – and his refusal to stop publishing or flee the country - ...

As Students Return to Campus, Rights Remain Threatened

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Here’s today’s press release:

PHILADELPHIA, September 4, 2013—As college students head back to campus this fall, they face a multitude of threats to their fundamental freedoms. Unconstitutional “free speech zones” and demonstration policies restrict when and where students can speak. New federal rules compromise due process and free speech rights. Freedom of association continues to suffer as administrators and student governments hamstring student groups they dislike. Student journalists covering such abuses continue to face obstacles. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) stands ready with resources to help those plagued by campus censorship and injustice in the coming year.

“As college students settle into their fall semesters on campuses across the country, it is important that they—as well as their parents, grandparents, friends, and family—learn about common threats to basic rights in higher education,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “FIRE is proud to offer a wealth of resources explaining to students what rights they have and why those rights matter. And, as always, FIRE is here to help when students run afoul of campus censors.”

Students who wish to speak freely on campus could be found in violation of their school’s demonstration policies if, for example, they do not ...

Topless Self Portrait of Geraldo Prompts Duquesne University to Rescind Speaking Invitation

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Television personality Geraldo Rivera recently joined the ranks of the millions of Americans who have used their cell phone cameras to take self-portraits—“selfies,” if you will. But as Inside Higher Ed reported yesterday, Geraldo’s selfie has led to his disinvitation from a speaking engagement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh:

Geraldo Rivera, the media personality, took to Twitter last week to report that Duquesne University had revoked an invitation for him to participate in a symposium on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. “Just heard Duquesne Univ cancelled my appearance at JFK assassination panel because of ‘selfie’. Fact I first aired Zapruder film less impt.,” Rivera wrote. The “selfie” reference is to a naked photograph of himself (primarily of top half of his body) that he recently posted online (click here only if you want to view the photo). A spokeswoman for the university confirmed the report, and via e-mail cited the university’s Roman Catholic heritage.

Explaining the university’s rationale for rescinding its reservation to Rivera, a university spokeswoman said, “The administration felt that Mr. Rivera’s decision to post a nearly naked picture of himself on social media was inappropriate and inconsistent with who we ...

CBLDF Returns to Baltimore Comic Con, Joined by BRIAN WOOD!

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Baltimore-Comic-Con

The Baltimore Comic makes its annual appearance at the Baltimore Convention Center this weekend, and CBLDF will be there at booth #1601 with a slew of signed premiums! CBLDF is also proud to present Brian Wood, who will be signing in our booth on both Saturday and Sunday!

Of course, we’ll also be doing panels! Come learn more about comics censorship and support CBLDF’s important work at these great events throughout the weekend:

SATURDAY

12: 00 – 1:00 p.m. / Room 305
CBLDF’s Comics on Trial, Part 1 — A National Disgrace: Moral Panic & the Birth of the Comics Code  
CBLDF proudly debuts Comics on Trial — a new lecture series covering the history of comics censorship and the court cases that changed the medium! In part one, witness how comics were under attack from the very beginning! Attacks in the popular media gave way to comics burnings in the 1940s. This sparked a wildfire of moral panic that culminated with the U.S. Government investigating comics before a national audience in 1954, where the face-off between Frederic Wertham and William Gaines changed the medium forever. CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein tells the sordid tale in part ...

Back to School with Comics: Using Graphic Novels in Education

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

School season has begun again! As kids return to classrooms, it’s a great time to encourage literacy by using graphic novels. Using Graphic Novels in Education is an ongoing feature from CBLDF that is designed to allay confusion around the content of banned books and to help parents and teachers raise readers. In this column, we examine books that have been targeted by censors and provide teaching and discussion suggestions for the use of such books in classrooms.

At least one title is covered each month, and each article includes discussion points, teaching tips, and correlations to the Common Core Standards. Let’s take a look at the books covered so far…

Using Graphic Novels in Education: Persepolis

Persepolis1CoverThe autobiographical graphic memoir Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was pulled from Chicago classrooms this past May by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett due to “inappropriate” graphic language and images, specifically, scenes of torture and rebellion. Parents, teachers, and First Amendment advocates protested the ban, which was overturned. Persepolis is an important classroom tool for a number of reasons. First, it is a primary source detailing life in Iran during the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Readers of all ages get a glimpse ...

National and Local Media Spill a Lot of Ink on New NC ‘Right-to-Counsel’ Law

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

On August 23, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill into law that made the state the first in the country to grant public university students facing non-academic disciplinary charges the right to an attorney. Since its signing, the landmark piece of legislation has received widespread media coverage. Outlined below is a brief recap of some of the most prominent coverage:

Help Send EFF to SXSW

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

The annual conference and festival South by Southwest has launched its Panel Picker, inviting the Internet community to help select the panels that will be featured at the next event. There are quite a few panels this year featuring EFF staff members.

We would love to go advocate for digital liberties in Austin next year, so we’re asking our friends and fans to please take a few moments to vote for us.

Here's how you can help:

Step 1: Visit the Panel Picker site and login or register for a new account.

Step 2: Click each of the links below.

Step 3: Click the “thumbs up” next to the panel description.

Step 4: Share this blog post! Suggested tweet: I want to see the @EFF in Austin. Please vote for them in SXSW's Panel Picker: https://eff.org/r.5bZN

Panels with EFF staff members—please upvote!

Everybody Spies

Clubbing the Patent Trolls: How We Can Fight Back

Startups Dealing with Patent Trolls

Press Freedom When Everyone Has a Press

The Internet’s Private Parts: Data Security and Ownership

The Future of Digital Activism in the Digital Age

Thanks for your support and see you in Austin!

EFF Amicus Asks Supreme Court to Review Warrantless Smartphone Searches

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Are police allowed to rummage through the contents of a cell phone when a person is arrested? The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to grant review in two cases involving the thorny issue. Together with the Center for Democracy and Technology, we've filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court asking it to grant review in Riley v. California, a case involving the warrantless search of a smartphone incident to arrest.

The Fourth Amendment requires the police to get a warrant before conducting a search. But the Supreme Court has permitted police to search a person and the areas and items within the arrestee's immediate control upon arrest without a warrant. This exception to the warrant requirement has been justified for two reasons: first, protecting officer safety means searching the person to ensure they aren't carrying a weapon; and second, a warrantless search is justified by the need to ensure no evidence is lost or destroyed. 

But this doctrine was developed by the Supreme Court in an age before cell phones. While courts have permitted the warrantless search of things like clothes or cigarette packs on a person under the exception, a modern smartphone is a ...

Peter Bonilla for ‘PolicyMic’ on How All Five First Amendment Freedoms Are Threatened On Campus

Friday, August 30th, 2013

In an article for PolicyMic yesterday, FIRE’s Peter Bonilla reviews the five rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and demonstrates how all of them are at risk on college and university campuses.

Let’s look at the First Amendment in full:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

As Peter points out, schools have demonstrated a disturbing ability to multitask when it comes to First Amendment violations:

[I]n 2010 Northern Illinois University’s Student Senate denied recognition to the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy; its bylaws, in fact, prohibited funding to political and religious organizations. It also prohibited unrecognized organizations from distributing fliers on campus and, amazingly, prohibited groups from receiving funding if any of their activities resulted in individuals “petitioning Federal, State, or Local legislative or executive bodies for policies advocated by that group.” For those keeping score, NIU’s Student Senate managed to violate not just the right to petition the government — it violated all five First Amendment freedoms in one ...

Citing Centrality of “Robust and Discordant Expressions” to University Life, OCR Dismisses Complaint of Anti-Semitism Against Berkeley

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) dismissed a complaint (PDF) by Jewish students against the University of California, Berkeley. The complaint had alleged that anti-Israel protests on Berkeley’s campus created a hostile environment for Jewish students. 

Explaining its decision to dismiss the complaint, OCR wrote:

In the university environment, exposure to such robust and discordant expressions, even when personally offensive and hurtful, is a circumstance that a reasonable student in higher education may experience. In this context, the events that the complainants described do not constitute actionable harassment.

It is stunning to hear OCR speak in such reverent terms about the importance of free speech on campus in light of the fact that, since 2003, OCR’s communications with universities on the subject of harassment have barely mentioned free speech at all. For example, on June 15, 2012, OCR sent Yale University a resolution letter (PDF) related to a complaint filed against Yale for, among other things, an October 2010 incident in which members of a Yale fraternity engaged in “misogynistic chanting.” In that letter, OCR wrote approvingly of the various actions Yale had taken to “address” the fraternity’s conduct, including suspending the fraternity ...

Using Graphic Novels in Education: The Silence of Our Friends

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Welcome to Using Graphic Novels in Education, an ongoing feature from CBLDF that is designed to allay confusion around the content of banned books and to help parents and teachers raise readers. In this column, we examine books that have been targeted by censors and provide teaching and discussion suggestions for the use of such books in classrooms.

CoverThis month, we take a closer look at The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos and Nate Powell (First Second Books, 2012).

The Silence of Our Friends has not been banned or challenged to date, so we highlight it here for two reasons: First, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary on the March on Washington; and second, because this story then and now, powerfully relates the pain and ramifications of censorship and racism and the effects such silencing has on everyone.

The Silence of Our Friends is a semi-autobiographical story told from the perspective of Mark Long, as a boy. It centers around civil rights incidents covered by his father, a television reporter in Houston, Texas, in 1968, following the Texas Southern University student boycott after the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was banned from campus. It ...

Russian Artist Seeks Asylum After Authorities Shut Down His Exhibition

Friday, August 30th, 2013

russiaRussian authorities confiscated politically-charged paintings on Monday from a newly opened art gallery in St. Petersburg. As a result of the seizure, the artist fled the country and the exhibit was shut down.

The paintings — one of which depicts Russia’s President Vladmir Putin decked out in a negligee, caressing the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who wears women’s underwear — were part of the inaugural exhibit called “The Rulers” at the Museum of Authority, which opened on August 15th. Painter  Konstantin Altunin, who has now fled to France seeking asylum. The museum, which founder Alexander Donskoi said was to “put on exhibits relating to various authorities,” had shown solidarity with Russia’s gay rights movement by offering free admission last weekend to anyone who said they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender at the door.

Three of the four paintings taken by the police depicted what could be taken as critique of Russia’s new “gay propaganda” ban. One depicted local St. Petersburg politician Vitaly Milonov (whose local law against homosexual expression became inspiration for the national law) against a rainbow background. Another, titled “The Erotic Dreams of Deputy Mizulina,” depicted the politician who pushed to pass the gay propaganda law ...

An Illustration of How the NSA Misleads the Public Without Technically Lying

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Wall Street Journal published an important investigation last week, reporting that the National Security Agency (NSA) has direct access to many key telecommunications switches around the country and “has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans.” Notably, NSA officials repeatedly refused to talk about this story on their conference call with reporters the next day. Instead the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA released a statement about the story later that evening.

If you read the statement quickly, it seems like the NSA is disputing the WSJ story. But on careful reading, they actually do not deny any of it. As we’ve shown before, often you have to carefully parse NSA statements to root out deception and misinformation, and this statement is no different. They’ve tried to deflect an accurate story with their same old word games. Here’s a breakdown:

The NSA does not sift through and have unfettered access to 75% of United States online communications...The report leaves readers with the impression that the NSA is sifting through as much as 75% of the United ...

Myanmar Activist Jailed for Two Years Over Letpadaung Protest

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

A prominent Myanmar activist has been sentenced to two years in prison over her role in a protest against the China-backed Letpadaung copper mine, her lawyer said Thursday, as opposition to the controversial project continues to fester weeks before operations resume.  

Activist Naw Ohn Hla’s jailing by the Monywa city court in northern Myanmar’s Sagaing region came as hundreds of local villagers marched against the mine to mark the nine-month anniversary of a brutal police crackdown on protesters at the site that prompted the mine’s suspension.

The project is set to resume at the end of September under a renegotiated deal that gives government a larger share of the mine’s profits and offers local residents better compensation for their land.

But with a month left before a Sept. 30 deadline, whole villages in the area are continuing to refuse compensation for their land, calling instead for a complete halt to the project.  

Local demonstrations against the mine continue unabated, with hundreds marching from villages Thursday and some 150 demonstrators marching Tuesday in the nearest city of Monywa.

'Disturbing public tranquility'

Naw Ohn Hla, who boycotted her own trial this week, was detained along with nine other activists at ...

Chicago State Hit With Costs and Attorney’s Fees in First Amendment Suit

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Nearly five years after Chicago State University (CSU) unlawfully retaliated against former student editor George Providence II and former faculty advisor Gerian Steven Moore for the content of several articles published in Tempo, CSU’s student newspaper, Providence’s and Moore’s lawsuit against the university has finally concluded with a hefty penalty for CSU: $213,231 in court costs and attorney’s fees.

Federal Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer summarized the facts of the case:

Plaintiffs claimed that Moore — a faculty member at Chicago State University — was terminated in retaliation for his refusal to censor the student newspaper, Tempo, which had published a series of news stories critical of the University administration. Plaintiffs alleged further that the University took action to shut down the paper. Plaintiff Providence was the student editor of that publication. Publication of Tempo ceased, and Providence withdrew from the University, citing harassment by University officials. The complaint sought a declaration that Moore's termination and Defendants' interference with the publication of Tempo violated the First Amendment ....

FIRE’s Azhar Majeed reported on the court’s decision to reject motions for summary judgment in 2010. In 2012, the court held that CSU’s firing of Moore in retaliation for the content of ...

Libraries Remind Parents of Responsibilities

Thursday, August 29th, 2013
child browsing library

© Memphis Commercial Appeal

Frequently, when a book or other material is targeted for removal from a public library, it’s because a minor managed to access something that does not meet the approval of his or her parents or guardians. Although most libraries do their utmost to make clear that it’s not the responsibility of their staff to police what minors may check out, too many adults continue to be caught off-guard when children in their care bring home yaoi manga or an erotic novel after an unsupervised library visit. Often the problem seems to stem from an outdated or naïve idea of just what kinds of materials can be found in a modern public library. Libraries are committed to serving the entire community, and in addition to the examples above, virtually all of them stock R-rated movies, music with the “explicit lyrics” stamp, and other materials that many parents probably wouldn’t want their children to check out. But every household has different rules; logically, the solution is not to purge the entire library collection to make it meet the most restrictive parent’s definition of child-friendly.

In a recent article from the Chicago Tribune, representatives from several local libraries ...

Columbus State Community College’s Solicitation Policy Challenged in Court

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Columbus State Community College (CSCC) student Spencer Anderson has joined with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to challenge (PDF) the college’s solicitation policy, which both limits students’ expressive activities to less than one percent of the Ohio campus and requires would-be speakers to obtain written permission one day in advance. Anderson’s lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court, includes claims that CSCC’s policy is unconstitutional on its face and that it was selectively enforced against Anderson because of his religious, pro-life message.

CSCC’s solicitation policy (PDF) governs the “dissemination or posting of any verbal, written, or pictorial material such as flyers, notices, requests to pledge or join any organization ….” Though it appears in the Faculty Handbook, Anderson’s complaint alleges that “[i]t is the College’s policy and practice to apply the solicitation policy to individual students ….” Under a subheading titled “Assembly,” the policy describes the college’s two “designated areas for public speech and assembly” and states: “All organizations and individuals must request to use this space for public speech and solicitation and must do so in writing at least one business day in advance.”

According to the complaint, Anderson timely requested permission to distribute literature on campus in July and, after ...

2013 RETAILER MEMBERSHIP Incentive Spotlight: Mighty Avengers #1 Comics Code Variant!

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Every year, Diamond Comic Distributors helps CBLDF round up our Retail Members. Comic stores have historically been terrific and loyal supporters of the Fund, and Diamond makes it easy for shops to renew their annual memberships, using Previews ordering forms (online and otherwise) as a membership drive. Every year since this program started, CBLDF has seen steady and hearty growth in the Retailer Membership program, so we try to create membership incentives to show our appreciation.

This year’s retail members will have the choice of a lot of great premium items, and today we want to spotlight this one:

MIGHTYAVN2013001_DC17

That’s Mighty Avengers #1, as covered by the great Jason Latour (Winter Soldier, Django Unchained). This cover is part of our Comics Code Variant series and has been tagged with the now-deceased Comics Code of America Seal of Approval.

This variant will be available to any store joining as a Retail Member (details in the September Previews Catalog,or online at diamondcomics.com).

Big thanks to our friends at Marvel Comics for helping make this happen, in particular editor supreme Lauren Sankovitch, who is helming some of the best titles on the racks today!

Please help support CBLDF’s ...

One Key to Rule Them All: Threats Against Service Provider Private Encryption Keys

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

EFF has worked hard to convince organizations like Facebook and Wikimedia to join the ranks of many other large and small websites including Twitter, Gmail, and EFF in supporting HTTPS by default, and we're happy to see steady progress from major service providers on this front.

While increased deployment of HTTPS is a huge step forward in securing the web and protecting user communications, it is not a silver bullet. There are many types of attacks on HTTPS that we need to be vigilant about, but here we want to focus on one in particular -- how safe are the private encryption keys of service providers?

In order to understand why this question is so important, it is worth taking stock of a remarkable and scary fact about how HTTPS works: for any given website, the same key is used to protect all user communications on that website.

It is important to take a moment to fully absorb this, so let's walk through the example of Facebook. Every single one of the billions of transactions that occur on the social network every day are encrypted based on information derived from the same private key held by Facebook. This means that ...

“The Day the Saucers Came” Now Available on eBay!

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Today, we are auctioning our final FIVE prints of “The Day the Saucers Came.”  This extremely limited poster is signed and remarked by CBLDF supporter and bestselling author Neil Gaiman. The poster art is by Jouni Koponen and includes everything from zombies and UFOs to giants and fairies. This 10″ x 28″ poster is the perfect addition to any free speech fighter’s fantasy land!

saucers_fullOne of the most rewarding aspects of partnering with Neil is that he takes time to make each piece of art unique and personal. He has remarked each print with a special doodle and signature, as you can see for yourself below:

 s4s2s3s5s1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To bid on these items and to view all new auctions, visit CBLDF on eBay here. All proceeds from these items benefit our important First Amendment legal work!

Pushing for Perfect Forward Secrecy, an Important Web Privacy Protection

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

When you access a Web site over an encrypted connection, you're using a protocol called HTTPS. But not all HTTPS connections are created equal. In the first few milliseconds after a browser connects securely to a server, an important choice is made: the browser sends a list of preferences for what kind of encryption it's willing to support, and the server replies with a verification certificate and picks a choice for encryption from the browser's list. These different encryption choices are called "cipher suites." Most of the time, users don't have to worry about which suite the browsers and servers are using, but in some cases it can make a big difference.

One important property is called "perfect forward secrecy," but only some servers and only some browsers are configured to support it. Sites that use perfect forward secrecy can provide better security to users in cases where the encrypted data is being monitored and recorded by a third party. That particular threat may have once seemed unlikely, but we now know that the NSA does exactly this kind of long-term storage of at least some encrypted communications as they flow through telecommunications hubs, in a collection ...

Cambodian Court Acquits Two in Slaying of Journalist

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

A Cambodian provincial court today dropped charges against a military police officer and his wife accused of murdering a reporter investigating the country’s illegal timber trade, drawing protests from the journalist’s wife and from human rights and environmental advocacy groups.

Hang Serei Oudom, a reporter for the Vorakchun Khmer newspaper, had been looking into claims of illegal logging and extortion when he went missing on Sept. 10, 2012.  His battered body was found two days later in the trunk of his car.

Military police captain An Bunheng and his wife were taken into custody the next day after police and a court prosecutor said they had found evidence linking them to the crime at the couple’s restaurant in Cambodia’s northeastern Ratanakiri province.

After questioning three witnesses and reviewing written statements from another seven, the Ratanakiri Provincial Court dropped all charges against the pair, citing a lack of evidence sufficient to win a conviction against them.

Hang Serei Oudom’s last article before his death was published on Sept. 6, 2012 and accused the son of a local military police commander of involvement in illegal logging.

Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service today, Hang Serei Oudom’s wife Im Chanthy protested the court’s ruling, ...

‘The Washington Times’ Rings in the Academic Year with a Warning

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

In an editorial welcoming the start of the academic year, The Washington Times issues a warning to students returning to campus this fall. Citing FIRE’s annual speech code report and troubling developments such as the federal “blueprint” for sexual harassment policies, the editorial laments the lack of freedom on today’s campuses and that far too many students are “forced to hand over their constitutional liberties as a condition for receiving their diploma.” But the news isn’t all bad; the Times praises North Carolina’s recent law granting students the right to counsel in non-academic disciplinary proceedings as evidence of the potential for reform. For more on what students can expect this year, visit The Washington Times.

Beth Kassab: Florida Universities Should Know Better

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

In a column published last week, the Orlando Sentinel’s Beth Kassab reviewed Florida universities’ failures to protect free expression. Kassab cites Florida Atlantic University’s “stomp on Jesus” fiasco, among other incidents, but she ultimately awards the University of Central Florida (UCF) her “top honors for the worst over-reaction this year”:

UCF Professor Hyung-il Jung made a dumb but harmless joke while prepping students for an exam.

"It looks like you guys are being slowly suffocated by these questions," he said. "Am I on a killing spree or what?"

Even in light of an incident weeks earlier, in which a student plotted to shoot students in a dorm but killed himself instead, the statement was obviously a joke. Not to UCF, though, which questioned his mental state in a letter of reprimand.

FIRE intervened and Jung was allowed back in the classroom. And maybe UCF learned a lesson.

For more on Jung’s case and FIRE’s work on his behalf, check out our press release from May.

When it comes to protecting speech on campus, Florida’s universities have an abysmal record in both practice and policy. UCF, for example, maintains a “yellow light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database for ...

Universities on the Cusp of a Better Speech Code Rating, Part 2: Purdue University

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Last week, we kicked off a blog series about colleges and universities that are just one policy away from dropping their poor, “red light,” speech code ratings. 

At the end of every September, FIRE finalizes the data for our annual speech code report, which is released in early winter. So if a university has a red light rating on September 30, it will fall into the red light category for the forthcoming speech code report, and any policy changes that happen after that date will affect its rating in the following year’s report. It is our hope that the colleges and universities featured in this series will make the necessary changes in time to have an improved speech code rating listed in this year’s report.

This week’s featured school is Purdue University. Purdue’s Electronic Mail policy provides that “the following specific actions and uses of University E-mail Facilities are improper: … Use of e-mail that degrades or demeans other individuals” (emphasis added).

The policy defines “University E-Mail Facilities” very broadly to include 

all facilities, technologies, information resources, and computing and electronic communication devices, hardware, software, and services required to accomplish the processing, storage, transmission, and ...

Violent Content Research Act Raises Free Speech Concerns

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
violentkids_copy1

Source: Game Informer

Video games, the latest scapegoat in the war against gun violence, are being faced with yet another attempt to stifle their First Amendment rights. As a result of the Sandy Hook massacre and other recent tragedies, a new act is being proposed to require more study of the alleged link between video games and violence. The Violent Content Research Act of 2013 would require the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, and the Department of Health and Human Services to enter into arrangements with the National Academy of Sciences to study and report causal connections between video games and real world violence.

Last month we reported that New Jersey passed a proposal that would require the Department of Education to distribute questionable research concerning the link between video games and real world violence. Now, the Senate will soon vote on the Violent Content Research Act of 2013, which will mandate more research and study despite years of prior evidence indicating that there is not a definitive relationship between video games and violent crime.

If this act is passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and signed into law, it would require that the FTC, ...

Hate Crime Hoaxes and How Colleges Handle Them

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

My latest article in The Daily Caller talks about this past spring’s rash of incidents of hateful expression at Oberlin College in Ohio—at least some of which turned out to be hoaxes committed by students who wanted to “troll” the campus. Such hoaxes have been a recurring problem on campuses. In my article, I explain that in addition to alarming campus community members, these incidents are often seized upon as an excuse to clamp down on protected speech.

Dixie State Rejects Sorority Because Its Name Includes Greek Letters

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

For nearly a year, Dixie State University senior Indigo Klabanoff has been working to start a local sorority at her public Utah university that would be dedicated to providing services for the community and learning opportunities for its members. Dixie State administrators have flatly stated that Klabanoff’s sorority, Phi Beta Pi, will not be approved as an officially recognized student group as long as it has Greek letters in its name. The college went so far as to retroactively amend the school’s student club bylaws to prohibit such groups from recognition. Last week, FIRE sent a letter urging Dixie State to allow the student organization to be recognized.

University President Stephen Nadauld explained to local newspaper The Spectrum that Dixie State does not recognize “campus fraternities and sororities nor club names that include Greek alphabet letters that infer they are a fraternity or sorority.” Neither Dixie State’s administration nor its trustees “believe that a Greek Life program is congruent with [Dixie State’s] mission, or in the best interest of Dixie State University at this time.”

But Dixie State’s student newspaper, the Dixie Sun News, reports that Klabanoff was told Dixie State would recognize a group that serves all the ...

KC Johnson on the Flawed Assumptions Made by Critics of NC Representation Law

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Writing for Minding the Campus today, Brooklyn College professor KC Johnson questions critics of the new North Carolina law that allows the state’s public university students to be represented by an attorney for non-academic campus disciplinary hearings.

Perhaps most troubling is the ever-persistent presumption of guilt among some administrators. Johnson writes:

UNC-Asheville’s vice chancellor for student affairs expressed skepticism about the law, commenting that the college disciplinary process differs from the lhegal process, since “a key component of the developmental process of responding to student misconduct is for the student to take responsibility for their own behavior and to learn from the incident.” But what happens if an accused student is innocent? The vice chancellor’s statement seems to presume guilt—how can an innocent student “take responsibility” for something he didn’t do?

Johnson also expresses skepticism at the idea that allowing attorney representation would allow rich students to get off scot-free:

[The vice chancellor] scowled that “whoever’s able to hire the best and most expensive attorney is likely to win the day.” I’d propose that if the mere act of having a good attorney identify weaknesses in the college’s case is enough to collapse the college’s case, then maybe the ...

Governments Want Vietnam to Review New Internet Control Decree

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

A coalition of 21 governments spanning five regions called on Vietnam Monday to review a controversial Internet decree that will come into force on Sept. 1, warning that it risks harming the one-party Communist state's economy, limits innovation, and deters foreign investment.

The Freedom Online Coalition said it "is deeply concerned" by the Decree 72, which will impose further restrictions on the way the Internet is accessed and used in Vietnam and will curb freedom of speech and restrict information people can share on social media.

The coalition was established two years ago by governments wanting to collaborate on efforts to advance Internet freedom. It comprises governments from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East, including the United States and several other key developed nations.

"Decree 72 risks harming Vietnam’s economy by constraining the development of businesses in Vietnam, limiting innovation, and deterring foreign investment," said a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, Marie Harf, in a statement.

"An open and free Internet is a necessity for a fully functioning modern economy; regulations such as Decree 72 that limit openness and freedom deprive innovators and businesses of the full set of tools required to compete in today’s global ...

Signed Poster Day on eBay!

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Today, we continue our series of eBay auctions with SIGNED POSTER DAY!

Signed Poster Day begins with this Heroes for Hire poster, donated and signed by artist Khary Randolph (X-Men, Hellboy). With help from Emilio Lopez, Randolph’s reimagines the fan-favorite Marvel Comics duo of Luke “Power Man” Cage and Iron Fist as the stars of a 1970s blaxploitation-style kung-fu flick! If you stare at this poster while listening to some old funk records, you should be able to see the cinematic masterpiece play out in your head quite vividly!

heroes for hire

We have two more treats for Marvel fans courtesy of penciller Mark Bagley! Currently working on  Fantastic Four with writer Matt Fraction, Bagley has remained a popular Marvel mainstay for years, working on titles like The New Warriors, Thunderbolts, and The Amazing Spider-Man before co-creating (with writer Brian Michael Bendis) Ultimate Spider-Man, upon which this Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man poster is based.

ultimate spider-man

Last year, Bagley reunited with Bendis for Avengers Assemble. Though the cast of characters closely resembles that of the massively popular 2012 Avengers film, Avengers Assemble places the heroes in all-new adventures set firmly within the primary Marvel Comics universe. This poster features the cover image of Avengers ...

The National Constitution Center’s Constitution Day Celebration: For Cake and Constitution Lovers Alike

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Do you love the Constitution and want to celebrate it on the anniversary of its signing? If so, clear your calendar for the National Constitution Center’s Constitution Day Celebration on September 17, 2013! This is a free, daylong event in Philadelphia where attendees can participate in educational games and activities about the Constitution.

The celebration includes a Bill of Rights Show, where visitors can test their Bill of Rights knowledge. (Hint: Keep reading The Torch if you want to ace any First Amendment questions!) There’s a birthday party as well, so if you’ve ever wanted to eat cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to the Constitution with George Washington, this is the event for you!

Another exciting event, “Tinker Tour: The Power of an Armband,” will be taking place at the celebration. Mary Beth Tinker, victor of the monumental student free speech case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), which famously rejected the idea that “students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” will be making an appearance. Tinker is taking her nationwide educational bus tour to Philadelphia to share her story and passion for free speech.

If ...

The Inconvenience of Barefoot Gen

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Manga-is-not-a-crime-300x300Translator and manga industry expert Dan Kanemitsu submitted the following opinion piece on the recent ban of Barefoot Gen from the perspective of being close to the ground in recent battles involving manga regulation in Japan.

In December of 2010, Tokyo was buzzing over the revision of an ordinance that regulates what can be considered harmful to youth and restricts the circulation of such material. While touted by advocates as a simple age restriction stipulation, the labeling of works as “harmful to youth” and thereby making them available only for adults had effect of driving many books out of print. Books demarcated as being harmful were shunned by the distribution system, and thus the label was considered a kiss of death. This was one of the reasons why the manga publishing industry in Japan fought the revision attempt so bitterly.

The second revision attempt of the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths was designated Bill 156, and during the public debate regarding this bill, the then deputy Governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, pressed on-line for the passage of the new expansion of what constitutes “harmful to youth.” He claimed that the new bill was merely a provision ...

Time to Vote! Pick Your Favorite Photos to Determine Who Will Win an iPad from FIRE!

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Last week, we accepted entries for FIRE’s “Back to School with the First Amendment” photo contest—and what a great set of entries we got! Students from across the country sent us pictures of themselves speaking, engaging in free speech activism, and showing their love for FIRE!

Now it’s time to vote

Head over to our Facebook photo album to see all of the great reasons why students believe that free speech is important on campus. “Like” your favorites, and the photo with the most votes at  5 p.m. on August 30 wins! Second and third place entries will win $100 and $75 Amazon gift cards, respectively. 

There’s no time to waste—vote for your favorite photos today!

Three Illusory “Investigations” of the NSA Spying Are Unable to Succeed

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Since the revelations of confirmed National Security Agency spying in June, three different "investigations" have been announced. One by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), another by the Director of National Intelligence, Gen. James Clapper, and the third by the Senate Intelligence Committee, formally called the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

All three investigations are insufficient, because they are unable to find out the full details needed to stop the government's abuse of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The PCLOB can only request—not require—documents from the NSA and must rely on its goodwill, while the investigation led by Gen. Clapper is led by a man who not only lied to Congress, but also oversees the spying. And the Senate Intelligence Committee—which was originally designed to effectively oversee the intelligence community—has failed time and time again. What's needed is a new, independent, Congressional committee to fully delve into the spying.

The PCLOB: Powerless to Obtain Documents

The PCLOB was created after a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission to ensure civil liberties and privacy were included in the government's surveillance and spying policies and practices.

But ...