Blog of Rights

New Proposal Could Singlehandedly Cripple Free Speech Online

New Proposal Could Singlehandedly Cripple Free Speech Online

By Lee Rowland, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project & Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 5:10pm
The Internet has evolved into a true marketplace for every idea – if you can think of it, you can find it on the web. That the online world has blossomed into this virtual town square teeming with diverse content is no accident. It is largely a creation of federal law – specifically, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1998. Section 230 is directly responsible for the free, messy, uncensored, and often brilliant culture of online speech. By prohibiting most state civil or criminal liability for something somebody else writes or posts, it created the single most important legal protection that exists for websites, bloggers, and other internet users. Under Section 230, a website can provide a platform for all speech without worrying that if one of its online users posts something stupid, critical, defamatory, or unlawful, the website itself can be held responsible.
The Darker Side of the DOJ Press Guidelines

The Darker Side of the DOJ Press Guidelines

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:26pm

In mid-July, the attorney general released guidelines about when and how the Justice Department can investigate journalists in the aftermath of the AP and James Rosen scandals. In my last post, I explained why the new limits on when the DOJ can delay…

ACLU in Defense One: Obama's Whistleblower Witchhunt Won't Work at DOD

ACLU in Defense One: Obama's Whistleblower Witchhunt Won't Work at DOD

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:55am

For two decades during the Cold War, an ultra-secret "mole" hunting squad at the Central Intelligence Agency, led by James Jesus Angleton, investigated hundreds of loyal government workers, primarily Eastern Europeans, in an obsessive search for Soviet…

Beyond Bradley Manning: The Government Has Made Its Point (UPDATED)

Beyond Bradley Manning: The Government Has Made Its Point (UPDATED)

By Ben Wizner, Director, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:44am

UPDATE (8/21/13): Bradley Manning was sentenced by a military judge today to 35 years in prison. In response, the ACLU’s Ben Wizner said:

When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than…

From the NSA to License Plate Readers: Are We to Have a “Collect it All” Society?

From the NSA to License Plate Readers: Are We to Have a “Collect it All” Society?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:44am

If the NSA needs a slogan, it should probably be “collect it all.” As phrased by an anonymous intel official recently quoted by the Washington Post, that has apparently been the approach of agency leadership in recent years. But the fight over whether that’s an appropriate strategy for keeping order in a democratic society is one that stretches far beyond the NSA programs now being debated.

For example, look at automatic license plate recognition systems, which are now sprouting up around the country. As we detailed in our recent report on the technology, many police departments are collecting and storing not only information about vehicles that are wanted by the police, but also location information about everybody who drives a car. Some police have defended this practice by arguing, essentially, that “you never know when or what we might need to solve a crime.”

In other words, nobody who accepts the NSA’s argument that universal collection is the right answer ought to be surprised when

The Biggest Reform in the New DOJ Media Guidelines

The Biggest Reform in the New DOJ Media Guidelines

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:24am

Some have been dismissive of the reforms in the new Justice Department guidelines governing investigations of members of the news media. But I'm not so pessimistic, at least with respect to the most significant change, which could have possibly prevented…

VICTORY! Historic Agreement Will Overhaul Puerto Rico Police Department Notorious for Brutality

VICTORY! Historic Agreement Will Overhaul Puerto Rico Police Department Notorious for Brutality

By Jennifer Turner, Human Rights Researcher, Human Rights Program, ACLU at 6:18pm

The U.S. Justice Department and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico yesterday...

Far More than a Half-Measure on News Media Investigations

Far More than a Half-Measure on News Media Investigations

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:06am

Late last week, the attorney general released a report on new guidelines governing when and how the Justice Department can investigate members of the news media.

Prompted by the controversies over the excessively broad subpoena issued to the…

FCC Should Resist Calls to Enhance Broadcast Censorship

FCC Should Resist Calls to Enhance Broadcast Censorship

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:51pm

In response to a call for comments regarding the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) enforcement of its broadcast indecency policies, the ACLU submitted comments last month arguing that the FCC's regulations have devolved into vague, overbroad,…

UK Ideological Travel Ban Helps Hate

UK Ideological Travel Ban Helps Hate

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:42pm

So, this sounds like as good a time as ever to make a counterintuitive argument.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer—two notable critics of "creeping sharia" and the "Islamization" of America—were invited to speak at an English Defense League…