In the past week, the larger Internet community has joined EFF in sounding the alarm about the new copyright bill, now known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), as it makes its way through the U.S. House. The bill threatens to transform copyright law, pushing Internet intermediaries—from Facebook to your ISP—to censor whole swaths of the Internet. SOPA could forever alter social networks, stifle innovation and creativity, and destroy jobs, which is why Rep.
Today, EFF's Twitter account received its 50,000th follower. That’s 50,000 people who care about the future of civil liberties -- at least enough to keep tabs on EFF through our Twitter feed. And while there are surely a few spam bots in there, we’re glad to see so many thousands of people showing their allegiance to digital rights.
We use Twitter as a communication tool and also as a feedback mechanism, so we can educate people about digital rights and also hear back from our Twitter friends. While we don’t respond to every message directed our way on Twitter, we do read them and try to incorporate that feedback in future posts.
Make your end-of-year donation go twice as far! Give to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's EFF on Mission Building Fund Campaign before December 31st, and EFF will receiving a matching gift from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation — up to a total of $500,000! Contributions to EFF from new donors will be matched dollar for dollar; contributions from current supporters will be matched for the increase in gift. So bump up your donation and double your impact!
During the past week, momentum against the House’s draconian copyright bill has gained steam, as venture capitalists, Internet giants and major artists have denounced it for handing corporations unprecedented power to censor countless websites and stifle free speech. In response, the bill’s big-pocketed supporters have gone on the offensive, attempting to mislead the public about the bill’s true reach. In a particularly egregious example, the Chamber of Commerce posted an attack on its website insisting that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is not a “blacklist bill."
Egypt imprisons Alaa, other pro-democracy bloggers
EFF recently highlighted the case of Alaa Abd El Fattah, one of Egypt’s most influential pro-democracy bloggers, who is now serving fifteen days in jail for refusing to be interrogated by military prosecutors. His supposed crime? Accusing the military of having a direct role in the killing of 27 people during a Coptic Christian protest in October. As the Guardian reported, Alaa’s claim “appears to be supported by extensive witness reports and video footage.”
This Wednesday, November 16, the disastrous "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) heads to the House Judiciary committee. In case you need a refresher, SOPA could allow the U.S. government and private corporations to create a blacklist of censored websites, and cut many more off from their ad networks and payment providers. This bill is bad news, and its supporters are trying to push it through before ordinary citizens realize just how much damage it can cause.
Yesterday, EFF—along with the Cato Institute, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Public Knowledge, and TechFreedom—submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in FCC v. Fox, which asks the Court to declare unconstitutional the FCC’s heavy-handed and outdated indecency policy for broadcast TV. The policy stems from the 1978 Supreme Court decision in FCC v. Pacifica, also known as the “Seven Dirty Words” case. The Court held that broadcast media deserved lesser First Amendment protection than other mediums because it had a “uniquely pervasive presence in the lives of all Americans” and was “uniquely accessible to children.”
This is the third in our series (Part 1, Part 2) breaking down the potential effects of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), an outrageous and grievously misguided bill now working its way through the House of Representatives. This post discusses dangerous software censorship provisions that are new in this bill, as well as the DNS censorship provisions it inherited from the Senate's COICA and PIPA bills. Please help us fight this misguided legislation by contacting Congress today.
Join Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Attorney Julie Samuels for drinks next Monday, November 21st in Chicago! Discover EFF's latest work in intellectual property from our resident patent expert, and learn more about the continuing fight to defend your freedom online.
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 mourns the passing of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the 22-year-old co-founder of the Diaspora* project. His role at Diaspora*, a social network designed to preserve users' freedom, was just one of many expressions of his belief that a free and open Internet can improve people's lives. Ilya was a friend to the EFF community, and a consistent supporter of its goals; we will miss his passion, his dedication, and his enthusiasm.
When Hosni Mubarak was ousted from the Egyptian presidency in February, Egypt's revolutionaries saw a new beginning: an Egypt in which individual rights--including the right to free expression--would be respected. Just nine months later, with several prominent bloggers languishing in prison and countless other civilians tried by military courts for protesting, the future looks bleak.
In terms of numbers, Egypt ranks third--behind only China and Iran--for threatened and jailed bloggers. Throughout the past decade numerous well-known bloggers were imprisoned, sometimes without trial, and in many cases subjected to torture, for the crime of speaking out. Despite hopes that Mubarak's ouster would put a stop to restrictions on free expression, under military rule, the crackdown continues.
Proponents of the latest disastrous IP bill , the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) insist it only targets the “worst of the worst”: so-called “rogue” foreign websites that profit from pirating U.S. intellectual property. But the broad definitions and vague language in the bill could place dangerous tools into the hands of IP rightsholders, with little opportunity for judicial oversight. One very possible outcome: many of the lawful sites you know and love will face new legal threats.
On the eve of the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on the Stop Internet Piracy Act—where five witnesses will appear in favor of the bill to just one against—a broad group of tech companies, lawmakers, experts, professors, and rights groups have come out against the bill.
The statements, written by people from a variety of backgrounds and political persuasions, incorporate many of the same broad themes: SOPA will threaten perfectly legal websites, stifle innovation, kill jobs, and substantially disrupt the infrastructure of the Internet. Here is a small sample of what they had to say:
A veritable Who's Who of tech giants—including Facebook, Google, Twitter, eBay, Yahoo, AOL and Mozilla—explicitly came out against both SOPA and PROTECT-IP in a letter to the ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees:
The House Judiciary Committee will meet today for a hearing on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). What could have been an opportunity for the committee to hear from a variety of stakeholders has devolved into a parade of pro-SOPA partisans. Scheduled to testify are representatives from the Register of Copyrights, Pfizer Global Security, the Motion Picture Association of America, the AFL-CIO, and Mastercard Worldwide—many of which helped to draft this legislation in the first place, and didn’t let anyone else into the room. The only scheduled witness in opposition to the bill is Katherine Oyama, policy counsel on copyright and trademark law for Google.
This morning, EFF’s staff and concerned netizens across the country tuned into the live webcast of the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261). At least we tried to. Unfortunately, we were confronted with an incredibly poor webcast stream for much of the hearing. We find it ironic and deeply concerning that Congress is unable to successfully stream video of an event this important to all Internet users, even as they are debating a dangerous plan to change the Internet in fundamental ways and deputize Internet intermediaries to act like content police.
Earlier this week, EFF recognized the accomplishments of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, encryption expert Ian Goldberg (pictured left), and influential Tunisian blog Nawaat.org at the 20th annual Pioneer Awards Ceremony 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. We were glad to welcome back to this year's ceremony a number of previous Pioneer Award winners, including Peter Neumann, Patrick Ball, Mark Klein, Whitfield Diffie, and Harvey Anderson and Tom Lowenthal on behalf of the Mozilla Foundation. Needless to say, this year's winners join an esteemed group.
The Canadian national anthem proudly honors "The True North strong and free!” Yet Canadians face an imminent round of frightening online spy proposals that threaten long held civil liberties and privacy rights. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has insisted that he won’t budge in his support of online spying legislation despite heavy criticism from privacy watchdogs.
Last week, security researcher Trevor Eckhart posted an analysis of software produced by Carrier IQ, which describes itself as "the world's leading provider of Mobile Service Intelligence solutions." Eckhart concluded that the software, which comes by default on many mobile devices and runs quietly in the background, logs extensive details about users' activities. Eckhart not only documented the functionality of the software, but learned even more about how it works through training materials posted on the Carrier IQ website. Fearing the company would take the files offline after he posted his analysis, he mirrored the training materials to let others independently verify his conclusions.
From Mubarak knocking a country offline by pressuring local ISPs to PayPal caving to political pressure to cut off funding to WikiLeaks, this year has brought us sobering examples of how online speech can be endangered. And it’s not only political speech that is threatened – in the United States, legislation is working its way through Congress that would give the government and private actors broad new online censorship tools in the name of improving intellectual property rights enforcement.
Over the past few weeks, numerous stories have emerged documenting just how pervasively the Syrian regime patronizes American companies. First it was Blue Coat, the company that first denied the use of their tools in Syria, which then later backtracked, admitting that thirteen of their appliances were “phoning home” to Blue Coat headquarters.
An order from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has revealed the FBI lied to the court about the existence of records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), taking the position that FOIA allows it to withhold information from the court whenever it thinks this is in the interest of national security. Using the strongest possible language, the court disagreed: “The Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court.” Islamic Shura Council of S. Cal. v. FBI (“Shura Council I”), No. 07-1088, 3 (C.D. Cal. April 27, 2011) (emphasis added).
“The [South African] media enjoys probably greater freedom than any other country in Africa and is seen by some as an unofficial opposition.” ~ Guardian, November 21, 2011
Today, the South African parliament is expected to pass one of the most draconian secrecy bills in world. Known as the “Protection of Information bill” [PDF], its main purpose seems to be protecting government officials from scrutiny while preventing the public from accessing important information.
Last week proved to be an important one in the ongoing saga of the horrendous Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the House of Representatives’ Internet blacklist bill: the House Judiciary Committee held the first hearing on the bill Wednesday.
We’re pleased to announce another way to connect with the Electronic Frontier Foundation: our new live-tweeting account @EFFLive. We officially unveiled it last week during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Internet blacklist legislation.
With so many events affecting digital civil liberties going on, we want to provide our community with a more in-depth look as they occur. Through @EFFLive, EFF will be participating in Twitter chats, reporting on digital rights conferences, and covering Congressional hearings. If you’re hungry for rapid-fire, minute-by-minute updates during unfolding events, then check out @EFFLive.
Today mobile software company Carrier IQ withdrew (pdf) a bogus legal threat to a security researcher who published an analysis of the company's software, as well as training materials on which he based his research.
Last week, Trevor Eckhart published a detailed article pointing out that Carrier IQ's software logs a great deal of information about users' activities without their knowledge. Attempting to suppress his research, Carrier IQ fired off a baseless cease-and-desist demand (pdf) claiming that Eckhart infringed the company's copyrights and made "false allegations" about their software.
Turkey Launches Internet Filter
On Tuesday, Turkey instituted a voluntary filtering system blocks "objectionable content" when enabled. Users will now have to sign up for the free system with their ISP and select from two levels of filtering: child and family. The original intention for this tiered system was for it be mandatory, but authorities backtracked after widespread protests against the scheme.
One year ago today, WikiLeaks started publishing a trove of over 250,000 leaked U.S. State Department cables, which have since formed the basis of reporting for newspapers around the globe. The publication has given the public a window into the inner workings of government at an unprecedented scale, and in the process, has transformed journalism in the digital age.
On November 14th, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) sent a notice to Pakistani cell phone carriers, demanding that they block 1,600 terms and phrases it deemed “obscene” from being transmitted via text message. The extensive list runs the gamut from mundane words like “hole,” “joint,” and “period,” to head-scratchers like “Budweiser” and “Got Jesus.” The letter, published in both English and Urdu, instructed the providers to implement the ban within seven days or face legal action. As of Sunday, people were still able to send text messages containing words named in the list.
Thank you for being a part of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's movement to protect civil liberties. Did you know that you can help defend your right to privacy and fund EFF's work — all without spending your own money?
Right now CREDO Mobile customers and activists are voting on how to distribute an expanding pool of donations among 40 nonprofit organizations including EFF. When you sign our petition to fight invasive border searches on the CREDO website, you also become eligible to give EFF a slice of a multimillion-dollar donation pie.
Take action today and support EFF's future success:
Freedom of expression continues to come under attack in Mexico. This week, Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced that his government is exploring "all options to proceed legally against those who have denounced the government in international forums and in the courts." This announcement came in response to a complaint filed by Mexican activists and signed by over 23,000 Mexicans, in International Criminal Court last week, demanding that the court investigate alleged human rights violations by the army and the police as part of the state's war against the drug cartels.
The PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) is the evil step-sister of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the much-criticized Internet blacklist bill introduced in the House last month. They’ve got a lot in common — both bills would allow the government and private rightsholders to censor the Internet for Americans, and both bills have faced strong opposition from regular citizens, business leaders, and public interest groups.
Earlier today, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Facebook over allegations that the social network operator deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly expanding that which is shared and made public. We are heartened to see that many of the provisions of the settlement are in alignment with the Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users that EFF proposed in May 2010.
Under the proposed settlement (PDF), Facebook is:
This week, Google activated a web privacy feature called “forward secrecy”, becoming one of the web’s first major players to put this important component in place. It’s an important step, and other sites should follow suit. In order to understand why enabling forward secrecy is so important, it’s helpful to know how HTTPS works in the first place.
EFF is proud to announce the newest member of our growing staff, Ellie Young. Ellie may be familiar to many of you from her longtime work overseeing the operational and administrative functions of several San Francisco Bay Area not-for-profit organizations. For the past 22 years, Ellie was the Executive Director of the USENIX Association, which puts on conferences that are essential to the community of computing engineers, sysadmins, academics and researchers. Prior to that, Ellie worked at the University of California Press and at the Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley. Ellie comes to EFF in the role of Special Assistant to Executive Director Shari Steele, and she will work on financial planning as well as on development and operational activities at EFF.
Proposal Would Gut Privacy Laws, Allow Unprecedented Data-Grab by Government
We’re for better network, computer, and device security. Unfortunately, "cybersecurity" bills often go off track—case in point: the " Internet kill switch. " The latest example comes courtesy of the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee. Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) are introducing "The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011"(PDF).