First Amendment Issues

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NSA Cracks Smartphone Security. Why Wear Clothes?

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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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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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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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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…)

Cartoonist to Face Criminal Charges for Parodying Legislator?

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Parody, Political Pranks

Moderator’s note: This won’t be the first time a satirist co-opted official letterhead to make a statement (see Joey Skaggs’ Brookyln Bridge Lottery Hoax, done in 1992), but it may be the last!!


Dane County DA considers charges against cartoonist who sent fake news
by Sandy Cullen
Wisconsin State Journal
March 14, 2012

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Wednesday his office is considering whether to file a felony charge against a political cartoonist who reproduced the letterhead of state Rep. Steve Nass on a phony press release sent to a Madison newspaper.

Ozanne said Capitol Police have asked his office to determine whether Mike Konopacki of Madison should be charged with violating a state law that makes it a felony for someone who is not a public officer or public employee to act in an official capacity or to exercise any function of a public office.

The Class I felony is punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Ozanne said his office has the discretion to file a different felony or misdemeanor charge, or to not prosecute.

Konopacki, 60, said Wednesday he believes his parody — which makes fun of Nass, a Republican from Whitewater, for his role in canceling an art exhibit related to last year’s protests at the state Capitol — is protected political speech.

He said he sent the fake news release to the editorial page editor at The Capital Times, which posted an erroneous story on the paper’s website and on Capital Newspapers’ website, madison.com, on Feb. 25. It was removed a short while later after the paper learned the source document was a fabrication.

Konopacki, who specializes in labor issues, has drawn editorial cartoons for The Capital Times for many years on a freelance basis, the paper said in an online statement.

(more…)

Is There a Right to Lie?

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Is There a Right to Lie?
By William Bennett Turner, Op-Ed Contributor
The New York Times
February 19, 2012

Berkeley, Calif. Xavier Alvarez is a liar. Even the brief filed on his behalf in the United States Supreme Court says as much: “Xavier Alvarez lied.” It informs us that he has told tall tales about playing hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, being married to a Mexican starlet and rescuing the American ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis. But as the brief reminds us, “none of those lies were crimes.”

Another of his falsehoods, however, did violate the law. In 2007, while introducing himself at a meeting of a California water board, he said that he was a retired Marine who had been awarded the Medal of Honor (both lies). He was quickly exposed as a phony and pilloried in the community and press as an “idiot” and the “ultimate slime.”

But his censure did not end there. The federal government prosecuted him under the Stolen Valor Act, which prohibits falsely claiming to have been awarded a military medal, with an enhanced penalty (up to a year in prison) for claiming to have received the Medal of Honor. Mr. Alvarez was convicted but appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that the act violated the First Amendment.

(more…)

Occupy the Truth: Whistleblowers Conference, Feb 17-19, UC Berkeley

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Joey Skaggs will be in Oakland for this open space Whistleblowers conference, February 17-19, 2012. Admission is free and open to the public.


From the conference website:

“There is no truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world.” – Thomas Jefferson

Transparency needs your brain. Whistleblowers need your protection. Fresh Juice Party, Courage to Resist and Bradley Manning Support Network invite you to bring your ideas.

Please join journalists, former military personnel, academics, activists, policy makers, media experts, filmmakers and whistleblowers for an open discussion designed to encourage unexpected interdisciplinary alliances and action.

This will be a unique participant driven environment where we will co-create the agenda for the day. [It] will be a first of its kind activist/expert un-conference mix so expect to be surprised. Sharing, networking and creating new alliances will be central to providing strategies and support for whistleblowers.

Come and enjoy the freedom of discussion and mobility of an unconference where serious discussion interplays with an open space atmosphere of creativity and play.

Check the conference site for more information. Register at Event Brite & Check for updates on Facebook and Twitter @OccupyTruthCon #TruthCon


Toying with Authority

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Submitted by Deborah:


Doll ‘protesters’ present small problem for Russian police
by Miriam Elder
Guardian.co.uk
26 January 2012

Police in Siberian city ask prosecutors to investigate legality of protest involving display of toy figures holding miniature placards

Russian police don’t take kindly to opposition protesters – even if they’re 5cm high and made of plastic.

Police in the Siberian city of Barnaul have asked prosecutors to investigate the legality of a recent protest that saw dozens of small dolls – teddy bears, Lego men, South Park figurines – arranged to mimic a protest, complete with signs reading: “I’m for clean elections” and “A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin”. (more…)

The Art of the Prank Supports SOPA/PIPA Resistance Day!

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From Ars Technica
January 18, 2012

Today is SOPA Resistance Day at Ars. Sites across the ‘Net, from reddit to the Internet Archive, from Wikipedia to Google, are protesting the excesses of the Stop Online Piracy Act. SOPA remains a flawed bill that treats piracy as an existential threat to the US economy and to a sacred class of rightsholders—and in doing so loses all perspective on appropriate remedies. The discussion is absolutely unbalanced.

Many sites have chosen to go dark (i.e., offline) today, a stance we respect—but it’s not the right path for us. Ars Technica has, for 14 years, tried to be an information resource, and the most appropriate response from Ars is to provide even more information on the legislation, how you can fight it, and what’s really at stake. (more…)

Live Canvases on 42nd Street

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, First Amendment Issues

From ArtInfo


Artist Andy Golub takes to the streets using locals as his canvas:

Jingo by Andy Golub

Related Story:

  • Today, Street Artist Andy Golub Paints Naked Bodies in Times Square (Again)
  • Syrian Cartoonist Beaten

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    Syrian security forces break hands of political cartoonist Ali Ferzat
    by Elizabeth Flock
    Washington Post
    August 25, 2011

    Renowned Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat was kidnapped, badly beaten, and left bleeding on the side of the road in an attack Thursday blamed on the security forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Ferzat had once had high hopes for Assad as leader, having been visited long ago by the aspiring opthamologist, who told the cartoonist all his work should be published — even cartoons banned in the country, the Guardian reports.

    But in recent years, Ferzat, now 60 and based in Damascus, had increasingly criticized not only the bureaucracy and corruption in Assad’s regime but also his brutal crackdown on protesters.

    (more…)

    Artist Mideo Cruz on Art & Exorcism

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    Editor’s note: This article from ARTINFO brings to mind Joey Skaggs’ Crucifixion Performance.
    As a young artist living on the Lower East Side of New York City, Skaggs created a two hundred pound sculpture depicting a naked rotting skeletal corpse with a human skull, barbed wire crown of thorns, long human hair, and a metal penis dangling between the legs to protest the hypocrisy of the Church and man’s inhumanity to man. From 1966 to 1969, on Easter Sunday, Skaggs dragged the crucifix to various locations in New York City causing a range of violent reactions and police actions. The crucifix was destroyed by the public.


    “You Might End Up in a Casket”: A Q&A With Mideo Cruz on His Controversial Dildo Jesus Sculpture and the Perils of Political Art in the Philippines
    ARTINFO
    August 16, 2011

    What is Philippines-based artist Mideo Cruz going to do now that his native country’s former first lady Imelda Marcos personally demanded that an exhibition of his work to be closed? Cruz’s installation “Poleteismo” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines plastered the walls with a dense assortment of political and religious imagery — as well as reliquary-like boxes and a large crucifix affixed with a dildo. It sparked the largest uproar over free speech of recent memory in the country, making international headlines, and leading the show to be shuttered amid rage from offended Catholics. Such was the uproar that even shutting the show wasn’t enough: an exorcist was called in to cleanse the space of “Poleteismo”‘s taint.

    Cruz’s work has been branded little more than “shock art,” but the artist — who says he lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a time in 2009, incidentally, at the PointB Worklodge — has a different take. Following the closure of the show, Cruz talked to ARTINFO about the meaning of “Poleteismo,” explained his take on the country’s political climate, and laughed at death threats from “people who call themselves Christians.”

    Can you describe your piece and your inspiration for creating the artwork that has caused so much controversy? (more…)

    Legal Systems Challenged by Social Networking

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    A sampling of social media sparked flash mobs in the news:


    Sheriff: Rapper incited phone flash mob on Twitter

    AP: The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department says The Game incited a telephone flash mob that overwhelmed the emergency phone system. Read more…

    SF transit blocks cellphones to disrupt protest

    AP: A decision by San Francisco Bay Area transit officials to cut off cell phone service at some of its stations to thwart a planned protest drew angry response Saturday from one transit board member who said she was shocked that officials acted as “this type of censor.”

    Bay Area Rapid Transit officials have said they shut down power Thursday evening to cellular towers for stations stretching from downtown to the San Francisco’s airport after learning protesters planned to use mobile devices to coordinate its demonstration. Read more…

    Philly mayor chides black parents over teen mobs

    AP: The painful images and graphic stories of repeated violent assaults and vandalism by mobs of black teenagers had gotten to be too much for Mayor Michael Nutter.

    As an elected official and a “proud black man” in the nation’s fifth-largest city, Nutter felt he had to go a step beyond ordering a law enforcement crackdown.

    So he channeled the spirit of another straight-talking Philadelphian: Bill Cosby. Nutter took to the pulpit at his church last weekend and gave an impassioned, old-fashioned talking-to directed at the swarms of teens who have been using social networks to arrange violent sprees downtown, injuring victims and damaging property. Moreover, he called out parents for not doing a better job raising their children. Read more…

    Food Critic Punished for Critical Review

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    Taiwanese Blogger Gets Jail Time For Negative Restaurant Review
    Huffington Post
    June 23, 2011

    A food blogger in Taiwan was sentenced to 30 days in jail, given two years probation and fined 200,000 New Taiwan Dollars ($6928 as of 3 PM this afternoon) for writing a negative review of a restaurant in Taichung, Taiwan. The blogger, whose surname is Liu, called the food “too salty” and said that there were cockroaches in the kitchen. A regular customer read Liu’s blog, and told the restaurant’s owner about the review. The owner sued Liu for libel. The Taichung court that ultimately ruled on the case decided that Liu’s review was libelous because it was written after just one dinner, and so was not well-informed enough for such harsh judgment. The decision is final.

    It’s not rare for restaurants to sue reviewers in America, but they almost never win. A 1985 ruling by the 2nd Circuit Federal Appeals Court in New York, in the case Mr. Chow of New York v. Ste. Jour Azur S.A., gave critics extremely wide berth for their restaurant reviews. The judge in the case explained that American readers understand that reviews represent the opinion of the writer, and so should not be taken factually. Subsequent lawsuits in America have almost never been decided in favor of restaurants—our critics are too influential for punishment!

    WikiLeaks Top Secret Mobile Information Unit on the Move

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    From artist, Clark Stoeckley, June 14, 2011:


    I started the WikiLeaks Top Secret Mobile Information Collection Unit on March 19th during a rally for Bradley Manning at the White House. My goal is to bring awareness to WikiLeaks, protest the detention of Bradley Manning, and make the government and corporations sweat when they look out the window and see me parked in front of their buildings.

    Though I am not connected to WikiLeaks, I believe we are all WikiLeaks. I realize that I am not only representing WikiLeaks with this project, but everyone who supports them. I strongly believe that Bradley Manning is a hero and true patriot.

    Video of the WikiLeaks truck’s maiden voyage on March 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.:

    Since [March] I have been driving around New York City, Washington DC, Alexandria, Arlington and Quantico, VA, as well as Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. Soon I would like to make a trip to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where Bradley Manning was recently transported.

    Tomorrow (Wednesday) there is a protest at the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, VA for the WikiLeaks Grand Jury. David House (Manning’s best friend), Tyler Watkins (Manning’s boyfriend), and Nadia Heninger (WikiLeaks spokeswoman) have been subpoenaed to testify. I will be circling the square all day.

    (more…)