Thanksgiving is a time to take stock of what’s happened in the past year and focus on the things that we appreciate most. In the spirit of the holiday, we here at EFF are taking some time to name some things that we’re giving thanks for this year—from victories that protect the rights we hold dearest, to allies that work with us, to the supporters who make our work possible.
A Great Win for the First Amendment
The freedom of speech is an important right to protect, and we’re thankful that a federal judge ruled that it is unconstitutional for government officials who use their Twitter accounts to conduct official business to block individuals simply because they disagree with their views. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in May ruled that President Donald Trump could not block people, and therefore prevent them from seeing his communication with the public or interacting in the otherwise public spaces created by each of his tweets.
The ruling is a win for the public’s right to speak to and engage with public officials over social media.
The Trump administration is again asserting that it has the right to block people who criticize the president’s policies, because, among other reasons, he tweets from his private Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump. In a brief filed in October, we told the appeals court that those arguments must be rejected again.
California’s Net Neutrality Law
We’re thankful that California’s lawmakers listened to your demands and signed the state’s landmark net neutrality bill, S.B. 822, into law. States such as California had to step up to offer these protections after the Federal Communications Commission repealed the national Open Internet Order in 2017. Despite heavy lobbying from the telecommunications industry to gut the bill, popular support for net neutrality helped send a measure with strong net neutrality protections to the governor’s desk.
The U.S. Government has sued to block this law, and it’s been paused while the D.C. Circuit settles a federal challenge to decide if the FCC, by abandoning its authority over Internet service providers, also abandoned any power to preempt state laws.
California’s net neutrality law sets a gold standard for the rest of the country, and we look forward to defending it as the court considers its next steps.
(More) Freedom to Tinker
This year, we’re also giving thanks for all the members of the EFF community who asked the U.S. Copyright Office to give more legal protection to security researchers, repair technicians, tinkerers, and video creators. After hearing their stories, the Copyright Office granted new and expanded exemptions to the law against breaking digital locks. The new exemptions give people the right to tinker with their voice assistants, to repair digital devices including vehicles and home appliances, to use video clips more freely, and to grant security researchers more freedom to investigate and fix flaws in a wider range of devices.
While we would have liked to see these exemptions go further, and will continue to fight to overturn 1201 to protect speech, security and competition, we are thankful that so many members of our community stepped up to defend the right to tinker, repair, and create.
Strong Allies to Work With
We’re always grateful for the allies—human rights groups, digital rights groups and individuals—that fight with us. This year, together with our allies we fought hard to prevent Congress from passing the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, or FOSTA, which silences online speech by forcing Internet platforms to censor their users in its efforts to tackle the problem of trafficking.
Congress ultimately passed FOSTA, but the fight is not over. We are extremely grateful that many of our allies fighting against FOSTA's passage stepped up to challenge the law in court: the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Human Rights Watch, the Internet Archive, Alex Andrews, and Eric Koszyk. We are thankful for other allies that support this litigation, including advocates for sex workers and our partner law firms who are helping EFF challenge the deeply flawed law.
We’re also thankful for allies all over the world who understand the risks of content censorship. This month, we led more than 70 groups in signing a letter demanding that Facebook be more transparent about what it takes down, and give people the ability to appeal decisions in a fair and timely way.
This letter calls for Mark Zuckerberg to establish a way that every Facebook user, not just celebrities or others that can command media attention, can protect their speech and fight against unjustified takedowns. The letter was co-signed by a diverse group of more than 70 human rights, digital rights, and civil liberties organizations from South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and the U.S.—underscoring how important this issue is for everyone.
We are thankful for our nearly 40,000 dues-paying members, who make up the backbone of our financial support. Your energy and input are crucial to helping us fight for everyone’s digital rights. Financial support from individuals keeps the fires lit at EFF and we’re endlessly grateful for these donations that help keep the organization fiercely independent.
To every member of EFF: thank you for making our work possible. If you’re not already a member, please consider joining today.