Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category

Women Fired for “I Love Being Black” Button

16 April 2007

A woman in Missouri was fired for wearing a button saying “I (heart) being black” among other buttons commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, according to the Progressive. The human resources director said it was offensive, and compared it to wearing a swastika to work, because, obviously, MLK Jr. was known for his fascism and belief in the superiority of the Aryan race.

As the woman, Daphne Jones, pointed out, “Workers here wear ‘I love being Irish’ buttons on St. Patrick’s Day. And he said that was acceptable.”

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YouTube Offers Blocking to Thailand

7 April 2007

YouTube has offered to allow the Thai government to block specific items, according to BBC News, saying that would be better than the country having the entire site blocked. Thailand currently has a ban on YouTube, because of material deemed offensive to the monarch.

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No, You May Not Discuss Polar Bears

3 April 2007

You can, actually, but not certain things about them, like why they might start eating Russians. According to the St. Louis Dispatch, their possible hunting of Russians is because polar bears might have to change their food source, which is because of global warming, which you can’t discuss, which is because the White House says so.

Two scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service going to a conference had to promise not to discuss sea ice, global warming or climate change, which has a major impact on their ability to discuss polar bears, since global warming is a major issue in the arctic.

In addition, according to PEER, scientists will face restrictions on what they can say in private as well. Any discussion of anything deemed of “official interest” will have to go through the chain of command, whether on- or off-duty.

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Court Rules Against COPA

22 March 2007

A federal district court has ruled that the government cannot censor online speech under the Child Online Protection Act, according to the ACLU. The law was enacted in 1998, but courts immediately prohibited enforcement.

COPA would impose large fines and up to six months imprisonment for publishing material online that’s deemed “harmful to minors,” even if it might be extremely useful (safe sex information might fall under this, for instance). It was found that even some of the worst blocking programs would be more effective at protecting children from sexually explicit material than COPA.

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Morse v. Frederick

19 March 2007

The Supreme Court is ruling soon on Morse v. Frederick, according to the ACLU (also here). The case involved an incident in 2002 in which Joseph Frederick was suspended for 10 days after holding up a sign that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” at a rally (not a school rally or otherwise sponsored by the school). Frederick is now 23, and teaches English to Chinese high-schoolers.

The Frederick ruling will also determine if Tinker v. Des Moines is still a good law. In 1969, after two students protested the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands to school, the court ruled that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

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Egypt Jails Blogger

22 February 2007

Egypt has sentenced blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman to four years in prison, according to BBC News, three years for insulting Islam and inciting sedition, and one year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak. Apparently the court session lasted a mere five minutes.

Others say that it will not prevent Egyptians from blogging, since it is nearly impossible to control.

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Prison for Communications Monitoring

18 February 2007

In a possible violation of federal law, the government has established a prison primarily for middle easterners with the purpose of monitoring their communications, according to the Raw Story. Letters sent from the prison are reviewed and copied prior to delivery by prison staff, resulting in weeks of delays, unless it is to a lawyer, court, or congress. Also, all phone calls are monitored and visits recorded, and are required to be entirely in English. Further, while normal prison rules allow for five hours of phone time per month, this prison allows only fifteen minutes and can be reduced to three minutes a month at the decision of the warden.

Though it supposedly targets terrorists, not all of the inmates there are considered high-risk or have been convicted of violent crimes. One inmate, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, has never been convicted or even charged with terrorism-related activities or a violent offense, but is instead there for sending humanitarian aid to Iraq in violation of US sanctions.

It is also unclear whether the creation of the facility complied with the law, as the public was not appropriately notified.

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Bill Would Require Storage of Internet Data

15 February 2007

Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) has introduced legislation to require Internet Service Providers to store records of their customers’ activities online, according to the ACLU. It would allow Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to decide what data the ISP’s would have to store and for how long.

From Marvin Johnson of the ACLU:

Legislation like this is like swatting a fly with a bazooka. Such sweeping measures do little to stop online crime; instead, they overwhelm law enforcement agents with mountains of raw data and have a chilling effect on ISP subscribers’ First Amendment rights.

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BBQ Violates Viacom Copyright?

11 February 2007

Viacom sent 100,000 DMCA takedown notices to YouTube users recently, according to EFF, in a kind of dragnet operation targeted against use of Viacom-copyrighted material, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Among the 60 mistakes they have so far admitted were a home-video filmed in a BBQ joint and a music video about karaoke in Singapore.

Though these videos were obvious mistakes, the EFF is concerned that other fair-uses of Viacom material will not be admitted as mistakes.

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Blogs Surveilled

1 February 2007

Though there is obviously good reason to ensure that military secrets aren’t on the web, there is also good reason to ensure that free speech for the soldiers is protected. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the DoD is monitoring soldiers’ blogs, and the EFF is requesting information on the process, to see if opinions are also at risk.

The EFF’s lawsuit is part of its FLAG Project.

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