Facebook "Like" not protected speech in Virginia

Courthouse News Service reports that a virginia judge has ruled Facebook "Likes" are not protected speech.

The case was related to employees of the Hampton VA sheriff's office who "Liked" the current sheriff's opponent in the last election. After he was re-elected, he fired many of the people who had supported his opponent.

The judge ruled that posts on Facebook would have been protected, but not simple Likes.

Excellent EFF post on failures of Cryptography regulation

The EFF has an excellent article on eight reasons why government regulation of cryptography is a bad idea. The short answer is: the bad guys can easily get it and use it anyway, and it will make security for the rest of us much worse (not including the big brother surveillance  and constitutional issues).

Swiss bank in Wikileaks case abruptly abandons lawsuit | The Iconoclast - politics, law, and technology - CNET News.com

Swiss bank in Wikileaks case abruptly abandons lawsuit | The Iconoclast - politics, law, and technology - CNET News.comIn a follow up to the earlier story, it seems that the judge finally realized the implications of his actions to free speech, and the fact that his injunction was almost completely ineffective. This is a really good thing. If the ruling had stood under appeal and become precedent, it would have significantly changed the Internet landscape.

Wikileaks domain name yanked in spat over leaked documents | The Iconoclast - politics, law, and technology - CNET News.com

Wikileaks domain name yanked in spat over leaked documents | The Iconoclast - politics, law, and technology - CNET News.comDeclan does a really good job here of discussing a fascinating case. WikiLeaks is a Wiki based website designed to enable completely anonymous posting of tips and leaked documents. It is focused around enabling disclosure of information from repressive countries.A US court recently ordered WikiLeak's domain name registrar to disable their domain name because of some documents on the site about questionable off shore banking activities by a group of Swiss bankers.The real shocker here is the draconian action against WikiLeaks prior to the resolution of the claim. It is also ineffective action because WikiLeaks is openly hosted under a number of domains in a number of different countries.I am very interested to see how this story develops and whether the injunction will stand up once the details of the offending materials become clear.

Disparate national laws trample privacy expectations

Israel recently forced Google to hand over the identity of a blogger. Declan McCullagh wrote a good post covering the facts of the case. This case illustrates one of the problems caused by the international nature of the Internet. A message, article, or blog post you write (completely legally) in your country, may subject you to prosecution and punishment in another. I am not thinking here of obvious and major crimes such as fraud, child pornography, etc. (and even these are not universally criminal), but rather of more subtle speech and thought crimes.In the United States, the "truth" is an absolute defense in liable cases, while in the UK it is not (lawyers in the audience, please correct me if I am in error here). Denial of the holocaust  is protected first amendment speech in the US but not in much of Europe. Personal sharing of copyrighted materials is legal in many countries, but not the US. Think cartoons of Mohammed, the Satanic Verses, the secret teachings of the Scientologists, pictures of Burmese protests, publishing of Cryptography software. Each of these is legal in some countries and not in others.How can anyone know if their words or actions might be illegal in some country somewhere in the world. 

Countries continue to try to tighten their grip on the Internet

Thailand Continues Internet Crackdown - WSJ.comChinese President wants to tame Internet and spread party line

Many countries are continuing to try to exert control over the information available to their citizens. Changes in technology are forcing them to adopt new solutions to keep that control.

Traditional media (Newspaper, Magazine, TV, Radio) all have a local nexus of control that can be influenced by the government. Station managers, reporters, and editors can all be threatened or arrested to control the content of those media. For a media to be safe from influence, it must be generated and disseminated entirely outside the country in question.

The Internet is perceived as the greatest threat by restrictive governments because it enables on-demand access to information, offers much more depth than broadcast media, and two directional communications.

To minimize public backlash, these governments are presenting their censorship as protecting their citizens. In Thailand they are protecting the honor of the king and country, while in China they are preventing immoral or ideologically impure content. This is all just so much white wash to cover the effort to control the populace by controlling what they know and discuss.

Anonymizer, currently provides anti-censorship services at no cost to the people of Iran (supported by the VoA) and China (on our own). We are planning to protect the people in a number of other countries in the future. Many other organizations are also providing such solutions, creating a vibrant ecosystem of solutions which will be much harder to stop than any single solution.

It is critical that privacy organizations, as well as content providers and portals like Google, work together to actively oppose the efforts of these governments to restrict free speech and access to information on the Internet.

Historically short wave radio provided a way of getting information into a country. It was sometimes subject to jamming to keep it out. These days, almost no one listens to short wave, so its impact is minimal. Many national short wave services have been drastically reduced or eliminated.

Satellite TV can also be effective. Many countries try to limit private satellite dish ownership, however this tactic has proved to be difficult to implement effectively.