Free speech versus "compelled attention"


Yesterday's story about a woman who made her Twitter account private because of harassment from men sparked a lot of discussion about how blocking and free speech interact with each other. Here's my $0.02 on the matter: Read the rest

For the first time ever, a judge has invalidated a secret Patriot Act warrant


Calyx is a privacy-oriented ISP. In 2004, the FBI brought its owner, Nicholas Merrill, a National Security Letter -- one of the USA Patriot Act's secret search warrants, which comes with a gag order prohibiting the recipient from ever disclosing its existence.

Merrill has fought the gag order for 11 years, refusing to give up despite government attempts to get the case booted and to run up the court costs beyond Merrill's ability to pay.

He had a partial victory in 2010, when he and the ACLU won a court victory that allowed him to disclose some elements of the NSL, but left important details -- including the categories of information the FBI believes it can request under an NSL -- still secret. This latest victory overturns that restriction.

The judge in this case, Judge Victor Marrero, also presided over a 2007 case that overturned part of the Patriot Act, requiring investigators to go through the courts in order to get NSLs. In his Calyx decision, he condemned the government's secrecy as "extreme and overly broad."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s decision invalidated the gag order in full, finding no “good reason” to prevent Merrill from speaking about any aspect of the NSL, particularly an attachment to the NSL that lists the specific types of “electronic communication transactional records” (“ECTR”) that the FBI believed it was authorized to demand. The FBI has long refused to clarify what kinds of information it sweeps up under the rubric of ECTR, a phrase that appears in the NSL statute but is not publicly defined anywhere.

Read the rest

Library offers Tor nodes; DHS tells them to stop

John writes, "After a library created a Tor node on its network, the DHS and local police contacted them to ask them to stop. For now they have; their Board of Trustees will vote soon on whether to renew the service." Read the rest

Fight censorship with the new Humble Bundle full of Gaiman rarities

More than a dozen rare and unpublished Neil Gaiman titles are available DRM-free on a name-your-price basis at Humble Bundle this week, with proceeds to benefit the brilliant Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, as well as other free-speech causes. Read the rest

The End of the Internet Dream: the speech that won Black Hat (and Defcon)

"The End of the Internet Dream," cyberlawyer Jennifer Granick's keynote at Black Hat, was all anyone could talk about at this year's Defcon -- Black Hat being the grown-up, buttoned-down, military-industrial cousin to Defcon's wild and exuberant anarchy. Read the rest

Student suspended for tweeting two words will get to sue his school, police chief

Rogers, MN honor student Reid Sagehorn was suspended after he tweeted two words, using his own device, on his own time, off school property. Read the rest

FBI opened a file on George Carlin for telling "bad taste" Hoover jokes

Michael from Muckrock writes, "After George Carlin satirized FBI and J. Edgar Hoover in a bit "considered to be in very poor taste" (but which was incredibly tame by Carlin standards), the Bureau took a special interest in the famed comedian, starting a file and sending out queries across the country as to Carlin's loyalties and background." Read the rest

Idaho court strikes down anti-whistleblower "ag-gag" law

Many agriculture-heavy states have passed laws criminalizing recording videos of animal cruelty and illegal workplace and food hygiene practices, but one judge in Idaho isn't having any of it. Read the rest

Ellen Pao: “The trolls are winning.”


“I have just endured one of the largest trolling attacks in history,” writes Reddit's recently-departed interim CEO Ellen Pao in a Washington Post op-ed today. “And I have just been blessed with the most astonishing human responses to that attack.” Read the rest

Australian woman imprisoned in Abu Dhabi for Facebook post


Did you know that if you post a photo of a car parked across two disabled spaces in Abu Dhabi you can go to prison for “writing bad words about a person?” Jodi Magi, 39, did not know that. The Australian woman posted the photo to her Facebook page and even obscured the license plate number on the car. But that didn't matter to authorities. She was fined $2,700 and offered to pay, but when she tried to leave the country Abu Dhabi authorities turned down the offer and insisted that she go to court.

At this point she was arrested and taken away in a police van.

"No one's talking to me. No one's telling me what's going on," she told the Australian broadcaster, ABC, from the back of the van.

“They were about to put me in male lock-up and then they turned me away and no one knows what to do with me. I'm pretty scared."

It is still unclear how long Ms Magi will remain in custody.

What do you bet the car in the photo belongs to a powerful person in Abu Dhabi? But, it's good you're locking up Jodi, Your Honor. A real good thing. And tomorrow... tomorrow's gonna be a... real good day! Read the rest

NZ's anti-troll law: gift to trolls, bad for free speech

If you set out to create the platonic ideal of a badly considered anti-trolling bill that made a bunch of ineffectual gestures at ending harassment without regard to the collateral damage on everything else on the Internet, well, you'd be New Zealand's Parliament, apparently. Read the rest

After lying and covering up, Facebook finally changes rules for inmates' pages

After at least four years of lying about its rubberstamp takedown process for prison authorities and omitting prison takedowns from its transparency reports, Facebook is finally bringing a crumb of due process to its treatment of prisoners. Read the rest

Atlanta pays $20,000 to critic forced to post pro-cop message to Facebook

Atlanta police Lt. Jeffrey Cantin told Baton Bob, a street performer, that he wouldn't be released on Bond unless he posted complementary remarks about the Atlanta police department to his Facebook page. Read the rest

Comics Connector: matching comics professionals with teachers/librarians for visits

Charles from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund writes, "Comic Book Legal Defense Fund continues the celebration of Children's Book Week by launching its newest resource -- the Comics Connector, a directory that connects educators and librarians with comics professionals who are able to provide classroom/library visits." Read the rest

Sony sends pre-emptive threat letter to journalists

A lawyer retained by Sony has sent threat-letters to media outlets hinting at repercussions if they report on material in the huge dump of internal Sony docs from the North Korea hack that Wikileaks put online. Read the rest

Clean Reader is a free speech issue

My latest Guardian column, Allow Clean Reader to swap 'bad' words in books – it's a matter of free speech expands on last week's editorial about the controversial ebook reader, which lets readers mangle the books they read by programatically swapping swear-words for milder alternatives. Read the rest

I hate your censorship, but I'll defend to the death your right to censor

An app called Clean Reader lets silly bluenoses swap swear words out of the ebooks they read, an idea I hate: but I hate the idea that anyone can tell me how to read even more.

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