Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community,
librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers, in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
Top Ten Most Challenged Books for 2016
Based on 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom
This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
George written by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the "sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels"
I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
Looking for Alaska written by John Green
Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to "sexual experimentation"
Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being "disgusting and all around offensive"
Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
Reason: challenged for offensive language
Russia will block access to Facebook next year if the websites refuses to comply with a law requiring websites to store personal data of Russian
citizens on Russian servers so as to facilitate state snooping. Russia's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, told reporters that either Facebook abides by the law or the social network will cease to work on Russian territory.
Roskomnadzor blocked Russian access to LinkedIn last November as a result of the social media company being found guilty of violating the same data storage law. Since then, foreign internet companies have been under pressure to comply or risk
losing their service in the country. Twitter has told Roskomnadzor that it aims to localise the personal data of its users by mid-2018. Companies including Google and Alibaba have already complied .
Meanwhile on the other side of the iron curtain, Facebook said it will turn over to the United States Congress Russian-linked ads that may have been intended to sway the 2016 US election. The social network revealed that it identified around 500
fake accounts with ties to Russia that purchased $100,000 worth of ads during the campaign, as well as $50,000 ad purchases from Russian accounts.
We support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
The Guggenheim Museum in New York has pulled three exhibits featuring animals after receiving explicit and repeated threats of violence. The museum said they will not now be shown out of concern for the safety of its staff, visitors, and
participating artists.'Cruel manipulation of animals'
Campaigners had complained that the works showed cruelty against animals in the name of art. A petition to pull the exhibits had gained more than 500,000 signatures.
One of the works, titled Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other , shows a film of pitbull dogs on treadmills facing each other but aren't able to reach each other. The dogs are being observed in a presumably Chinese gallery setting with
onlookers rather passively observing and photographing proceedings.
The other exhibits are Theatre of the World , in which insects and reptiles live in a see-through dome and eat each other; and A Case Study of Transference , a video of a previous live performance of two mating pigs stamped with
Roman and Greek letters.
The museum has explained that the exhibit is an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork saying:
We recognise that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalisation and the complex nature of the world
The museum said it was dismayed that we must withhold works of art, adding: Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.
The American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals issued a statement objecting to the cruel manipulation of animals. It said:
Such treadmills are typical of brutal dog fighting training regimens, and the mere positioning of animals to face each other and encourage aggression often meets the definition of illegal dog fighting in most states.
It is interesting to observe that campaigners against the exhibition pointed out the offending video on YouTube, thinking that people would take offence and join the protest, in very much the same way that the Guggenheim exhibition is pointing out
the cruelty going on in China, perhaps with the aim of provoking protest.
The works were due to be in an exhibition titled Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World, which opens on 6 October.
EFF opposes the Senate's Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act
( S. 1693
) ("SESTA"), and its House counterpart the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act ( H.R. 1865
), because they would open up liability for Internet intermediaries--the ISPs, web hosting companies, websites, and social media platforms that enable users to share and access content online--by amending Section 230's immunity for user-generated
content ( 47 U.S.C. § 230
). While both bills have the laudable goal of curbing sex trafficking, including of minor children, they would greatly weaken Section 230's protections for
online free speech and innovation
Proponents of SESTA and its House counterpart view Section 230 as a broken law that prevents victims of sex trafficking from seeking justice. But Section 230 is not broken. First, existing federal criminal law allows federal prosecutors to go
after bad online platforms, like Backpage.com, that knowingly play a role in sex trafficking. Second, courts have allowed civil claims against online platforms--despite Section 230's immunity--when a platform had a direct hand in creating the
illegal user-generated content.
Thus, before Congress fundamentally changes Section 230, lawmakers should ask whether these bills are necessary to begin with.
Why Section 230 Matters
Section 230 is the part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that provides broad immunity to Internet intermediaries from liability for the content that their users create or post (i.e., user-generated content or third-party content).
Section 230 can be credited with creating today's Internet--with its abundance of unique platforms and services that enable a vast array of user-generated content. Section 230 has provided the legal buffer online entrepreneurs need to experiment
with news ways for users to connect online--and this is just as important for today's popular platforms with billions of users as it is for startups.
Congress' rationale for crafting Section 230 is just as applicable today as when the law was passed in 1996: if Internet intermediaries are not largely shielded from liability for content their users create or post--particularly given their huge
numbers of users--existing companies risk being prosecuted or sued out of existence, and potential new companies may not even enter the marketplace for fear of being prosecuted or sued out of existence (or because venture capitalists fear this).
This massive legal exposure would dramatically change the Internet as we know it: it would not only thwart innovation in online platforms and services, but free speech as well. As companies fall or fail to be launched in the first place, the
ability of all Internet users to speak online would be disrupted. For those companies that remain, they may act in ways that undermine the open Internet. They may act as gatekeepers by preventing whole accounts from being created in the first
place and pre-screening content before it is even posted. Or they may over-censor already posted content, pursuant to very strict terms of service in order to avoid the possibility of any user-generated content on their platforms and services that
could get them into criminal or civil hot water. Again, this would be a disaster for online free speech. The current proposals to gut Section 230 raise the exact same problems that Congress dealt with in 1996.
By guarding online platforms from being held legally responsible for what thousands or millions or even billions of users might say online, Section 230 has protected online free speech and innovation for more than 20 years.
But Congress did not create blanket immunity. Section 230 reflects a purposeful balance that permits Internet intermediaries to be on the hook for their users' content in certain carefully considered circumstances, and the courts have expanded
upon these rules.
Section 230 Does Not Bar Federal Prosecutors From Targeting Criminal Online Platforms
Section 230 has never provided immunity to Internet intermediaries for violations of federal criminal law --like the federal criminal sex trafficking statute (
18 U.S.C. § 1591
). In 2015, Congress passed the SAVE Act, which amended Section 1591 to expressly include "advertising" as a criminal action. Congress intended to go after websites that host ads knowing that such ads involve sex trafficking. If these
companies violate federal criminal law, they can be criminally prosecuted in federal court alongside their users who are directly engaged in sex trafficking.
In a parallel context, a federal judge in the Silk Road case
correctly ruled that Section 230 did not provide immunity against federal prosecution to the operator of a website that hosted other people's ads for illegal drugs.
By contrast, Section 230 does provide immunity to Internet intermediaries from liability for user-generated content under state criminal law . Congress deliberately chose not to expose these companies to criminal prosecutions in 50
different states for content their users create or post. Congress fashioned this balance so that federal prosecutors could bring to justice culpable companies while still ensuring that free speech and innovation could thrive online.
However, SESTA and its House counterpart would expose Internet intermediaries to liability under state criminal sex trafficking statutes. Although EFF understands the desire of state attorneys general to have more tools at their disposal to combat
sex trafficking, such an amendment to Section 230 would upend the carefully crafted policy balance Congress embodied in Section 230.
More fundamentally, it cannot be said that Section 230's current approach to criminal law has failed. A
earlier this year and a recent
article both uncovered information suggesting that Backpage.com not only knew that their users were posting sex trafficking ads to their website, but that the company also took affirmative steps to help those ads get posted. Additionally, it has
been reported that a federal grand jury
has been empaneled in Arizona to investigate Backpage.com. Congress should wait and see what comes of these developments before it exposes Internet intermediaries to additional criminal liability.
Civil Litigants Are Not Always Without a Remedy Against Internet Intermediaries
Section 230 provides immunity to Internet intermediaries from liability for user-generated content under civil law--whether federal or state civil law. Again, Congress made this deliberate policy choice to protect online free speech and
Congress recognized that exposing companies to civil liability would put the Internet at risk even more than criminal liability because: 1) the standard of proof in criminal cases is "beyond a reasonable doubt," whereas in civil cases it
is merely "preponderance of the evidence," making the likelihood higher that a company will lose a civil case; and 2) criminal prosecutors as agents of the government tend to exercise more restraint in filing charges, whereas civil
litigants often exercise less restraint in suing other private parties, making the likelihood higher that a company will be sued in the first place for third-party content.
However, Section 230's immunity against civil claims is not absolute. The courts have interpreted this civil immunity as creating a presumption of civil immunity that plaintiffs can rebut if they have evidence that an Internet intermediary
did not simply host illegal user-generated content, but also had a direct hand in creating the illegal content. In a seminal 2008 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in
Fair Housing Council v. Roommates.com
held that a website that helped people find roommates violated fair housing laws by "inducing third parties to express illegal preferences." The website had required users to answer profile questions related to personal characteristics
that may not be used to discriminate in housing (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, and the presence of children in the home). Thus, the court held that the website lost Section 230 civil immunity because it was "directly involved with
developing and enforcing a system that subjects subscribers to allegedly discriminatory housing practices." Although EFF is concerned with some of the implications of the
decision and its potential to chill online free speech and innovation, it is the law.
Thus, even without new legislation, victims of sex trafficking may bring civil cases against websites or other Internet intermediaries under the federal civil cause of action (
18 U.S.C. § 1595
), and overcome Section 230 civil immunity if they can show that the websites had a direct hand in creating ads for illegal sex. As mentioned above, a
article both strongly indicate that Backpage.com would not enjoy Section 230 civil immunity today.
SESTA and its House counterpart would expose Internet intermediaries to liability under federal and state civil sex trafficking laws. Removing Section 230's rebuttable presumption of civil immunity would, as with the criminal amendments, disrupt
the carefully crafted policy balance found in Section 230. Moreover, victims of sex trafficking can already bring civil suits against the pimps and "johns" who harmed them, as these cases against the direct perpetrators do not implicate
Therefore, the bills' amendments to Section 230 are not necessary--because Section 230 is not broken. Rather, Section 230 reflects a delicate policy balance that allows the most egregious online platforms to bear responsibility along with their
users for illegal content, while generally preserving immunity so that free speech and innovation can thrive online.
SESTA opens websites up to civil suits over user posts that promote sex trafficking. "What you're going to end up seeing is mass
lawsuits," said Julie Samuels of Engine Advocacy, a nonprofit organization perhaps best known for its work around patent reform. She expressed concern that the lawsuits would sweep up legitimate good actors and end up crushing small startups.
It's obvious why companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter would fear SESTA. But most tech companies have been circumspect about their opposition to the bill, choosing to voice their concerns by proxy through trade groups like the Internet
Association , which includes Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and Twitter among its members.
The problem, of course, is that they're taking a stand against a bill that purports to fight sex trafficking. "Obviously no one supports human trafficking," said Samuels. "But you're going to start to play with fire when you play
with how the internet works."
Lipstick Under My Burkha is a 2016 India drama by Alankrita Shrivastava.
Starring Shashank Arora, Plabita Borthakur and Sonal Jha.
Set in the crowded by-lanes of small town India, Lipstick Under My Burkha chronicles the secret lives of four women in search of a little freedom. Though stifled and trapped in their worlds, these four women claim their desires through small acts
of courage and stealthy rebellion.
The award-winning film Lipstick Under My Burkha , which was originally banned in India by film censors opens in U.S. theaters this Friday. It will open in six theaters in California.
Writer and director Alankrita Shrivastava's movie, a dramatic comedy, focuses on four Bhopal women rebelling against long held taboos, many of them sexual, in their tiny conservative town. The independent film came under scrutiny from India's
Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which kept it from being released in January of this year, citing issues with its sexual nature. In its decision, the CBFC faulted the film for being lady oriented. Shrivastava explained during a panel
They did what they could in their power to stop the film from being exhibited. But what I think is interesting is that when this decision became public, the women of India really stood up. For the first time, I felt that Indian mainstream media
was discussing things like the male gaze and how the portrayal of women has been controlled by men.
After appealing the ban, Shrivastava compromised with the CBFC, volunteering more than 16 cuts to the film. After then being approved for release, the controversy helped the movie and it became a super hit, recovering its production costs four
days after its initial release.
US catholics have become an early victim of newly introduced censorship measure from YouTube presumably because their teaching is considered offensive due to politically incorrect attitudes towards gays and abortion. Catholic Online writes:
More media organizations are criticizing YouTube's increasingly oppressive soft censorship policies which are now eliminating mainstream news reports from the video sharing network. Many content creators on YouTube are losing millions in revenue
as the Google-owned firm reduces and cuts off payments in pursuit of profits and control.
YouTube is censoring content though various indirect means even if that content does not violate any terms of service. The Google-owned firm is removing content that it deems inappropriate or offensive, and is taking cues from the Southern Poverty
Law Center. The result seems to be a broad labeling of content, and the suppression of even mainstream news. Many of Catholic Online's bible readings have been caught up in YouTube's web of suppression, despite containing no commentary or message
other than the reading of the scriptures.
YouTube is not a government agency but a private platform, so it is free to ban or restrict content as it pleases them. Therefore, their policies, no matter how arbitrary, are not true censorship. However, the firm is practicing what some call
Soft censorship is any kind of activity that suppresses speech, particularly that which is true and accurate. It takes many forms. For example, broadcasting celebrity gossip in place of news is a form of soft censorship. Placing real news lower in
search results, preventing content from being shared on social media, or depriving media outlets of ad revenue for reporting on certain topics, are all common forms of soft censorship.
For some unknown reason, Catholic Online has also been targeted by these policies. Saints videos and daily readings are the most common targets. None of this content can be considered objectionable by any means, and none of it infringes on
YouTube's terms and conditions. It is suspected that anti-Christian bigotry, such as that promoted by liberal extremist organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, are to blame.
The problem for content creators and media organizations is that there are few places for them to go. Most video viewing takes place on YouTube, and there are no video hosting sites as well known and widely used as YouTube. Other sites also
restrict content and some don't share revenues with content creators. This makes YouTube a monopoly; they are literally the only show in town.
The time has come for governments around the world to recognize that Facebook, Google, and YouTube control the public forum. If freedom of speech is to be protected, then these firms must be compelled to abide by free speech rules.
The Orpheum Theater in Memphis has cancelled its traditional annual screening of Gone With the Wind , apparently in response to the anti-all-things-Confederate sentiment that's seizing the US.
It's the story of Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, and her evolution from sheltered plantation owner's daughter to impoverished war casualty to scrappy Reconstruction-era survivor and hard-headed businesswoman. It's also a love triangle between
Scarlett, Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes. It's set against the backdrop of the Civil War but it's not supposed to be about the war, or slavery.
No, it is not a realistic depiction of the institution of slavery. Yes, the black characters in it are mostly stereotypes. It was published in 1936 and filmed in 1939. Gone With the Wind is dismissed by its critics as romanticizing the Confederacy
and the Old South, when on the contrary, if you look past all the melodrama and hoop skirts and fiddle-dee-dees you can find a strong anti-Confederacy statement.
Gone With the Wind contains strong black characters and staunchly anti-slavery white characters, most notably the character of Ashley Wilkes. My takeaway has always been that it's a scathing indictment of the Confederacy and the hubris of
Confederates who believed they could prevail against the economic and military might of the United States government. Admittedly all this comes across more in the book, but it's there in the film too.
Artistic works of decades past should be viewed in the context of the time in which they were created, not censored. It's unfair to hold them to present-day standards.
Instead of being banned, it could be presented in an educational forum discussing the issues surrounding it and how society has changed since the 1930s in its perception of them.
The US internet company DreamHost is fighting government demands for it to hand over details of millions of activists.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) wants all visitors' IP addresses - some 1.3 million - to a website that helped organise a protest on the day of President Trump's inauguration. In addition to the IP addresses, DreamHost said that the DoJ requested
the contact information, email content and photos of thousands of visitors.
DreamHost is currently refusing to comply with the request and is due in court on 18th August,
In a blog post on the issue, DreamHost said that, like many other online service providers, it was regularly approached by law enforcement about customers who may be the subject of criminal investigations. But, it added, it took issue with this
particular search warrant for being a highly untargeted demand.
Civil liberties group The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is helping DreamHost fight its case, said: No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible.
Update: Government data demand narrowed down a little
The US Department of Justice has eased up in its legal fight against hosting company DreamHost, saying it no longer wants all IP logs associated with a
Trump protest site.
That is not the end of the matter, however. The DoJ still wants records related to what it suspects was the planned coordination of illegal acts. It has slightly limited the request to a six-month window ending on the day of the protest itself, to
subscribers of the site as opposed to simple visitors, and it has said it does not want draft blog posts or images.
Internet-domain provider GoDaddy gave far right website The Daily Stormer the boot after the site published a derogatory
story about a 32-year-old woman killed at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
Earlier on Monday, Google Domains became the registrar for the site. However, Google later said in a statement it's cancelling The Daily Stormer's registration for violating its terms of service.
This raises issues around what domain-hosting companies are responsible for, and where they draw the line on objectionable material. Legally webhosts are only required to close down websites on grounds of a federal crime. However, as a private
business, website-hosting companies have the right to decide with whom they conduct business, and GoDaddy's decision does not violate the First Amendment, according to experts.
GoDaddy told CNN Tech:
While we detest the sentiment of such sites, we support a free and open Internet and, similar to the principles of free speech, that sometimes means allowing such tasteless, ignorant content. In this case, The Daily Stormer crossed the line and
encouraged and promoted violence.
Data compiled by the World Socialist Web Site, with the assistance of other Internet-based news outlets and search technology experts,
indicates that a massive loss of readership observed by socialist, anti-war and progressive web sites over the past three months has been caused by a cumulative 45%decrease in traffic from Google searches.
The drop followed the implementation of changes in Google's search evaluation protocols. In a statement issued on April 25, Ben Gomes, the company's vice president for engineering, stated that Google's update of its search engine would block
access to offensive sites, while working to surface more authoritative content.
The World Socialist Web Site has obtained statistical data from SEMrush estimating the decline of traffic generated by Google searches for 13 sites with substantial readerships. The results are as follows:
* wsws.org fell by 67%
* alternet.org fell by 63%
* globalresearch.ca fell by 62%
* consortiumnews.com fell by 47%
* socialistworker.org fell by 47%
* mediamatters.org fell by 42%
* commondreams.org fell by 37%
* internationalviewpoint.org fell by 36%
* democracynow.org fell by 36%
* wikileaks.org fell by 30%
* truth-out.org fell by 25%
* counterpunch.org fell by 21%
* theintercept.com fell by 19%
wsws.org has launched a petition
against Google's downgrading of these news websites.
As queer artists and activists, we're alarmed by a new trend: Many LGBTQ people's posts have been blocked recently for using words like dyke, fag,
or tranny to describe ourselves and our communities.
While these words are still too-often shouted as slurs, they're also frequently reclaimed by queer and transgender people as a means of self-expression. However, Facebook's algorithmic and human reviewers seem unable to accurately parse the
context and intent of their usage.
Whether intentional or not, these moderation fails constitute a form of censorship. And just like Facebook's dangerous and discriminatory real names policy , these examples demonstrate how the company's own practices often amplify harassment and
cause real harm to marginalized groups.
For example, two individuals wrote that they were reported for posting about the return of graphic novelist Alison Bechdel's celebrated Dykes To Watch Out For comic strip. A gay man posted that he was banned for seven days after sharing a vintage
flyer for the 1970s lesbian magazine DYKE , which was recently featured in an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. A queer poet of color's status update was removed for expressing excitement in finding poetry that featured the sex
lives of black and brown faggots.
A young trans woman we heard from was banned for a day after referring to herself as a tranny alongside a selfie that proudly showed off her new hair style. After she regained access, she posted about the incident, only to be banned again for
three more days.