In the wake of CNN threatening to out a critic if he does not limit his speech in the future, former federal prosecutor and First Amendment champion Ken White has published an eminently sensible post about the incoherence of the present moment's views on free speech, and on the way that partisanship causes us to apply a double standard that excuses "our bunch" and damns the "other side." Read the rest
Earlier this week we went to see a Los Angeles screening of Tickling Giants followed by a Q&A with Bassem Youssef, the subject of the film. The evening was presented by Ziya Tong's Black Sheep.
Bassem Youssef, often called the “Jon Stewart of Egypt,” was a prominent heart surgeon who became the creator and host of the Egyptian late-night comedy TV show Al-Bernameg (“The Show”), which began as an immensely popular YouTube channel. The live network show revolved around Bassem’s use of satire and sarcastic humor towards the corrupt and oppressive Egyptian government. As the only program on Egyptian television concerned with free speech and the voice of the people, “The Show” quickly rose in popularity and attracted 30 million viewers per show, significantly more than the 2 million who tuned in nightly to The Daily Show. Even though Bassem and the team behind the show were constantly living in fear that their jokes would put them in danger, they bravely continued to produce a show that criticized authority and the country’s politics. The satirical program ran from 2011-2014, until Egypt’s oppressive military regime made it impossible for the show to continue.
Tickling Giants is a documentary based on Bassem Youssef, “The Show”, and their role in Egyptian culture. The film provides a detailed view of how Youssef “finds creative, non-violent ways to protect free speech and fight a president who abuses his power.”
During the Q&A with Youssef following the documentary, Youssef shared experiences and advice not given in the documentary. Read the rest
Surprise! Principles of free speech are often deployed by its enemies as cover for racial prejudice. Which is, of course, free speech.
The new study reveals a positive correlation (Pearson r = .43) between having racial prejudice and defending racist speech using the “free speech argument” — a stronger correlation than the researchers expected.
White and Crandall recruited hundreds of participants via the Amazon Mechanical Turk service, conducting several interrelated studies where participants responded to descriptions of recent news events or readings involving someone being punished for racist speech. The racial attitudes of the respondents themselves were gauged using the Henry and Sears Symbolic Racism 2000 scale, a standard measure of racial prejudice in social psychology and political science.
The underlying opposition to free speech is key: "many who defend racist speech using the “free speech argument” might not extend the same principle of free speech to negative comments aimed at authority figures or the public in general."
“You might think that, ‘Maybe people who defend this racist speech are just big fans of free speech, that they’re principled supporters of freedom,’” Crandall said. “Well, no. We give them a ‘news’ article with the same speech aimed at police — and prejudice scores are completely uncorrelated with defending speech aimed at police — and also uncorrelated with snarky speech aimed at customers at a coffee shop, but with no racial content.”
So much for the tolerant right! Read the rest
Twitter today dropped a lawsuit it filed on Thursday against the U.S. Homeland Security Department, after saying the DHS withdrew its summons for records about who is operating a Twitter account critical of President Donald Trump. Read the rest
A security researcher has published a vulnerability and proof-of-concept exploits in Google's Internet of Things security cameras, marketed as Nest Dropcam, Nest Dropcam Pro, Nest Cam Outdoor and Nest Cam Indoor; these vulnerabilities were disclosed to Google last fall, but Google/Nest have not patched them despite the gravity of the vulnerability and the long months since the disclosure. Read the rest
Indie news outlet Techdirt is being sued for $15M by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email in 1978, eight years after Ray Tomlinson sent an email over ARPANET; Ayyadurai is represented by Charles Harder, a key figure in the Gawker-killing legal campaign that Peter Thiel financed, and who is also representing Melania Trump in her $150m lawsuit against The Daily Mail. Read the rest
Restauranteur John Horvatinovich refused to serve beer to two undercover teenagers, then let his followers know about the failed sting by sharing a picture of the underage police informants. Next thing he knew, he faced a year in jail for his tweet. Read the rest
It's only been a handful of days since Donald Trump took office, but we're already getting strong signals about the sort of administration he intends to run: workers at US government agencies have been banned from making any public disclosures of the research they conduct at public expense until new political minders can be installed to ensure that these facts don't contradict Trump's official narrative; and six journalists have been charged with felonies for covering the protests during the inauguration. Read the rest
danah boyd writes, "Yesterday, a group of us at Data & Society put out six essays on 'media, technology, politics.' Taken
together, these pieces address different facets of the current public
conversation surrounding propaganda, hate speech, and the US election.
Although we only allude to specifics, we have been witnessing
mis/disinformation campaigns for quite some time as different networks
seek to manipulate both old and new media, shape political discourse,
and undermine trust in institutions and information intermediaries. In
short, we are concerned about the rise of a new form of propaganda that
is networked, decentralized, and internet-savvy. We are also concerned
about the ongoing development of harassment techniques and gaslighting,
the vulnerability of old and new media to propagate fear and
disinformation, and the various ways in which well-intended
interventions get misappropriated. We believe that we're
watching a systematic attack on democracy, equality, and freedom. There
is no silver bullet to address the issues we're seeing. Instead,
a healthy response is going to require engagement by many different
constituencies. We see our role in this as to help inform and ground the
conversation. These essays are our first attempt to address the
interwoven issues we're seeing. Read the rest
On Dec 15, an amendment to Thailand's 2007 Computer Crime Act passed its National Legislative Assembly -- a body appointed by the country's military after the 2014 coup -- unanimously, and in 180 days, the country will have a new internet law that represents a grab bag of the worst provisions of the worst internet laws in the world, bits of the UK's Snooper's Charter, America's Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the dregs of many other failed laws. Read the rest
Charles from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund writes, "CBLDF is raising money to prepare for a busy 2017 this #GivingTuesday by offering exclusive Comics Are For Everybody merchandise created by Jordie Bellaire (@woahjordie) and Steven Finch (@fonografiks). Comics should be an art form that welcomes and encourages all voices and viewpoints. CBLDF's efforts to protect the First Amendment are essential in creating a climate ensuring that remains the case." Read the rest
British regulators determined that a joke about Queen Elizabeth II having sex "breached" broadcasting rules.
The edition of the show, which aired in April this year, featured a panel of comedians who are given a subject which they have to prove is not funny. If the audience does laugh, the subject passes to the next contestant.
Panellist Russell Kane was asked to explain why there was nothing funny about why the Queen, who has four children, must have had sex at least four times in her life.
“Four times we have to think of republicanism as we imagine four children emerging from Her Majesty’s vulva,” said Kane to audience laughter.
Ofcom ruled that the quips, uttered on BBC Radio 4, were "not justified". Moreover, "the potential for offence was increased by the fact that these remarks were broadcast on the Queen's 90th birthday".
The show, Don't Make Me Laugh, was cancelled in the wake of the controversy, which led to a staggering 12 people writing in to complain.
I can't immediately find a clip of the segment in question, so you'll instead have to make do with some amusing media navelgazing over a previous instance of British lese majeste, wherein the line "I'm so old my pussy is haunted" was repeated in Streisand-esque fashion in a watchdog show.
No sanctions were reported other than Ofcom's stern telling-off. But whatever you do, don't talk about Queen Liz getting into bed with Donald Trump.
UPDATE: I believe this is the episode in question, but haven't got a timestamp for you yet:
Read the rest
In the wake of the Trump election -- a triumph of fake news -- both Google and Facebook have announced that they will take countermeasures to exclude "fake news" from their services, downranking them in the case of Facebook and cutting them off from ad payments in Google's case. Read the rest
Donald Trump promised to shut down the free press if elected (the fact that the laws he wants to "open up" don't exist makes him an ignoramus, but not a harmless one) and his first official post-election act was to block the press and then to call for politically motivated reprisals against his press critics. Read the rest
This excerpt from Harvey Milk's famous "Hope" speech, given at the start of the last anti-LGBT backlash, is brimming with timeless wisdom and inspiration. Another excerpt from the full speech: Read the rest
Prosecutors in Germany have launched a formal investigation of Mark Zuckerberg and other executives at Facebook, the Munich prosecutor's office said Friday, over a complaint that Facebook broke German laws against hate speech and sedition by failing to remove racist hate-posts on the social media service.
Read the rest
Trump wants to end criticism of Trump. But more than that, he wants to silence the women he boasted about groping.Specifically, he wants America to be more like England, where "they actually have a system where you can sue if someone says something wrong." Read the rest