Archive for the ‘integrity of content’ Category

Google’s Latest Transparency Report See “Troubling” Uptick in Government Requests

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Google's logo in bright, primary colorsGoogle’s latest biannual Transparency Report discloses an increase in government requests for user data and take downs. In the last half of 2011, government agencies requested the removal of 6,192 items posted on Google sites and asked for information from 12,243 Google user accounts.

Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou blogged some analysis of the data in the report:

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.

Chou noted that it’s not just the countries you would expect asking for the takedowns.

Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn’t comply with either of these requests.

Google did, however, comply partially or fully with 42 percent of the “requests,” which includes court orders as well as more informal asks. The majority of requests related to criminal investigations.

Kudos to Google for publishing these reports and a wealth of well-organized underlying data (including lists, maps, raw data).


Amanda Simmons at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: Google report: Government agency requests for content removal and user data rise globally and in U.S.

Andrew Breitbart is Dead at 43

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Andrew Breitbart (Image:

Conservative superblogger Andrew Breitbart has died. He collapsed while walking in his Brentwood, California neighborhood shortly after midnight. He was 43.

Breitbart was best known for distributing a deceptively edited video that painted USDA employee Shirley Sherrod as a racist. The video resulted in her firing before it became understood that the Sherrod had not actually advanced a racist position in the speech videoed, but had, in fact, been telling a story championing racial healing.

Sherrod issued a classy statement:

“The news of Mr. Breitbart’s death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning. My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart’s family as they cope through this very difficult time.”

Josh Gerstein at Politico speculates that Sherrod’s defamation lawsuit against Breitbart is “likely to continue.”

There’s nothing about Breitbart’s death that will legally affect the suit. But Sherrod could choose to drop it now. Either way, I would expect the lawsuit to continue against Larry O’Connor, a Breitbart aide who is a defendant in the suit.

Hazelwood and the Impetus for Anti-Hazelwood Laws

Monday, February 14th, 2011

The point of a law like this is to tie the hands of school adminisrators so that they cannot use the power given to them by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988)

In Hazelwood, a principal, reviewing page proofs of an upcoming issue of the school newspaper, yanked pages that contained a story about students dealing with pregnancy and a story about the impact of parents’ divorce on students. The stories were written and edited by students in journalism course at the school. The principal thought that references to birth control and sex were inappropriate for younger high school students. He also thought a divorced father, even if not named in the story, should be asked for consent before remarks concerning him were published. And the principal came up with other reasons as well: privacy, yadda yadda. Basically, discussion of divorce and pregnancy in the school newspaper made him uncomfortable. Let’s just say he’s not looking to train the next Woodward and Bernstein. He’s the kind of administrator who likes to unfold his school newspaper to see a front-page puff piece about how Friday Pizza Day is such a big hit in the school cafeteria.

The U.S. Supreme Court said that the school had not violated the students’ rights under the First Amendment. Why? In part, it was because the school owned this particular press. They created and funded the newspaper, so they could do what they wanted with it.

But the Supreme Court also went further to hold that the First Amendment rights of students in public schools are not the equal of First Amendment rights of adults in other settings. The court said that a school doesn’t have to tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with the school’s basic educational mission. So even if the government can’t censor similar speech outside the school, they can, according to the court, inside the school.

With this being how the First Amendment is interpreted with respect to schools, state legislatures have drafted so-called anti-Hazelwood statutes aimed to give students an extra measure of free-speech protection beyond that which First Amendment requires.

At first, this may seem strange, especially if you’ve never had to take a course constitutional law in law school. After all, a state legislature can’t overrule the U.S. Supreme Court. Right?

To keep track of how this works, you have to keep in mind that the First Amendment is not binding on the people. It doesn’t force the people or prohibit the people from doing anything. The First Amendment is binding on the government (including the public schools). By restraining the actions of government, the First Amendment carves out a freedom for the people. State legislatures are always free to add more restrictions on state government. Thus, state legislatures can carve out a progressively larger swath of freedom of the people in their state.

So, in essence, the anti-Hazelwood statute says, “Okay, U.S. Supreme Court, if you won’t interpret the First Amendment to tie the hands of meddling principals, we, the state legislature, will.”

Nebraska Legislature Mulls School Free Speech Statute

Friday, February 11th, 2011
Capitol tower in Lincoln, Nebraska in daytime

Nebraska Capitol in Lincoln
(Photo: EEJ)

Representative Ken Haar in Nebraska has introduced Legislative Bill 582, the “Student Expression Act.”

Now, if you are up on your state-civics trivia, you’ll know it’s called a “Legislative Bill” instead of a “Senate Bill” or “Assembly Bill” because Nebraska has just one legislative house. It’s the only state with a unicameral legislature.

The Student Expression Act would offer some protections for student bloggers.

Here is the whole text:

Be it enacted by the people of the State of Nebraska,

Sec. 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the Student Expression Act.

Sec. 2. The Legislature finds that the State of Nebraska has an obligation to protect the First Amendment rights of public school students in order to instill in students the value of democracy and to prepare students for informed and active civic participation. To that end, the right of students to free expression in all public schools in Nebraska shall not be abridged except as provided in the Student Expression Act.

The Legislature encourages school districts to adopt and publish policies on student expression following the guidelines of the Student Expression Act.

Sec. 3. For purposes of the Student Expression Act, student expression includes the rights of a student to: Express his or her thoughts and beliefs through speech and symbols; create, write, publish, perform, and disseminate his or her views; and assemble peaceably with other students on school property for the purpose of expressing opinions.

Sec. 4. The following forms of student expression are prohibited:
(1) Student expression which is obscene; (2) Student expression which is defamatory; and (3) Student expression which creates a clear and present danger of unlawful acts, causes material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school, or invades the privacy of others.

Sec. 5. No student expression made in the exercise of a First Amendment right shall be deemed to be an expression of school policy, and no public school, school district, teacher, administrator, or school board member shall be held responsible or liable in any civil or criminal action for any student expression.

Section 230 and Forced Removal of Defamatory Content

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Mike Masnick profiles some Section 230 cases that are important for bloggers:

Jacqueline D. Lipton: Moral Rights and Supernatural Fiction

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Jacqueline D. Lipton of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law has posted a paper to SSRN titled Moral Rights and Supernatural Fiction: Authorial Dignity and the New Moral Rights Agendas. The paper is slated to appear in the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal in December 2010.

Here is the abstract:

In recent years, several scholars have revisited the question of moral rights protections for creators of copyright works in the United States. Their scholarship has focused on defining a moral rights agenda that comports with American constitutional values, as well as being practically suited to current copyright business practices. Much of this scholarship has prioritized a right of attribution over other moral rights, such as the right of integrity. This article evaluates some of these recent moral rights models in light of a sample of comments made by American supernatural fiction authors about their works. The author questions whether the kinds of moral rights models being advocated in modern discourse effectively fill the gaps between authors’ stated interests in their works and the protections currently available under copyright law. The author also questions the extent to which authors’ rights should be elevated against others’ rights to enjoy and adapt their works.

Professor Lipton explains her focus:

Supernatural fiction authors are chosen for examination because they tend to be very articulate in the blogosphere and often maintain active dialogue with their fans about preferred downstream uses of their works.

The working-paper citation is Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-27. A copy can be downloaded from SSRN.

Daily Kos Planning to Sue Polling Company

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Mega-blog Daily Kos has announced that it is preparing to sue the Maryland-based firm Research 2000 over political polling data that firm provided to the blog.

Based on a review of the data by statistics experts, Kos claimed, “the weekly Research 2000 State of the Nation poll we ran the past year and a half was likely bunk.”

Greg Sargent of Washington Post’s The Plum Line blog spoke with Kos lawyer Adam Bonin to get details on the pending litigation. Bonin told Sargent that the claims will be breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud (which usually means intentional misrepresentation). Bonin told Sargent that they are planning to file suit in federal court in Northern California, where the blog’s founder, Markos Moulitsas, is based.

I’m not sure why the Daily Kos is announcing all of this. They sure aren’t proceeding as if they want a settlement. Announcing the lawsuit before it is filed seems to invite Research 2000 to strike first and gain home-court advantage by filing an action for declaratory judgment, and maybe defamation if they could allege it, in Maryland.

We’ll see what happens.