According to 10 high-level former employees, the social network’s long history with abuse has been fraught with inaction and organizational disarray. Taken together, these interviews tell the story of a company that’s been ill-equipped to handle harassment since its beginnings. Fenced in by an abiding commitment to free speech above all else and a unique product that makes moderation difficult and trolling almost effortless, Twitter has, over a chaotic first decade marked by shifting business priorities and institutional confusion, allowed abuse and harassment to continue to grow as a chronic problem and perpetual secondary internal priority. On Twitter, abuse is not just a bug, but — to use the Silicon Valley term of art — a fundamental feature.[more inside]
Billionaire libertarian Peter Thiel is the formerly anonymous money-man behind Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker.
Axanar is a planned feature film set within the Star Trek universe, following on the short film Prelude to Axanar. Paramount and CBS sued the film’s producers, alleging that the fan film infringes on the studios’ copyrights in Star Trek. Yesterday, the Language Creation Society filed an amicus brief (.pdf), written by Mark Randazza, in Paramount v. Axanar, to oppose Paramount’s claim of owning a copyright in the Klingon language.
THE SECRET RULES OF THE INTERNET: The murky history of moderation, and how it’s shaping the future of free speech [Potentially NSFW - language & content]
Oral arguments were heard on Monday in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a Supreme Court case in which the plaintiffs are attempting to invoke their First Amendment right to free speech to avoid being compelled to pay their share of the costs of union representation. Summarizing the oral arguments for SCOTUSblog, Amy Howe notes that "public-employee unions are likely very nervous, as the Court’s more conservative Justices appeared ready to overrule the Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and strike down the fees." [more inside]
A new Pew survey looks at attitudes towards free speech from around the world. It explores how different nations think about free speech and government, the press, religion, minorities, the internet. Also in the report: attitudes towards democracy, religion, and gender. (SLP)
Of the many concerns unearthed by the protests at two major universities this week, the velocity at which we now move from racial recrimination to self-righteous backlash is possibly the most revealing. The unrest that occurred at the University of Missouri and at Yale University, two outwardly dissimilar institutions, shared themes of racial obtuseness, arthritic institutional responses to it, and the feeling, among students of color, that they are tenants rather than stakeholders in their universities. That these issues have now been subsumed in a debate over political correctness and free speech on campus—important but largely separate subjects—is proof of the self-serving deflection to which we should be accustomed at this point.
On Monday, October 26, SXSW Interactive made the call to cancel two sessions for the 2016 event: "SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community" and "Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games." We had hoped that hosting these two discussions in March 2016 in Austin would lead to a valuable exchange of ideas on this very important topic.[more inside]
However, in the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming.
For three years, Mother Jones has been litigating a defamation suit over a piece that drew attention to the political activites of wealthy billionaire Frank VanderSloot. "This was not a dispute over a few words. It was a push, by a superrich businessman and donor, to wipe out news coverage that he disapproved of. Had he been successful, it would have been a chilling indicator that the 0.01 percent can control not only the financing of political campaigns, but also media coverage of those campaigns." [more inside]
Prominent anti-abortion campaigner Troy Newman had his visa cancelled while he was en route to Australia. This follows Sunday's denial of a visa to musician Chris Brown due to previous domestic violence offences (and a previous cancellation of Julien Blanc's visa while in the country). Visas have been denied under S. 116 of the Migration Act 1958, where the Minister may exercise his power where the presence of its holder in Australia is or may be, or would or might be, a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community.
Poverty traps its victims in intellectual dead zones. I don't pirate games anymore, but when I needed it, it gave me access to the literature and artistic inspiration of my generation.
It’s true that my detective is physical—she is sometimes criticized for being too physical, for courting danger and taking her lumps. Her main function, though, is to speak, to say those things that people in power want to keep unsaid, unheard. Her job is to advocate for those on the margins. It is her speech that unleashes a physical reaction against her: she does not provoke the powerful by punching their noses, but by speaking when they want her to be quiet.The Detective as Speech: Sara Paretsky talks about the origins of V. I. Warshawski in the context of Second Wave Feminism's high point and why it's important to have female heroes who didn't become detectives out of unresolved trauma.
Six PEN Members Decline Gala After Award for Charlie Hebdo [New York Times]
“The decision by PEN American Center to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has prompted six writers to withdraw as literary hosts at the group’s annual gala on May 5, adding a new twist to the continuing debate over the publication’s status as a martyr for free speech. The novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.”[more inside]
Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the 'right to be comfortable' in British Universities. The New York Times chimes in on this side of the Atlantic. Popehat offers a possible explanation.
Mangling an author's text is a clear violation of the author's Moral rights, an element of copyright which is very weak in the United States and very strong elsewhere (primarily in civil law jurisdictions). (The moral right is the right of an author to be identified as the creator of a work, and for the work represented as their creation to be unaltered by other hands, so that the relationship between creator and created work is clear.)Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow argue about the legality if not morality/desirability of the Clean Reader app, that strips swearwords from ebooks.
The doctrine of Moral Rights varies from territory to territory, but it's a heck of a stretch to extend it to this activity. It's one thing for a publisher or retailer to send out copies of your books in which words are changed around without your permission. It's another thing altogether for the reader themself to decide to read their legally acquired books in such a way as to change the text.
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]
UK should consider ban on Mein Kampf, says Scottish Labour MP [The Guardian]
Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Scottish Labour MP Thomas Docherty has written to culture secretary urging a ‘sensitive debate’ on allowing its sale.
“The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalized groups,” writes Niamh McIntyre on a proposed, protested, and then cancelled debate on abortion organized by Oxford Students for Life. The Oxford abortion controversy, argues Lizzie Crocker, is the latest example of an increasingly common instinct among certain feminists to argue that certain subjects and certain arguments are either off limits or simply not up for debate.
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