China cracks down on Sina Weibo
While China's "Great Firewall" prevents citizens from accessing popular social media networks Twitter and Facebook, Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform not unlike Twitter, provides a vibrant alternative for China's ever-increasing community of netizens.
Though speech on the platform is controlled, an outpouring of anger from netizens toward the treatment of a June 23 train crash near Wenzhou by authorities, followed by the flooding of the network with protest photographs from the city of Dalian, has lead to a crackdown on users.
In May, we asked EFF members to write their California legislators and urge them to support SB 914, a bill that requires the police to obtain a search warrant before searching a recent arrestee’s cell phone.
EFF is happy to report that yesterday, the California Senate passed SB 914 with a bipartisan vote of 31-4. SB 914 already passed in the California Assembly in August on a 28-9 bipartisan vote, and is now on its way to Governor Brown's desk.
What has long been an EFF issue is once again making headlines. In recent days, the world is seeing damning reports of authoritarian regimes spying on their citizens using American- and European-made surveillance technologies, with new evidence emerging from Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and Thailand.
After many years and many failed attempts, patent reform legislation is about to pass Congress and become law. (President Obama has signaled he will sign the current bill, which should make it out of Congress this week.) The good news: Washington, D.C. recognizes that the patent system is in dire need of reform. The bad news: the new law will do virtually nothing to fix many of the system’s fundamental problems.
Current Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) members and donors are invited to join Director for International Freedom of Expression Jillian York and Senior Activist Richard Esguerra at a secret location in New York City for drinks on Sunday, September 11th. Both Jillian and Richard will be speaking at the Open Video Conference that weekend at New York Law School. Find out about our latest work in intellectual property, online activism in the U.S. and abroad, and EFF's continuing fight to defend your privacy.
EFF's Speakeasy events are free, informal gatherings that give you a chance to mingle with local members and meet the people behind the world's leading digital civil liberties organization. It is also our chance to thank you, the EFF members who make this work possible.
EFF is sending an open letter to the Korean Communications Standards Commission condemning attempts to shut the public out of their work and urging them to embrace online freedom of expression.
In South Korea, even the censors are being censored. Professor K.S. Park, who sits on South Korea’s nine-member Internet content regulatory board, has found his own blog under threat of censorship when he used it as platform to speak out for transparency and free expression.
In keeping with a growing trend, this week Federal Judge Bernard Zimmerman of the Northern District of California severed 5,010 Doe Defendants from a single case—effectively dismissing all but one defendant. EFF participated in the case as amicus.
This case, like many we’ve seen around the country, involved a pornographic work. Plaintiff sued more than 5,000 individuals anonymously based only on their ISP addresses, for allegedly exchanging an infringing file over a BitTorrent network. The copyright owner claimed that participation in BitTorrent “swarm” was a form of conspiracy, meaning it could sue everyone at once in California.
Today, Northern District of Texas District Court Judge David C. Godbey granted EFF's and Public Citizen's sanctions motion against Evan Stone, attorney for Mick Haig Productions, who improperly issued subpoenas to ISPs without court permission in order to obtain the identities of alleged file sharers. The court's blistering opinion speaks for itself, and should be read in full. The court includes a brief overview of its findings thusly:
Join the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Technology Liberation Front (TLF) for a special joint happy hour this Wednesday, September 14th in Washington DC!
EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston, who just argued the Jewel v NSA warrantless wiretapping case in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, will be in DC working to advance EFF's legislative priorities like fighting the new mandatory data retention bill and pushing for an upgrade to electronic privacy law. He hopes to see as many of you as he can while he's there!
EFF & TLF Happy Hour
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday (pdf) that the government must turn over information from criminal prosecutions in which federal law enforcement agencies obtained cell-site location information without a warrant. The suit, filed as part of EFF’s FLAG Project and in conjunction with the ACLU, sought the release of the case numbers and case names in which the government had tracked the location of a person’s cell phone without obtaining a warrant.
Copyright troll Righthaven's flawed business model—suing hundreds of bloggers and small websites for dubious cases of alleged copyright infringement of newspaper articles—appears to be grinding to an inexorable finish. But even as the Righthaven cases prove that litigation isn't going to magically make print media profitable in the age of the Internet, a new generation of journalists and creators are adapting to the digital world—including one of Righthaven's former clients.
More facts have recently come to light about the compromise of the DigiNotar Certificate Authority, which appears to have enabled Iranian hackers to launch successful man-in-the-middle attacks against hundreds of thousands of Internet users inside and outside of Iran.
This Saturday, September 17th, concerned European citizens with the Freedom not Fear movement have decided to take their protest to the capital of the European Union, Brussels. Their slogan: Stop the surveillance mania! For five years in a row, Freedom Not Fear has taken to the streets in several cities in Europe and beyond to demand an end to suspicion-less surveillance measures. These include mandatory data retention laws and other reactionary surveillance measures that have been justified by the rhetoric of fear. Their protest efforts have been among the most meaningful demonstrations for this cause. Previously, Freedom not Fear protests were spread out across various European towns.
Did you know that right now you could double, and in some cases triple, the amount of your donation to EFF at no additional cost to you?
Many companies support and encourage charitable giving by matching employee gifts to US 501(c)(3) nonprofits like EFF. Apple just announced that it will start matching gifts of up to $10,000 per employee per year! Google matches contributions when you designate them to EFF's Technology and Innovation Fund. Try our matching donation search tool to see if your company will match your donation! (Note: Apple is still being added to this database.)
We’ve been puzzling over the Author’s Guild’s decision to sue several university libraries for participating in the digitization and storage of millions of works (largely in connection with the Google Books project) and making scans of some of those works available to the academic community. Simply put, it appears that the Guild is dead set on wasting time and money addressing imaginary harms, whether or not its efforts might actually benefit either its members or the public.
In a disappointing ruling, the First Circuit Court of Appeals today overturned a decision by a federal district court that had downsized damages in Sony v. Tenenbaum, a file-sharing case in which a jury originally ordered a college student to pay $675,000 for infringing copyrights in 30 songs. District court Judge Nancy Gertner had found the award so "oppressive" as to be unconstitutional, and reduced it to $67,500. The appellate court did not expressly disagree on the constitutional question but found the court should not have considered the issue.
When a state government stores public property information in an electronic format, the format of its storage shouldn't change citizens' right to access the information, right? Well, wrong -- at least in California after a recent Court of Appeal decision. But, in an encouraging sign, on Wednesday, the California Supreme Court granted a petition to hear the case and review the lower court's decision.
When the Supreme Court decided Bilski, we lamented that the “Court regrettably failed to provide guidance in the future about business method patents.” Now we are faced with the result of that failure: a string of cases that leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what, if anything, Bilski meant.
Update: Jiew's trial will resume on February 14, 2012.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, more commonly known by her pseudonym, “Jiew,” is the director of one of Thailand’s most popular alternative news sites, Prachatai. EFF has been following Jiew’s work--and her commitment to free expression--for quite some time. In October 2010, following a conference on Internet freedom, Jiew was arrested upon re-entering Thailand. EFF conducted an interview with her shortly afterward.
EFF has long been committed to helping international travelers protect their electronic devices and digital data at the U.S. border. We're continuing to push for some legal limits on the government’s sweeping authority to search electronic devices at the border with an amicus brief we recently filed along with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear and reverse its disturbing decision in United States v. Cotterman (pdf).
In the wake of the Google+ Nymwars, the events of the Arab Spring, and discussion surrounding the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), there is a growing need for both companies and users to have a better understanding of how terms of service (ToS) and community policing methods affect online speech. Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+--as well as video and photo-sharing sites--are increasingly playing the role of the public sphere, and policies around content removal and account deactivation can have chilling effects on free expression.
Nominations are now open for EFF’s 20th Annual Pioneer Awards, to be presented at Zeum (soon to be known as the Children's Creativity Museum) on November 15th in San Francisco. EFF established the Pioneer Awards in 1992 to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. Nominations will be open until Monday, October 17th.
EFF just received documents that reveal additional post-9/11 Defense Department misconduct, including attempts by the Army to investigate participants at a conference on Islamic law at the University of Texas Law School and Army-issued National Security Letters (NSLs) to telecommunications providers in violation of the law.
There's been a lot of action on consumer privacy in DC over the past year, and while some of that action seems to have stalled (more on that in another post), there's still movement in the private sector—mainly around "Do Not Track (DNT) and Tracking Protection Lists (TPLs).
W3C is an open process that invites participation from many different stakeholders. Even if you can't make it to Boston, you can follow along by visiting:
Part one in a short series on EFF’s Open Source Security Audit
By Dan Auerbach and Chris Palmer
We recently did a security audit in which we uncovered and helped to fix vulnerabilities in the popular open source messaging clients Pidgin and Adium. We were motivated by our desire to bolster the security of cryptographic software that we often recommend to individuals and organizations as a defense against surveillance. In particular, one tool that we are enthusiastic about is the widely-used Off-The-Record (OTR) plugin for Pidgin and Adium.
In April we launched "Who Has Your Back", a campaign calling on major Internet companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft to stand with their users when it comes to government demands for users’ data. Today, we’re pleased to see that two of the thirteen companies highlighted in our petition, Apple and Dropbox, have agreed to one of our requests: that they stand up for user privacy in Congress by joining the Digital Due Process coalition.
This week brings new restrictions in Syria and Pakistan, while watchdog group Freedom House releases a new brief on the growing challenges to Internet freedom.
Syria Blocks WordPress
This has been a tumultuous year for Syrians and for the Syrian Internet. In response to protests beginning in February, the Syrian government unblocked Facebook, Blogspot, and YouTube for the first time since 2007. While some observers saw it as a move toward a freer Internet, others viewed it as better enabling surveillance; the latter turned out to be right.
Earlier this week, digital activists alerted us to a concerning situation in Austin, Texas: officers at the local police department had announced a plan to search out all of the individuals running open wifi connections in Austin and warn them about potential dangers of running an open network. Thankfully, quick mobilization by our friends at EFF Austin helped stall this plan before it could take effect.
Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a trio of data security and data breach notification bills. One of the bills, which was sponsored by Committee Chairman Senator Leahy, includes a crucial amendment [pdf] to clarify that it's not illegal under the notoriously vague Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to violate agreements like website terms of service or acceptable use policies.
EFF has long complained about export restrictions by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Commerce that deny citizens access to vital communications tools. In the past, this has affected, among others, Zimbabwean activists trying to obtain hosting providers, Syrian businesspeople networking on LinkedIn, and ordinary Iranians trying to download web browsers.
Books are books whether we read them in a library or on a Kindle or iPad, but California laws are lagging when it comes to protecting reader privacy in the digital age. That's why EFF is a supporter of the Reader Privacy Act, a bill that has passed the California legislature and is awaiting Governor Brown's signature to become law.
Who's looking over Californians' digital shoulder and why does it matter? You can take our quiz to find out what's at risk -- and how Californians can protect their private reading records. Then tell Governor Brown to sign the Reader Privacy Act to ensure Californians don’t have to compromise their privacy when downloading electronic books, using online book services or even buying books from their local bookstore.
In what is becoming a well-settled pattern, Righthaven again finds itself on the losing end of a motion, with its case thrown out and owing the defendant – here, Leland Wolf, proprietor of the It Makes Sense Blog – costs and attorneys' fees for bringing a baseless copyright case. The lawsuit, Righthaven v. Wolf, is also notable for being the leading case among more than 50 that were filed in Colorado. Pending a motion to dismiss, the Colorado court stayed the remaining cases.
Just last year, the Humble Indie Bundle blazed onto the gaming scene with what seemed like an impossible business model: allow customers to pay what they want for DRM-free games, and let them choose how to distribute their contribution between the developers, the organizers, and two worthy tech charities. People supported EFF for online rights protection and Child's Play, which supplies games, toys, books, and cash to children’s hospitals. The result has been nothing short of miraculous, and we are happy to announce that the digital goodness is back with The Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle!
The year was 1986. Top Gun was the top movie, Super Mario Bros. 2 was the hot videogame, practically no one had ever heard of email, and mobile phones were clunky and expensive novelties the size of a brick.
On October 21st of that year, the President signed into law the Electronic Communications Privacy Act or "ECPA", to better protect our electronic privacy against unwarranted government snooping.
ECPA was forward-looking when Congress passed it, considering that the World Wide Web hadn't even been invented yet and that if you were savvy enough to have email you probably dialed up to a BBS to get it. But now, eons later in Internet time, technology has passed the law by.
by Jillian York and Trevor Timm
Update: A significant edit was made to the original piece on which this commentary is based. See * for additional information.
In a recent Washington Times editorial titled “Internet trolls, Anonymity and the First Amendment,” Gayle Falkenthal declared that “the time has come to limit the ability of people to remain anonymous” online.* She argued that any benefit to online pseudonyms has long since dissipated and anonymous commenters have polluted the Internet “with false accusations and name-calling attacks.” Newspapers, she wrote, should ban them entirely.