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All articles with the "Censorship" tag.

Published: Mon, 26 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:14:00 -0400


Supporting Laws Banning Hate Speech Means Supporting Police Raids on People’s Homes

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:35:00 -0400

If you hate the way police in the United States abuse, threaten, and sometimes kill citizens during routine law enforcement, and you also oppose hate speech and want the government to ban it, take note of how Germany enforces its hate speech laws: They send police to raid people's homes and arrest them. This week German police, in a coordinated effort, raided the homes of 36 people accused of violating the country's hate speech laws. From The New York Times: Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone's sexual orientation. "The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action," Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said in a statement. "Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet." Nothing helps prevent a "climate of fear" like police officers busting into dozens of people's homes because they said things the government has outlawed, am I right, folks? Americans who want to create an exception that "hate speech" not be protected by the First Amendment often point to Europe and insist countries with such speech bans are no less free for it. On the theory alone, they're wrong. Prohibiting offensive messages is an imposition on freedom, regardless of whether one favors the laws. You are inherently less free when you face criminal penalties for saying certain things. In practice, we see the obvious truth of hate speech law enforcement: gangs of police officers breaking into people's homes and charging them with crimes. In the context of America's struggles to hold police officers accountable for violent or reckless misconduct, the enforcement of hate speech laws in America would get people killed. And if people think the victims will be those alt-right folks, they're just not paying attention. It's undoubtedly going to be some minority teen who recklessly tweets "Kill Whitey" in response to some news item of the day. Yesterday we noted the government's tendency to unfairly apply speech regulations to benefit the powerful over the disenfranchised is a great reason not to give government power to determine hate speech. We have plenty of other examples showing how hate speech laws would actually play out in the hands of our government. Several years ago the mayor of Peoria arranged for the police to raid the home of a man who made a Twitter account parodying him. After news of the raid went viral, the mayor showed absolutely no remorse for the absurd reason behind it and insisted he was the one who had his freedom of speech trampled. Politicians would like nothing better than to possess the means to punish those who make fun of them. The local college diversity committee wouldn't be meting out punishment. The politicians would. Look at what's happening to hate crime laws. People enacted these laws allegedly to protect minorities from violence based on their identities. Now states have added law enforcement as a protected class, and police are calling for sentencing punishments for those who say mean things about them when they are arrested. It's reckless to think that hate speech laws won't end up in a similar place. Eventually we'll see police raiding people's homes for tweeting mean things about them. The kernel of this is contained in tweets from a police inspector in Sussex, England, who did not like people making fun of a rainbow-colored cop car.[...]

Brickbat: Make Yearbooks Great Again

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Cheryl Dyer, superintendent of Wall Township, New Jersey, schools says the district will reissue this year's yearbook. This time, uncensored. Dyer says a photo of one student was deliberately altered to remove the pro-Trump slogan on his shirt She say it isn't clear why another student's pro-Trump quote was omitted. The yearbook adviser has been suspended.

Brickbat: Lèse-majesté

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) A Thai military court has sentenced a man identified only as Wichai to 35 years in prison for Facebook posts it found to be insulting to the country's royal family.

Brickbat: Blacklisted

Wed, 07 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Ron Janicki planned a music festival featuring politically outspoken artists this summer at Los Angeles State Historic Park near Chinatown. But California State Parks says he has to get buy-in from the Chinatown Business Improvement District, among other organizations, before it will permit the festival. And George Yu, president of the CBID doesn't seem to be buying in. He says Janicki's efforts to draw attention to the Chinese government's censorship and harvesting of organs is "anti-China."

Theresa May’s Call for Internet Censorship Isn't Limited to Fighting Terrorism

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:25:00 -0400

You'd think Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself was the driver of the van that plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday, the way U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is talking about the attack. He isn't, but everybody across the world, not just in the United Kingdom, needs to pay close attention to how May wants to respond to the assault. May believes the problem is you and your silly insistence that you be permitted to speak your mind and to look at whatever you want on the internet. And she means to stop you. And her attitude toward government control of internet speech is shared by President Donald Trump (and Hillary Clinton), so what she's trying to sell isn't isolated to her own citizenry. In a speech in the wake of this weekend's attack, May called flat-out for government authority to censor and control what people can see and access on the internet: We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed—yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide. We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning. Note that May appears to be trying to narrowly pitch a regulatory regime that focuses entirely on censoring speech by terrorists. One might argue that even America's First Amendment would not protect such speech, since such communications involve planning violence against others. But May and the Tories really want to propose much broader censorship of the internet, and they know it. May is using fear of terrorism to sell government control over private online speech. The Tories' manifesto for the upcoming election makes it pretty clear they're looking to control communication on the internet in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with fighting terrorism. BuzzFeed took note: The proposals—dotted around the manifesto document—are varied. There are many measures designed to make it easier to do business online but it's a different, more social conservative approach when it comes to social networks. Legislation would be introduced to protect the public from abuse and offensive material online, while everyone would have the right to wipe material that was posted when they were under 18. Internet companies would also be asked to help promote counter-extremism narratives—potentially echoing the government's Prevent programme. There would be new rules requiring companies to make it ever harder for people to access pornography and violent images, with all content creators forced to justify their policies to the government. The manifesto doesn't seem to acknowledge a difference between speech and activity, Buzzfeed adds: "It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically." New laws will be introduced to implement these rules, forcing internet companies such as Facebook to abide by the rulings of a regulator or face sanctions: "We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law." The United Kingdom already has some very heavy content-based censorship of pornography that presumes to police what sorts of sexual fantasies are acceptable among its populace. Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown has written repeatedly about the British government's nannying tendencies in trying suppress pornography. In a manner similar to this censorship push, May and the British government sold the Investigatory Powers Act—also known as the Snooper's Charter—to the public as a mechanism to fight terro[...]

Mostly Weekly: The Government Hates Boobs

Fri, 02 Jun 2017 13:00:00 -0400

From nipple censorship to breast milk regulation, the government is making it hard to have breasts. The FCC maintains oversight of how much and what kind of breasts can grace public airwaves. Its decisions have ripple effects, since cable broadcasters often voluntarily comply with FCC guidelines.

A more dire issue than strategic anatomical censorship is the issue of breast milk. Between one and five percent of American women aren't able to produce breast milk, and some babies can't drink formula. When the two overlap the demand for breast milk is life or death. But acquiring breast milk from donation-based milk banks can be difficult and prohibitively expensive. So some women buy their breast milk on an online "gray market" that stifles suppliers.

In this week's Mostly Weekly Andrew Heaton explains why the government should get its hands off our boobs.

Performed by Andrew Heaton

Written by Sarah Rose Siskind with writing assistance from Andrew Heaton and David Fried.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Sarah Rose Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

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Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

After Violent Attack, Portland Mayor Calls for Abandoning First Amendment

Tue, 30 May 2017 12:32:00 -0400

The mayor of Portland, Oregon, has strong words for those who would sow fear in his city and attempt to shut down citizens' rights to free expression: "I surrender." On Friday, two men were stabbed to death on a train in Portland while confronting and trying to calm down a man who was allegedly loudly harassing two young women with anti-Muslim comments. Mayor Ted Wheeler's response to this brutal attack was to essentially tell the world that violence can successfully be used to convince the government to shut down civil liberties. In a rather self-absorbed speech Monday that treats this horrible but isolated event as though it were some sort of mass slaughter deserving of a permanent monument and some sort of "leadership" by politicians, Wheeler is demanding that the federal government cancel the permits for a couple of upcoming "alt-right" rallies in Terry Schrunk Plaza. He flat out said in his comments that the city would refuse to grant rally permits to alt-right groups based on their views. However, the plaza right by Portland City Hall is actually federal property, and Wheeler is trying to get federal authorities to revoke the permits for the groups involved in a pair of June events. And while there's some gesturing toward the idea that he wants the city to have time to grieve, he wouldn't be making such demands if the stabber had been yelling just incoherent nonsense and not an anti-Muslim rant. That's because Wheeler makes it very abundantly clear that he believes the people organizing these rallies are bigots and he doesn't want them around. He's using this violence as a way of curtailing the First Amendment right to both peacefully assemble and engage in free speech. In response to those who point out that the alt=right has the same First Amendment protections as the rest of us, Wheeler actually says, "Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution." (It's at about 6:54 in this clip of his comments.) There is no "hate speech" exemption to the First Amendment, and it's bad enough when poorly educated college students believe that there is. We don't need politicians who run cities reinforcing the idea that such speech is not protected, because it feeds the idea that violent protests against certain speakers is therefore some form of heroic rebellion. He reinforces the mentality that threats, and even just fears, of violent responses are acceptable reasons to prohibit public protests. This excuse is used by authoritarian regimes everywhere as a mechanism of suppressing speech. Once you send the message that violence will be used as a pretext to shut down the expression of certain opinions, violence is exactly what you'll get. Turkish authoritarian President Recep Erdogan claims that anybody speaking out against him is part of a violent plot to remove him in order to justify using government violence back against the critics. At this point we should be less inclined to think that the "hate speech exemption" refrain reflects a person's ignorance of the First Amendment and more inclined to see it as a deliberate effort to will an idea into reality and to change everybody's perception of where speech's legal limits actually are. Fortunately the American Civil Liberties Union's chapter in Oregon is tweeting back at the mayor, warning him that attempting to shut down rallies on the basis of disagreeing with the content is literally what the First Amendment is meant to prevent: 1. The government cannot revoke or deny a permit based on the viewpoint of the demonstrators. Period. — ACLU of Oregon (@ACLU_OR) May 29, 2017 Protecting these rallies is one of the reasons taxpayers are asked to fund the police. Making sure violence cannot be used to suppress our rights to speak freely and to practice our various religions is one of the reasons we have a government police force. Maybe Wheeler should spend more time dea[...]

The European Union Wants to Censor Hate Speech on Social Media

Tue, 23 May 2017 17:30:00 -0400

(image) In America, civil libertarians frequently have to remind citizens that there's no "hate speech" exemption to the First Amendment. But our First Amendment doesn't fly in Europe, and now the European Union (EU) may be about to mandate censorship rules for social media.

EU ministers today approved a plan that will require social media platforms and online video hosts to block and remove videos that contain "hate speech, incitement to hatred and content justifying terrorism from their platforms," according to Reuters. For now at least, this just covers videos, not text, images, or livestreaming.

It's not entirely clear whether Facebook or YouTube will have to censor videos posted by platform users in the United States to remain in compliance with the law. We do know that EU countries like Germany are just itching to levy huge fines—tens of millions of euros—on social media companies that haven't been quick to suppress hate speech. That kind of pressure would certainly encourage a very broad censorship regime on the part of the companies.

The new rule has been in the works for a while—part of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, a set of commercial media regulations. In addition to ordering the censorship of content, the EU wants to dabble in cultural protectionism: The proposal approved today mandates that 30 percent of the content of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime be from member countries. The recommendation was originally 20 percent, but EU ministers jacked it up.

This will be the EU's first attempt to adopt this sort of platform censorship. If the European Parliament approves the regulations, don't be surprised to see more.

Ninth Circuit Should Strike Down Idaho's 'Ag-Gag' Appeal

Sat, 20 May 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Last week I attended oral arguments in Seattle in a case that could determine whether the government may grant special protections to agricultural producers that supersede the First Amendment rights of others. The case, Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden, pits nonprofits such as the ALDF, ACLU, and several other concerned groups and individuals against the state of Idaho. The case centers on an Idaho law, passed in 2014, that prohibits "interference with agricultural production." The law was "draft[ed] and sponsor[ed]" by the Idaho Dairymen's Association after an undercover investigation by the group Mercy for Animals showed dairy cows being mistreated in the state. "Video shows dairy employees using a tractor and chain to drag a cow by its neck, and workers beating, kicking and jumping on cows," reads one piece that describes the video. Such awful examples aren't common. But they're not uncommon, either. In 2012, I highlighted an investigation in California by the group Compassion Over Killing that revealed horrific cases of animal abuse at a slaughterhouse in that state. The Idaho law—one of several such state laws around the country—is intended to prevent agricultural whistleblowers from sharing such evidence of animal abuse with the general public (hence the term "ag-gag laws"). The U.S. District Court ruled in 2015 that the Idaho law is an unconstitutional violation of free-speech and equal-protection rights. "Although the State may not agree with the message certain groups seek to convey about Idaho's agricultural production facilities, such as releasing secretly recorded videos of animal abuse to the Internet and calling for boycotts, it cannot deny such groups equal protection of the laws in their exercise of their right to free speech," the court held in overturning the law. "The Idaho Ag-Gag law represents a direct assault on food transparency and undercover journalism," attorney Justin Marceau, who argued the plaintiffs' case in the lower and appellate courts, told me this week. "The law criminalizes all persons who gain access through deceptions—including investigative journalists. It criminalizes recording at agricultural facilities—including the sort of whistleblowing that led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history." Based on my take from oral arguments—including the three-judge panel's comments and lines of questioning—I believe the Ninth Circuit is rightly hostile to many of the worst elements of the law. And while the court may wish to salvage some facets of the law, I suspect it won't be able to do so and will uphold the lower-court ruling. Others who've followed the case closely agree. "Based on the oral argument, the days of Idaho's ag-gag law appear to be numbered," said appellate attorney Mahesha Subbaraman, in an email to me this week. "The panel's questions demonstrate a significant appreciation of the speech interests at stake when it comes to food journalism and that Idaho's ag-gag law targets these interests based on content and viewpoint." Subbaraman wrote an excellent brief in support of the plaintiffs in the case that he filed on behalf of more than a dozen food-law scholars across the country, including me. In the brief, we argue that agricultural whistleblowers make a vital and unique contribution to the marketplace of ideas. "Idaho's ag-gag law.... ultimately denies consumers a marketplace of ideas in which they are free to weigh competing voices and decide for themselves the truth about food production," we told the Ninth Circuit. While the court didn't focus on the marketplace of ideas during oral arguments, I'm hopeful the court will address the value of information obtained by undercover animal-welfare investigators to the marketplace of ideas in their ruling. One thing the judges did note repeatedly during oral arguments is that Idaho, like every state[...]

Brickbat: Delete That Post!

Fri, 19 May 2017 05:00:00 -0400

(image) An Austrian court has ruled that Facebook must delete posts about Green Party leader Eva Glawischnig that party officials complained were insulting. The court ruled that merely blocking Austrian readers from seeing them was not sufficient. The court ruled that Facebook must also delete any re-postings of the original posts.

Brickbat: Make Yearbooks Great Again

Tue, 16 May 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Officials at North Carolina's Richmond Early College High School confiscated copies of the yearbook from those who had paid for them, claiming that some of the student quotes were "inappropriate." The only inappropriate quote cited by local media was "Build that wall."

Raging Bitch, Good Shit, and Flying Dog Beer's Fight for Free Speech

Wed, 10 May 2017 15:54:00 -0400

"I've lived my life as a pro free enterprise person," explains Flying Dog Brewery CEO Jim Caruso. "Not pro business. Pro free enterprise, pro consumer choice, artisanal manufacturing." A central player in America's craft beer revolution, Caruso is dedicated to creating something special both inside and outside the bottle. Famed artist Ralph Steadman, best known for his iconic illustrations for work by Hunter S. Thompson, creates all of Flying Dog's labels. It was Steadman who spontaneously wrote on his first commissioned label "good beer, no shit." And it was this label that kicked of Flying Dog's first -- but not last -- fight with government censors. Caruso sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to talk about his run-ins with the state, why he is a libertarian, and the how his values keep him happy. "I'm a happy person. And I attribute that to living as an individual, taking self responsibility, self reliance, but connected to society. It's not a Lone Ranger sort of thing." Cameras by Meredith Bragg, Todd Krainin, and Mark McDaniel. Edited by Bragg. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: America is in the throes of a beer revolution. Today the United States has more breweries than colleges. But it wasn't always this way. It was only after Jimmy Carter rescinded the prohibition on home brewing that Americans began innovating and experimenting. Flying Dog Brewery CEO Jim Caruso was there during the early days. And while today Flying Dog has cemented it's place as a leader in the craft brewery movement - as well as an unlikely champion of first amendment rights - Caruso still remembers the challenges of being a pioneer. Jim Caruso: Nobody knew anything. There was nobody to turn to. So, bottles of beer exploding, we're selling out of the trunk of our car. All that sort of stuff in the start up industry. It wasn't taken very seriously. And today for example we have Flying Dog University, we want people to make good beer. We've made it through 27 years, we're happy to share that knowledge. Even today breweries are opening faster, the capacity is increasing faster than demand, people are really getting into it. The last two years, three breweries opened per day for the last two years, every day for the last two years. Nick Gillespie: Wow. Jim Caruso: More breweries opened in the last 90 days than existed in 1990. Nick Gillespie: And it's not just beer, I mean there's been an explosion in food and when you think about supermarkets like Whole Foods has really kind of changed the way people think about food or what the possibilities are. In all sorts of fields you see this, the rise of the artisanal of individualized, of niche products. What's driving that in your estimation? Jim Caruso: Yeah, s everal aspects of that. One is, certainly the artisanal nature, it's higher cost, it's lower production, it's scaling demand, not scaling supply. We're not pushing into the market, we're responding to consumer demands and offering this interesting portfolio of design and clothing and getting close to it. When you look at local, think global, buy local, what does that mean? It means different things to different people. One is hyper-connectivity. It's not just that we contribute to the local events, we are engaged on that market at many, many different levels. And that's important to know the people behind the business. To be able to believe in that business. The other is a quality aspect. There is a freshness aspect to it because you can offer a wider range of products without worrying that they're aging on the shelf more than I'd want it to. Jim Caruso: Caruso and the Flying Dog[...]

The FCC Isn't Singling Out Stephen Colbert for his "Cock Holster" Crack at Trump...

Mon, 08 May 2017 16:20:00 -0400

As Elizabeth Nolan Brown showed in her thorough debunking of the widespread claim that congressional Republicans had passed legislation defining rape as a pre-existing condition no longer covered under federal health-care law, the American press is characterized by groupthink and agenda-setting. The speed with which the absolutely false statement about the American Healtch Care Act (AHCA) and rape showed up in all sorts of outlets is testament to media credulity, or maybe just plain old-fashioned media bias. Something similar has happened with one of the other big stories of last week. In an anti-Donald Trump monologue, The Late Show's Stephen Colbert said, among many other things: "You talk like a sign-language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's cock holster." You can watch the whole monologue below (the cock-holster line, which was bleeped both during the broadcast and remains bleeped even at the Late Show's official YouTube feed, appears around 11.10 minutes). src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> In the wake of the comments, a "Fire Colbert" hashtag is making the rounds on Twitter, arguing that his comments are homophobic. Given Colbert's public support for marriage equality and his obvious comfort level not only with gays and lesbians but affectionately parodying them in shows such as Strangers with Candy (in which he played a closeted teacher who was having an affair with a male colleague) and "The Ambiguously Gay Duo," a Saturday Night Live animated series about superheroes who may or may not be gay, the attacks on Colbert are nothing more than right-wing concern trolling. Folks have also complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is charged with maintaining content regulation for broadcast radio and television programming (for a variety of reasons, the FCC doesn't have the same mandate for cable and internet content). By law, the FCC must investigate claims that networks have aired "indecent" material (like obscenity, indecency is an utterly made-up, extra-constitutional definition of supposedly illegal speech). The agency, which is headed up Ajit Pai, a vocal and principled opponent of Net Neutrality and government regulation of speech, is doing nothing out of the ordinary here. As Pai's chief of staff, Matthew Berry, tweeted on Saturday: Correct. — Matthew Berry (@matthewberryfcc) May 6, 2017 But like the "Republican reclassified rape as a pre-existing condition and dropped coverage of it" meme, the FCC's requaction is being taken as prima facie evidence that the Trump administration is cracking down on critics via the very administrative state that adviser Steve Bannon promised to deconstruct. From New York magazine (which published and then corrected one of the most breathless and incorrect early stories on the AHCA) comes this from the head of the Writers Guild of America (WGA): "As presidents of the Writers Guilds of America, East and West, we were appalled to read recent remarks by Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai," WGA East boss Michael Winship and WGA West chief Howard Rodman told Deadline. "He said the FCC would investigate a joke about Donald Trump by Writers Guild member Stephen Colbert, 'apply the law' and 'take appropriate action' if the joke were found to be 'obscene.'" "Pai's remarks are just the latest in a series of statements by the current administration indicating a willful disregard of the First Amendment. Colbert was poking fun at authority, a time-honored American tradition and an essential principle of democracy." Well, sure, whatevs. Except fo[...]

Surveillance and Wars on Whistleblowers Leading to Less Press Freedom

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 11:00:00 -0400

Reporters Without Borders, an organization analyzing and defending a free media worldwide, just released its 2017 rankings list and has determined that media freedom is on the decline. It has calculated that in almost two-thirds of the 180 countries in the index, press freedom has dropped over the previous year. While America is still extremely far from the kind of country that imprisons or kills people who engage in acts of journalism the government doesn't like, it dropped two ranks from 41 to 43. Yes, the election of President Donald Trump and his open display of contempt for critical media reporting of him plays a role. But the report is very clear that Trump is far from the originator of America's decline. He is taking advantage of a framework that has been developed by previous administrations, particularly President Barack Obama's pursuit of whistleblowers: US press freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has encountered several major obstacles over the past few years, most recently with the election of President Donald Trump. He has declared the press an "enemy of the American people" in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, while attempting to block White House access to multiple media outlets in retaliation for critical reporting. Despite the bleak outlook under Trump, it bears repeating that his predecessor left behind a flimsy legacy for press freedom and access to information. Journalists continue to be arrested for covering various protests around the country, with several currently facing criminal charges. The Obama administration waged a war on whistleblowers who leaked information about its activities, leading to the prosecution of more leakers than any previous administration combined. To this day, American journalists are still not protected by a federal "shield law" guaranteeing their right to protect their sources and other confidential work-related information. And over the past few years, there has been an increase in prolonged searches of journalists and their devices at the US border, with some foreign journalists being prevented from any travel to the US after they covered sensitive topics such as Colombia's FARC or Kurdistan. The report notes how populist movements that favor "strongmen" type candidates and leaders use attacks on the credibility of the media to grant them "anti-system" credibility with voters in the United States and Europe. And already existing strongmen and autocratic leaders in other less free countries have brought the hammer down even harder on the press. But more specifically for Western countries, governments have used fears of terrorism and general "national security" goals as mechanisms to expand the use of surveillance against journalists themselves as yet another way of tracking down sources or individuals trying to anonymously pass along information: In Germany (ranked 16th in the 2017 Index), the Bundestag passed a law in October 2016 extending the mass surveillance powers of the Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) without making any exception for journalists. The grounds cited for the new law was the need to combat terrorism, harmonize legislation, and bring it into compliance with the constitution. The BND can now legally spy on all non-German and non-EU nationals, including journalists and lawyers. It turns out that this controversial and much criticized law has helped to legalize existing practices. A few months after its adoption, Germans learned that the BND had already spied on at least 50 journalists and news organizations for indefinite periods since 1999. It was also in late 2016 that the United Kingdom (down 2 places at 40th) adopted a new law extending the surveillanc[...]

Brickbat: Tough Crowd

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) A Spanish court has sentenced Cassandra Vera to one year in jail for tweeting jokes about the 1973 assassination of prime minister Luis Carrero Blanco. The court said her jokes were "disrespectful" and did not form part of a "healthy humoristic environment."