Two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage therapist have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to block enforcement of FOSTA, the new federal law that silences online speech by forcing
speakers to self-censor and requiring platforms to censor their users. The plaintiffs are represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP, Walters Law Group, and Daphne Keller.
In Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al. v. United States , the plaintiffs argue that FOSTA is unconstitutional, muzzling online speech that protects and advocates for sex workers and forces well-established, general interest community forums offline
for fear of criminal charges and heavy civil liability for things their users might share.
FOSTA, or the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was passed by Congress in March. But instead of focusing on the perpetrators of sex trafficking, FOSTA goes after online speakers, imposing harsh penalties for any website
that might facilitate prostitution or contribute to sex trafficking. The vague language and multiple layers of ambiguity are driving constitutionally protected speech off the Internet at a rapid pace.
For example, plaintiff the Woodhull Freedom Foundation works to support the health, safety, and protection of sex workers, among other things. Woodhull wanted to publish information on its website to help sex workers understand what FOSTA meant to
them. But instead, worried about liability under FOSTA, Woodhull was forced to censor its own speech and the speech of others who wanted to contribute to their blog. Woodhull is also concerned about the impact of FOSTA on its upcoming annual
summit, scheduled for next month.
FOSTA chills sexual speech and harms sex workers, said Ricci Levy, executive director Woodhull Freedom Foundation. It makes it harder for people to take care of and protect themselves, and, as an organization working to protect people's
fundamental human rights, Woodhull is deeply concerned about the damaging impact that this law will have on all people.
FOSTA calls into serious question the legality of online speech that advocates for the decriminalization of sex work, or provides health and safety information to sex workers. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international organization that is also a
plaintiff, advocates globally for ways to protect sex workers from violence, health risks, and other human rights abuses. The group is concerned that its efforts to expose abuses against sex workers and decriminalize voluntary sex work could be
seen as facilitating prostitution, or in some way assisting sex trafficking.
HRW relies heavily on individuals spreading its reporting and advocacy through social media, said Dinah Pokempner, HRW General Counsel. We are worried that social media platforms and websites may block the sharing of this information out of
concern it could be seen as demonstrating a reckless disregard of sex trafficking activities under FOSTA. This law is the wrong approach to the scourge of sex trafficking.
But FOSTA doesn't just impede the work of sex educators and activists. It also led to the shutdown of Craigslist's Therapeutic Services section, which has imperiled the business of a licensed massage therapist who is another plaintiff in this
case. The Internet Archive joined this lawsuit against FOSTA because the law might hinder its work of cataloging and storing 330 billion web pages from 1996 to the present.
Because of the critical issues at stake, the lawsuit filed today asks the court to declare that FOSTA is unconstitutional, and asks that the government be permanently enjoined from enforcing the law.
FOSTA is the most comprehensive censorship of Internet speech in America in the last 20 years, said EFF Civil Liberties Director David Greene. Despite good intentions, Congress wrote an awful and harmful law, and it must be struck down.
California is considering a bill that would require the state's attorney general to create a board of internet censors that would target
The group would include at least one person from the Department of Justice, representatives from social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars, according to CBS13. They would theoretically study how fake stories
spread through social media and then advise platforms on how to stop them.
The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation is already taking a stand against the measure, noting that it violates the First Amendment and make the government responsible for deciding if news is true or false.
A cartoonist who lost his job at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes his searing portrayals of Donald Trump were the
most likely cause of his firing.
Rob Rogers was terminated on Thursday by the paper for which he had worked for 25 years, after six cartoons in a row were spiked and his employer tried to change his terms of working, he said.
His last cartoon depicted a bloated man representing the USA, impaled on a steel girder with trade war written on it, waving the Stars and Stripes and saying: Take that, Canada, Mexico and Europe.
Rogers's departure prompted uproar from fans including the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto. In a statement, he said: The move today by the leadership of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to fire Rob Rogers after he drew a series of cartoons critical of
President Trump is disappointing, and sends the wrong message about press freedoms in a time when they are under siege.
Instagram has censored the hashtag #stripper and several related keywords that dancers use to find each other and organize
online. Now, sex workers are taking to social media to spread the word, decry censorship, and suggest workarounds.
Currently, when you search Instagram for #stripper or #strippers, you are given a preview of just a couple top posts in the category. But if you click through to view the entire hashtag, the following message appears:
Recent posts from #strippers are currently hidden because the community has reported some content that may not meet Instagram's community guidelines.
The same thing was reportedly happening until very recently with a handful of related hashtags, including #yesastripper, #stripperstyle, and #stripperlife--but those appear to be back in action, demonstrating how quickly the sex work community has
to adapt and change.
Instagram has yet to comment about the censorship, but is surely because of the recent US internet censorship law FOSTA. This would make Instagram responsible should any posts to #stripper be used to facilitate sex trafficking. As Instagram is
unable to vet all such postings for possible traffcking then the only practical option is to ban all posts about sex work.
By Thursday morning, Instagram had apparently backed down, telling Jezebel that, the hashtag #stripper can again be used and seen by the community in the spirit in which they are intended.
Instagram sent a statement on Thursday effectively rescinding the ban:
The safety of our community is our number one priority and we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can create a safe and open environment for everyone, Instagram said in the statement. This includes constantly monitoring hashtag behavior by
using a variety of different signals, including community member reports. Access to recent posts and following hashtags are sometimes restricted based on content being posted with those hashtags. The hashtag #stripper can again be used and seen
by the community in the spirit in which they are intended.
Democrats in the United States House of Representatives have gathered 90 of the 218 signatures they'll need to force a vote on
whether or not to roll back net neutrality rules, while Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai has already predicted that the House effort will fail and large telecommunications companies publicly expressed their anger at last
Wednesday's Senate vote to keep the Obama-era open internet rules in place.
Led by Pai, a Donald Trump appointee, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines in December to scrap the net neutrality regulations, effectively creating an internet landscape dominated by whichever companies can pay the most to get into the online fast
Telecommunications companies could also choose to block some sites simply based on their content, a threat to which the online porn industry would be especially vulnerable, after five states have either passed or are considering legislation
labeling porn a public health hazard.
While the House Republican leadership has taken the position that the net neutrality issue should not even come to a vote, on May 17 Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle introduced a discharge petition that would force the issue to the House floor. A
discharge petition needs 218 signatures of House members to succeed in forcing the vote. As of Monday morning, May 21, Doyle's petition had received 90 signatures . The effort would need all 193 House Democrats plus 25 Republicans to sign on, in
order to bring the net neutrality rollback to the House floor.
In response to the continued restriction and censorship of
conservatives and their organizations by tech giants Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube, the Media Research Center (MRC) along with 18 leading conservative organizations announced Tuesday, May 15, 2018 the formation of a new, permanent
coalition, Conservatives Against Online Censorship .
Conservatives Against Online Censorship will draw attention to the issue of political censorship on social media. This new coalition will urge Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube to address the four following key areas of concern:
Provide Transparency: We need detailed information so everyone can see if liberal groups and users are being treated the same as those on the right. Social media companies operate in a black-box environment, only releasing anecdotes about
reports on content and users when they think it necessary. This needs to change. The companies need to design open systems so that they can be held accountable, while giving weight to privacy concerns.
Provide Clarity on 'Hate Speech': "Hate speech" is a common concern among social media companies, but no two firms define it the same way. Their definitions are vague and open to interpretation, and their interpretation often
looks like an opportunity to silence thought. Today, hate speech means anything liberals don't like. Silencing those you disagree with is dangerous. If companies can't tell users clearly what it is, then they shouldn't try to regulate it.
Provide Equal Footing for Conservatives: Top social media firms, such as Google and YouTube, have chosen to work with dishonest groups that are actively opposed to the conservative movement, including the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Those companies need to make equal room for conservative groups as advisers to offset this bias. That same attitude should be applied to employment diversity efforts. Tech companies need to embrace viewpoint diversity.
Mirror the First Amendment: Tech giants should afford their users nothing less than the free speech and free exercise of religion embodied in the First Amendment as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. That standard, the result of
centuries of American jurisprudence, would enable the rightful blocking of content that threatens violence or spews obscenity, without trampling on free speech liberties that have long made the United States a beacon for freedom.
"Social media is the most expansive and most game-changing form of communication today. It is these facts that make online political censorship one of the largest threats to free speech we have ever seen. Conservatives should be given the
same ability to express their political ideas online as liberals, without the fear of being suppressed or censored," said Media Research Center President Brent Bozell.
"Meaningful debate only happens when both sides are given equal footing. Freedom of speech, regardless of ideological leaning, is something Americans hold dear. Facebook, Twitter and all other social media companies must acknowledge this and
work to rectify these concerns unless they want to lose all credibility with the conservative movement. As leaders of this effort, we are launching this coalition to make sure that the recommendations we put forward on behalf of the conservative
movement are followed through."
The Media Research Center sent letters to representatives at Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube last week asking each company to address these complaints and begin a conversation about how they can repair their credibility within the
conservative movement. As of Tuesday, May 15, 2018 , only Facebook has issued a formal response.
US lawmakers from both political parties have come together to reintroduce a bill that, if passed, would prohibit the US
government from forcing tech product makers to undermine users safety and security with back door access.
The bill, known as the Secure Data Act of 2018 , was returned to the US House of Representatives by Representative Zoe Lofgren and Thomas Massie.
The Secure Data Act forbids any government agency from demanding that a manufacturer, developer, or seller of covered products design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product
or service, or to allow the physical search of such product, by any agency. It also prohibits courts from issuing orders to compel access to data.
Covered products include computer hardware, software, or electronic devices made available to the public. The bill makes an exception for telecom companies, which under the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) would still
have to help law enforcement agencies access their communication networks.
The University of Southern Maine has censored three works by a highly regarded oil painter after learning that the artist
served six months in jail after being convicted of unlawful sexual contact nearly 20 years ago.
The censorship has prompted objections from the show's curator and the Union of Maine Visual Artists.
The paintings are by Bruce Habowski. The show's curator, Janice L. Moore, said they were removed when a relative of a victim in the sex crime called the university to complain. Where the paintings once hung are now empty hooks and open white wall
space with a signed note from Moore that says, This painting has been removed by order of the USM president. Moore added:
He was convicted for his crime and he paid his debt The act of making art, to me, it seems is a very positive thing. You are contributing to society in a positive way. I don't understand how that should be punished.
The university's communications department issued a statement about the censorship which said:
USM received a complaint from a member of the public. The complaint was not about the content of the art, but about the artist. After careful review, USM decided to remove his works from the exhibit.
In the past few years, web development platform Wix, which lets users build and host their own sites, has become particularly popular with
sex workers for its accessibility and customizable options. But recently, models and escorts have said their pages are being taken down by Wix amid SESTA-FOSTA , the new internet censorship law signed last month by Donald Trump .
\you are not allowed to display content which is in a violation of any applicable laws or requirements in your geographical location. We are obligated to remove such infringing content immediately.
Nichols told the Daily Dot that she rebranded as a model available for erotic photoshoots after SESTA-FOSTA was passed, listing her time and rates without any further context in hopes that she would slide with Wix. However, the service still
terminated her account regardless, she said.
Freja Noir tweeted:
Woke up this morning to see friends' Wix sites are being deleted with no warning, even people with no explicit content and no mention of anything illegal. If you're on Wix, make backups of all your content now. They're not playing. Wow, this
really makes me so angry.
Nichols said that she's already working on getting her site back up. But she's well aware that SESTA-FOSTA is a looming presence in her field. She elaborated:
I hired a designer to build me an open-source site with a foreign domain, host, and server, she said. Not that any of that matters if the government wants to get someone badly enough.
A Missouri state Senate committee is considering a resolution that would declare pornography a public health threat. The Republican-backed
resolution declares that pornography perpetuates a sexually toxic environment.
The resolution argues that pornography can contribute to emotional and medical illnesses, shape deviant sexual arousal and has negatively affected the family unit.
GOP state Senator Ed Emery, whinged:
In my opinion, what is unveiled by a personal moral failure may be a reflection of a disturbing and invasive social evil -- that of the proliferation of pornography and modern culture's ambivalence toward it.
Far too often, such behavior grows out of an exposure to pornography, he added. Where is the outcry against the evil of pornography?
The California Assembly has just passed legislation broad enough to ban the sale of books on the politically incorrect notion of being able to change sexual orientation.
AB 2943 cleared the chamber on a vote of 50-14. The measure adds advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual to the state's list of illegal unfair methods of competition and unfair or
deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer.
Sexual orientation change efforts are defined as any practices that seek to change an individual's sexual orientation. Other states have enacted narrower bans on conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, for minors, but CBS Sacramento
that California's is the first in the nation that would also prevent adults from voluntarily obtaining the treatment.
The bill is unprecedented for another reason, too: by classifying the subject under prohibited goods, which critics say means it would go so far as to ban the sale of books endorsing the practice, as well as other forms of
At its core, AB 2943 outlaws speech, Alliance Defending Freedom's (ADF) legal analysis of the bill reads. It says that licensed counseling, religious conferences, book sales, and paid speaking engagements could all potentially face legal penalties
for promoting gender reorientation.
The bill now moves on to the state Senate for consideration.
Grovelling to the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, Mark Zuckerberg apologised that Facebook had not taken a broad enough view
of its responsibility for people's public information. He ssaid:
It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here.
Zuckerberg said its audit of third-party apps would highlight any misuse of personal information, and said the company would alert users instantly if it found anything suspicious.
When asked why the company did not immediately alert the 87 million users whose data may have been accessed by Cambridge Analytica (CA) when first told about the improper usage in 2015, Zuckerberg said Facebook considered it a closed case after CA
said it had deleted it. He apologised:
In retrospect it was clearly a mistake to believe them.
Zuckerberg's profuse apologies seem to have been a hit at the stock exchange but techies weren't impressed when he clammed up when asked for details on how Facebook snoops on users (and non-users).
President Donald Trump has signed the internet censorship FOSTA/SESTA bill into law, paving the way for more law
enforcement actions against websites that facilitate prostitution.
Websites started shutting down sex-work forums even before Trump signed the bill. Craigslist removed its Personals section, Reddit removed some sex-related subreddits, and the Erotic Review blocked any user who appears to be visiting the website
from the United States.
The bill becoming law will likely lead to more voluntary site shutdowns or law enforcement actions against sites that continue to be used for prostitution.
The SESTA and FOSTA acronyms (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) suggest that the new law is aimed at cracking down on sex trafficking. But the law barely distinguishes between trafficking and consensual sex
Operators of websites that let sex workers interact with clients could face 25 years in prison under the new law.
At Netflix, we offer a wide variety of series and films catering to an equally broad variety of tastes and
sensibilities. With that in mind, we are improving some long-standing Netflix features that provide members with the information and tools they need to make wise decisions about what's right for themselves and for their families. We're rolling out
these improvements across the many devices used by Netflix members, and across our global markets, in the coming months.
The first change involves introducing a PIN parental control for individual movies and series to give parents and guardians more specific control over what children can watch on the service. We understand that every family is different and that
parents have differing perspectives on what they feel is appropriate to watch at different ages. While we already provide PIN protection for all content at a particular maturity level for Netflix accounts, PIN protection for a specific series or
film provides families with an additional tool to make decisions they are comfortable with.
In addition, we will also begin displaying more prominently the maturity level rating for a series or film once a member hits play on a title. While these maturity ratings are available in other parts of the experience, we want to ensure members
are fully aware of the maturity level as they begin watching. We are also continuing to explore ways to make this information more descriptive and easier for our members to understand with just a quick glance.
One of the great benefits of internet TV is that it allows for amazing variety and provides viewers with complete control over their experience. At Netflix, we are proud to create and deliver to our members a large catalog of compelling stories
crossing many genres from all over the world, while also giving them great control over how and when to enjoy them. These latest steps are part of our continuous efforts to keep members better informed, and more in control, of what they and their
families choose to watch and enjoy on Netflix.
There is no shortage of hostility towards Facebook at the moment, as a result of recent revelations about their exploitation of user data
and dissemination of supposed 'fake news'.
And the Californian Government has taken this to a whole new level and come up with a tradition approach to demand that all online news in the state is censored by government approved 'fact checkers'.
California State Senator Richard Pan introduced the bill SB1424 Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan. that requires any online communication to be run through government-approved censors fact-checkers.
This bill would require any person who operates a social media Internet Web site with a physical presence in California to develop a strategic plan to verify news stories shared on its Web site. The bill would require the plan to include, among
other things, a plan to mitigate the spread of false information through news stories, the utilization of fact-checkers to verify news stories, providing outreach to social media users, and placing a warning on a news story containing false
Although the bill initially suggests that this would apply only social media companies, the definitions confirm that it would apply to all internet communications from individuals, and companies large and small. The scope is defined in the bill:
As used in this section, social media means an electronic service or account, or electronic content, including, but not limited to, videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or
accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.
The bill stands little chance of passing and, if it did, would face serious challenges in court as an infringement of The First Amendment, but it is astonishing that a legislator would even consider such a thing in America.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to create a database that would monitor news outlets, journalists and
media influencers around the world, it has been reported.
DHS is looking to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, television, and radio, according to a request for information. It will also look at trade and industry publications, local, national and
international outlets, and social media, according to documents.
The plans also encompass media coverage being tracked in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.
The DHS Media Monitoring plan would allow for 24/7 access to media influencer database, including journalist, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc to identify any and all media coverage of a particular event.
Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the woman who allegedly opened fire at YouTube's headquarters in a suburb of San Francisco, injuring three before killing
herself, was apparently furious with the video website because it had stopped paying her for her clips.
No evidence had been found linking her to any individuals at the company where she allegedly opened fire on Tuesday.
Two of the three shooting victims from the incident were released from hospital on Tuesday night. A third, is currently in serious condition.
Aghdam's online profile shows she was a vegan activist who ran a website called NasimeSabz.com, meaning Green Breeze in Persian, where she posted about Persian culture and veganism, as well as long passages critical of YouTube .
Her father, Ismail Aghdam, told the Bay Area News Group from his San Diego home on Tuesday that she was angry with the Google-owned site because it had stopped paying her for videos she posted on the platform, and that he had warned the police
that she might be going to the company's headquarters.