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Published: Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2017 08:46:18 -0400


Bikini Barista Lawsuit Defends Freedom to Espresso Oneself

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Earlier this week, a group of eight women who work in the coffee industry sued the city of Everett, Wash. in federal court. The plaintiffs allege a pair of new Everett laws are unconstitutionally vague and infringe on the plaintiffs' freedom of expression; right to privacy, personal autonomy, and liberty; and substantive due-process rights. The laws, adopted last month and implemented this month, are intended to crack down on the so-called "bikini barista" phenomenon that's popular in Western Washington State. The lawsuit defines the business model as centering on baristas who "wear bikinis while serving coffee to customers in their cars through a drive-through window." The Stranger, a free Seattle weekly, defines it similarly as "the Pacific Northwest custom of wearing a bikini while working at a commercial coffee business." The first law "prohibits women from exposing 'more than one-half of the part of the female breast located below the top of the areola'" or anyone from showing the "bottom one-half of the anal cleft.'" Under the law, women in particular could be subject to intrusive and demeaning bodily inspections. Those who are found to be in violation of the law face stiff fines and up to one year in jail. The second law specifically targets bikini barista stands. It requires drive-thru espresso baristas—all of Everett's bikini baristas are women—"to cover completely their upper and lower body, including the pectorals, stomach, back below the shoulder blades, and the 'top three inches of legs below the buttocks.'" These laws are patently dumb, moralistic, and theocratic in nature. As the lawsuit also alleges, they're also unconstitutional. In order to learn more, I drove up from my home in Seattle earlier this week and visited one of the city's bikini espresso joints (with my friend's 70-year-old mom, to boot). It would be my first trip to one of the establishments. My first stop, though, was at a fully clad espresso stand on the city's south side. The barista there, a woman, said she had no opinion on the lawsuit, but told me nevertheless that she thought baristas should be free to wear whatever they want at work. I then drove across the street to Hillbilly Hotties, one of the city's bikini espresso stands. The barista there, wearing a Santa Claus themed bikini—complete with matching Santa hat—told me she didn't want to comment on the suit. But she gave me the phone number of Jovanna Edge, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit and owner of Hillbilly Hotties and other bikini espresso stands. I spoke with Edge on Wednesday. Edge, who describes herself as "very conservative," tells me she and her co-plaintiffs filed suit because the city "enacted this dress code that was obviously against our First and Fourteen Amendment rights, and we shouldn't have to abide by their morals and values. They shouldn't be able to infringe upon everybody else's beliefs." She told me she was shocked by the city law. "I can't believe this actually passed," Edge said. "I never thought it would." Shocking, too, is some of the language in the law. For example, I'd never heard the term "anal cleft" until reading about the lawsuit. "I still don't know what that is" Edge tells me. "Our attorneys didn't know what that is. I think it's the part right above your butt crack. But I really don't know." In a somewhat surreal conversation—my columns tend to focus on food law and policy issues like farm subsidies and menu labeling, rather than butt cracks—I came to understand the term is largely synonymous with the colloquial "plumber's butt." I searched but could find no moralistic plans in Everett to crack down on the butt cracks of plumbers in the city. The same goes for Everett's own workers. A city-owned pool's website currently boasts several photos of women in bathing suits. The Facebook page for the city's Parks & Recreation Department, too, features many such photos. You can judge for yourself the morality of posting such photos online. I don't find anything wrong with them. But, as the lawsuit notes, the law "prohibits women in 'Quic[...]

Brickbat: Make School Great Again

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Officials with Georgia's Cherokee County school system have apologized after a teacher ordered two students out of her classroom because they were wearing "Make America Great Again" shirts. The teacher said they couldn't wear the shirts "just like you cannot wear a swastika to school."

Hey, Berkeley Mayor: Do Your Job and Protect Free Speech in Your City

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 12:05:00 -0400

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin has had enough of violence bursting from protests of right-wing speakers in his city and at University of California Berkeley. So in order to end it, he wants the speakers to shut up, go away, and go bother somebody else. Weekend violence from black-clad antifascist provocateurs disrupted a "Rally Against Hate" in Berkeley, and 13 people have been arrested. After the protest, Arreguin decided to buckle under the threat of the "thug's veto" and asked U.C. Berkeley to cancel an upcoming Free Speech Week at the college in September, where people like Milo Yiannopoulos are scheduled to speak. "I'm very concerned about Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter and some of these other right-wing speakers coming to the Berkeley campus, because it's just a target for black bloc to come out and commit mayhem on the Berkeley campus and have that potentially spill out on the street," Arreguin said. Yes, there is clearly some sort of trap being set here. There are an unknown number of people on each side in this ongoing public political battle especially invested in turning speech into violence. In this particular case, it seems most likely that violence is going to originate from the self-described "antifascist" side, as it has previously. But let's be clear here. It is the job of Arreguin, the city government of Berkeley, and its police to protect the right of people within its borders to speak without facing violent responses. This is not some sort of additional source of frustration and labor for the city. One of the primary expectations of a city government is to protect the civil liberties of the people within its borders, and the right to speak freely and demonstrate peacefully are among those liberties. Arreguin is hardly the only mayor to attempt to use violence as an excuse to abandon the responsibility to protect freedom. The mayor of Portland did the exact same thing in May when an apparently unstable man turned violent on a train and stabbed and killed two people. It was clearly a bizarre, isolated incident, yet Mayor Ted Wheeler made a huge performance out of trying to ban right wing protests in the city as a result. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also just banned demonstrations temporarily at a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond while the state comes up with more regulations over the correct way they'll allow citizens to protest. U.C. Berkeley should resist Arreguin's request, and Americans should reject the idea that violent reactions can be used as a justification for giving up on free speech. Instead, citizens need to be demanding that cities do a better job of both protecting protesters and holding individuals who engage in acts of violence criminally responsible. It may be messy and it may not be easy (people intent on violence are masking their faces for a reason), but it's nevertheless the only real way of working through this current phase of public political resistance and coming out the other side with our rights intact. If Arreguin is not up for the job of protecting the people in his city from violence, he should consider whether he should be mayor. He did propose another solution, one that is also terrible. He wants to possibly classify "Antifa" violent activists as a "gang." Such a proposition shows either an unwillingness or inability to hold individuals responsible for their own behavior and attempts to establish collective guilt. It would use California law as a tool to suppress the freedom of association rights of people who are classified as being in a gang rather than to punish actual criminal conduct. And California's gang law enforcement is a mess as it is. A state audit in 2016 found very poor oversight and accountability within the system, resulting in people being added to the gang member database without supporting evidence that they should be there. You better believe that if California classified "Antifa" as a gang, there'd be some police officers looking to declare any mouthy protester who engaged in even nonviole[...]

Germany Raids, Shuts Down Far Left Website. Will You Stop Praising European Censorship Now?

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 16:15:00 -0400

First they came for the Nazis, and everybody cheered, because to hell with Nazis! We hate Nazis! But today the German authorities came for a far-left website, shutting it down and raiding organizers' homes. German authorities say this site was used to help foment violent protests at the G20 summit in Hamburg in July, where thousands of leftists marched and some black-clad individuals clashed with police. Dozens were reportedly injured in the frays. Each side blamed the other for the violence, according to The New York Times. But only one side has the power of government authority at their disposal. Much as they've done recently with far right websites, German authorities have used the argument that this leftist site that they're shutting down is instigating violence. The Times reports: Linksunten.indymedia, founded in 2008, billed itself as "a weapon in the social struggle" and said it was a "decentrally organized global network of social movements." The ministry was able to move against the website because it viewed those running it as an "association," and under German law, those can be blocked for extremist activity. The platform was not accessible on Friday, and the ministry said that its goal was to shut the site permanently. Raids in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg were conducted in the early hours of Friday against several leading members and supporters of the website, the ministry said in a statement. There's nothing in the Times story that says the people they raided actually participated in any violence. But they say that the website referred to police as "pigs" and "murderers" and that activity on the site intended to "legitimize violence against police officers." Let this be a reminder that Europe's censorship laws are not what a lot of Americans think they are. Governments use these laws to preserve public order, not necessarily to protect "enlightened" folks from bigotry. And a lot of people here in America would cheer on the government if it tried to root out and shut down sites used by the more violent participants in the antifascist movement. Even some folks on the left would probably be relieved, given how this violence is used to dismiss their arguments and their protests entirely and to feed "both sides do it" arguments. But let's be clear: This crackdown in Germany is awfully similar to what the Department of Justice is already doing to try to get information about people who tried to disrupt President Donald Trump's inauguration in January. The Justice Department attempted to serve a remarkably broad warrant against website company DreamHost to get information about anyone connected to, including details on anybody who had even just visited the site. They pulled back to make the warrant a little less of a fishing expedition after DreamHost went public with the demand, bringing the Justice Department some negative publicity. If President Donald Trump and his administration had the kind of authority to declare that disruptj20 was an extremist site instigating violence in order to shut it down, don't you think they'd do so in a heartbeat? Let's stop pretending that laws against "extreme" speech in European countries are a sign of enlightenment. They're fundamentally a tool for the government to shut down anything they find potentially disruptive, and they have little incentive to discern a difference between civil disobedience and violence.[...]

Brickbat: Stay in the Closet

Thu, 24 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) When Joey Slivinski and Thomas Swartz, two openly gay seniors at Missouri's Kearney High School, got their yearbooks, they found only blank space beneath their names. School officials did not use the quotes they have provided—"Of course I dress well. I didn't spend all that time in the closet for nothing" and "If 'Harry Potter' taught us anything, it's that no one should have to live in the closet"—saying some might find them offensive.

Why Are Media Outlets Giving Commentary Space to Wannabe Censors?

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 12:45:00 -0400

This week, The Washington Post joins several other large media outlets in giving commentary space to an academic who thinks the First Amendment maybe shouldn't protect so much free speech. I'll give Jennifer Delton—Skidmore College's "Douglas Family Chair in American culture, history, and literary and interdisciplinary studies"—this much: She's not disguising her calls for censorship of conservative opinion by claiming this will achieve some sort of racial enlightenment or equality. She openly describes this censorship as a tool for stopping the spread of political arguments she sees as dangerous. Her example is the purge of Communist Party members from unions, the civil service, and academia in the middle of the 20th century because they were a threat to the established liberal control of the Democratic Party. The argument was that these Communists did not actually believe in free speech (probably true) and were using it as a shield to protect them while they attempt to undermine democracy. She sees similar tactics in the alt-right, which Delton says is using speech as a weapon to attack liberal values and colleges: It is true that higher education has brought much of this on itself through the extreme policing of speech and tolerance of student protesters who shut down speakers with whom they disagree. But that doesn't diminish the extent to which the alt-right and conservatives are using "free speech" to attack and destroy colleges and universities, which have long promoted different variations of the internationalist, secular, cosmopolitan, multicultural liberalism that marks the thinking of educated elites of both parties. Hilariously, she ends her commentary by saying the process of depriving these bad people of their First Amendment freedoms should not be used to censor "liberal critics" of college or government behavior. Only wrong people should be censored! The title of this op-ed, by the way, is "When 'free speech' becomes a political weapon." Writers aren't typically responsible for their headlines, but her op-ed does describe speech as a weapon; the title reflects the piece accurately. So it's worth wondering whether Delton even grasps that she wants censorship to be a political weapon. She wants to use the government to shut down speech that undermines the institutions she and many others value. It's almost as though she understands the actual underpinnings of Supreme Court case that brought us the tiresome "fire in a crowded theater" trope—a case that revolved around the prosecution of anti-war protest—and still supports the ruling. It's also fascinating in that Delton doesn't seem to want to engage in the idea that academia could actually win a debate on these issues. There is no hint in her story there could be a debate in which the values she holds dear change minds and influence people. Her commentary opens with a stark—but completely false—choice for college presidents: Either they let conservatives speak and "risk violent counterprotests" or they censor speakers and "confirm" the speech crisis. She sees those as the only two options, as though it's simply not possible to stop violence at protests. Many of us outside the academic bubble keep reminding folks that if the government has the authority to decide what sort of speech gets censored, it won't be people like Delton calling the shots, and that in all likelihood, it will be the weakest and least influential of our citizens who will be punished. Now that so many of these commentaries have found homes at major media sites, it's also worth asking: What the bloody hell are these massive news outlets thinking when they run these? Certainly news outlets should run whatever commentaries they want, and it's beneficial to present a range of different views. Don't take this as a call for media censorship, just for more thoughtful judgment. We happen to have a president openly at war with the media and who has[...]

Protect Internet Companies' Freedom to Refuse to Host Racists, or Anyone Else They Don't Like

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 13:30:00 -0400

When I edited a small-town newspaper, I eventually ended up rejecting letters to the editor from an elderly gentleman who had many interesting things to say about the issues of the day. He was, in some ways, a boon to the op-ed page—online commenting has completely demolished the number letters sent to many news outlets. But he was also a bigot, and this became obvious and more overt once Barack Obama was elected president. The final straw was a letter explaining how he could tell walking into a house that black people lived there based on the way the house smelled. I would run no more letters from him. I informed my publisher and he agreed. We deprived him from a platform of communication and we didn't regret it one bit. The impact in this case was small—the growth of the Internet means that there are plenty of other ways to get your message out when the local media tell you no. But that didn't used to be the case. Go back 30 years, and the average American's ability to communicate ideas to the larger public was much more limited. Yet newspaper editors regularly censored or refused to run letters to the editor they felt were in bad taste. There was never any question that newspapers had the authority to make those calls. The First Amendment is very clear here. Now that mass communication has moved online, a whole new crop of companies have the power to decide whether to host controversial content. They don't see themselves as "media outlets." They're just hosts and service providers. Traditionally they have not cared what people are saying. But in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, some of these companies are making the same decisions that old-fashioned media outlets have made in the past. They have decided that they do not want to provide their services to neo-Nazi outlets like The Daily Stormer. Earlier in the week GoDaddy and Google booted the white supremacist site as customers. The CEO of CloudFlare, a service that helps protect sites from cyberattacks, subsequently decided abruptly to dump Daily Stormer as a customer. Now the CEO, Matthew Prince, has some regrets. He's concerned about betraying his neutrality as a service provider, about the potential consequences of taking sides in a highly charged political debate, and about his own power, saying at one point: "Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn't be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power." Fortunately, Prince doesn't actually have that power. CloudFlare is a major player, but it does have competition, and it's competition that should resolve this fear. Going back to the newspaper example: When enough people in a community felt like their local newspaper didn't serve them well enough, it created the environment for rival newspapers to pop up and thrive. The entire alternative newsweekly industry exists because traditional dailies were not meeting a younger, more liberal readership's needs. If Prince were to get so drunk on his power that he starts cutting ties with customers willy-nilly, that wouldn't just be bad for the customers. It would be bad for CloudFlare, because it would lose business to its competitors. There's a subtext to Prince's statements, one that suggests that what he really wants is not to be seen as responsible for controversial corporate decisions. The idea that a handful of companies have complete control over whether or not you can communicate your beliefs online creates a significant tension around the issue of censorship. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is worried that careless censorship by companies will bolster the efforts by governments to turn these decisions into demands. It is true that we should be very, very concerned about government censorship. Germany, for example, would be happy to force every online service to reject Daily Stormer as a customer. And if these neo-Nazis had been writing in[...]

Activist Sentenced to Two and a Half Years in Prison for Sharing BBC Article

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 13:30:00 -0400

Thailand government critic Jatupat Bonnpattaraksa, a.k.a. Pai, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for lese-majeste, or insulting the king. Pai, a former law student who has been outspoken about the military junta running the country, was arrested just two days after Maha Vajiralongkorn took the throne as the new king last December. Pai's crime: sharing a BBC Thai profile of Vajiralongkorn. The article was fairly objective—you can read the English-language version of it here—and thousands of people shared it on social media. Pai was the only one targeted by authorities. Pai pled guilty and had a five-year sentence reduced to two and a half. "Pai confessed," his attorney told Reuters. "He knew that if he tried to fight the charges it would not be of any use." As Reuters notes, the number of arrests for the crime of lese-majeste has increased sharply since the military overthrew the democratically elected government back in 2014. The arrests have often targeted government critics. "Jatupat's case is only the latest in the Thai government's increasingly repressive and arbitrary attempts to chill expression online and censor content critical of the state, including banning interaction with certain exiled dissidents and making it a crime to simply view lese majeste content," the Electronic Freedom Foundation's Gennie Gebhart writes. "These extremes are not just about stopping the flow of information; they are also about spreading fear among users that the authorities may be watching what they read, share, and say online." Human Rights Watch condemned the verdict, and in a statement its Asia director, Brad Adam, suggested Pai was "prosecuted for his strong opposition to military rule more than for any harm incurred by the monarchy." Amnesty International also condemned the verdict. "This verdict shows the extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go in using repressive laws to silence peaceful debate, including on Facebook," Amnesty International's Josef Benedict said in a statement. This sort of repression should be a reminder of the importance of the First Amendment. As hate-crime laws are coopted to cover classes of people like police officers, it's easy to imagine how hate-speech rules could be similarly deployed. Pai's persecution also highlights the importance of protecting anonymity online. The rise of trolling has led to calls to eliminate anonymity on the internet; Facebook has made it difficult to use the site without revealing your identity, even as it also becomes a tool and traffic hub for activism. Facebook is free to run its own network the way it wants, but opponents of anonymity need to understand that anonymity doesn't just protect trolls; it protects people from troll governments. Please share your totally appropriate and not-at-all insulting comments about the Thai king in the comment thread below.[...]

GoDaddy Dumps Neo-Nazi Website. Hooray for Freedom of Association! (UPDATE: Google Also Declines to Host)

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:15:00 -0400

In the wake of the violent confrontations in Charlottesville, Virginia, that culminated in the slaying of Heather Heyer, the massive web host company GoDaddy is telling neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer to go pound sand. In a tweet over the weekend, subsequently confirmed as accurate, GoDaddy told the site to go find a new host for their white nationalist content. A Daily Stormer post about Heyer's death insulted her and said people are "glad she is dead"; the host company ruled that this violated its terms. A spokesman told The Washington Post that the article, coming right on the heels of the protests, could "incite additional violence." GoDaddy has been under pressure to stop hosting sites that spout "hate speech," but it had resisted the idea, citing the First Amendment as a reason to keep hosting racist content. But since GoDaddy is a private company, it doesn't have to use the First Amendment as a guidepost. The First Amendment restricts government censorship, not media or Internet hosting site censorship. Invoking the First Amendment here is a way for the company to establish that it's going to attempt to take all comers and to serve as many people as it can, as long as they're willing to pay. But if GoDaddy does not want to play host to these hateful messages, it's absolutely the company's right to say no. That's what freedom of association is all about. GoDaddy should not have to play host to content it finds offensive or abhorrent. That's one good reason to keep web hosting in the hands of private companies and not turn the internet into a government-managed utility. If, for example, GoDaddy had to operate as though it were a government agency, it might be required to prove that Daily Stormer's piece insulting Heyer meets a legal threshold for incitement. As a private company, GoDaddy can decide for itself what counts as instigation. And if freedom of association is a right for GoDaddy, then it's a right for everybody. GoDaddy shouldn't have to host Nazis. T-shirt companies shouldn't be required by the government to print gay pride messages if they don't approve. Office Depot shouldn't be required to make photocopies of anti-abortion fliers. It's not a perfect solution. In fact, it's a very messy solution, one where people often use social pressure and public outrage as a way to try to influence company behavior. GoDaddy's decision came after people tweeted at them to ask whether they would do anything about the Daily Stormer's postings. At other times people have tried to get other people fired for expressing opinions they don't like, as we saw with Google. It's nevertheless preferable to solutions that involve the government, because once the government is involved, resolving the conflict becomes a matter of using force, not influence and social pressure. Police in the United Kingdom and Germany have responded to hate speech by raiding people's homes and arresting them. That's not a better solution. Not only does this create the extremely obvious problem that a person's speech limits will be determined by whoever is in control of the government (spoiler: It's not you), but it also increases the likelihood that somebody will be injured or killed by police during these interactions. So regardless of whether any particular person agrees that GoDaddy made the right choice to dump these guys, we should support their right to do so. And we should perhaps keep that in mind when other businesses don't want to play a role in producing or carrying messages with which they do not agree. UPDATE: Daily Stormer attempted to move its hosting to Google, but now Google is also rejecting them on the grounds of the site violating their terms of service.[...]

Brickbat: When in Germany

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) German police have arrested two Chinese tourists for photographing each other outside the Reichstag building giving the "Heil Hitler" salute. The gesture is illegal in Germany, and those found guilty of performing it face up to three years in prison.

Rutgers Orders Freshmen to Add Microaggression to Their Course Lists

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 14:30:00 -0400

As part of a $175 student orientation package, Rutgers University requires all incoming freshmen take a course on the "big impact" of microaggressions, because nothing says welcome to college like a mandatory seminar on safe spaces and offensive phrases. Microaggressions, statements that are subtly offensive to a marginalized group, are nothing new to the social justice scene. Everything from saying "that's crazy" to "you throw like a girl" could be considered a microaggression. The Language Matters Campaign, organized by the university's Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, teaches students about how to avoid hurting their peers intentionally or accidentally with their words. The course consists of a Prezi presentation and some Youtube videos. It concludes by encouraging students to report an act of bias toward anyone because of their "race, religion, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, atypical heredity or cellular blood trait, military service or veteran status." It is a long list for new students to retain as they worry about which classes to take or how to pay for $400 textbooks. The Center for Social Justice Education, however, would prefer microaggressions be a student's top priority. Microaggressions, after all, can be detrimental to a person's health, according to the Prezi. Microaggressions "can have a deep and negative impact on the experiences of your peers" and the Prezi even goes so far as to claim that "victims are affected physically, cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally." Tying words to physical harm is an emerging trend for both sides of the political spectrum. When words are considered violence, preventing them from being spoken sounds reasonable. Censorship, then, is the proper precaution to ensure a student's safety. Reporting an act of bias becomes a civic duty. The problem with microaggressions is they are entirely subjective. One person's microaggression is another's rude joke. While one person might laugh at the joke, another might feel uncomfortable. It can be tricky figuring out where to draw the line. But that isn't an excuse to forbid speech because it may be offensive to someone. Respected researchers have begun to poke holes in the social justice advocate argument that science is on the side of microaggression theory. Althea Nagai, a research fellow at the Center for Equal Opportunity specializing in statistical studies in social policy, cites many technical flaws in critical race theory and, in turn, microaggression theory. "This one-way racial framework accounts for the serious technical shortcomings in critical race theory studies—biased interview questions, reliance on narrative and small numbers of respondents, problems of reliability, issues of replicability, and ignoring alternative explanations," Nagai argued in a National Association of Scholars article. Many universities, Nagai says, have embraced social justice theories of inclusivity and microaggressions in order to avoid any implications of racial bias. Solutions to perceived problems, like diversity programs, may actually exacerbate them. "There is nothing in the current research to show that such programs work. I suspect most fail to create greater feelings of inclusion," Nagai contends. "In other words, 'social justice' and diversity programs may actually backfire, creating less inclusion, more polarization, and more findings of unconscious racism." Rutgers University should consider Nagai's findings and those of her peers before mandating microaggression training for incoming freshmen, or risk the fallout of social justice run amok.[...]

Top U.K. Official: Give Up Your Tech Freedoms or the Terrorists Will Win

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 13:15:00 -0400

The way the United Kingdom's Home Secretary describes the internet and online communications, you'd think privacy and free speech actually cause terrorism. Amber Rudd, like many of her deliberately dense political peers, is making the media rounds calling for weakening encryption and strengthening online censorship, all in the name of preventing future terror attacks. As the U.K.'s home secretary, Rudd oversees the security apparatus in her homeland. Prime Minister Theresa May served in the same role until a change in government brought her to power. Rudd and May appear to be birds of a feather in believing that data privacy and online communications are tools of crime and terror, and that tech companies should follow government orders. That means censoring people when officials tell them to, and that means giving the government private data when officials tell them to, even if they have to compromise data security to do so. This week Rudd took the argument one step further: She doesn't think the average person wants or cares all that much about encryption or data privacy—they just want convenience in communications. Therefore, she argues, there's no reason for companies to focus so much on end-to-end encryption (via Yahoo News, covering Rudd's paywalled commentary): Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Rudd said: "Who uses WhatsApp because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family? "So this is not about asking the companies to break encryption or create so called 'back doors'. "Companies are constantly making trade-offs between security and 'usability', and it is here where our experts believe opportunities may lie. "Real people often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security." Er, so she is calling for encryption back doors, right? She is insisting that the U.K. government doesn't want to ban encryption. But she wants government access to private data on demand, which will require companies to compromise their data security and weaken encryption. And her justification for doing so is to point out the average user doesn't care. Besides highlighting her own ignorance about the importance of encryption in general (perhaps she should ask a banker), she stumbles head first into her own counterargument: People who are really determined to do bad things and not be found out by government obviously do care about encryption. So while the government obsesses with making the most popular communication tools compliant to their demands, actual bad guys will turn to other tools instead, tools the government might not even know about. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, points out that these major communications services are willing to provide metadata to law enforcement even if they cannot provide the actual content. Rudd's insistence on access is essentially going to create an encryption black market: Sandberg warned that if encryption was stripped away, users might flee the service, leaving law enforcement officials with even fewer leads. "If people move off those encrypted services to go to encrypted services in countries that won't share the metadata, the government actually has less information, not more," she said. That's not the only awful component on Rudd's agenda. She—like other politicians, not just in the United Kingdom but in Germany and the European Union—want to force social media companies to play a bigger role in censoring content by terrorists or "extremists," and she wants to hammer through legislation to make it happen. These tactics confuse symptoms of radicalization with the causes, treating online terrorist recruiting drives as though the words and images hav[...]

Brickbat: A Civics Lesson

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Lansing, Michigan, City Council President Patricia Spitzley refused to allow Charli Collison, 9, to speak during public comments on construction in a local park, later telling the media children shouldn't be allowed to speak. Following public outcry, Spitzley apologized.

Bassem Youssef Was 'Egypt's Jon Stewart.' Then He Was Forced To Flee.

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 14:04:00 -0400

Bassem Youssef, known as the "Jon Stewart of Egypt," was the host of the most popular television show in the history of the Arab world. A heart surgeon by training, he was inspired by The Daily Show frontman to start a weekly YouTube show in 2011, just as the Egyptian revolution and Arab Spring were getting underway. He taped it from his laundry room. Called Al-Bernameg, which means "The Show," its audience grew to 30 million per episode. "[The] value of satire is that it humanizes people in power," Youssef tells Reason's Justin Monticello, those "considered holy." Youssef's downfall began with a viral segment mocking President Mohamed Morsi's hat in 2013. In March, a warrant was issued for his arrest for insulting the president and Islam. So Youssef offered to turn himself in—wearing his Morsi hat. Though he was released on bail, it was the beginning of the end. Three months later, the military deposed and jailed Morsi, dissolved the constitution, and silenced the critical press. General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became the new ruler of Egypt, and his regime didn't take kindly to mockery. What followed is the subject of Youssef's new memoir, Revolution for Dummies, and the documentary Tickling Giants by The Daily Show Senior Producer Sara Taksler, which is available online. The Show lasted just one airing after Sisi became president. Youssef was slapped with the largest fine in the history of Egyptian media. Sensing that he would soon be arrested and prevented from traveling out of the country, he threw a few personal belongings into a suitcase and rushed to the airport. In a wide-ranging conversation, Youssef discusses the limits of satire, political correctness, comedy on college campuses, Trump, how political leaders use religion, and more. Produced by Justin Monticello. Cameras by Paul Detrick and Alex Manning. Music by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena and Pavel Malkov. 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. Bassem Youssef: The Islamists were reacting in a violent way because they're not used that they're ... They are hiding behind this sacred ideology of religion and they're not used to be criticized, so to break that mold and to just be pointed at them and make fun of them. They couldn't handle it. Justin Monticello: You went in and police officers and court employees, or the prosecutor's employees were asking to take selfies with you and they were big fans of yours. Youssef: It was almost surreal to be in a place where I'm being questioned while the people who are in charge of questioning me were securing ... Questioning me were fans and taking pictures. Monticello: So, after the military coup ... I guess we can call it a coup now. I know you took great pains to talk about how it was a word that was not allowed in Egypt for a time, right? Youssef: Oh yeah, that was the "c" word. Monticello: There was marshal law, and you couldn't broadcast for a couple months. Even your staff, they were fighting with their parents about whether they should continue to do the show now that the military was in power. In moments like that, where you were confronting these new regimes that kept popping up during the revolution, how did you decide when it was too dangerous? How did you find the inspiration to keep going on and making fun of them? Youssef: Well, part of me was scared to come back. I was scared of ... How can we make fun of the new regime because the new regime was very popular. You can say whatever you want about the regime, but Sisi was popular, the regime, their army is popular. It's part of our culture. And I mentioned in the boo[...]

Brickbat: Red Star Over Budapest

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Hungarian government is threatening to ban Heineken's red star logo, saying it is a symbol of totalitarianism. But the move came after the company won a trademark dispute in Romania with a company that produces a beer popular with ethnic Hungarians.