National anti-censorship orgs protest cancellation of Little Brother summer reading program


Last week's news that the principal of Pensacola, FL's Booker T Washington High School had cancelled its One School/One Book summer reading program rather than have his students read my novel Little Brother has alarmed several national anti-censorship organizations, led by the National Coalition Against Censorship. Their open letter to the principal of BTWHS, signed by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the American Booksellers Federation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center, discusses the legal and moral duty of educators to put challenging material in front of their students.

I'm immensely grateful to these organizations and especially the NCAC for their support, and I really hope that the principal reconsiders his decision and that I can have a chance to discuss the admittedly challenging themes and scenes in Little Brother with his students in the fall.

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Why I'm sending 200 copies of Little Brother to a high-school in Pensacola, FL

The principal of Booker T Washington High in Pensacola FL cancelled the school’s One School/One Book summer reading program rather than letting all the kids go through with the previously approved assignment to read Little Brother, the bestselling young adult novel by Cory Doctorow. With Cory and Tor Books’ help, the teachers are fighting back.

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Kleargear ruins customers' credit over online criticism, refuses to honor US judgment


The latest update in the saga of Kleargear (previously) is downright bizarre. Having invoiced unhappy customers for complaining online about their crappy service and then ruined those customers' credit rating, the company now refuses to acknowledge a judgment against them from a US court because they insist that they're located in France and weren't served there.

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Science fiction and the law: free speech, censorship, privacy and surveillance


In Do Androids Dream of Electric Free Speech? Visions of the Future of Copyright, Privacy, and the First Amendment in Science Fiction , a paper from Communicaton Law and Policy by Texas Christian University's Daxton "Chip" Stewart, we're treated to a wide-ranging overview of the free speech, copyright, privacy and surveillance legal issues raised in science fiction from Frankenstein to my own books. Stewart's paper insightfully weaves together everyone from Ernest Cline to Isaac Asimov and closely analyzes the way that science fictional thought-experiments can inform legal discussions, in a fashion reminiscent of the excellent Law of Superheros.

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U of Saskatchewan fires tenured dean for speaking out against cuts

A reader writes, "Robert Buckingham, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan since 2009, was fired last Wednesday for critical comments about the university's restructuring plans. When he showed up for work Wednesday morning, two campus security guards escorted him off campus. The university not only fired him as dean, but also stripped Buckingham of his tenured faculty position. The termination letter signed by Provost and VP Academic Brett Fairbairn said that by speaking out against the school's restructuring plans, Buckingham had 'demonstrated egregious conduct and insubordination' and was in breach of contract."

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Clapper's ban on talking about leaks makes life difficult for crypto profs with cleared students

When James Clapper banned intelligence agency employees from discussing or acknowledging the existence of leaked docs (including the Snowden docs), he made life very hard for university professors like Matt Blaze, a security expert whose classes often have students with security clearance.

My own books -- which deal with leaks like these -- are taught at West Point at a course whose instructors include a member of US Cyber Command. I imagine a rule like this would make future inclusion on the curriculum difficult, if not impossible.

Ukip councillor sends cops to activist's house, ask him to delete critical tweet


Michael Abberton, a Green Party activist in Cambridgeshire, was visited by two police officers on Saturday who had been sent by a local councilor from Ukip (a party that lets you express your xenophobia, racism, sexism and homophobia by cloaking it in a respectable "concern about immigration") who objected to a tweet that enumerated some of Ukip's most extreme positions. The police told him that they he wasn't legally obliged to follow their command, and also told him he wasn't allowed to tweet about their visit, but that he wasn't legally obliged to obey that command either. After the police left, a Ukip supporter sent Abberton a threatening tweet that implied that he knew that he'd been visited by the police.

Ukip, standing up for traditional British values, like censorship.

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Congressmen ask ad companies to pretend SOPA is law, break anti-trust

A murder of Congresscritters and Senators have told Internet ad-brokers that they expect them to behave as though SOPA passed into law (instead of suffering hideous, total defeat); they want the companies to establish a secret, unaccountable blacklist of "pirate" sites. The group comprises Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Adam Schiff, and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Orrin Hatch. This isn't just a terrible idea, it's also an obviously illegal antitrust violation, as Mitch Stoltz from the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out:

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Molly Crabapple paintings in Pen charity action


Molly Crabapple and some of her associates have donated a wide selection of art to be auctioned off to benefit the Pen American Center, the US arm of a charitable organization that campaigns for free speech and advocates on behalf of writers whose persons and works are threatened by censorship. (Thanks, Lauren!)

Students raise money, give away 300 copies of book banned in their school

Jaimie sez, "My bookstore helped a high school student distribute almost 300 free copies of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, a book that has been challenged and removed from the Meridian (Idaho) School District curriculum." Funds were raised by two Washington students." They're going to give away another 350 copies that the publisher donated next week. Go kids! (Thanks, Jamie!) Cory 26

Reddit's /r/technology demoted over scandal of secret censorship that blocked Internet freedom stories


Alan sez, "According to various media reports (e.g. BBC) the technology subreddit has scrubbed its moderator team after users discovered that the sub was holding a secret censorship list of banned words that included 'National Security Agency', 'GCHQ', 'Anonymous', 'anti-piracy', 'Bitcoin', 'Snowden', 'net neutrality', 'EU Court', 'startup' and 'Assange'.

On its face, this looks like a list of politicized terms, and blocking them looks like a highly political and partisan act -- for example, by blocking "net neutrality," then stories that are critical of network discrimination would be blocked, while straight news stories that overwhelmingly quoted corporate spokespeople using uncritical terms would make the front door.

More charitably, it may have been the act of overworked (and ultimately irresponsible) moderators to simply ban hot-button topics altogether.

Here's the Reddit post that outed /r/technology's moderators.

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Crowdfunding £12,000 to fight mandatory UK Internet filters

Jim Killock from the UK Open Rights Group sez, "Recently the British Government, with the help of conservative religious lobby groups, has persuaded ISPs to introduce an internet filter across the UK. Open Rights Group needs your help to challenge this. We want to make people aware that filters don't work, are dangerous for internet freedom and could give parents a false sense of security when it comes to their children's use of the internet.

"To get this message across we want to produce a high-quality, funny film that will re-start the debate about why filters are a bad idea. It will cost us £12,000 to get this campaign off the ground. We need to show people that filters censor the internet. Most of all, we need to tell politicians like Claire Perry that they have to stop blaming the internet for society's problems.

"Filters don't work. Help us to fight them."

Internet filters are a weak spot in the UK government's expanding censorship programme, and ripe for disruption through pointed satire. I contributed.

Stop UK Internet Censorship

(Disclosure: I co-founded the Open Rights Group and volunteer on its advisory board)

Australian civil servants ordered to fink on colleagues who criticize gov't online

Australia's far-right crybaby government is so terrified of civil servants criticizing its policies that it has ordered government employees to snitch on any colleagues who breathe an unhappy word about the politicians of the day online, even if the criticism is anonymous, because it is "unprofessional." Civil servants are also banned from editing Wikipedia in ways that make politicians and their policies look bad.

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Microsoft's internal network censors Torrentfreak

Microsoft's internal network has begun censoring Torrentfreak, an excellent investigative journalism site that reports on file-sharing, censorship, copyright and Internet regulation around the world. Torrentfreak, which does not host or link to infringing files, is identified as a "security policy violation" by Microsoft's corporate spyware/censorware, supplied by Edge. Microsoft employees who try to read the site are shown a message that says, "The requested resource has been blocked as an identified risk to your client and the Microsoft corporate network." Cory 14

Chinese censor prosecuted for taking bribes to censor remarks companies and government officials disliked

Censorship invites abuse. In China, the widespread practice of Internet censorship means that lots of people are authorized to hand down censorship orders and lots more people naturally turn to censorship when something on the Internet bugs them. This week, Chinese authorities prosecuted an "Internet policeman" who took payments from companies in return for censoring unfavorable remarks about them on social media. He's accused of censoring more than 2,500 posts in return for over $300K in payments. He also collaborated with another official to censor critical remarks about government officials. It seems unlikely that Gu, the Internet policeman who was arrested, and Liu, his collaborator, were the only two censors-for-hire in the Chinese system.

Lest you think that this problem is uniquely Chinese, consider that when Wikileaks leaked the Great Firewall of Australia's blacklist, we learned that more the half the sites on the list didn't meet the censorship criteria. And when the Danish and Swedish blacklists were analyzed, it emerged that more than 98 percent of the sites blocked did not meet the official criteria for censorship. And in the UK, the national firewall once blocked all of Wikipedia.

China Prosecuted Internet Policeman In Paid Deletion Cases