Posts tagged with ‘free speech’

Free Speech is Great if I Agree With You
A new study looks at Supreme Court votes in free speech cases from 1953 to 2011 to see if and how the political beliefs of justices affects their rule on constitutional law (PDF).
The verdict, as summarized by The New York Times, is that justices tend to vote in favor of free speech if the case reflects their ideological preferences.
While the study goes back to the fifties, take a look at the current court:

In cases raising First Amendment claims, a new study found, Justice Scalia voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones. In 161 cases from 1986, when he joined the court, to 2011, he voted in favor of conservative speakers 65 percent of the time and liberal ones 21 percent.
He is not alone. “While liberal justices are over all more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” the study found, “the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the ideological groupings of the speaker.”

For those with a social science bent, what’s at play here is “in group bias.”
For idealists among the rest of us we paraphrase former justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who wrote, free speech isn’t to protect that which we agree with but to provide “freedom for the thought that we hate.”
That he wrote this in a dissenting opinion isn’t lost on us.
Related: Supreme Court Allows Prays at Town Meetings.
Image: in Supreme Court rulings, justices are more likely to vote in favor of those whose ideology they share, via The New York Times. Select to embiggen.

Free Speech is Great if I Agree With You

A new study looks at Supreme Court votes in free speech cases from 1953 to 2011 to see if and how the political beliefs of justices affects their rule on constitutional law (PDF).

The verdict, as summarized by The New York Times, is that justices tend to vote in favor of free speech if the case reflects their ideological preferences.

While the study goes back to the fifties, take a look at the current court:

In cases raising First Amendment claims, a new study found, Justice Scalia voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones. In 161 cases from 1986, when he joined the court, to 2011, he voted in favor of conservative speakers 65 percent of the time and liberal ones 21 percent.

He is not alone. “While liberal justices are over all more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” the study found, “the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the ideological groupings of the speaker.”

For those with a social science bent, what’s at play here is “in group bias.”

For idealists among the rest of us we paraphrase former justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who wrote, free speech isn’t to protect that which we agree with but to provide “freedom for the thought that we hate.”

That he wrote this in a dissenting opinion isn’t lost on us.

Related: Supreme Court Allows Prays at Town Meetings.

Image: in Supreme Court rulings, justices are more likely to vote in favor of those whose ideology they share, via The New York Times. Select to embiggen.

The Olympics Are Coming
Welcome to Russia.
Committee to Protect Journalists: Media suffer winter chill in coverage of Sochi OlympicsIn the run-up to the Sochi Winter Games, official repression and self-censorship have restricted news coverage of sensitive issues related to the Olympics, such as the exploitation of migrant workers, environmental destruction, and forced evictions.
Index on Censorship: A complete guide to who controls the Russian news mediaIn early 2000s various state agencies took financial or managerial control over 70 percent of electronic media outlets, 80 percent of the regional press, and 20 percent of the national press. As a result, Russian media continued to be used as tools of political control but now these “tools” were no longer distributed among competing political parties and businesses, but remained concentrated in the hands of a closed political circle that swore loyalty to President Putin.
Radio Free Europe: Russian Media Tests Boundaries Of State CensorshipIt’s not easy being a journalist in Russia, where attacks against reporters have made it one of the most dangerous places to work, and the government has sidelined much of the free press. Still, some media outlets remain highly critical of the authorities. Their journalists say their main difficulty isn’t so much that they’re not able to report about the country’s problems, it’s that no one’s listening.
Freedom House: 2013 Russia Country ReportAlthough the constitution provides for freedom of speech, vague laws on extremism grant the authorities great discretion to crack down on any speech, organization, or activity that lacks official support. The government controls, directly or through state-owned companies and friendly business magnates, all of the national television networks and many radio and print outlets, as well as most of the media advertising market. Only a small and shrinking number of radio stations and publications with limited reach offer a wide range of viewpoints. In December 2013, Putin abolished the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, which had developed a reputation for objective reporting, and folded it into a new entity called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), which would be run by pro-Kremlin television commentator Dmitriy Kiselyov and Margarita Simonyan, the head of RT, the Kremlin’s propagandistic international television network. The Kremlin has also increased pressure on formerly outspoken outlets, such as the business newspaper Kommersant, which is now considered to be a progovernment publication.
Image: Cover, The Economist. The Triumph of Vladimir Putin.

The Olympics Are Coming

Welcome to Russia.

Committee to Protect Journalists: Media suffer winter chill in coverage of Sochi Olympics
In the run-up to the Sochi Winter Games, official repression and self-censorship have restricted news coverage of sensitive issues related to the Olympics, such as the exploitation of migrant workers, environmental destruction, and forced evictions.

Index on Censorship: A complete guide to who controls the Russian news media
In early 2000s various state agencies took financial or managerial control over 70 percent of electronic media outlets, 80 percent of the regional press, and 20 percent of the national press. As a result, Russian media continued to be used as tools of political control but now these “tools” were no longer distributed among competing political parties and businesses, but remained concentrated in the hands of a closed political circle that swore loyalty to President Putin.

Radio Free Europe: Russian Media Tests Boundaries Of State Censorship
It’s not easy being a journalist in Russia, where attacks against reporters have made it one of the most dangerous places to work, and the government has sidelined much of the free press. Still, some media outlets remain highly critical of the authorities. Their journalists say their main difficulty isn’t so much that they’re not able to report about the country’s problems, it’s that no one’s listening.

Freedom House: 2013 Russia Country Report
Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, vague laws on extremism grant the authorities great discretion to crack down on any speech, organization, or activity that lacks official support. The government controls, directly or through state-owned companies and friendly business magnates, all of the national television networks and many radio and print outlets, as well as most of the media advertising market. Only a small and shrinking number of radio stations and publications with limited reach offer a wide range of viewpoints. In December 2013, Putin abolished the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, which had developed a reputation for objective reporting, and folded it into a new entity called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), which would be run by pro-Kremlin television commentator Dmitriy Kiselyov and Margarita Simonyan, the head of RT, the Kremlin’s propagandistic international television network. The Kremlin has also increased pressure on formerly outspoken outlets, such as the business newspaper Kommersant, which is now considered to be a progovernment publication.

Image: Cover, The Economist. The Triumph of Vladimir Putin.

As in 1957, 1966 and 1989, Chinese intellectuals are feeling more or less the same fear as one does before an approaching mountain storm. The scariest [fear] of all is not being silenced or sent to prison; it is the sense of powerlessness and uncertainty about what comes next… It’s as if you are walking into a minefield blindfolded.

Hao Qun, as quoted in The Guardian. China Tries to Rein in Microbloggers.

The News, via The Guardian:

China has launched a new drive to tame its boisterous microblogging culture by closing influential accounts belonging to writers and intellectuals who have used them to highlight social injustice.

The strict censorship of mainstream media in China has made social media an essential forum for public debate, but authorities have shown increasing determination to control it. Previous campaigns have warned the public against spreading rumours – a theme that has recurred in this crackdown – and ordered users to register with their real names.

Now attention has turned to the country’s opinion formers. A recent commentary in the state-run Global Times newspaper warned that “Big Vs” – meaning verified accounts with millions of followers – had become “relay stations for online rumours” and accused them of “harming the dignity of the law”.

Somewhat Related: The South China Morning Post reports that the central government has ordered universities to stop teaching seven subjects, among them civil rights, press freedom and the communist party’s past mistakes.

Without advanced technology, authoritarian regimes would not be able to spy on their citizens. Reporters Without Borders has for the first time compiled a list of five “Corporate Enemies of the Internet,” five private sector companies that it regards as “digital era mercenaries” because they sell products that are used by authoritarian governments to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. They are Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat…

…Their products have been or are being used to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. If these companies decided to sell to authoritarian regimes, they must have known that their products could be used to spy on journalists, dissidents and netizens. If their digital surveillance products were sold to an authoritarian regime by an intermediary without their knowledge, their failure to keep track of the exports of their own software means they did not care if their technology was misused and did not care about the vulnerability of those who defend human rights.

Reporters Without Borders, Era of the Digital Mercenaries.

Today is World Day Against Cyber-Censorship and for it, Reporters Without Borders is focusing on the five countries and five companies it believes are the worst in the world when it comes to censorship and surveillance.

A must read.

Tibetan Jailed For Having Photos of Self-Immolators on Mobile Phone →

Via Radio Free Asia:

A young Tibetan traditional artist was sentenced to two years in jail with hard labor for having photos on his mobile phone of two compatriots who self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule, according to exile sources Saturday.

Ngawang Thupden, 20, was detained in October last year in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), but relatives learned of the prison sentence for “subversion” only four months later, the sources said, citing contacts in the Himalayan region…

…Chinese authorities have been cracking down hard on any efforts by Tibetans to publicize self-immolation protests after steps taken by Beijing to stop the burnings failed. 

Thupden was accused of “subversion, propagating incorrect political messages, and  causing disharmony among ethnic minorities.”

In a study of 392 campus speech codes last year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, where I work, found that 65 percent of the colleges had policies that in our view violated the Constitution’s guarantee of the right to free speech.

- Greg Lukianoff, the New York Times. Feigning Free Speech on Campus. (And here’s a link to the study he mentions above)

Take from those numbers what you will — universities are home to either smart, enlivened debate or misguided enthusiasm — but Lukianoff’s op-ed piece is worth a read. In the framing of his piece, university life looks a bit like micro-life. Which is what it should be but usually isn’t.

See one of his examples:

Civility is nice, but on college campuses it often takes on a bizarre meaning. In 2009, Yale banned students from making a T-shirt with an F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation — “I think of all Harvard men as sissies,” from his 1920 novel “This Side of Paradise” — to mock Harvard at their annual football game. The T-shirt was blocked after some gay and lesbian students argued that “sissies” amounted to a homophobic slur. “What purports to be humor by targeting a group through slurs is not acceptable,” said Mary Miller, a professor of art history and the dean of Yale College.

Where should freedom of speech begin and end when you are a web-based entity with a global audience? That’s the question raised by a couple of recent events, including the furor over a Reddit moderator’s creepy behavior, and now the news that Twitter has blocked an account for the first time at the request of a state government — in this case Germany, which asked the service to take action against a Twitter user posting neo-Nazi sentiments, something that is forbidden by the laws of that country. As the web and social tools become more mainstream, these kinds of battles over the limits that should apply to free speech are only going to become more frequent, but the solution to them remains elusive at best…

…Twitter has said that it will make its own judgments in such cases, as Google does — but what recourse do we have if they decide to do something we disagree with? More than anything, these kinds of cases reinforce how much influence private entities like Twitter and Google now have over what information we receive (or are able to distribute), and the responsibility that this power imposes on them.

Matthew Ingram, GigaOm. Twitter, Reddit and the battle over freedom of speech.

Important programming note as you think on this one: In the United States, at least and as Matthew points out, “free-speech protection is something that is only legally or constitutionally required of governments, not corporations.”

Greek Man Arrested for Blasphemy on Facebook
Via the Christian Science Monitor:

A man was arrested last week in Evia, Greece, on charges of posting “malicious blasphemy and religious insult on the known social networking site, Facebook” according to a press release by the Greek police.
The accused, whose identity has not been made public, had created and managed the Facebook page Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian, a name that plays on a combination of Elder Paisios, a famous, late Greek-Orthodox monk, and the Greek food pastitsio, a baked pasta dish made of ground beef and béchamel sauce. The term “pastafarian” is a reference to the satirical pseudo-religion “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” which has been used to lampoon creationism. The picture of Elder Pastitsios has a pastitsio where the monk’s face should be.

The accused man says he was satirizing the commercialization of Paisios.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the best place to start is probably here for background and then here with the letter that started it all.
UPDATE: There’s actually a Change.org petition to abolish Greek blasphemy laws going on. It currently has over 10 thousand signatories.  
Image: Cached version of the Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian Facebook page via Google.

Greek Man Arrested for Blasphemy on Facebook

Via the Christian Science Monitor:

A man was arrested last week in Evia, Greece, on charges of posting “malicious blasphemy and religious insult on the known social networking site, Facebook” according to a press release by the Greek police.

The accused, whose identity has not been made public, had created and managed the Facebook page Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian, a name that plays on a combination of Elder Paisios, a famous, late Greek-Orthodox monk, and the Greek food pastitsio, a baked pasta dish made of ground beef and béchamel sauce. The term “pastafarian” is a reference to the satirical pseudo-religion “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” which has been used to lampoon creationism. The picture of Elder Pastitsios has a pastitsio where the monk’s face should be.

The accused man says he was satirizing the commercialization of Paisios.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the best place to start is probably here for background and then here with the letter that started it all.

UPDATE: There’s actually a Change.org petition to abolish Greek blasphemy laws going on. It currently has over 10 thousand signatories.  

Image: Cached version of the Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian Facebook page via Google.

Monitoring Online Freedom
Freedom House has a new study about the cat and mouse game played between governments and activists over Internet freedom. The report takes a close look at 47 countries and rates how their Internet and media policies affect their citizens.
Key findings include:
New laws restrict free speech;
Bloggers and ordinary users increasingly face arrest for political speech on the web;
Physical attacks against government critics are intensifying;
Paid commentators, hijacking attacks are proliferating;
Surveillance is increasing, with few checks on abuse;
Citizen pushback is yielding results.
Via Freedom House:

Brutal attacks against bloggers, politically motivated surveillance, proactive manipulation of web content, and restrictive laws regulating speech online are among the diverse threats to internet freedom emerging over the past two years, according to a new study released today by Freedom House. Despite these threats, Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media found that increased pushback by civil society, technology companies, and independent courts resulted in several notable victories.
“The findings clearly show that threats to internet freedom are becoming more diverse. As authoritarian rulers see that blocked websites and high-profile arrests draw local and international condemnation, they are turning to murkier—but no less dangerous—methods for controlling online conversations,” said Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House.
The battle over internet freedom comes at a time when nearly one third of the world’s population has used the internet. Governments are responding to the increased influence of the new medium by seeking to control online activity, restricting the free flow of information, and otherwise infringing on the rights of users. The methods of control are becoming more sophisticated, and tactics previously evident in only the most repressive environments—such as governments instigating deliberate connection disruptions or hiring armies of paid commentators to manipulate online discussions—are appearing in a wider set of countries.
Freedom on the Net 2012, which identifies key trends in internet freedom in 47 countries, evaluates each country based on barriers to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights.
The study found that Estonia had the greatest degree of internet freedom among the countries examined, while the United States ranked second. Iran, Cuba, and China received the lowest scores in the analysis. Eleven other countries received a ranking of Not Free, including Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Thailand. A total of 20 of the 47 countries examined experienced a negative trajectory in internet freedom since January 2011, with Bahrain, Pakistan, and Ethiopia registering the greatest declines.

First, give it up for Estonia. Second, pay close attention to the importance of activism and citizen pushback against governmental restrictions on speech and Internet freedom.
Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2012: a Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Medoia.
Image: Detail from a larger chart on how selected governments restrict their citizens Internet and free speech rights. Via Freedom House (PDF). Select to embiggen.

Monitoring Online Freedom

Freedom House has a new study about the cat and mouse game played between governments and activists over Internet freedom. The report takes a close look at 47 countries and rates how their Internet and media policies affect their citizens.

Key findings include:

  • New laws restrict free speech;
  • Bloggers and ordinary users increasingly face arrest for political speech on the web;
  • Physical attacks against government critics are intensifying;
  • Paid commentators, hijacking attacks are proliferating;
  • Surveillance is increasing, with few checks on abuse;
  • Citizen pushback is yielding results.

Via Freedom House:

Brutal attacks against bloggers, politically motivated surveillance, proactive manipulation of web content, and restrictive laws regulating speech online are among the diverse threats to internet freedom emerging over the past two years, according to a new study released today by Freedom House. Despite these threats, Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media found that increased pushback by civil society, technology companies, and independent courts resulted in several notable victories.

“The findings clearly show that threats to internet freedom are becoming more diverse. As authoritarian rulers see that blocked websites and high-profile arrests draw local and international condemnation, they are turning to murkier—but no less dangerous—methods for controlling online conversations,” said Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House.

The battle over internet freedom comes at a time when nearly one third of the world’s population has used the internet. Governments are responding to the increased influence of the new medium by seeking to control online activity, restricting the free flow of information, and otherwise infringing on the rights of users. The methods of control are becoming more sophisticated, and tactics previously evident in only the most repressive environments—such as governments instigating deliberate connection disruptions or hiring armies of paid commentators to manipulate online discussions—are appearing in a wider set of countries.

Freedom on the Net 2012, which identifies key trends in internet freedom in 47 countries, evaluates each country based on barriers to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights.

The study found that Estonia had the greatest degree of internet freedom among the countries examined, while the United States ranked second. Iran, Cuba, and China received the lowest scores in the analysis. Eleven other countries received a ranking of Not Free, including Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Thailand. A total of 20 of the 47 countries examined experienced a negative trajectory in internet freedom since January 2011, with Bahrain, Pakistan, and Ethiopia registering the greatest declines.

First, give it up for Estonia. Second, pay close attention to the importance of activism and citizen pushback against governmental restrictions on speech and Internet freedom.

Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2012: a Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Medoia.

Image: Detail from a larger chart on how selected governments restrict their citizens Internet and free speech rights. Via Freedom House (PDF). Select to embiggen.

Guy Holds at least One Person Hostage, Liveblogs it on Facebook
A man in Pittsburgh is holding at least one person hostage while negotiating with police and was, until about an hour ago, posting on Facebook. His posts have been highly emotional and poorly spelled, with some directed at his parents, others to his friends.
From the Times:

At around 9 a.m., one status update read: “welln pops youll never have to woryy about me again you’ll nevr need to by me anything no need to ever waste ur hard earned money on me. i’ll live n jail you dnt want me around anymore thats kool bye…i love u assata sis
Another said: “i cant take it no more im done bro.”

His posts received may responses. Most are encouraging and religious, from the look of them.
His Facebook page went offline at 1pm, the Associated Press reported, at Police Chief Nate Harper’s request:

The page went offline around 1 p.m., about five hours after Thaxton allegedly entered a benefits administration company’s office with a gun and asked to see the man he took hostage.
The Facebook exchanges had the potential to both help and harm the negotiations, Harper said. It’s helpful that Thaxton can see “that people are concerned about his well-being,” Harper said, but “it is a distraction for negotiating.”
Harper said he asked to have the page shut down because police “really want his full cooperation with the negotiations.” 

He’s on the 16th floor at 3 Gateway Center. He’s been up there all morning. His name is Klein Michael Thaxton, he’s 22.
FJP: Taking something offline because it may incite violence reminds us of this other recent debate.

Guy Holds at least One Person Hostage, Liveblogs it on Facebook

A man in Pittsburgh is holding at least one person hostage while negotiating with police and was, until about an hour ago, posting on Facebook. His posts have been highly emotional and poorly spelled, with some directed at his parents, others to his friends.

From the Times:

At around 9 a.m., one status update read: “welln pops youll never have to woryy about me again you’ll nevr need to by me anything no need to ever waste ur hard earned money on me. i’ll live n jail you dnt want me around anymore thats kool bye…i love u assata sis

Another said: “i cant take it no more im done bro.”

His posts received may responses. Most are encouraging and religious, from the look of them.

His Facebook page went offline at 1pm, the Associated Press reported, at Police Chief Nate Harper’s request:

The page went offline around 1 p.m., about five hours after Thaxton allegedly entered a benefits administration company’s office with a gun and asked to see the man he took hostage.

The Facebook exchanges had the potential to both help and harm the negotiations, Harper said. It’s helpful that Thaxton can see “that people are concerned about his well-being,” Harper said, but “it is a distraction for negotiating.”

Harper said he asked to have the page shut down because police “really want his full cooperation with the negotiations.” 

He’s on the 16th floor at 3 Gateway Center. He’s been up there all morning. His name is Klein Michael Thaxton, he’s 22.

FJP: Taking something offline because it may incite violence reminds us of this other recent debate.

Happy 225th Birthday, US Constitution
On this day in 1787 the US Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and ratified by eleven states. It went into effect on March 4, 1789.
We’re particularly fond of the First Amendment, submitted to the states as part of the Bill of Rights in September 1789 and adopted in December 1791:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Image: Detail, US Constitution, via Wikipedia.

Happy 225th Birthday, US Constitution

On this day in 1787 the US Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and ratified by eleven states. It went into effect on March 4, 1789.

We’re particularly fond of the First Amendment, submitted to the states as part of the Bill of Rights in September 1789 and adopted in December 1791:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Image: Detail, US Constitution, via Wikipedia.

The internet and other social media are harder and harder to control. Smart propaganda people like they are, are going to keep finding ways to spin and doctor and frame the information that gets out. Sometimes this may include getting news out first in official media, or replacing blunt censorship with efforts to spin. But it doesn’t mean that the Party is lying down passively in front of an onslaught of free expression. And when it comes to topics that are deemed to be political threats — Tibet, Tiananmen, Falungong, multipartyism, certain issues in Party history, and things like that — then I see no prospect that the Party will change its policy of censorship and repression.

Andrew Nathan, professor of political science at Columbia University, to Index on Censorship. China will change leaders, but keep censorship.

The News: In the upcoming months China will hold its 18th Congress during which the communist party will appoint a new group of leaders. It has been expected that Xi Jinping will be become the country’s next president. However, there’s a growing mystery over where he actually is these days.

Development of this Topic is Under Investigation
Analytics doesn’t have an answer for everything.

Development of this Topic is Under Investigation

Analytics doesn’t have an answer for everything.

Happy 65th Birthday, India!

Here are some FJP links for the day. See here for our interview segments with Micha X. Peled, director of Bitter Seeds, an important, moving documentary about the crisis faced by India’s farmers. Relevant, considering how integral India’s farmer’s are to the country’s economy and identity, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledges in his Independence Day Speech. For a great source on what’s going on with media in India, read The Hoot. For free speech issues in India specifically, see The Free Speech Hub.

Bonus: One of our favorite posts on India from the FJP archives about the last handwritten newspaper still in print. 

Images: How India ushered in its first Independence Day from First Post. Reblogged from fuckyeahsouthasia.