EFF in the News
Jillian York: 'While these things did happen on very different scales, the intent was the same, to shut down speech in light of protests. We are looking at this as precedent, as a slippery slope. And I, I do fear that this is something we're going to be seeing a lot more often.'
...in the world of First Amendment law or free speech law, that's called a prior restraint. And it's the most - it's the gravest and most serious encroachment on speech rights, worse than, say, punishing speech after the fact.
"If you have to pay $12.5 billion dollars to play, you can sense why maybe an individual who has a great idea would feel discouraged," said Julie Samuels, a patent lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology-oriented civil liberties group. "It affects the whole economy."
But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)'s Rebecca Jeschke tells Fast Company that, "It's a First Amendment problem when a government agency takes it upon itself to prevent people from being able to speak. This was a broad prior restraint on the communications of BART riders. It didn't just affect demonstrators--it affected everyone."
Shutting down cellphone service to combat protests — a tactic seen in Iran during 2009 election protests and in Egypt earlier this year during protests that eventually ousted president Hosni Mubarak— is not normally done in the USA, says Rebecca Jeschke of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit advocacy group for digital and electronic rights. BART officials called the tactic a legal way to ensure a safe commute.
Today on The Stream, John Perry Barlow will join the show via Skype to discuss censorship. He is the co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and is an author and expert on cyberspace and digital rights.
"It's very clearly a major First Amendment problem whenever a government agency takes it upon itself to simply prevent people from being able to speak," says Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil rights group.
Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation say they don't believe BART officials had the legal or constitutional right to turn off access to cell phone networks inside four downtown San Francisco stations last Thursday.
Still, BART, whose actions have been criticized as unconstitutional on the grounds that the agency hindered free speech, is likely to stay on the radar of the ACLU and other organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group concerned with digital issues, put it a bit more bluntly in a post: “BART Pulls a Mubarak in San Francisco.”