Last chance to save Net Neutrality

Millions of people have signed petitions and submitted comments to the FCC. This is your last chance. This website you're reading—and pretty much every other website you're going to interact with today—would not be here today if the FCC's "fast lane" rules had been in place when we started.

In the 1980s, the cable companies breathlessly predicted a "500 channel universe" where you could choose from up to a whopping 500 entertainment feeds. Today, I read more than 500 RSS feeds. The right number of "channels" for entertainment, information, and community in the 21st century isn't 500. It may be more than 5,000,000,000.

If you do one thing this year to make the world a better place, do this. There's lots of important stuff out there -- the situation in Syria and Iraq, global warming, mass surveillance. But without a free and fair and open Internet, we'll never be able to organize to change it.

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Petition against UK sell-off of private tax data

Pam writes, "The Open Rights Group has set up a petition in response to last week's news that the British government is planning to sell access to private tax records."

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Tell Congress to legalize unlocking your phone


Sherwin from Public Knowledge writes, "The Copyright Office and the Library of Congress think that copyright law and the DMCA make it illegal to unlock your phone and take it to a new carrier. This is plainly ridiculous: a year ago, 114,000 Americans wrote the White House to tell them that, and the White House agreed. So did the FCC. And, eventually, so did the phone companies, who say they'll work to unlock most consumers' phones for them. But the law has stayed the same. It's still illegal for you, even if you've paid off your entire contract, to take it upon yourself to unlock your own phone."

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EU elections: ask candidates to sign digital rights pledge

Kirsten From Edri writes, "European Digital Rights (EDRi) has launched WePromise.EU to put digital civil rights on the agenda of the European election. The platform is based on a two-sided promise: On the one hand, parliamentary candidates will be able to endorse a ten point 'Charter of Digital Rights' that supports an open digital environment. On the other, citizens across Europe can in turn sign the petition and promise to vote for candidates that have endorsed the Charter."

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Parents of Buddhist student sue "Bible Belt" Louisiana school over forced prayer, religious discrimination

The ACLU is representing Scott and Sharon Lane, the parents of a child known in the proceedings as "CC," in a case against the Sabine Parish, Louisiana School Board, where their child was ridiculed for his Buddhist faith, and was forced to endure Christian indoctrination, including forced prayer, in the class. They say that their son's sixth grade curriculum included exam questions like "ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (the correct answer was "LORD"). The school superintendent told them that they had no business being upset by this, because the school is in the Bible Belt, and he recommended sending the child to a school 25 miles away where there were "more Asians."

The ACLU is calling on supporters of the Lanes and CC to sign a petition to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for a "an immediate investigation into unlawful religious discrimination in Sabine Parish public schools."

To the right, the charming logo of Negreet High, whose school team is the "Negreet Indians."

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30,000 more signatures needed, then Obama will have to take a position on warrantless access to email and texts

Holmes from Fight for the Future writes, "Think local police in America should be able to read your emails and texts without a warrant? No? Well right now they can. Want to fix that? Then please sign this 'We the People' petition asking Obama for a response. It's at 70,000 signatures and it needs 100,000 by tomorrow for a response. It's tantalizingly close. Once the petition hits 100,000 signatures, Obama must take a position, and movement in Congress becomes much more likely."

Writers against mass surveillance


A group of writers from around the world, including Nobel laureates, have signed onto a petition calling on the world's governments to limit online surveillance. I was honored to be asked to be among the initial signatories, in good company with the likes of Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Martin Amis, Günter Grass, Pico Ayer, Will Self, Irvine Welsh, Jeanette Winterson, Lionel Shriver, Paul Auster, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Lethem, and many, many others. The petition is now open for your signature in support of a set of simple, important core principles:

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Sign the ACLU petition to reform American electronic spying laws

Sandra from the ACLU writes, "As the scope and depth of the NSA's spying continues to grow, we cannot forget about similar privacy violations committed by state and local police. The primary law protecting against such violations -- The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) -- was passed in 1986. Technology has evolved quite a bit since then, as you may have noticed. ECPA, unfortunately, has not, allowing local, state, and federal law enforcement to access our sensitive data in the cloud without a warrant."

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Petition to kill UK's Great Firewall of Cameron


Update 2: And Here's the Open Rights Group's petition.


Update: Here's another, broader petition that hits on issues the other one misses


Here's a Change.org petition to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, calling on him to withdraw his plan to censor the Internet in the UK, blocking huge numbers of legal sites from "forums" to "circumvention tools" to "alcohol information" and (legal) pornography. Cameron wants ISPs to default to sending all their users' network activity to unaccountable, offshore companies like Huawei, who will unaccountably determine which requests will be fulfilled and which will be blocked. If subscribers want to turn this off, they'll have to tell their ISPs that they want "pornography" and possibly have to provide proof of age -- such as going in person to a sales office to allow their passports to be insecurely copied and filed by retail staff.

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Octavia Butler Park, Seattle

The Seattle Parks Department wants to know what to name a new park, and one of the choices is science fiction hero Octavia Butler. Take the survey here. (via IO9) Cory 3

Petition to "Christian" college that won't provide transcripts to student expelled for being gay


Danielle Powell had nearly finished her Bachelor's Degree at Omaha's Grace University when the school administration found out that she was a lesbian. They outed her to her family and fellow students and suspended her (Grace is a religious school, which requires that its students abstain from "sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual acts"). During her suspension, they made extensive queries to discover if she was still involved in same-sex relationships, and on discovering that she was, they did.

Powell has attempted to finish her degree at another university, but Grace refuses to provide her transcripts unless she pays back about $6,000 in merit scholarships that she received from the institution. Powell's wife has started a petition to get the university to provide Powell's transcripts and forgive the "debt."

"They were doing a witch hunt," Powell said, "calling around to see if I was in a same-sex relationship."

James told Powell in a letter, a copy of which was provided to HuffPost, that she was being "deceitful" and said it would be "unethical" for the university to readmit her since it "would be impossible for the faculty of Grace University to affirm your Christian character, a requirement for degree conferral."

By October 2012, as Powell was looking into attending another college, she said she was told that Grace would only transfer the credits from her three and a half years if she paid a $6,300 tuition bill from the semester during which she was suspended for being gay. The university denies they have withheld her transcripts, but Powell said she's only been offered a student copy she cannot use to transfer.

Danielle Powell, Grace University Student Kicked Out For Being Lesbian, Must Repay Thousands: [Tyler Kingkade/HuffPo] (via Reddit)

Petition: Obama, debate Edward Snowden

Holmes from Fight for the Future writes, "We just posted this to "We the People," the Obama administration's petition site. 100,000 signatures gets us a response:"

President Obama, you have said that the NSA's blanket tracking of Americans' phone calls and collaboration with tech giants "struck the right balance" and that you "welcome this debate". You must agree that this issue is worthy of your time, and as our president you are the best qualified person to make the case in favor of broad surveillance. To make the opposing case, we can think of no one better than whistleblower Edward Snowden. Like you, he has access to the data showing the tradeoff between securing America and damaging democracy (which at this point the public does not). He speaks with breathtaking clarity, and has left behind a comfortable life, facing death for the strength of his convictions. If you are as strong in yours, you owe him (and us) 1 hour of your time for this.

President Obama, if you believe in NSA surveillance, we challenge you to a live, public debate with Edward Snowden. (Thanks, Holmes!)

Petition to get a plaque commemorating Isaac Asimov in Philadelphia


Science fiction author Michael Swanwick sez, "In my adopted hometown of Philadelphia there's a move afoot to put up a plaque where Isaac Asimov lived while he was working (and writing seminal Foundation and Robot stories) at the Naval Yard during WWII. Asimov hated Philadelphia while he lived here but came back for the conventions year after year. He gave back. Now it's time to Philadelphia to give back to him. The Change.com petition seems to have stalled at 364, 136 short of its goal. This despite the fact that you don't have to be a citizen of Pennsylvania to sign it. I don't want to be a part of a genre that can't give Isaac five hundred signatures. I'm betting the author of 'I, Rowboat,' agrees with me."

Indeed I do, Michael.

(Image: Isaac Asimov painted portrait _DDC4972, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from home_of_chaos's photostream)

TSA routinely violates own rules and the law to discriminate against people w/disabilities

Sai has "a neurological disorder that causes episodic muteness and muscle spasms" -- basically, he sometimes becomes mute and gets bad shakes. His doctor has advised him to have juice continuously available, and this helps control his condition. TSA rules allow him to bring any amount of juice through a checkpoint. Unfortunately, the TSA doesn't read its own rules. Instead, Sai is detained at checkpoints for endless, illegal questioning and searches of his personal papers, confidential business documents, etc. When he loses the ability to speak, he uses pen and paper to communicate, but the TSA takes the pen and paper away as soon as he cites language from a landmark legal case limiting their power to search him.

He's videoed one of these encounters, with the TSA and its private contractors at SFO, and he's filed grievances with various agencies over that incident and another at Boston Logan. The TSA is illegally refusing to follow its own administrative procedures, so he's getting ready to sue them (he needs an ADA and/or FOIA-specialized lawyer qualified for the bar in MA and/or CA and/or federally -- any takers?). He's also trying to force them to disclose their secret procedures.

The edited, subtitled video of his run-in at SFO is fantastically infuriating. The TSA and its private contractors are vindictive, lawless, brutal. But Sai is an inspiring example of calm under fire, a guy who knows his rights back and forwards, and doesn't let the fact that his physical condition is deteriorating -- you can see his tremors -- make him lose his cool (here's the unedited version, which runs to about an hour).

Sai's site has plenty of ways you can help with this, including a petition to Congress and a questionnaire to help him with his Freedom of Information suit. And by helping him, you help everyone who has to fly -- and everyone who cares about freedom in America.

On March 1, 2013, San Francisco TSA refused to allow me to travel with medical liquids. My liquids had been been tested clean by xray & explosive trace detection, and the official on scene specifically acknowledged reading the TSA's Special Needs Memo (including that juice is a medical liquid and that there's no volume restriction on medical liquids). This directly involved the most senior TSA officials at the airport, who detained me for about 50 minutes total.

This is only the most recent in a long string of personal incidents of harassment, denial, or direct refusal to obey TSA's medical liquids policy. This time, though, I got it all on video.

Problems with the TSA (via Hacker News)

Sen Chuck Schumer took $100K from private prisons, now gets to help decide whether to send undocumented immigrants to jail

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is one of the key figures in the political wrangle over whether undocumented immigrants in the USA will be legalized or deported. He's also the recipient of over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the private prison industry, whose profits would skyrocket if his push for prison for all those people is successful.

Chuck Schumer is the lead Senate Democrat working on immigration reform--he gets to decide whether millions of undocumented immigrants will be imprisoned or legalized. Yet he’s also taken over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the private prison industry. Is it any surprise he’s pushing for billions more dollars spent on increased enforcement and detention of immigrants?

We can’t trust Sen. Schumer to push for fair legislation when he’s accepting money from private prison companies that have a strong interest in jailing as many immigrants as possible. How much of an interest? The two corporations from which Sen. Schumer took money, GEO Group and CCA, made $296.9 million in profits from the jailing of immigrants last year.

Tell Sen. Schumer to return this money immediately.

If 15,000 people sign, we'll personally deliver your petitions to Sen. Schumer and demand a response.

Sen. Schumer: Give back the money (via Making Light)