Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday First Amendment Roundup: Privacy on Twitter and Amazon, Free Speech "Anarchy,"

As the developing story in Egypt casts new light on the importance of free speech and privacy in the age of the Internet (and hopefully calls attention to threats to those freedoms here in the United States) as usual there are other, smaller dramas around the Country that you may have missed:
  • The ACLU and the Electronic Freedom Foundation have challenged the government's attempt to obtain the records of three Twitter users in conjunction with the FBI's WikiLeaks investigation. On that note, the ACLU has commended Twitter for defending the privacy of their users.
  • The ACLU also defended the privacy rights of Amazon.com customers in North Carolina, where state authorities were requesting information that could tie customers to specific purchases.
  • The Orange County, California district attorney's office has filed criminal charges against 11 UC Irvine students who protested a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the US last year. DA Tony Rackauckas's statement, in part: “We must decide whether we are a country of laws or a country of anarchy . . . We cannot tolerate a pre-planned violation of the law, even if the crime takes place on a school campus and even if the defendants are college students. In our democratic society, we cannot tolerate a deliberate, organized, repetitive and collective effort to significantly disrupt a speaker who hundreds assembled to hear.”
  • A speech by William Ayers at Georgia Southern University drew protesters from the Sons of Liberty, who were informed that they were not permitted to protest because they'd failed to register in advance.
  • The National Labor Relations Board (which, incidentally, has a Facebook page) reached settlement in a case defending the rights of workers to discuss working conditions on Facebook and other social networking sites.
  • A conflict is brewing in New Jersey over religious exemptions to state immunization requirements, as State Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. argues that the parents' word that immunization violates their religion should not be sufficient to grant an exemption.
  • The ACLU and several other organizations have launched the Develop For Privacy Challenge, a contest encouraging mobile phone application developers to address privacy concerns. Entries will be accepted at the contest web site until May 31.
We'll be back next Friday with another First Amendment Roundup. In the meantime, I hope you'll spend a little time celebrating the birthday of The Great Emancipator (and maybe the US's greatest LGBT President). If you have no other plans, it's also Evolution Weekend - so if your life's ambition is to finally reconcile religion with science, this is the weekend for you.

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