Posts tagged free speech

Let the Olympics Begin… Just Make Sure Street Artists are Kept at Bay
Via the Guardian:

When Adidas wanted to create a mural to illustrate the launch of its new football boot last year, it turned to “professional graffiti artist” Darren Cullen for help. Cullen, 38, runs a firm providing spraycan artwork and branding to major international companies, and says he has never painted illegally on a wall or train.
But despite having worked with one of the Games’s major sponsors, on Tuesday Cullen was arrested by British Transport Police (BTP) and barred from coming within a mile of any Olympic venue, as part of a pre-emptive sweep against a number of alleged graffiti artists before the Olympics.
BTP confirmed that four men from Kent, London and Surrey, aged between 18 and 38, had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, two of whom were also further arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit criminal damage.
They were bailed until November under strict conditions restricting their access to rail, tube and tram transport, preventing them from owning spray paint or marker pens, and ordering them not to go near any Olympic venue in London or elsewhere. None has been charged.

Image: Pole Vaulting, via Banksy.

Let the Olympics Begin… Just Make Sure Street Artists are Kept at Bay

Via the Guardian:

When Adidas wanted to create a mural to illustrate the launch of its new football boot last year, it turned to “professional graffiti artist” Darren Cullen for help. Cullen, 38, runs a firm providing spraycan artwork and branding to major international companies, and says he has never painted illegally on a wall or train.

But despite having worked with one of the Games’s major sponsors, on Tuesday Cullen was arrested by British Transport Police (BTP) and barred from coming within a mile of any Olympic venue, as part of a pre-emptive sweep against a number of alleged graffiti artists before the Olympics.

BTP confirmed that four men from Kent, London and Surrey, aged between 18 and 38, had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, two of whom were also further arrested on suspicion of incitement to commit criminal damage.

They were bailed until November under strict conditions restricting their access to rail, tube and tram transport, preventing them from owning spray paint or marker pens, and ordering them not to go near any Olympic venue in London or elsewhere. None has been charged.

Image: Pole Vaulting, via Banksy.

Yes, Pussy Riot Faces Seven Years in Russian Jail for This “Punk Prayer”

Via The New Yorker:

The prosecution of the Pussy Riot women is more than an act of absurd injustice and cruelty; it is a sign that the Russian state is increasingly lashing out against those citizens it sees as overly modernized. Vladimir Putin has often said that modernization is the goal of his regime, but its policy is increasingly slipping toward something egregiously anti-modern, obscurantist, even medieval. The Pussy Riot case is a telling illustration of Putin’s political crackdown—and of his increasing reliance on the Russian Orthodox Church as a resort of the most conservative societal forces…

…According to prosecution, there were about a dozen “injured parties,” most of them security guards who happened to be on duty in the cathedral during the seconds that the “blasphemous act” lasted, plus a sacristan and a candle-keeper. Two lawyers representing one of the security guards claim that their client, Vladimir Potan’kin, was so deeply emotionally wounded that he is now suffering from sleeping problems. In an interview with a Russian newspaper last week, Potan’kin’s lawyers called Pussy Riot a “criminal conspiracy.”

If you’re wondering who’s behind the conspiracy, it’s Satan… No, seriously. Read through.

The New Yorker, Putin’s Religious War Against Pussy Riot.

Wanted
In an interview with Cartoon Movement, Robert Russell, director of Cartoonists Rights Network International, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of cartoonists around the world, discusses the history of the organization and why laughter is so threatening to authoritarian regimes:

[B]ack then most human rights organizations didn’t even know what box to put editorial cartoonists in.  Are they artists, or, are they journalists?  As a result, these cartoon journalists frequently slipped through the cracks, especially since many of them were working as freelancers…  
…While we remain the only organization exclusively dedicated to the human rights and free speech rights of editorial cartoonists, we have seen a welcome increase in civil society organizations that have become aware of the importance of editorial cartoonists and the threats to these cartoon journalists.  Many of these organizations like Reporters Without Borders, Article 19, Freedom House, and others have even opened up editorial cartoon pages on their websites where they keep their readers aware of the censoring of editorial cartoons throughout the world…
…Very often when journalists escape a deadly future in their own country, they find themselves as refugees in a strange land.  The trauma of this experience can easily become too much for them. The common image is that of the journalist who finds himself in a new country suddenly having to drive a taxi to put bread on the table.  We are proud to be able to help cartoonists transition through this incredibly traumatic experience and come out the other end as productive as they were when the problems began.  Each survivor becomes an incredible asset in his or her new country.

Cartoon Movement, The Impact of Laughter.

Wanted

In an interview with Cartoon Movement, Robert Russell, director of Cartoonists Rights Network International, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of cartoonists around the world, discusses the history of the organization and why laughter is so threatening to authoritarian regimes:

[B]ack then most human rights organizations didn’t even know what box to put editorial cartoonists in.  Are they artists, or, are they journalists?  As a result, these cartoon journalists frequently slipped through the cracks, especially since many of them were working as freelancers…  

…While we remain the only organization exclusively dedicated to the human rights and free speech rights of editorial cartoonists, we have seen a welcome increase in civil society organizations that have become aware of the importance of editorial cartoonists and the threats to these cartoon journalists.  Many of these organizations like Reporters Without Borders, Article 19, Freedom House, and others have even opened up editorial cartoon pages on their websites where they keep their readers aware of the censoring of editorial cartoons throughout the world…

…Very often when journalists escape a deadly future in their own country, they find themselves as refugees in a strange land.  The trauma of this experience can easily become too much for them. The common image is that of the journalist who finds himself in a new country suddenly having to drive a taxi to put bread on the table.  We are proud to be able to help cartoonists transition through this incredibly traumatic experience and come out the other end as productive as they were when the problems began.  Each survivor becomes an incredible asset in his or her new country.

Cartoon Movement, The Impact of Laughter.

Attacks on Press Freedom & Speech: July 10 - July 20, 2012
For the past ten days I’ve taken screenshots of reported incidents of attacks on press freedom and speech that appear in my RSS feed. The majority of these come from Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
This, of course, isn’t everything that’s happened in the last ten days, but is a chilling reminder of what does happen during any particular, mostly mundane, time period around the globe.
If selecting the image doesn’t enlarge it enough to read the headline and dek of each, you can view the original biggie sized-version here.

Attacks on Press Freedom & Speech: July 10 - July 20, 2012

For the past ten days I’ve taken screenshots of reported incidents of attacks on press freedom and speech that appear in my RSS feed. The majority of these come from Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

This, of course, isn’t everything that’s happened in the last ten days, but is a chilling reminder of what does happen during any particular, mostly mundane, time period around the globe.

If selecting the image doesn’t enlarge it enough to read the headline and dek of each, you can view the original biggie sized-version here.

Belarus: Teddy Bears for Free Speech
via GOOD:

The small former-Soviet republic Belarus is considered to be Europe’s last surviving dictatorship. Protestors and the political opposition arejailed. Journalists are harassed. But that doesn’t mean stories from that small, landlocked nation—or the dissidents trying to bring democracy and free speech there—get much airtime in the West. Last week the Swedish advertising agency Studio Total attempted to do something about the relative silence surrounding Belarus by staging a high profile, and highly dangerous stunt designed to draw attention to the issue from the outside.
The group flew a plane into Belarusian airpsace and unloaded more than a thousand parachute-strapped teddy bears over the village of Ivyanets and Minsk, the capitol. The toys glided to the ground with signs that read “We support the Belarusian struggle for free speech.” Afterward, the plane crossed the border for safety in Lithuania.
Keep Reading

FJP: Woah.

Belarus: Teddy Bears for Free Speech

via GOOD:

The small former-Soviet republic Belarus is considered to be Europe’s last surviving dictatorship. Protestors and the political opposition arejailed. Journalists are harassed. But that doesn’t mean stories from that small, landlocked nation—or the dissidents trying to bring democracy and free speech there—get much airtime in the West. Last week the Swedish advertising agency Studio Total attempted to do something about the relative silence surrounding Belarus by staging a high profile, and highly dangerous stunt designed to draw attention to the issue from the outside.

The group flew a plane into Belarusian airpsace and unloaded more than a thousand parachute-strapped teddy bears over the village of Ivyanets and Minsk, the capitol. The toys glided to the ground with signs that read “We support the Belarusian struggle for free speech.” Afterward, the plane crossed the border for safety in Lithuania.

Keep Reading

FJP: Woah.

The takeaway is simple: any attempt to regulate speech online — whether in service of “stopping piracy” or “defending against cyberattack” — must be ruthlessly interrogated for how it will be abused. Because it will be abused. Those with censorious impulses will push the four corners of the law as far as possible to silence speech they don’t like. It is depressingly common to see the mere threat of a lawsuit cause a withering of speech online. It’s vitally important that we recognize and call out the certainty that even well-intentioned laws that impact expression will be used as a bludgeon against the open expression of information and ideas online.
Josh King, GigaOM. How to protect free speech online.
Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of access to information are vital whether you’re a credentialed journalist, a protester or a bystander with a camera. The First Amendment’s protections must extend to everyone.

Police have arrested dozens of journalists and activists simply for attempting to document political protests in public spaces. We are calling on the Justice Department to address this widespread abuse and protect everyone’s right to record.

Open letter in petition form via the Free Press to US Attorney General Eric Holder.

If interested, the petition can be signed here.

Don’t Censor Me India, But Do Regulate the Broadcasters

Currently in Delhi, I spent this morning reading about the advent of printing in my little cousin’s Social Science textbook, India and the Contemporary World:

Not everyone welcomed the printed book, and those who did also had fears about it. Many were apprehensive of the effects that the easier access to the printed word and the wider circulation of books, could have on people’s minds. It was feared that if there was no control over what was printed and read then rebellious and irreligious thoughts might spread.

Strikingly similar was my afternoon reading around the web on media regulation in India. Here’s a little round-up of my readings on this week.

Censoring India’s Web

The fear of distribution, though now caused by the Internet, is still rampant. Like the SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA bills (and ensuing public outcry), India saw the 2011 IT Act and protests against it.

Just last month the Indian government asked the U.S. to ensure “India-specific objectionable content” are removed from Facebook, Google, and YouTube. The government also wants each to set up servers in India so content can be regulated locally.

See the annulment petition here. Tips on blogging in India here. And a Tumblr: Don’t Censor Me India.


Regulating Broadcasters for the sake of National Security

The afternoon I landed, this was on the news, well, floating by the bottom of the screen of a cricket match. Basically the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended a mandatory “carriage fee” (a fee broadcasters have to pay cable companies to carry their channel), and the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) is protesting it.

The wide belief among broadcasters is that the carriage fee charged by cable companies were virtually a tool for extortion - that unless broadcasters shelled out crores, their channel would not feature in the bouquet of channels. NBA it was “distressed” and “disappointed” that Trai’s new order has actually legalized this extortionist fee and given distributors the freedom to unilaterally set the amount of fees broadcasters must pay.

Tied to this is the issue of regulation of broadcast news in the first place. Recently, Congress MP Meenakshi Natarajan moved a privately proposed bill called “Print and Electronic Media Standards and Regulation Bill, 2012,” which would have given the government power to fine, ban, or suspend coverage of any event that “may pose a threat to national security from foreign or internal sources,” as well as suspend a media organization’s operations for up to 11 months. Or cancel its license. Harsh, right? But that is, in many ways, the rationale behind the Internet censorship act too.


Regulating Broadcasters for the sake of Journalism

And amidst all this, an editorial came out today by Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Markandey Katju, who very strongly argues that an independent body is needed to monitor Indian media, because self-regulation bodies (like the NBA) don’t work.

Media people often talk of self-regulation. But media houses are owned by businessmen who want profit. There is nothing wrong in making profits, but this must be coupled with social responsibilities…The way much of the media has been behaving is often irresponsible, reckless and callous. Yellow journalism, cheap sensationalism, highlighting frivolous issues (like lives of film stars and cricketers) and superstitions and damaging people and reputations, while neglecting or underplaying serious socio-economic issues like massive poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, farmers’ suicides, health care, education, dowry deaths, female foeticide, etc., are hallmarks of much of the media today. Astrology, cricket (the opium of the Indian masses), babas befooling the public, etc., are a common sight on Television channels.

I am far from an authority on this (and much less a resident of India), but after a few days of flipping channels, it seems kind of true. At least the celebrity/cricket/baba stuff.

Katju suggests:

If the electronic media also comes under the Press Council (which can be renamed the Media Council), representatives of the electronic media will also be on this body, which will be totally democratic. Why then are the electronic media people so furiously and fiercely opposing my proposal?

It’s worth a read, as are the comments.

So, travel across the world and you still find the usual, never-ending debates on privacy vs. freedom of speech, which we’ve discussed quite often on here. If interested in following media things in India (including thoughts on the future of Indian journalism), read The Hoot. I’ll explore its archives tomorrow. —Jihii

Free Speech vs. Privacy: Should we be worried?

At the end of January, the European Commission released its official data protection rules, including a new directive, “the right to be forgotten,” which adheres to European law that protects information privacy, such as France’s le droit à l’oubli, sometimes translated at the right of oblivion. This right allows criminals who have served time to object to the publication of facts of their conviction.

What exactly does this new privacy right entail in Europe in the online world? Commentary is rampant East and West of the Atlantic.

How might we be affected here in the States? At issue is privacy rights vs. free speech rights. Here’s a breakdown.

1. The Internet owns us. (via the Atlantic

Surely all people suffer from some unknown horror embarrassing them online, from an old photo or comment, up to a Gawker post. The Internet owns us. Our social networks, our blog comments, our quotes in newspapers, our Yelp ratings, Amazon reviews, e-mails, all our personal data, from our birthday to our home state, the Internet knows. But should it always? Or do we Internet users bear an innate “a right to be forgotten” online? It’s natural for people to want to control their online reputations. 

2. So if you post up an embarrassing photo, yes you can request it be taken down. (via The New Republic

Since Facebook and other social networking sites already allow users to do this, creating a legally enforceable right here is mostly symbolic and entirely unobjectionable. It would also usefully put pressure on Facebook to abide by its own stated privacy policies, by allowing users to confirm that photos and other data have been deleted from its archives after they are removed from public display. 

3. But if your friends, or a tabloid, or an unidentifiable stranger reposts the photo, can you request it to be taken down? Should that be your right?

A year ago, when the right was first proposed, the answer was maybe. It has since been clarified. Still…

Some say, the answer is now: no. (via the Atlantic

Back then, the right would have potentially given people the ability to cull any digital reference — from the public record, journalism, or social networks — they deemed irrelevant and unflattering; today, the EU specifies that the data people have a right to remove is, according to Reding, “personal data [people] have given out themselves.” This provision is key. The overhaul insists that Internet users control the data they put online, not the references in media or anywhere else. 

Others say, the answer is most certainly yes. (via The New Republic)

If contacted by someone who regrets posting an embarrassing picture, Facebook must take “all reasonable steps” on its own to identify any relevant third parties and secure the takedown of the content…Moreover, the right to be forgotten can be asserted not only against the publisher of content (such as Facebook or a newspaper) but against search engines like Google and Yahoo that link to the content.

4. Any exemptions?

Yes, for “the processing of personal data solely for journalistic purposes, or for the purposes of artistic or literary expression.” (original source)

At the very least, Facebook will have to engage in the kinds of difficult line-drawing exercises previously performed by courts. And the prospect of ruinous monetary sanctions for any data controller that does not comply—a fine up to 1,000,000 euros or up to two percent of Facebook’s annual worldwide income—might lead data controllers to opt for deletion in even ambiguous cases.

5. What about things other people post about me online?

The act treats such takedown requests for "truthful information posted by others" the same as it does photos you post yourself. Key point of controversy: As TNR’s Legal Affairs Editor explains, once you demand takedown, the social networking site or search engine has to prove that it falls within journalistic, artistic, or literary exception.

This could transform Google, Yahoo, and other hosts of third party content into censors-in-chief for the European Union, rather than neutral platforms.

7. Yikes. How about us here in the U.S.?

He continues:

Currently, American companies doing business in Europe enjoy some exemptions from E.U. law, under a 1995 agreement. But should that agreement be altered, the new right to be forgotten could be imposed on U.S. companies throughout Europe. 

Pending European Parliament approval, the law will go into effect in the European Union in 2014. 

8. While you’re at it, might as well read a bit about what India and China are up to. (via The Economist)

Building a single European data-protection regime is hard enough. Harmonising it smoothly with America will be harder. Reaching deals with Indian bureaucrats and Chinese mandarins set to defend the interests and the data of their countries’ rapidly growing online firms may be downright impossible. Welcome to the new world of data geopolitics. 

Extra Credit: Peter Fleischer’s widely read blog post on this topic last year, and Jerry Brit’s Time piece on why information wants to be free and why we’re so afraid of “censorship.”
 

Use of Brands In Video Games Is Free Speech—EA Lawsuit
From paidContent

In a new lawsuit, Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS) says free speech rights permit it to use brand name helicopters in the hit gameBattlefield 3. The case is part of a trend in which video game makers are pushing the bounds of trademark law to make their games more realistic.
In its latest claim, EA is asking a California court to declare that its use of Bell helicopters is a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. It claims the helicopters help depict realistic combat in Battlefield 3, a game set in 2014 in which players can command US soldiers in Paris, New York and Tehran to stop an impending nuclear attack.
EA filed the lawsuit after aviation company Textron Inc warned that it would take legal action over trademarks for the AH-1Z, UH-1Y and V-22 Bell helicopters.
The case follows a similar suit last year in which an Indiana company sued EA for using the word “Derringer” to describe Tommy Guns in its Godfather video game franchise. A court sided with EA, and ruled that artistic expression trumped the company’s trademark rights…
The video game cases show how rights of creative expression have recently been trumping intellectual property rights which, in other industries, seem to be constantly expanding.

Use of Brands In Video Games Is Free Speech—EA Lawsuit

From paidContent

In a new lawsuit, Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS) says free speech rights permit it to use brand name helicopters in the hit gameBattlefield 3. The case is part of a trend in which video game makers are pushing the bounds of trademark law to make their games more realistic.

In its latest claim, EA is asking a California court to declare that its use of Bell helicopters is a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. It claims the helicopters help depict realistic combat in Battlefield 3, a game set in 2014 in which players can command US soldiers in Paris, New York and Tehran to stop an impending nuclear attack.

EA filed the lawsuit after aviation company Textron Inc warned that it would take legal action over trademarks for the AH-1Z, UH-1Y and V-22 Bell helicopters.

The case follows a similar suit last year in which an Indiana company sued EA for using the word “Derringer” to describe Tommy Guns in its Godfather video game franchise. A court sided with EA, and ruled that artistic expression trumped the company’s trademark rights…

The video game cases show how rights of creative expression have recently been trumping intellectual property rights which, in other industries, seem to be constantly expanding.

Jailed Journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists is out with a report today that explores the imprisonment of journalists around the world.
Quick overview: the trend is going from bad to worse.
Via CPJ:

The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide shot up more than 20 percent to its highest level since the mid-1990s, an increase driven largely by widespread jailings across the Middle East and North Africa, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, CPJ identified 179 writers, editors, and photojournalists behind bars on December 1, an increase of 34 over its 2010 tally.
Iran was the world’s worst jailer, with 42 journalists behind bars, as authorities kept up a campaign of anti-press intimidation that began after the country’s disputed presidential election more than two years ago. Eritrea, China, Burma, Vietnam, Syria, and Turkey also ranked among the world’s worst.

Image: screenshot from a database of imprisoned journalists — along with the stories of their arrests — that is part of the report.

Jailed Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists is out with a report today that explores the imprisonment of journalists around the world.

Quick overview: the trend is going from bad to worse.

Via CPJ:

The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide shot up more than 20 percent to its highest level since the mid-1990s, an increase driven largely by widespread jailings across the Middle East and North Africa, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, CPJ identified 179 writers, editors, and photojournalists behind bars on December 1, an increase of 34 over its 2010 tally.

Iran was the world’s worst jailer, with 42 journalists behind bars, as authorities kept up a campaign of anti-press intimidation that began after the country’s disputed presidential election more than two years ago. Eritrea, China, Burma, Vietnam, Syria, and Turkey also ranked among the world’s worst.

Image: screenshot from a database of imprisoned journalists — along with the stories of their arrests — that is part of the report.

Internet and Surveillance: The Challenges of Web 2.0 and Social Media
Edited by Christian Fuchs, Kees Boersma, Anders Albrechtslund and Marisol Sandoval
A 40-page intro is available here (PDF).

Internet and Surveillance: The Challenges of Web 2.0 and Social Media

Edited by Christian Fuchs, Kees Boersma, Anders Albrechtslund and Marisol Sandoval

A 40-page intro is available here (PDF).

Social Media Increases Students' First Amendment Appreciation

A recent Knight Foundation study demonstrates that the more teenagers use social media, the greater their appreciation is for the US First Amendment.

The findings are rather dramatic. Back in the early social media days of 2006, 45% of teenagers surveyed said that the First Amendment “goes too far” in protecting citizens rights. Today, that number’s down to 24%.

According to a press release accompanying the study, “There is a clear, positive relationship between social media use and appreciation of the First Amendment. Fully 91 percent of students who use social networking daily to get news and information agree that “people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions.”

For the educators out there, Knight Foundation will release a teachers’ guide for social media and the First Amendment on December 15 at the Newseum in Washington DC. 

Study (PDF). 

Photographers: Know Your Rights

The ACLU’s published a photographer’s cheat sheet on their rights when shooting in the field (US only):

  • When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view.
  • When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs.
  • Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant.
  • Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.
  • Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations.
  • Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws.

Click through for explanations of each, advice on what to do if stopped or detained, exceptions for shooting around airports and special considerations for videography (eg., “With regards to videotaping, there is an important legal distinction between a visual photographic record (fully protected) and the audio portion of a videotape, which some states have tried to regulate under state wiretapping laws.”)