First Amendment Issues

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Wanted: Media Gate Keeper

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation

Has the media lost it’s mooring? And, if so, how will it right itself?


Donald Trump and the Rise of Alt-Reality Media
by Charles Sykes
Politico
November 25, 2016

You think the truth took a hit last year? It’s about to get worse. A lot worse.

alt-right_mediaEarlier this year, I argued that the conservative movement did not merely have a Donald Trump problem—it had a media problem. As Trump slouched toward the nomination he was backed by a conservative media that had successfully created an alternative reality bubble around his candidacy. When Trump claimed that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey had celebrated the attacks on 9/11, for instance, callers to my show lined up to provide supporting evidence the only source of which was an echo chamber of partisan bloggers; listeners chimed in with evidence they had seen on Facebook linking Ted Cruz’ father to the JFK assassination. Of course, we know the origin of that “evidence” was the National Enquirer. Crowd-sourcing has its limits.

As a #NeverTrumper, I had hoped that the election would prompt a moment of reckoning and introspection, not merely about conservative values but also the role of the conservative media. As someone who has spent much of his career promoting conservative values on my radio show, I was depending on it.

Clearly, that is not going to happen now. In fact, it’s going to get a lot worse. Read the whole article here.

Renowned Journalist Faced Harrowing Legal Scare

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues, Political Challenges

As part of a wave of arrests surrounding a Dakota Access Pipeline protest in September, esteemed and controversial journalist Amy Goodman was charged with major felonies for, uh, reporting on the protest. On Monday, her case was dismissed. Nevertheless, this sort of mock execution should put First Amendment defenders on high alert and draw attention to what is obviously a sore spot for the North Dakota government authorities.


“Amy Goodman Is Facing Jail Time for Reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline. That Should Scare Us All.”
by Lizzy Ratner
The Nation
October 14, 2016 (Updated: October 17, 2016)

Update: Case dismissed! On Monday, October 17, District Judge John Grinsteiner rejected the “riot” charge that had been leveled against Amy Goodman for her coverage of a September 3rd Dakota Access Pipeline protest. Standing before the Morton County courthouse, surrounded by supporters, Goodman said: “It is a great honor to be here today. The judge’s decision to reject the State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson’s attempt to prosecute a journalist–in this case, me–is a great vindication of the First Amendment.” And she added: “[W]e encourage all of the media to come here. We certainly will continue to cover this struggle.”

amygoodman

This Monday morning, shortly after the sun rises over the small city of Mandan, North Dakota, the award-winning journalist, and host of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman will walk into the Morton County–Mandan Combined Law Enforcement and Corrections Center and turn herself in to the local authorities. Her crime: good, unflinching journalism.

Goodman had the audacity to commit this journalism on September 3, when she was in North Dakota covering what she calls “the standoff at Standing Rock”: the months-long protests by thousands of Native Americans against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The $3.8 billion oil pipeline is slated to carry barrel after barrel of Bakken crude through sacred sites and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and tribe members fear it could pollute the Missouri River, the source not only of their water but of millions of others’, should the pipe ever rupture. Their protests, which began in April and ballooned through the summer months, represent the largest mobilization of Native American activists in more than 40 years—and one of the most vital campaigns for environmental justice in perhaps as long. Read more.


Documentarian Faces Decades in Prison

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues, Political Challenges

The Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was arrested while shooting anti-Keystone Pipeline activists in North Dakota. Schlosberg wasn’t protesting anything – she was reporting on the events, which is what journalists do for a living. She is being charged with three conspiracy counts, and her case has some unusually horrifying First Amendment implications.


“Filmmaker Arrested at Pipeline Protest Facing 45 Years in Felony Charges”
by Nick Visser
The Huffington Post
October 14, 2016

aotp_schlosbergA documentarian arrested while filming an oil pipeline protest on Tuesday has been charged with three felony conspiracy charges ― and could face decades in prison if convicted.

Deia Schlosberg, the producer of the upcoming documentary “How to Let Go of the World and Love All Things Climate Can’t Change,” was detained while filming a protest against TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota. Activists at the event, associated with the group Climate Direct Action, shut down the pipeline, which carries oil from Canadian tar sands to the U.S, for about seven hours.

Two of the protestors, Michael Foster and Samuel Jessup, were also charged and Schlosberg’s equipment and footage from the event was confiscated. Schlosberg said shortly after being released on bond that she couldn’t comment on her arrest until she spoke to a lawyer.

She has been charged with three felonies: conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service. Together, the charges carry 45 years in maximum prison sentences.

Josh Fox, the director of the film and two others related to fossil fuels, including the Academy Award-nominated “Gasland,” said Schlosberg wasn’t participating in the protest herself but acting as filmmaker to document the event. Her arrest appears to reflect a “deliberate” targeting of reporters, he said.

“They have in my view violated the First Amendment,” Fox said, referring to the state’s Pembina County Sheriff’s Department. “It’s fucking scary, it knocks the wind of your sails, it throws you for a loop. They threw the book at Deia for being a journalist.” Read more.

Trolls are Eating the Internet

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

If a prankster is a surgeon, a troll is a drunk swinging an axe. They are distinct but have a few things in common, including a tendency to thrive on the internet. In this piece, Joel Stein addresses a particularly artless strain of digital hate and warns that it’s poisoning the pool.


“How Trolls are Ruining the Internet”
by Joel Stein
Time
August 18, 2016

AOTP_TrollfaceThis story is not a good idea. Not for society and certainly not for me. Because what trolls feed on is attention. And this little bit–these several thousand words–is like leaving bears a pan of baklava.

It would be smarter to be cautious, because the Internet’s personality has changed. Once it was a geek with lofty ideals about the free flow of information. Now, if you need help improving your upload speeds the web is eager to help with technical details, but if you tell it you’re struggling with depression it will try to goad you into killing yourself. Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect, in which factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building. And it’s seeping from our smartphones into every aspect of our lives.

The people who relish this online freedom are called trolls, a term that originally came from a fishing method online thieves use to find victims. It quickly morphed to refer to the monsters who hide in darkness and threaten people. Internet trolls have a manifesto of sorts, which states they are doing it for the “lulz,” or laughs. What trolls do for the lulz ranges from clever pranks to harassment to violent threats. There’s also doxxing–publishing personal data, such as Social Security numbers and bank accounts–and swatting, calling in an emergency to a victim’s house so the SWAT team busts in. When victims do not experience lulz, trolls tell them they have no sense of humor. Trolls are turning social media and comment boards into a giant locker room in a teen movie, with towel-snapping racial epithets and misogyny. (more…)

PAC-ing a Punch

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Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues, Parody

From W.J. Elvin: Not that it’s too difficult to find bizarre humor in politics today but here’s an interesting sidelight from former colleague Glenn Garvin.


Scamsters, jokers: this PAC’s for you
by Glenn Garvin
Miami Herald
September 5, 2015

Cats-for-a-better-tomorrow-200Finally it’s arrived: High-rolling fat-cat campaign finance for the rest of us! The days when it took Donald Trump’s bank account and a battalion of lawyers to buy and sell political candidates like bags of potatoes are behind us. Now anybody with access to a computer, 20 minutes to spare and a low boredom threshold can set up a political action committee to funnel unlimited campaign contributions to the issue or candidate of his choice, no matter how weird, prankish or — let’s be honest here —stupid.

Seriously — well, “seriously” is probably not exactly the right word, but you get it — nothing is too bizarre, too arcane or too ridiculous to have its own super PAC. If you’re sick of American politicians who badmouth Darth Vader, you can give money to The Empire Strikes PAC, which helps candidates who favor “the construction of a safer, more x-wing resistant Death Star.”

And if you grieve that we haven’t had a bewhiskered president in the 122 years since Benjamin Harrison left the White House, send all the money you want to Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy (that’s right, BEARD PAC), which imperiously decrees that “the time is now to bring facial hair back into politics.”

And yes, there’s even a PAC for the uncounted hordes who believe Virginia psychologist Anna Hornberger’s cat Xavier would make a good president: the My Cat Xavier for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow PAC. (Even you dog people have to admit that a president who comes with a full-time shrink attached is an idea whose time may have arrived.)

When the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for Super PACS in 2010 with a pair of decisions — Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and SpeechNOW.org v. Federal Elections Commission — that established the rights of Americans to make unlimited campaign contributions as long as they go to independent committees and not directly to candidates or political parties, some political scientists predicted disastrous corruption. Others foresaw a robust expansion of the First Amendment.

What nobody expected is that creating super PACS would turn into a sort of performance art that, depending on your perspective, either joyously celebrates or cynically mocks the American political system.

Read the rest of this article here.


Free Speech for Everyone? Really?

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues

By Glen Greenwald of The Intercept, January 9, 2015:


In Solidarity with a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons

B60MfNeIgAAnudL-540x272

Defending free speech and free press rights, which typically means defending the right to disseminate the very ideas society finds most repellent, has been one of my principal passions for the last 20 years: previously as a lawyer and now as a journalist. So I consider it positive when large numbers of people loudly invoke this principle, as has been happening over the last 48 hours in response to the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.

I’ve previously covered cases where Muslims were imprisoned for many years in the U.S. for things like translating and posting “extremist” videos to the internet, writing scholarly articles in defense of Palestinian groups and expressing harsh criticism of Israel, and even including a Hezbollah channel in a cable package. That’s all well beyond the numerous cases of jobs being lost or careers destroyed for expressing criticism of Israel or (much more dangerously and rarely) Judaism. I’m hoping this week’s celebration of free speech values will generate widespread opposition to all of these long-standing and growing infringements of core political rights in the west, not just some.

Read the whole article here.

Eavesdropping via Fake Cell Towers

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Fraud and Deception

Can you hear me now? In case you still thought you had personal privacy…


Fake Cell Towers Allow the NSA and Police to Keep Track of You
By Lauren Walker
Newsweek
September 5, 2014

phony-towers-425

The Internet is abuzz with reports of mysterious devices sprinkled across America—many of them on military bases—that connect to your phone by mimicking cell phone towers and sucking up your data. There is little public information about these devices, but they are the new favorite toy of government agencies of all stripes; everyone from the National Security Agency to local police forces are using them.

These fake towers, known as “interceptors,” were discovered in July by users of the CryptoPhone500, one of the ultra-secure cell phones released after Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA snooping. The phone is essentially a Samsung Galaxy S3 customized with high-level encryption that costs around $3,500. While driving around the country, CryptoPhone users plotted on a map every time they connected to a nameless tower (standard towers run by wireless service providers like Verizon usually have names) and received an alert that the device had turned off their phone’s encryption (allowing their messages to be read). Read the rest of this article here.

Cecily McMillan’s Awakening

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues

I Went From Grad School to Prison
As Told to Abigail Pesta
Cosmopolitan
August 12, 2014

This past spring, Cecily McMillan rode a bus across a bridge to Rikers Island, home of the notorious New York City jail. When the Occupy Wall Street activist was released nearly two months later, she had left her old self behind.

cecily-mcmillan-arrest-425

I didn’t cry my first night in jail.

By the time I got through the 12 hours of intake — the lines, the fingerprints, the strip search — it was 4 a.m. In a dorm with 50 women, I lay on a cot smaller than a twin bed, with a mattress so thin, I could feel the cold metal beneath my back.

I didn’t feel much of anything emotionally, except a vague sense of resolution. At least I knew my fate now. I was a convicted felon.

I had spent two years awaiting a trial, accused of assaulting a policeman at an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City in March 2012. As I remember it, the officer surprised me from behind, grabbing my right breast so forcefully, he lifted me off the ground. In that moment, my elbow met his face. (more…)

Have a Secret? Good Luck

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues

Ever wonder what’s happening with all the data the NSA has collected on you?


New Snowden Leak: NSA Shares 850 Billion Metadata Records Via Search Portal
by Graham Cluley
Tripwire.com
August 27, 2014

783640841-425

Some are starting to consider Edward Snowden as the NSA’s old, boring uncle. His leaks grimly pass around secrets of the NSA: online surveillance disclosures, the MonsterMind program and privacy invasion of international governments. And still revelations about the NSA’s classified activities continue to tumble out.

The latest? The National Security Agency is supplying data to two dozen US government agencies courtesy of a “Google-like” search engine designed to share 850 billion records about emails, cellphone locations, Internet chats and phone calls, according to classified documents provided to The Intercept by none other than Edward Snowden.

The tool, called ICREACH, includes millions of records on innocent US citizens (not accused of any wrongdoing), as well as private communications of foreigners. While a multitude of NSA programs have been exposed for collecting large data of communications, and the NSA has admitted sharing some of the collected information with domestic agencies, no one had a clue about the scoop and insights of its sharing. Read the rest of this article here.

John Seigenthaler, RIP

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues

Voices: Seigenthaler a champion of First Amendment
by Ken Paulson
Special for USA TODAY

john-seigenthaler-425

A lead pipe to the head will get your attention.

One day in 1961, Justice Department aide John Seigenthaler was brutally attacked with a pipe by Ku Klux Klansmen as he rushed to protect Freedom Riders arriving in Montgomery, Ala. The Klansmen left John in the street to die.

But John survived, going on to a rich career as a journalist and a passionate First Amendment advocate who would laugh about how Attorney General Bobby Kennedy thanked him for “using his head.” John died at 86 Friday morning in Nashville.

Read more here and here.

Create an NSA document

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Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues

From Joe King: Leak your own NSA document, via Graham Cluley’s Security Newsletter, the site churns out a unique [fake] surveillance program when you visit.


The NSA Product Generator

Inspired by the recent dump of NSA’s TAO product catalog, containing weirdly-codenamed products beyond the wildest paranoid’s dreams. Each time you refresh the page, another document is generated.

nsaproductgenerator

Another demented project from @ternus

NSA Cracks Smartphone Security. Why Wear Clothes?

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues

The NSA Can Access Basically Everything On iOS, Android and Blackberry
by Lily Hay Newman
Gizmodo
August 8, 2013

ku-bigpic-200I guess we’re not even surprised at this point. Der Spiegel is reporting that internal NSA documents prove the agency’s widespread smartphone data access. And it’s pretty exhaustive. Spiegel found explicit mention of information access from iPhones, BlackBerry handsets, and devices running Android.

Everything from contact lists to texts and location tracking is available, and the NSA has set up teams to specialize in cracking each operating system. These teams also look for additional gains like the ability to monitor a user’s computer after an iPhone sync, and get access from there to even more iPhone features.

The news is problematic for RIM in particular, because the security of BlackBerry mail has always been a touted feature. A RIM representative made a statement to Der Spiegel that, “It is not for us to comment on media reports regarding alleged government surveillance of telecommunications traffic.”

Der Spiegel notes that the documents indicate specific, customized access on the part of the NSA, perhaps without company knowledge, rather than widespread smartphone surveillance. But at this point who knows. [Der Spiegel]

image: Gizmodo

Secure Email Service Shuts Down Preemptively to Elude Fed Prying

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues

Encryption App Silent Circle Shuts Down E-Mail Service ‘To Prevent Spying’
by Parmy Olson
Forbes.com
August 9, 2013

Updated with comments from co-founder Phil Zimmermann

Silent-Circle-200The business of protecting consumers from prying government eyes has suddenly become a pre-emptive one for Silent Circle. The communications encryption firm said Friday that it was shutting down its e-mail service to prevent spying, a day after competitor Lavabit suspended its core email service. Lavabit’s founder had suggested in a letter to customers that he had been the subject of a U.S. government investigation and gag order.

Silent Circle, which has seen a 400% revenue jump in recent months as a result of the Snowden furore and concerns over government surveillance, does not rely solely on e-mail hosting as Lavabit does. It also encrypts phone calls, text messages and video conferencing with a suite of iOS and Android apps.

Only a small portion of its customers used Silent Mail, some of whom used it as their exclusive email provider — at some point in the last 24 hours, many discovered their cloud-based emails had been suddenly deleted. (more…)

Email Service Provider Shuts Down to Avoid Violating Users’ Privacy

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues

Update from Forbes: Lavabit’s Ladar Levison: ‘If You Knew What I Know About Email, You Might Not Use It’


Lavabit, email service Snowden reportedly used, abruptly shuts down
by Xeni Jardin
boingboing.net
August 8, 2013

Screen-Shot-2013-08-08-at-3.03Remember when word circulated that Edward Snowden was using Lavabit, an email service that purports to provide better privacy and security for users than popular web-based free services like Gmail? Lavabit’s owner has shut down the service, and posted a message on the lavabit.com home page today about wanting to avoid “being complicit in crimes against the American people.”

According to the statement, it appears he rejected a US court order to cooperate with the government in spying on users.

The email service offered various security features to a claimed user base of 350,000, and is the first such firm to have publicly and transparently closed down, rather than cooperate with state surveillance programs. The email address Snowden (or someone sending emails on his behalf) is reported to have used to send invites to a press conference at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in mid-July was a Lavabit account.

Read the full message from Lavabit’s founder and operator Ladar Levison here.

Westboro Baptist Congregants Meet Human Wall of… Zombies

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Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues

Westboro Baptist loons run into protest wall—made of zombies?
by Howard Portnoy
Examiner.com
August 2, 2012

The Supreme Court may have greenlighted the hate-filled demonstrations by misguided adherents to the teachings of the Westboro Baptist Church, but the high court never said that counter-protests were not also covered by the First Amendment. Ever since the court handed down its controversial ruling, “human walls” have become commonplace at military funerals—gestures meant to neutralize the church group’s message of hate. In one widely reported example of the trend, the rock band Foo Fighters showed up in Kansas City in September of 2011 to “serenade” Westboro congregants.

Now one trend has meshed with another. KIRO-TV reports that last Friday, protesters assembling outside the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in DuPont, Wash., were met by—get ready for it—a wall of the living dead. (more…)