EFF is hiring an international policy director!

[[Editor's note: I was the Electronic Frontier Foundation's first-ever European Director, which was a crazy and amazing job at a time when the organization was much smaller; now EFF is much bigger, and international issues are a much bigger deal for us, with bad policy ideas ricocheting around the globe and needing a coordinated response; the below is from my colleague Rainey Reitman, EFF's Chief Program Officer; you can find the formal listing here -Cory ]]

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Moderators for large platform tell all, reveal good will, frustration, marginalization

Alex Feerst, Medium's head of trust and safety, conducted a long, wide-ranging interview with senior content moderation staffers with experience at Dropbox, Google, Facebook, Reddit, Pintrest, and many unnamed platforms; the interview is very frank and reveals a group of people with a deep, real-world commitment to protecting users as well as defending free speech. Read the rest

Court sides with cheerleader punished for writing "fuck cheer"

A cheerleader in Pennsylvania has won a free-speech case against her school, which tried to punish her for insulting it on social media.

The case involves a First Amendment challenge to the Mahanoy Area High School’s “Cheerleading Rules,” which prohibit cheerleaders from posting any “negative information” about cheerleading online. B.L. was kicked off the junior varsity cheerleading squad for posting a Snap to Snapchat on the weekend that school officials believed was “negative,” “disrespectful,” and “demeaning.” ... On March 21, 2019, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, finding that the school did not have the authority to discipline her for her off-campus speech and that the school was in violation of the First Amendment..

"fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything," to quote the magnificent B.L., but most of all fuck the Mahanoy Area High School for trying to silence its students off-campus.

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Satanic statue part of holiday decorations at Illinois Capitol

The Satanic Temple of Chicago has installed a stately and elegant statue at the Illinois Capitol between the Christmas tree and Hanukkah menorah. Predictably, some people are pissed. Approximately 4.5 feet tall, the statue features a snake around an arm with the hand clutching an apple. The pedestal is emblazoned with the statement "Knowledge is the greatest gift." From CNN:

"We feel it's a First Amendment issue, we have other displays there -- a Hanukkah menorah and Nativity scene," (Secretary of State's office spokesperson Dave) Drucker said. "If you have displays of one type you need to be consistent and allow everyone to do so, aside from hate speeches and other unacceptable things."

The Satanic Temple says that its members are atheists who are often interested in community activism, according to the group's website.

"We do not promote a belief in a personal Satan," the website says. "To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions." The group says it embraces the "struggle for justice" and believes people should "strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures," according to its website.

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Wikileaks threatens to sue "fake news producers"

Wikileaks, furious about a report in The Guardian claiming that founder Julian Assange met with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, said that it plans to sue it for libel. Moreover, it expects to create a "business model" from such lawsuits.

NEW RULES: WikiLeaks is going make suing fake news producers like the Guardian a central part of its business model. Since libels are the most predictable response to the power and accuracy of a WikiLeaks' publication, our analysis is that this is a stable, scalable income stream

Hey, at least someone gets to see him in court. Read the rest

Russian feminist blogger faces 5 years for "inciting hatred" against men

Kazakh blogger Lyubov Kalugina has been charged under Russia's Article 282, an "anti-extremism" law now being used by men who claim women sharing jokes and memes offend them. Via Quartz: Read the rest

How to: beat Chinese social media image-filtering

Researchers from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab (previously) have published an extensive report on the image filtering systems used by Chinese messaging giant Wechat to prevent the posting of banned political messages and other "sensitive" topics that are censored in China. Read the rest

The platforms control our public discourse, and who they disconnect is arbitrary and capricious

Look, I'm as delighted as you are to see Alex Jones' ability to spread hatred curtailed -- because in a world where all the important speech takes place online, and where online speech is owned by four or five companies, being kicked off of Big Tech's services is likely to be an extinction-level event. Read the rest

Inside the triumphant Alex Jones banned everywhere story is a worrying nuance about free speech and platform dominance

When we worry about free speech, we mostly worry about governments suppressing speech, not private actors. It's one thing to say that the US government shouldn't have the ability to arbitrarily censor some speech, but it's another altogether to say, that, for example, Boing Boing shouldn't be able to kick jerks off its message boards -- that has as much to do with "compelled publication" as it does with "free speech." Read the rest

The UN's top free speech expert just denounced the new EU copyright plan as a "potential violation of international human rights law"

David Kaye (previously) is the UN's Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression; he just released a detailed report on the catastrophic free speech implications of Article 13, the EU's proposed copyright rule that would make sites filter everything their users post to check for copyright violations. Read the rest

Tanzania's independent websites, podcasts and video channels have gone dark as the country's new blogger tax goes into effect

As of this Friday, anyone operating an independent online presence in Tanzania will have to pay a licensing fee equivalent to an average year's wages, and submit to a harsh set of censorship rules, as well as an obligation to unmask anonymous posters and commenters, with stiff penalties for noncompliance. Read the rest

Koch-funded "academic freedom" grifters run into trouble at Wellesley

Reactionaries of every stripe have latched onto "academic freedom" for self-promotion as speakers on college campuses, but Wellesley College's Koch-funded Freedom Project came under scrutiny thanks to student activists and journalists. Now the program's head is taking a year off to teach "elsewhere." Read the rest

ACLU steps in to defend anti-Trump mural in New Orleans

A mural quoting a sexual assault comment made by the President of the United States led to a threat of jail time from the city of New Orleans. Neal Morris, owner of the property and commissioner of the work, got the ACLU involved. Read the rest

Survey: student attitudes about diversity and inclusion vs. free speech are shifting

A new Gallup-Knight Foundation survey suggests that shifting student views are exposing deep rifts in attitudes toward diversity versus free speech among demographic groups. The survey presents this false dichotomy of inclusion vs. the First Amendment, but that's how it's often presented in these debates, ignoring academic responsibility. Read the rest

Popehat's new First Amendment law-podcast is great!

Make No Law is a just-launched podcast hosted by Ken "Popehat" White (previously), a former Federal prosecutor who writes some of the best, most incisive legal commentary on the web; the first episode deals with the oft-cited, badly misunderstood "fighting words" doctrine and its weird history in the religious prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses (my sole complaint is that he didn't work in E. Gary Gygax). Read the rest

City of Sarajevo bans unsanctioned utterances of its name, threatens Facebook groups

The proprietors of every Facebook page containing the word "Sarajevo" in its title reportedly received demand letters from the city government of Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia, threatening legal action unless the proprietors pay a royalty for permission to use the city's name in their pages. Read the rest

Peter Thiel, "libertarian," wants to buy Gawker's archive, which would give him the power to censor stories he didn't like

Libertarian wisdom holds that "the answer to bad speech is more speech," but if you're a Peter Thiel libertarian (that is, the kind of "freedom lover" who doesn't think women should vote, wants to spy on everyone in the world, and secretly wields power to censor the free press), then "the answer to bad speech is secretly backing lawsuits by washed-up pro-wrestlers in order to kill a media outlet whose reporting you don't like." Read the rest

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