When President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler (a former top telecom lobbyist) as chairman of the FCC, he got a lot of grief for selling out his '07 pledge to protect Net Neutrality -- the founding principle long prized by open web activists that ISPs cannot privilege certain data over others, without which dire visions of a tiered and pay-for-play internet loomed. Earlier, weaker attempts at net neutrality had failed in court, and the new chairman looked set to fold. But after an unprecedented outcry following last year's trial balloon for ISP "fast lanes" -- including a viral appeal by John Oliver, a public urging by the president, and perhaps Wheeler's own history with the pre-web NABU Network -- the FCC yesterday voted along party lines to enact the toughest net neutrality rules in history, classifying ISPs as common carriers and clearing the way for municipal broadband. ISPs reacted with (Morse) venom, while congressional Republicans are divided over what they called "Obamacare for the internet."
Today is the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Tinker vs. Des Moines. Two high school students refused to remove the black arm bands that they wore to school on December 11, 1965 as a form of silent protest and in mourning of those lost in the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court agreed with their right to express their political opinions, stating "Students don't shed their constitutional rights at the school house gates." This was also the decision that stated that expression of an idea need not be verbal or written in order to be covered under the umbrella of free speech. [more inside]
For the cat and free speech lover in your life are these fabulous Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un scratching posts. Also a variety of more affordable litter trays.
Former Virginia Tech professor Steven Salaita's blocked appointment to teach at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has ignited a debate over academic freedom. [more inside]
Sumana Harihareswara (Senior Technical Writer for Wikimedia Foundation, member of the Board of Director's of the Ada Initiative, blogger at Geek Feminism, and Metafilter's own brainwane) gave the keynote address at this year's WikiConference in NYC on May 30. She used her experience at Hacker School to talk about, among other things, how to create a community that does not celebrate liberty at the expense of hospitality: If we exclude no one explicitly, we are just excluding a lot of people implicitly. Including people like me. [more inside]
The Sunni Islamic monarchy/theocracy's restrictive laws on political expression have become even stricter this year. This is in response to potentially dangerous dissidents returning to Saudi Arabia from the Syrian civil war. But the categories of offenses are so broad as to define virtually any non-Muslim as a terrorist, and to ban all independent political expression. [more inside]
Since winning government in September 2013 (previously) Australia's conservative Coalition Government has been causing controversy, recently leading to nationwide protests (previously). Undaunted, this week the Coalition voiced support for the rights of bigots (more on that issue here), and reintroduced Knights and Dames. So, where's a depressed politics junkie to turn? To comedy, of course! After a successful crowdfunding campaign, satirical political comedy collective A Rational Fear are producing a 10 week season of Australian political comedy. [more inside]
"After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular humanist professors of Chicano studies."The Cato Institute's unique amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the Dreihaus political speech case is a defense of "truthiness", mocking and satire which it contends "are as old as America, and if this Court doesn’t believe amici, it can ask Thomas Jefferson, 'the son of a half-breed squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.'”
Why free speech loses in India “The Hindus: An Alternative History,” an eight-hundred-page book by Wendy Doniger, an eminent professor of religion at the University of Chicago, will be removed from Indian book shops. Penguin Books India, which first published the book, in 2009, signed an out-of-court settlement with an advocacy group, the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, who claim to be defending 'the sentiments of Hindus all over the world.'"
144 characters can ruin a lifetime of work. In September, The University of Kansas suspended a tenured journalism professor for a tweet. On Wednesday, the Kansas Board of Regents adopted a new rule that says that faculty members and other employees can be fired for "improper use of social media", including when the usage "is contrary to the best interest of the university." [more inside]
In the wake of a questionable article about feminist programming languages, a group of trolls leapt on the idea to create a parodic implementation. GitHub promptly removed the code repository, as did BitBucket, but the latter restored it amid the controversy. More commentary from Slashdot and Twitter.
Supreme Court to consider lifting campaign contribution limits. Reversing McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission would allow unlimited individual campaign contributions.
How Joe Redner Invented The Lap Dance, Built A Strip-Club Empire, Became A Model Citizen, Fought For Your Rights, And Beat Cancer
"The question was not so much what the bracelets said but whether school officials used reasonable judgment when they concluded that such apparel was inappropriate and might lead to more egregiously sexual and disruptive displays, all in the name of advocating a cause." Special bonus: The knockers displayed in a Google ad running below the innocent image of a boobie-bracelet-bedecked wrist.
New Proposal Could Singlehandedly Cripple Free Speech Online
47 state attorneys general have sent a letter asking Congress to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The EFF responds.
47 state attorneys general have sent a letter asking Congress to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The EFF responds.
An interview with Greg Lukianoff, founder of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education where he tackles that fine line between harrassment and sharing an opinion.
Defense Distributed, creators of the controversial printable AR-15 receiver, have now released CAD files and video of the first firing of the Liberator, a real plastic pistol capable of firing between one and 10 .380 calibre rounds before exploding. [more inside]
The Delete Squad: Google, Twitter, Facebook and the new global battle over the future of free speech.
"It seems like every time there's a crisis in Greece, there's a search for saviors," Philippos Loizos, a 27-year-old scientist, tells NPR. Loizos set up a Facebook page that criticized a Greek monk as xenophobic and close-minded. Last September, Greek police arrested Loizos and charged him with blasphemy, which carries up to six months in prison.
The State of Minnesota has informed Coursera that it cannot offer courses to Minnesota residents because it has not obtained permission to do so from the state. The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog reports on the story here. The State was acting pursuant to the "Minnesota Private and Out-of-State Public Postsecondary Education Act," which requires schools to register with the state if they offer courses in Minnesota and requires approval if degrees are granted or the words "college" or "university" are used in the name of a school. The law was enacted in 1975 and appears to have been intended to be a consumer protection law. Noted First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh has opined at his blog that the statute is unconstitutional, at least as applied to a web site that offers its courses for free and does not grant degrees.
Citizens United has wrought widespread changes in the election law landscape. Yet, a lesser-known consequence of this watershed case might have a significant impact in the workplace: it may permit employers to hold political captive audience workplace meetings with their employees. Under Citizens United’s robust conception of corporate political speech, employers may now be able to compel their employees to listen to their political views at such meetings on pain of termination. And employers such as Koch Industries are taking full advantage of this. [more inside]
"And finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'" After this pointed observation, Michigan Representative Lisa Brown (D) was subsequently barred from speaking on a bill about the retirement of school employees. Twitter responds. Meanwhile, many remember a similar kerfuffle over the word "uterus" in Florida last May.
Guidelines [pdf] recently published by a coalition of religious liberty and free speech organizations caution educators against violating student rights when trying to enforce anti-bullying policies. Other groups, however, worry that concern for free speech rights may keep educators from effectively addressing bullying. [more inside]
Republican-sponsored New York State Assembly bill would ban anonymous online speech. "AN ACT to amend the civil rights law, in relation to protecting a person's right to know who is behind an anonymous internet posting..." S6779, introduced by Rep. O'Meara, is brief: it establishes "a person's right to know who is behind an anonymous internet posting" as a civil right, and requires that NY-based "Web site administrator[s]" remove any anonymous postings. The summary of the Assembly bill, A8688, whose text is identical, describes the bill as "a means for the victim of an anonymous posting on a website to request that such post be removed, unless the anonymous poster is willing to attach his or her name to it." [more inside]
On April 12, Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison. The sentence has renewed worries about the extent to which political speech might be counted as material support for terrorism and possible effects on Al Qaeda recruitment efforts. One wonders just how far the law might go. [more inside]
When Alberti Giubilini and Francesca Minerva published a provocative paper about the ethics of infanticide in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the hostile response they received included death threats. [more inside]
Scott Walker, Michele Bachmann, Robin Vos, Karl Rove, Joe Moore, Ron Paul, Scott Serota, Newt Gingrich, Rahm Emanuel, Eric Cantor, and, today, Barack Obama
After an Islamist party won * the first post-revolutionary election in Tunisia, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo* ran a 'Sharia Hebdo' issue lampooning the result. The prophet Mohammed was named 'guest editor' of the issue and put on the cover proclaiming '100 lashes if you're not dying of laughter'. In response, their offices were promptly firebombed, destroying all their equipment. A week later, from its temporary home in the offices of the daily newspaper Libération, what is Charlie Hebdo's message? Love is stronger than hate. (Guardian story)
"Born Shigeyoshi Murao in 1926, he was universally known as Shig. His playful demeanor—not to mention his signature beard, Pendleton shirts, Royal Air Force exercise vest, horn-rimmed glasses, and bowler—rendered him unforgettable. But that did not make him easy to know. Shig, who died in 1999, is largely remembered for an event that occurred on June 3, 1957, when two undercover agents from the San Francisco Police Juvenile Squad showed up at City Lights to buy a seventy-five-cent book of poetry." [more inside]
Controversial Australian newspaper columnist and television host Andrew Bolt has been found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act when he suggested in 2009 that "fаіr-skinned Aborigines identified themselves аѕ such fοr personal gain" (official court judgement). Andrew Bolt has responded, along with other writers claiming the ruling will "harm healthy debate" and "stile free speech". Commentary site Crikey has collected other responses and suggests that 'he may turn out to be the courtroom loser who wins the propaganda war'.
In February of 2011, eleven students that attended UC Irvine and UC Riverside went to a fundraising speech featuring Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, at the UC Irvine campus. During Oren's speech, students would stand up, shout an objection to Oren's speech, and then would allow themselves to be escorted by security, essentially causing a "heckler's veto." They were arrested, charged, and today found guilty of disrupting Oren's speech. [more inside]
The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has held that recording police officers performing their duties in public is a "clearly established first amendment right". [more inside]
An Ohio trial court judge last Friday in State v. Stephens [.pdf] held that there is no First Amendment right to bark at a police dog. [more inside]
We have explained that the matching funds provision substantially burdens the speech of privately financed candidates and independent groups. ... We have explained that those burdens cannot be justified by a desire to “level the playing field.” In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down an Arizona law that provided public funds to candidates who have been outspent by either private funding or independent spending. Link to PDF of full decision. [more inside]
Two simultaneous landmark court rulings in favor of student speech limit the extent to which a school can censor a student's OFF CAMPUS on-line speech. These rulings centered on two cases where students parodied school principals in a disrespectful manner on MySpace.
Just your classic corporation-meets-social-good, corporation-funds-social-good, corporation-dumps-social-good story. Cable giant Comcast meets ReelGrrls, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting young women in becoming filmmakers. Comcast funds ReelGrrls. Comcast buys NBC, giving their cable network (presumably cheaper) access to NBC's vast back catalog of content. FCC approves the union. FCC head Meredith Attwell Baker leaves and becomes head of Comcast. ReelGrrls tweets about her career move. Comcast yanks funding for ReelGrrls. ReelGrrls says, "OMG, you broke up with me over a tweet?" (SLYT) [more inside]
Vancouver comedian Guy Earle and the restaurant he was performing at were fined a combined C$22,500 by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal after a 2007 incident where Earle mocked a member of the audience. [more inside]
Though mentioned intermittently, Mr. Harper's determination to muzzle critics will not be a “ballot box question” for most Canadians when they vote. Yet the implications for a Canada ruled by an unrestrained Harper majority government are obvious, and terrifying. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has now published an excellent commentary by Maria Gergin called “Silencing Dissent: The Conservative Record”. [via Gerald Caplan for the Globe and Mail] [more inside]
During a speech at George Washington University by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in which she condemned governments that arrest protesters and don’t allow free speech, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was arrested and beaten by security for standing silently with his back turned during her remarks.
A Danish court rules that truth is not a defense to its hate speech law and fines Member of Parliament Jesper Langballe $1,000 for commenting that "Of course Lars Hedegaard [President of the Danish Free Press Society] should not have said that there are Muslim fathers who rape their daughters when the truth appears to be that they make do with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them." Hedegaard had tried to explain that he was speaking in the context of an epidemic of honor violence within Muslim families when he said "They rape their own children"; he faces his own set of charges. (via Volokh Conspiracy) [more inside]
The Complaints Choir phenomenon, started by the Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, has spread all over the world since last we paid it any attention, from Birmingham to Helsinki, Hamburg, St. Petersburg, Poikkilaakso, Bodø, Penn State, Canada, Juneau, Gabriola Island, Sointula, Jerusalem, Melbourne, Budapest, Malmö, Chicago, Florence, Copenhagen, Vancouver (2), Philadelphia, Sundbyberg, Milano, Åland, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Rotterdam, Basel, Umeå, Ljubljana, Gdansk, Arizona State University, Washington, DC, Horace Mann School, Durham-Chapel Hill, Auckland, Toronto theatre students, Kortrijk, Cairo (2), St. Pölten, Maribor, Port Coquitlam, Ústí nad Labem, Columbus & Kauhajoki (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). For more information, including a 9 step guide to forming your own complaints choir, go to the Complaints Choir website. Finally, here's the Singapore Complaints Choir, whose performance was banned by the Singapore government.
The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize goes to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Beijing had previously warned the Nobel committee not to honour Liu. A BBC biography of Liu from last year: "Now his name is unknown. But one day, even if he's not regarded as a hero, he'll be thought of as a very good citizen - a model example."
Court Affirms Ban on Aiding Groups Tied to Terror. "In a case pitting free speech against national security, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law (PDF) that makes it a crime to provide 'material support' to foreign terrorist organizations, even if the help takes the form of training for peacefully resolving conflicts."
Supreme Court Blocks Arizona Campaign Finance System. After it's recent highly controversial ruling in Citizens United Vs. Federal Election Commission, which struck down longstanding Federal limits on corporate political spending (discussed previously here and here on the blue), the court now seems poised to strike the last nail in the coffin of the possibility of public campaign finance reform by considering arguments over the constitutionality of public financing of political campaigns. [more inside]