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29th June   Censorship Shopping List

From CNET News

US House of RepresentativesAt a hearing before the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, politicians served up a dizzying slew of suggestions about what kind of new federal laws should be enacted.

The ideas were all over the map, and most were new. Only one or two have actually been turned into formal legislation so far, but politicians are vowing to take action in the very near future.

The following is a roundup of some of the proposals for new federal laws, rules or regulations that would target Americans in the name of child protection, if various members of Congress get their way.

  • Forcibly blocking Web sites: Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, lauded a U.K. approach that involves compiling a list of illicit Web sites and using it to cordon off access to them.
     
  • Eavesdropping on what Americans are doing online: Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, suggested surveillance might do the trick. One issue that keeps recurring is how these companies are monitoring communications that might reveal the contents are child pornography, she suggested.
     
  • Making certain hyperlinks illegal: One antigambling bill in Congress a few years ago would have required companies to delete hyperlinks to offshore gambling sites. Now the idea is resurfacing. Who's able to link to which site...and how we filter that out is key, said Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican.
     
  • Recording which customer is assigned which Internet Protocol address: Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican said he wanted to learn about ISP's retention policies for IP addresses in particular.
     
  • Dispatching "search and destroy" bots: The idea of disrupting peer-to-peer networks surfaced in 2002 in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Orrin Hatch said a year later that copyright holders should be allowed to remotely destroy the computers of music pirates. Now Rep. Walden has revived that idea, proposing that search and destroy bots be launched to scour the Internet for illicit content.
     
  • Restricting naughty Webcams: Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican cited a New York Times article about an adolescent boy who charged customers to watch him perform erotic acts in front of his Web cam. We've heard about one Web site that had 140,000 images of adolescents from their Web cam.
     
  • Recording e-mail correspondents and Web pages visited: Amazingly, even though we require telephone companies to keep records of telephone calls for 18 months...there is no federal law for Internet communications and there is no industry standard, said DeGette, the Colorado Democrat. DeGette has been a leading proponent in the House of Representatives of data retention and already drafted legislation making it mandatory for Internet providers and Web sites.
     
  • Taking aim at search engines: Search engines were accused of selling sponsored links that relate to sex and minors. I have serious concerns about the adequacy of efforts by the search engine providers, said Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat.
     
  • Letting government bureaucrats rate chat rooms: Video games and movies have ratings, so why not chat rooms, Rep. Stearns proposed.
     
  • Permitting the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to send subpoenas to Internet providers: This idea came from Gerard Lewis, Comcast's deputy general counsel and chief privacy officer. A 1996 federal law called the Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act currently requires Internet providers to retain any "record" in their possession for 90 days "upon the request of a governmental entity."
     
  • Targeting peer-to-peer networks: Politicians have been talking about enacting new laws targeting P2P networks since early 2003. Now it may happen. Government reports have talked about finding child pornography on P2P networks, and Stupak said he wants to find a way to pull the plug: We have to find a way to block the peer to peer from person to person.

    Granting Internet censorship power to federal bureaucrats: Under the current U.S. legal system, only a judge can decide what's legally obscene or pornographic. Barton said the judicial process takes too long to rule in prosecutions of child pornography.
    Why is it not possible to immediately terminate that site? You have to have some agency of the government definitively say that is child pornography. Once that's established, why can't we immediately cut off that site? (That would avoid) waiting for a court to go out and convict the people operating the site.

 

23rd June    Preaching Freedom whilst Practising Censorship...

  Video Universe - Buy New Release DVDs, TV on DVD, Music Videos and Much More

US Mainstream DVDs

Video Universe
 

 

The Global Online Freedom Act

Google.cnA congressional bill that would impose strict new obligations on American tech companies doing business with "Internet-restricting countries" like China has cleared its first hurdle to becoming law.

The Global Online Freedom Act, introduced in February by Rep. Christopher Smith, passed by a unanimous voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that focuses on Africa, global human rights and international operations.

Smith proposed the bill just days after a daylong congressional hearing at which politicians lashed out at representatives from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Cisco Systems for compliance with China's state-sponsored censorship regime:The growth of the Internet and other information technologies can be a force for democratic change if the information is not subject to political censorship,

The concerns among politicians flared up after reports that, under pressure from the Chinese government, Microsoft had deleted a journalist's blog, Yahoo had turned over information leading to the conviction of at least one Chinese journalist, and Google was offering a restricted search service there.

The approved bill attempts to target those practices directly. Under its list of "minimum corporate standards," American businesses would be barred from keeping any electronic communication, such as e-mail, that contains personally identifiable information on servers or other storage facilities in "Internet-restricting countries." The rules would also prohibit them from turning over personal information about their subscribers to governments in those locales except for "legitimate law enforcement purposes."

All search engine providers would be required to give the U.S. State Department's Office of Global Internet Freedom a detailed breakdown of how their search results have been restricted or censored in such countries. All Web content hosts would have to supply a list of URLs that have been removed or blocked there.

Internet service providers could also face fines of up to $2 million per offense and imprisonment for blocking access to any U.S. government-sponsored Web site or content, such as Voice of America, in the blacklisted countries.

Although China has taken center stage, the bill says the rules would also apply to dealings with Belarus, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, North Korea, Tunisia and Vietnam--along with any other country on which the U.S. government decides to bestow an "Internet-restricting" designation.

US Phone Companies Censor Private Communications

Based on an article from the Washington Post

Now playing on your Web-enabled cell phone: a PG-rated version of the Internet. As people increasingly listen to music, watch TV, and access the Web on their handsets, they notice significant content restrictions that don't exist on PCs.

Major U.S. wireless carriers have set censorial guidelines for their content partners, restricting or banning potentially offensive language, ringtones, games, and videos--including, in some cases words, such as lesbian or pictures of women in swimsuits. In informal tests of text and multimedia messaging, we found that messages containing adult images and vulgar language did not always show up on the intended recipient's handset.

Why the restrictions? Wireless carriers want to ward off nutter complaints--and regulation by the Federal Communications Commission, according to Julie Ask, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

Are cell phones next on the feds' censorship wish list? You'd better believe it, said Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation .

CTIA , the wireless industry trade group, has proposed wireless content guidelines that encourage network operators to label, filter, and limit access to words, images, and even sounds that some adults may consider inappropriate for children. But wireless carriers are imposing restrictions even stricter than the rules that the FCC imposes on broadcast TV and radio.

In content available through its handsets, Verizon Wireless prohibits the use of obscene language as well as images or videos that depict "passionate kissing." The carrier has specific rules for how much bare skin models may show and for what titles of digital files people can download.

Anything you can access through your Verizon Wireless phone is appropriate for the entire family, says Verizon Wireless spokesperson Jeffrey Nelson.

Cingular Safe content guidelines, meanwhile, ban such words as words condom and lesbian along with images depicting or insinuating nudity or partial nudity. The guidelines, which Cingular distributes to its content-provider partners, cite theSports Illustratedswimsuit issue as an example of inappropriate material.

T-Mobile says that its standards for wireless content are on a par with those governing the covers of mainstream magazines displayed on newsstands.

Are carriers also censoring messages that one user sends to another? We sent a slew of R- and NC-17-rated text and images to handsets, using a variety of carriers, and found that some messages sent over Cingular and U.S. Cellular's networks did not reach their destination, or were changed in transit. Spokespersons for these carriers say that they don't censor text or multimedia messages.

However, messages do travel across numerous other network components outside U.S. Cellular, some of which may filter messages based on content, says Jonathan Guerin, U.S. Cellular spokesperson.

Cingular did not respond to our requests for an explanation of why images with mature-themed file names were replaced by a red X when they reached Cingular handsets.

 

21st June   The Pits

From Twin Cities

Hood Fights 2 DVD coverA DVD featuring violent pit bull fights has unleashed protests against the distributor as well as several online merchants that had been selling the video, which may break federal laws against animal cruelty.

Amazon.com, Circuit City and Best Buy said they would pull the video, Hood Fights, Vol. 2, The Art of The Pit from their Web sites as soon as possible.

The Humane Society of United States has asked U.S. Attorney Roger Roper III in Dallas to investigate whether Hood Fights 2 violates a federal law against interstate or foreign commerce profiting from the depiction of animal cruelty. The DVD was released in April by a Texas-based Web site, streetheatdvd.com

Hood Fights 2 shows a series of staged matches in which trained fighting dogs suffer bloody, debilitating injuries for the apparent amusement of spectators, wrote the Humane Society's Ann Chynoweth.

 

18th June
updated to
28th June
  Stop Political Exploitation of Adults' Facilitation of the Exploitation of Youth Act

From Silicon

Keep your kids safe on the internet, lock up all dadsOperators of commercial websites with sexually explicit content would have to post warning labels on each offending page or face imprisonment under a new proposal in the US Senate.

Caving in to earlier demands from the US Department of Justice, the proposed law focuses on a medley of new penalties related to child pornography and other sexual content on the internet.

The bill, which is called the Stop Adults' Facilitation of the Exploitation of Youth Act, or Internet Safety Act, beefs up the Justice Department's suggested penalties for negligent web labellers. It would impose up to 15 years in prison - an increase from the five years suggested in the original proposal - on any commercial site operator who fails to place "clearly identifiable marks or notices" prescribed by the federal government in either the site's code or on the pages themselves.

The bill would also create a new crime out of using misleading domain names to direct children to harmful material on the internet. Conviction would carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years. A similar sentence would apply to anyone who knowingly embeds words or images in the source code of their sites with the intention of deceiving minors into viewing "harmful" content.

The proposal drew criticism from civil liberties advocates, who said it presents enough ambiguities to prompt self-censorship of web content.

David Greene, director of a free-speech advocacy group called The First Amendment Project, said: Whether artistic works or political commentary or any type of images that may arguably come close to this category, people may not publish them for fear of being sent to jail for 15 years.

It's equally unclear how to draw the line between "commercial" websites, covered by the regulations, and "non-commercial" sites, which appear to be exempt, the bill's critics said.

The Internet Safety Act pulls its definition of sexually explicit material from existing federal law. It covers sexual intercourse of all types: bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

In practice, however, courts have interpreted those definitions quite broadly - in one case courts ruled that the "lascivious exhibition" of the pubic area could include images of clothed people wearing bikini bathing suits, leotards and underwear.

The Senate proposal grants just one reprieve: sexual depictions that constitute a "small and insignificant part" of a large website do not have to be labelled.

 

28th June   Update: Labelled as a Trojan

The ideas mentioned above seem to have been adopted but now appear in a slightly different legislative vehicle.

From CNET News

Keep your kids safe on the internet, lock up all dadsWeb site operators posting sexually explicit information must slap warning labels on their pages or face prison terms of up to 15 years, according to a proposal adopted by a U.S. Senate committee on Tuesday.

During a day of debate on a wide-ranging communications bill, the Senate Commerce Committee approved an amendment backed by the Bush administration that proponents claim would help clean up the Internet and protect children online.

It says that commercial Web sites must not place "sexually explicit material" on their home pages upon pain of felony prosecution--and, in addition, they must rate each page or screen of the website that does contain sexually explicit material with a system to be devised by the Federal Trade Commission.

This will protect children from accidentally typing in the wrong address and immediately viewing indecent material, said Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican.

Civil libertarians have opposed the mandatory labeling proposal, saying it violates the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. Also, courts have taken a dim view of mandatory rating systems: In a 1968 case called Interstate Circuit v. Dallas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Dallas' ordinance requiring that movies be rated was unconstitutional because the criteria for rating were unclear and vague.

Burns' seven-page amendment is virtually identical to a standalone bill introduced earlier this month by Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican. Both proposals follow from a speech in April during which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called on Congress to "promptly" enact such a law.

The entire communications bill won't become law unless it receives final approval by the committee and, later, the full Senate. It must also be reconciled with a House of Representatives version that differs in many respects, including having no Internet labeling requirements.

 

17th June   Unreal Fines for an Unreal Offence

From AVN

FCC logoTelevisions stations affiliated with CBS Corp. have asked the FCC to drop a $3.3 million fine for alleged violations of federal broadcast standards for indecent content.

At issue is a fine levied by the agency against the network and its affiliates for airing a 2004 episode of the show Without a Trace which involved references to a teenage orgy and flashback sequences of young people in sexually suggestive positions, but with no nudity.

The affiliates said in their appeal to the agency that none of the e-mailed complaints to the FCC were from actual viewers but were instead e-mails sent by members of the conservative groups Parents for Television Council and from the American Family Association.

The stations cited the fact that the episode was a repeat airing of a show that drew no complaints when it was originally aired.

The FCC had fined each of the 103 CBS stations $32,500 for allegedly showing broadcast material graphically showing teenage boys and girls participating in a sexual orgy.”

About 8.2 million people saw the Dec. 31, 2004 episode, but complaints about the show did not begin arriving at the FCC until Jan. 12.

 

16th June   Nutter Claims Jurisdiction Over Obscenity Decisions

From X Biz

Angry over rulings by federal courts striking down anti-porn legislation on 1st Amendment ground, Republican Representative Chris Cannon, has proposed a new bill that would take jurisdiction in such cases away from the federal courts and make states the ultimate arbitrators of what constitutes obscene material.

H.R. 5528, known as the Pornography Jurisdiction Limitation Act of 2006, was introduced by Cannon in an effort to stop courts from functioning as legislatures, the congressman said: My legislation puts the power to protect families back in the hands of the states, where it rightfully belongs. If there are those who believe a state’s anti-pornography laws are too strict, they can find another state in which to live.

Cannon’s bill lays out sweeping language to institute his reform of the 1st Amendment landscape, reading in part: No court created by Act of Congress shall have jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide a question of whether a state pornography law imposes a constitutionally invalid restriction on the freedom of expression.

Whether Cannon’s dream of a balkanized litigation field for pornography issues comes to pass could be another matter, according to Tom Hymes, communications director for the Free Speech Coalition.
We’re concerned about the bill, but not overly so. This kind of thing has been tried before, and it has failed. In this case, the bill just seems very problematic from a constitutional perspective.

 

16th June   An Extreme Divide

Based on an article from  Wired

Extreme AppealObscenity prosecutions are taking a toll on the US porn industry as publishers embrace an every-man-for-himself approach under relentless Bush administration attacks.

The annual Cybernet Expo on Sunday here was overshadowed by a big question: Whether to stand united with producers of "extreme" material bearing the brunt of the assault in order to preempt attacks on milder content, or get some distance and hope to avoid being targeted?

Tara, webmaster of freepornstarpix.com, prefers the latter approach. It would be better to sacrifice some people … so everybody else can get on with it, said Tara, who declined to give her last name because her family doesn't know about her job. Extreme content producers, she said, need to cool it, pull back a little bit.

The focus of the debate is the 2003 obscenity prosecution of production company Extreme Associates for videos that feature urination, adults portrayed as children and simulated rape. The case, which has been bouncing around the court system for three years, is expected to go to trial in Pittsburgh next year.

Extreme Associates owner Rob Black blasted the porn industry this weekend for breaking ranks, rather than standing united. You hear all this solidarity. Bullshit. This industry except for about five people has hung me out to dry. Everybody wants to make a fucking compromise.

Pressure against the industry increased last month with a landmark lawsuit that appears to target a somewhat milder grade of porn. The Justice Department issued an obscenity indictment against JM Productions and Five Star Video over four porn DVDs, one featuring bukkake and another that reportedly simulates torturous oral sex to satirize the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years for each of several obscenity counts.

In the new prosecution, the government is getting closer to the center and moving away from the most extreme content, said Connor Young, president of the porn webmaster resource site YNOT.com. He thinks all porn should be allowed except material that features children or involuntary violence.

Porn industry attorney Greg Piccionelli believes in the solidarity approach. If we don't defend the people they start with, sooner or later they'll work their way down, he told the webmasters.

Piccionelli acknowledged that industry attorneys have developed a reputation as "Chicken Littles" who always say the sky is falling. Even so, he predicted that if another Republican enters the White House:
the whole industry will be in the same position as Extreme Associates four years from now.

 

15th June   Consumer Protection Racket

Based on an article from From X Biz

Google video logoWhinging at the amount of violent and explicit adult content available on Google’s new video clip service, the New York State Consumer Protection Board is preparing to issue a warning to parents about the website.
Google Video operates similarly to YouTube.com. The service allows anyone with a Google account to upload and share video clips, and there are no age restrictions in place to block children from accessing explicit videos.

The consumer protection agency is seeking to block home computers from accessing the site because it doesn’t contain filtering software to block children. Google claims the site is still under development and has removed objectionable videos when requested.

Among the videos offered on the website are teens stripping, amateur nudity, embarrassing sexual situations and various clips of girls drunkenly kissing each other. Users can email these videos to friends and even post the content on their blogs. Depending on how users rate each video, surfers can see  hundreds of videos displayed on the site’s main page.

It’s fairly easy to find [explicit] videos throughout the Internet, but it’s certainly another case for Google to organize these videos and present them so freely on a single web page, Teresa Santiago, the Consumer Protection Board’s executive director, told the N.Y. Post. Parents have a hard enough time policing the Internet without Google’s video service making it easier for children to see and save these types of videos.

State officials said they’ve held three meetings with Google, but claim the technology giant has not been upfront in its dealings. Google said it is in the process of developing a content management system to organize the huge volume of videos submitted by its users.

 

13th June   An Evangelical "Oh Shit!"

Based on an article from AdultFYI

Pat Robertson: "Oh Shit!"Evangelical Christians are on the front lines in the battle over indecency on US cable television, calling for a pick-and-choose pricing plan that would allow viewers to keep certain channels out of their homes.

But this policy may prove to be a bit of an evangelical own goal.

The fear among Christian broadcasters is that a proposal to allow consumers to reject MTV or Comedy Central would also allow them to drop the Trinity Broadcasting Network or Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. Cutting off that access could hurt religious broadcasters.

We do not believe that 'a la carte' is the cure for the disease, said Colby May, attorney for the Faith and Family Broadcasting Coalition, which represents Trinity and CBN, in addition to other stations. In fact, it is a cure that may very well kill the patient.

The a la carte'  plan, endorsed in an unofficial Federal Communications Commission report and likely to be proposed by Sen. John McCain, is billed as a way to avoid paying for such stations as FX, Comedy Central and MTV, which rack up high ratings with such risque or controversial shows as The Shield, South Park and The Real World.

The Christian networks' main concern is that the only ones willing to subscribe would be Christians.

If you obligate viewers to pre-select religious service, you are essentially going to find yourself witnessing to the choir, May said. In combination, all of these networks have literally thousands and thousands of anecdotal stories of people who were channel-surfing that came across one of their services and it changed their life for the better.

But such Christian groups as Concerned Women for America say lives would be better with the a la carte plan. Unfortunately, the number of inappropriate programs far outweighs the number of good, said Lanier Swann, the group's director of government relations. Our issue is to protect families.

Michael Goodman, media analyst for the Yankee Group, said a la carte may sound like a great idea, but it's bound to have serious consequences for viewers and cable firms. He argues for a more obvious approach. That's why we have remote controls. If you don't want to see it, turn the channel. Or if you really don't want to see it, use the parental controls.

But Swann said because many children are more tech-savvy than their parents, it is simply not enough. Besides, she said, the main problem is that cable subscribers are required to pay for material that they find objectionable.

 

9th June   Storm in a Coffee Cup

From X Biz

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas gameThe makers of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas agreed Thursday to settle Federal Trade Commission charges for failing to disclose that animated sex scenes were hidden on the game.

With the settlement, New York-based Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. and Rockstar Games Inc. face fines of up to $11,000 per violation if they violate the order, once it becomes final. The companies also must recall existing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas games and offer a software patch.

Brian Shuster, CEO of Utherverse, said all of the publicity surrounding the controversy worked economically well for the two companies. It was the greatest marketing move in the game industry. Geez, how many times were they mentioned in the press?”

Take-Two’s best-selling Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game included the sex scene known as "Hot Coffee," which could only be unlocked and viewed with a computer download and implementing “cheat codes” on PlayStation 2 and Xbox equipment. Retailers that do not carry adult-rated games pulled the title from shelves putting a chill on an industry accustomed to self-censorship. Later, the gaming industry’s ratings board slapped an "Adults Only 18+" label on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

With the FTC deal, company officials must properly notify consumers of racy content on future games. The companies also have released a patch that, if downloaded and installed on the game, disables the “Hot Coffee” program; the patch is available for download at www.nomorehotcoffee.com. The companies also will be subject to compliance reporting requirements to ensure that they meet the terms of the order.

Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system, said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. W
e allege that Take-Two and Rockstar’s actions undermined the industry’s own rating system and deceived consumers. This is a matter of serious concern to the commission, and if they violate this order, they can be heavily fined.

 

1st June Snuff but Primarily a Murder

From AVN

A Missouri couple has been  arrested for allegedly making a “snuff film” in which they videotaped a woman being raped and murdered.

Richard Davis, and Dena Riley turned themselves in, claiming they were tired of evading capture over the rape and murder of 41-year-old Marsha Spicer, who shared a home with them. The couple had a 5-year-old girl with them, whom police suspect was kidnapped from her home in Pittsburg, Kan.

Authorities said a videotape stamped May 14, shows a nude Spicer with her arms bound and her eyes taped shut while the man and woman raped, beat then suffocated her. The tape is said to show the suspects clearly.

Spicer’s body was found in a shallow grave on May 15 by a fisherman. Evidence recovered later, led police to the couple’s home where they found a notebook containing sexual references and a video camera aimed at the bed.

Davis and Riley told police they didn’t know the victim and that she had never been to their apartment. After police returned with a search warrant, they discovered the couple had fled.

Davis and Riley were charged with first-degree murder, assault, kidnapping and related charges.

 

31st May   Christian Terrorists Suspected

From News4Jax

Investigators are reviewing surveillance tapes after someone attacked a sex shop preparing to open in Waldo in what Alachua County officials are calling an act of domestic terrorism.

The Waldo Fire Department initially responded to the chemical incident, then called the Gainesville Fire Department's hazardous materials team to remove the homemade device.

Detectives said that someone over the weekend set up a homemade device that spewed a chemical throughout the building being readied to open as Café Risqué, an adult-entertainment store.

It comes under domestic terrorism, we're going to look at it as such, said Alachua County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Keith Faulk. We're going to prosecute to the fullest extent as it can. Officials said use of such a device is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

The store, which will sell adult magazines, videos and sex toys, is set to open this summer.

Cafe Risqué co-owner Jerry Sullivan said. that people around Waldo had tried everything from prayer to protest to keep him from opening the store, but he said neither those tactics nor this most recent attack will keep him away. Construction on the building will continue as planned.

 

20th May   Dysfunctional Family Association

From X Biz

FCC logoThe FCC on Friday disclosed that the number of TV and radio broadcast indecency and profanity complaints jumped more than six times the 44,109 filed in fourth quarter 2005 and more than 10 times the number filed in the third quarter.

A recent Las Vegas episode on NBC included a scene in a strip club. The American Family Association says it filed more than 170,000 complaints alone against that episode.

AFA also says it had a significant number of complaints about NBC's dysfunctional priest drama Book of Daniel.

The Parents Television Council has led the way in rallying members to flood the FCC with indecency email complaints over shows that offend its members.

 

24th May   Real Short Sex

From AVN

Shortbus posterWriter-director John Cameron Mitchell presented his latest film Shortbus, which was shot in New York at the Cannes Film Festival this week. It is notable as his actors have actual sex in the scenes.

Mitchell says he wants his actors to explore sex as a cinematic language rather than as erotic or titillating. His goal is to show that sex isn't ugly or dirty, but a part of life and a small act of resistance against Bush and the America we live in because it's trying to remind people of good
things about America and New York,
he says.

While other such movies have used actual sex, they involved dramatic themes as opposed to Mitchell's feature film comedy which deals with characters who meet weekly in an underground salon for food, talk and sex.  Mitchell says: it's kind of a Woody Allen movie, but sex is involved.

Although the film has only been shown to investors, friends and others, Mitchell says he's gotten mixed responses. Some were disturbed by the emotional relationships while others were nonplussed by the sex scenes.

 

20th May
updated to
17th June
  Fine Frenzy

From AVN

FCC logoThe Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 (S. 193) passed by unanimous consent in the Senate on Thursday.

The legislation raises fines from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for broadcast decency violators from $32,500 to $325,000.

Republican Senator Sam Brownback introduced the bill last January:
I am glad the Senate took action and increased fines for broadcasters who show indecent material. Radio and television waves are public property, and the companies who profit from using the public airwaves should face meaningful fines for broadcasting indecent material.

I urge the House to take action on increasing indecency fines so we can send a bill to the White House. It's time that broadcast indecency fines represent a real economic penalty and not just a slap on the wrist.

 

8th June Update: Land of the Even Less Free

Based on an article from Mlive

FCC logoTwo years after Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction", Congress has approved heavy fines for broadcasters airing indecent material.

The U.S. House Wednesday passed the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which would boost the maximum fines for indecency from $32,000 to $325,000. The Senate bill, approved 275-35, moves next to the president, who is expected to sign it.

Most broadcasters are responsible, and many recently have taken steps to redouble their commitment to keeping indecency off the public airwaves, said nutter Representative. Fred Upton, who sponsored the House version.
But for those broadcasters who are less than responsible, the FCC needs to have the teeth to enforce the law, and this bill ... will give the FCC that teeth.

 

17th June   Update: TV Fit for Nutters and George Bush

From AVN

FCC logoPresident Bush toady signed a bill calling for an increase in fines for broadcasters who violate indecency regulations from $32,500 to $325,000.

We must ensure that decency standards for broadcasters are effectively enforced, Bush told a crowd during a bill signing ceremony at the White House. That’s the duty of the FCC. That’s why we’ve got the chairman standing right here.

By law, radio stations and over-the-air television channels are prohibited from airing obscene material at any time. They also may not air indecent material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. which is considered a period when children may be watching or listening.  Cable and satellite broadcasts are exempt from such rules.

According to the FCC, indecent material is defined as that which contains sexual or excretory material that is not deemed obscene.

 

20th May
updated to
16th June
  Memorial to Censorship

From the Monterey Herald See also PlanCensored

Plan C demonstrationLocals artists have sued the city after an art show at a local park was closed when the city dismantled an art exhibit it deemed “too racy.”

Officials with the Department of Parks and Recreation shut down an art exhibit created by local art students because it included representations of male genitalia.

The show was held at the city-owned Brooklyn War Memorial by students at Brooklyn College, which is part of the City University of New York system.

Norman Siegel said he was representing 18 students in a freedom-of-expression lawsuit against the city, the parks department and Brooklyn College.

A parks department official said the city and college have an agreement that any artwork displayed at the public park facility must be deemed “appropriate for families.”

Siegel said that although a real estate developer offered to move the exhibit elsewhere, that students still planned to pursue the suit against the city.

The faculty of Brooklyn College issued a resolution yesterday deploring the Department of Parks and Recreation's decision to close an exhibition of students' artwork. The resolution was also directed to the college's administration, which on Monday sent trucks to remove several of the pieces of artwork, and to Mayor Bloomberg. The resolution was passed 58 votes to 10, according to a statement issued by one artist involved. It stated, in part: We deplore this act of censorship of artwork on the part of the Parks Department, and we affirm students' rights to be involved in any decisions or actions related to their art work.

More than a resolution is expected to come out of the controversy that began when the Brooklyn Parks Commissioner, Julius Spiegel, closed the exhibit and changed the locks on the space, explaining that not all the artwork was appropriate for families to view.

The pieces include a sculpture of a penis, and one that includes words describing an imaginary homosexual encounter involving someone named Dick Cheney.

 

16th June   Update: Memorial Law Suit

From Associated Press

Plan C demonstrationA group of Brooklyn College students, claiming censorship, sued the school and the city Thursday over last month's closing of an exhibit containing their sexually explicit artwork.

The exhibit at the city-owned Brooklyn War Memorial featured watercolor paintings depicting gay sex and sculpted male genitalia illuminated in a box. City Parks Department officials closed down the exhibit one day after it opened, and it was relocated to the college campus.

But the 21-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, claims that city officials acted arbitrarily in shutting down the exhibit May 4 and censoring the works created by the 18 students in the college Master of Fine Arts Program. It also claims that several of the pieces, which also included one with a live rat, were damaged when the show was dismantled.

None of the artwork was obscene, the lawsuit says. In displaying their artwork, the students did not violate any laws, park rules or terms in the special events permit.

The suit asks for unspecified compensation for damage to the artwork and emotional distress, along with a judgment protecting the constitutional rights of art students in the future.

We hope this case will set a precedent, especially within the city of New York, which is supposed to be an international center of the arts, said one of the students, Marni Kotak.
Censorship cannot be allowed to thrive in New York City.

 

19th May   Protection form AIDS Moralisation

From the Monterey Herald

A federal judge has barred the Bush administration from requiring nonprofit AIDS groups to sign a pledge opposing prostitution and sex trafficking in exchange for federal dollars.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said a law passed by Congress in 2003 violates the free-speech rights of groups such as DKT International Inc., which provides family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention programs in 11 countries.

Sullivan said the law goes too far because it insists that DKT "parrot" the U.S. government's position on prostitution and bars the group from taking and putting in place a different viewpoint on the issue in the way it spends privately obtained funds: By mandating that DKT adopt an organization-wide policy against prostitution, the government exceeds its ability to limit the use of government funds.

In 2003, Congress created a $15 billion program for fighting AIDS worldwide. Under the law, groups that do not adopt a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking cannot receive federal money.

The group's representatives refused to sign the pledge because they are involved in a program to distribute condoms to prostitutes and other sex workers in Vietnam. Signing the pledge, they argued, would stigmatize and alienate many of the people they are trying to help
.

 

18th May   See No Evil

Based on an article from the Washington Post

Road to Guantanamo banned posterThe MPAA has censored a poster advertising a film about the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The image that ran afoul of the MPAA shows a man hanging by his handcuffed wrists, with a burlap sack over his head and a blindfold tied around the hood. It appeared in advertisements for the new film The Road to Guantanamo, a documentary with some reenacted scenes, that follows the fate of three British men imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than two years before being released with no charges ever filed against them.

The distributors of the film, directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, submitted the poster to the MPAA, which must approve publicity materials for the films it rates. It was rejected the next day.

The reason given was that the burlap bag over the guy's head was depicting torture, which wasn't appropriate for children to see, said Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions, which is distributing the film in North America. The film will open on June 23, advertised by another poster, approved by the MPAA, which shows only a pair of shackled hands and arms.

From The Guardian

The makers of Baghdad ER, a documentary about a US military combat hospital, told the Guardian yesterday that Francis Harvey, the secretary of the army, had demanded last-minute changes to the film.

The makers of Baghdad ER say the senior leadership of the Pentagon has turned against their film, despite cooperation during its making in Baghdad and a positive reception at screenings at military bases. Somebody wearing a tie and not a uniform seems to have a political agenda and is trying to influence this film, said the director, Jon Alpert.

The army surgeon general, Lieutenant General Kevin Kiley, issued a health warning against the film, saying it could cause post-traumatic stress disorder. But Major Crystal Oliver, an army spokeswoman, said there was no attempt to censor and that the military was happy with the portrayal. The leadership are proud of those soldiers in the film. she said.

 

12th May   No Free Space

Based on an article from Silicon

MySpace.com has recently found itself pummelled by shock horror media reports describing how teens are divulging personal information without much thought to the consequences.

But now children's web access is facing unprecedented restriction. Mike Fitzpatrick and fellow Republicans, including house speaker Dennis Hastert, on Wednesday endorsed new legislation that would cordon off access to commercial websites that let users create public "web pages or profiles" and also offer a discussion board, chat room, or email service.

The proposed broad brush US federal law is aimed at most schools and libraries to render social-networking websites, such as Facebook and MySpace, inaccessible to minors - an age group that includes some of the category's most ardent users.

However the broad category which covers far more than social-networking sites. It would also sweep in a wide range of interactive websites and services, including AOL and Yahoo!'s instant-messaging features, Blogger.com, The Melon Farmers and Microsoft's Xbox 360, which permits in-game chat.

Fitzpatrick's bill, called the Deleting Online Predators Act, or Dopa, is part of a new, poll-driven effort by Republicans to address topics they view as important to suburban voters.

For its part, MySpace, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and boasts some 80 million users, has taken steps in recent weeks to assuage concerns among parents and politicians. It has assigned about 100 employees, about one-third of its workforce, to deal with security and customer care, and hired Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam, a former Justice Department prosecutor as chief security officer last month.

To curb teenage access to interactive websites, Republicans chose to target libraries and schools by expanding a federal law called the Children's Internet Protection Act.

That law, signed by President Clinton in December 2000, requires schools and libraries that receive federal funding to block access to off-colour material. Dopa would add an additional requirement. It says that libraries, elementary and secondary schools must prohibit "access to a commercial social-networking website or chatroom through which minors" may access sexual material or be "subject to" sexual advances. Those may be made available to an adult or a minor with adult supervision "for educational purposes".

Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at the free-market Progress & Freedom Foundation, said: This is the next major battlefield in the ongoing internet censorship wars. Many in government will want to play the role of cyber traffic cop here, just as they have for other types of speech on the internet. He added that it will
chill legitimate forms of speech or expression online.

 

11th May   No Pride in Montana Repression

Based on an article from AVN

Yellowstone County voters on June 6 will decide on an ordinance that would ban supposedly obscene materials and a related ordinance that would use the county's zoning ordinance to regulate sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs and adult book stores, according to a published report.

Yellowstone County commissioners have agreed to place both proposed ordinances on the ballot at the request of anti-obscenity nutters.

PRIDE, a statewide gay rights organization, sponsored a public forum last week at Venture Theatre that allowed people to speak for and against the proposed obscenity ordinance, according to the story. The event was co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood and the Yellowstone AIDS Project.

 

24th April   Anal Probes in South Carolina Legislature

From Independent Mail

Glass dildosSouth Carolina’s Legislature is considering outlawing sex toys. The banning the sale of sex toys is actually quite common in some Southern states.

The South Carolina bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Ralph Davenport, would make it a felony to sell devices used primarily for sexual stimulation and allow law enforcement to seize sex toys from raided businesses.

Ms. Gillespie, an employee at an Anderson shop said: We are supposed to be in a free country, and we’re supposed to be adults who can decide what want to do and don’t want to do in the privacy of our own homes.

The measure would add sex toys to the state’s obscenity laws, which already prohibit the dissemination and advertisement of obscene materials. People convicted under obscenity laws face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

South Carolina law borrows from a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling to define obscene as something "contemporary community standards" determine as "patently offensive" sexual conduct, which "lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."

Other states that ban the sell of sex toys include Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas, said Mark Lopez, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Alabama’s law banning the sale of sex toys has been circulating through the courts since its passage in 1998. U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith Jr. twice ruled against the law, holding that it violated the constitutional right to privacy, but the state won both times on appeal. In February 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which is back in the lower courts.

The ACLU got involved in the case, he said, to "keep the government out of the bedroom."

 

23rd April   Gonzales Labeled as a Control Freak

From ZDNet

US Web site operators posting sexually explicit information must place official government warning labels on their pages or risk being imprisoned for up to five years, the Bush administration proposed Thursday.

A mandatory rating system will prevent people from inadvertently stumbling across pornographic images on the Internet, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said.

The Bush administration's proposal would require commercial Web sites to place "marks and notices" to be devised by the Federal Trade Commission on each sexually explicit page. The definition of sexually explicit broadly covers depictions of everything from sexual intercourse and masturbation to "sadistic abuse" and close-ups of fully clothed genital regions.

The proposed law is called the Child Pornography and Obscenity Prevention Amendments of 2006. A second new crime would threaten with imprisonment Web site operators who mislead visitors about sex with deceptive "words or digital images" in their source code--for instance, a site that might pop up in searches for Barbie dolls or Teletubbies but actually features sexually explicit photographs. A third new crime appears to require that commercial Web sites not post sexually explicit material on their home page if it can be seen absent of any further actions by the viewer."

During his speech, Gonzales also warned that Internet service providers must begin to retain records of their customers' activities to aid in future criminal prosecutions and indicated that legislation might be necessary there as well. Internet service providers say they already cooperate with police and appear to be girding for a political battle on Capitol Hill over new regulations they view as intrusive.

In the mid-1990s, the then-nascent Internet industry began backing the Platform for Internet Content Selection, or PICS. The idea was simple: let Web sites self-rate, or let a third-party service offer ratings, and permit parents to set their browsers to never show certain types of content.

The popularity of the idea of rating eventually faded, though, thanks in no small part to the knotty problem of labeling news sites. News articles can feature sexually explicit content (when reporting on a rape trial or sexual education), and major online publishers decided in August 1997 that they were going to refuse to rate themselves.

 

23rd April   Filtering Out Bothersome Adults

From XBiz

Despite the best efforts of schools to keep kids from viewing adult material online, crafty teenagers are finding ways to get their porn fix on school computers.

An increasing number of teens are setting up proxies on home PCs to sidestep school filtering traps, in addition to using free proxies set up on the web, CNet’s Stafanie Olsen wrote.

Anti-adult groups often raise the argument that content filters don’t work as justification for pushing legislation to regulate or ban adult content.

If you look at what's happened over the last 10 years, Internet pornography has grown exponentially, and Internet filtering has not had a tremendous effect, Brandon Cotter, founder of NetAccountability, said.

Kids often tap into the growing number of web proxy sites such as www.Proxify.com, www.Guardster.com and www.Proxy.org that enable them access sites without tipping off filters, prompting engineers at web-filtering software companies to target such sites.

A far more difficult problem to deal with is when they download a piece of software to access their home computer, Kevin Sanders, a software engineer at Lightspeed Systems, maker of Total Traffic Control, said. Our product doesn’t recognize it as a known domain, because it's just going through their home computer.

But proxies are just one of many tricks today’s tech-savvy kids use to get past filters, from downloadable applications like www.Hidemyass.com that help teens circumvent content filters (and hide any evidence of their activity) to translation sites like Babelfish, where they can look up foreign spellings of raunchy words that filters are unlikely to recognize.

 

22nd April   Military Avenged

Based on an article from CNews

The Florida man who ran a pornographic website that included photographs of war dead taken by U.S. troops was sentenced to five years probation, his lawyer said.

Chris Wilson pleaded no-contest in January to five misdemeanour charges of possession of obscene materials and the state dismissed 296 other similar charges.

Wilson's website gave soldiers free access to pornography in exchange for posting pictures from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Polk County sheriff's officials said Wilson's arrest in October stemmed from the site's sexually explicit content, not the pictures of war dead. [yeah yeah]

The plea agreement does not prohibit Wilson from using the content of his former site, although ownership of the Web address was transferred to the sheriff's office, defence lawyer Larry Walters said. He agreed to stay out of the adult website business for the term of his probation, Walters said.

Instead, Wilson will create a new website focusing on obscenity prosecutions and free speech issues, Walters said.

Wilson, a former Eagle Lake police officer, also agreed to pay investigative costs.

Though the website launched a Pentagon investigation into how war zone photos of charred and dismembered bodies described as victims of U.S. attacks could have surfaced, military investigators did not pursue criminal charges against Wilson.

 

18th April   Experts Say that Sex Shops Do Not Attract Crime

Based on an article from Adult FYI

Opponents of a new sexually oriented store in Manchester, Connecticut, told the Board of Directors in February that the business would bring more sexually related crime, attract dangerous people, and hurt local children.

But experts in the field say there's no proof that a store that sells pornography will cause additional crime. Lori Sudderth, an associate professor at Quinnipiac University with a doctorate in sociology, says there's no evidence that pornography causes "sexually aggressive behavior." We can link it to attitude; we can't link it to sexually-related behavior, she says. Sudderth adds that the possibility that a sexually oriented business would bring more dangerous people into town is low, especially because, thanks to the Internet, such stores are no longer the only places to acquire porn.

Clinton Sanders, a University of Connecticut professor and an expert in deviant behavior, strongly agrees: There's absolutely no causal relationship. All those arguments are a smokescreen for the main concern: That these are dirty things and we don't want dirty people coming here.

Amazing Superstore on Broad Street opened in 1998 and sells pornographic movies and magazines, lingerie, body oils, and sex toys. When it opened, similar, if less strident, calls were made to keep the business away from parks and schools, but no significant changes were made in town zoning rules. The store has not caused major criminal problems and generated fewer police calls than a comparable nearby store.

There was no spike in crime from the opening of that business, police Capt. Marc Montminy says of Amazing Superstore. Certainly, facilities like pool halls and bars require more police service than a book store, but drawing a correlation between an adult store and crime in the area is pretty thin.

According to Montminy, there have been 32 police calls to Amazing Superstore since 2003. Of those calls, there were nine false alarms, five suspicious activity calls, four parking lot accidents, three harassing phone calls, three traffic stops, one theft, one intoxicated person, and one indecent exposure call. Other than the indecent exposure, Montminy said, the type and amount of police calls were nothing out of the ordinary.

Comparatively, Hollywood Video at 425 Broad St., a nearby and similarly sized business, had 61 police calls since 2003. Most notably, there were nine false alarms, five thefts, four motor-vehicle accidents, three disturbances, one drug investigation, one intoxicated driver call, and one burglary of a motor vehicle.

Montminy says that there have been no significant local trends in sexual crimes since 2003, with between 76 and 106 incidents a year. He adds that extra policing of an adult-oriented business would occur only if there were statistical proof to indicate that this was damaging to the crime pattern, and I have yet to see any information to prove that.

Les Rich, chief financial officer for Capital Video Corp., Amazing Superstore's parent company, says: We have over 40 stores and it's never been an issue at any of our stores.

Sudderth says sexually aggressive behavior can be caused by a variety of factors, but pornography is not one of them. The pornography itself doesn't cause the behavior; the tendency for that behavior is already there, she says.

Large-scale federal studies back up this stance. After two years of research, the President's Commission on Obscenity concluded in 1970 that there was no evidence that exposure to erotic materials caused sex crimes. Those findings were reached again in 1985 by the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, known as the Meese Commission.

I wouldn't be concerned about this store coming in, Sudderth says.
If you're focusing on pornography or focusing on this one establishment as the cause of sexual assault, you're chasing the wrong thing.

 

18th April   Sex Monster vs Monster Sex Store

Based on an article from the New York Times

The Sex Monster starring Stephen BaldwinA large sign on a soon-to-be-occupied storefront with tinted windows carries an announcement: Fama DVD & Video, Coming Soon.

Those would be adult DVD's and videos, merchandise that on its face may not seem like something that would stir much controversy in Nyack, a village where various strip clubs and sex-related businesses have opened and closed before.

Yet ever since the local Planning Board voted in January to approve the opening of the Fama DVD shop, some residents here have begun to mourn what they say is the imminent demise of their community. They have flooded Village Hall meetings, lashed out at the Planning Board and warned that the shop will invariably become a magnet for crime, drugs and gloom.

What scares them about the shop, the residents say, is that it is more than a place to buy X-rated films. According to the village, the shop will also include a row of eight private closet-size viewing booths where patrons can watch movies behind closed doors, a prospect that reminds many people here of the sex-shop booths that once made Times Square so notorious.

The widespread anger only intensified in April when the owners, instead of leaving, asked the village for permission to remain open 24 hours a day.

One nutter group, the Catholic Citizenship, sued the board and the store's owners, saying the shop would all but drive Nyack into the gutter. It has contended that the board violated the state environmental review law by failing to consider the socioeconomic impact the store would have on the community. The board has said it has no legal recourse to block the video shop.

But perhaps the most famous opponent of the shop has been the actor Stephen Baldwin, a resident of nearby Grand View. Baldwin became a born-again Christian after 9/11, stood outside the future shop last January and took photographs of some of its workers. He has vowed to stand outside the shop every day and take pictures of its patrons as well, so he can identify them and publish their names in local newspaper advertisements.

The owners of the shop, Quintus Algama and Leslie Fernandopulle, have tried to keep a low profile.

 

16th April   Networks Putting up a Decent Fight

From Calendar Live

FCC logoIn a move that seems certain to force a showdown over what constitutes indecency on the airwaves, four TV broadcast networks and their affiliates announced Friday that they had united to challenge a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling that deemed language used in several of their shows indecent.

CBS, Fox, ABC and Hearst-Argyle Television Inc. filed notices of appeal in federal court. They are seeking to overturn a March 15 ruling that found some broadcasts of the CBS News program The Early Show, Billboard Music Awards on Fox and ABC's drama NYPD Blue to be indecent because they contained variations on two obscenities: 'fuck' and 'shit'.

Of the offending incidents, which all aired between 2002 and 2004, those on CBS and Fox involved words that the networks said were blurted out spontaneously. Those on ABC were scripted.

None of the incidents involved NBC, but the network filed a petition to intervene on behalf of the three other networks and their affiliates. NBC is waiting to resolve its own FCC complaints, including one involving U2 lead singer Bono, who uttered an obscenity while accepting an award at the 2003 Golden Globes.

The networks want the FCC to not only reverse its ruling but also to establish clearer guidelines about what is indecent.

In addition to going to court, the networks and affiliate groups representing more than 800 of the nation's TV stations issued an unusual joint statement Friday, calling the ruling unconstitutional and arguing that any obscenities contained in the programs were fleeting, isolated — and in some cases unintentional. The FCC overstepped its authority in an attempt to regulate content protected by the 1st Amendment, acted arbitrarily and failed to provide broadcasters with a clear and consistent standard for determining what content the government intends to penalize.

Privately, network executives vowed that this week's filings were the first of what will be many challenges they intend to file against the FCC in the coming months.

 

15th April   Shitting on America

From the BBC

South ParkThe duo behind South Park have used the cartoon's latest episode to attack their network for banning them from using an image of the Prophet Muhammad.

Comedy Central prevented Matt Stone and Trey Parker from using the image after the furore caused by a Danish newspaper publishing caricatures of Muhammad.

Instead, Wednesday's episode showed an image of Jesus Christ defecating on President George Bush and the US flag.

Comedy Central said in a statement that it stood by its decision:
In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision.

 

14th April   AOL Censor Emails Containing Opposition Website Address

From The Digital Divide, See also www.DearAOL.com

Stop Aol's Email TaxAOL was caught red-handed today censoring email to AOL customers that included a link to an AOL opposition site.

Over 300 people reported that they had tried sending AOL subscribers messages that contained a link to www.DearAOL.com but received a bounceback message informing them that their email "failed permanently."

After the DearAOL.com Coalition (600 organizations convened by Free Press, MoveOn and EFF to protest AOL's pay-to-send email plan) notified the press of this blocking, AOL quickly cleared the opposition URL from their filters, alleging a "software glitch."

Today’s events prove the DearAOL.com Coalition’s point entirely: Left to their own devices, AOL will always put its own self interest ahead of the public interest. AOL wants us to believe they won’t hurt free email when their pay-to-send system is up and running. But if AOL is willing to censor the flow of information to silence their critics, today, how could anyone trust that they will preserve the free and open internet down the road?

According to EFF's Danny O'Brien, ISPs like AOL can silently ban huge swathes of legitimate mail for the flimsiest of reasons. The problem is that no-one hears about it. It's only when DearAOL users cried foul, that this censorship came to light. This begs the question: how many other emails with important information have been barred by AOL?

AOL's actions today should put everyone on alert against network giants promising to be good stewards of a free and open Internet.

 

11th April   Bush Muzzled

From Oh My News

President George W. Bush and the Justice Department are among the winners of the 2006 Jefferson Muzzle awards, given by a free-speech group to those it considers the worst violators of constitutional rights in the past year.

Bush led the list, compiled by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, for authorizing the National Security Agency to tap the phones of U.S. citizens who make calls overseas. The wiretaps were conducted without authorization from a federal court. The White House predictably defended the warrantless wiretapping program as necessary to fight terrorism.

The Justice Department earned a Muzzle for demanding that Google turn over thousands of Internet records, prompting concerns that more invasive requests could follow if the government prevails.

If individuals are fearful that their communications will be intercepted by the government, such fears are likely to chill their speech, the Jefferson center said.

Other winners of the 15th annual awards include the Department of Homeland Security for barring an air marshal from expressing concerns about public safety; the Yelm, Washington state, City Council for banning the words ''Wal-Mart'' and ''big-box stores'' at public hearings; and students at the University of Connecticut who heckled conservative columnist Ann Coulter.

The center, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, awards the Muzzles each year to mark the April 13 birthday of Thomas Jefferson, the third president and a First Amendment advocate. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees such basic rights as freedom of speech and the press.

 

6th April   Invaders of Iraq Blame Porn for a Hostile Environment

From AVN

Just before moving to the post, Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice barred porn magazines from the U.S. State Department, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The news magazine is reporting that Rice was alerted by an aide last year about porn magazines encased in plain brown paper were placed along with other magazines on newsstands.

Once she was confirmed by the Senate to her new post, Rice had the magazines removed and permanently barred from the public building. An aide said that Rice didn’t understand how her department could stand for women’s rights around the world while selling pornography that supposedly degrades women.

Rice reportedly said such magazines added to a “hostile work environment.”

 

4th April   Bullshit

From The Guardian

The US TV censor, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just declared that shit and all its variants, including bullshit, are not merely indecent but are now profane if broadcast. That is a profound distinction. Legally, a profane word is "certain of those personally reviling epithets naturally tending to provoke violent resentment or denoting language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance". Nuisance, in this case is a word the community cannot tolerate. The FCC reserves that distinction for the most offensive words in the English language, 'Fuck' and now 'shit'.

 

1st April   Labelled as Censors

From AVN

Attorneys for the XMart Adult Supercenter in Florida here have vowed to fight charges stemming from a police raid Tuesday where 20,000 DVDs were seized for failure to display official ratings on their packaging.

We have numerous reasons to believe that this action was unconstitutional, said Jamie Benjamin, an attorney for the company and who also serves as national chairman for the First Amendment Lawyers Association.

Under a 1988 Florida law, it is unlawful for a person to sell at retail, rent to another, attempt to sell at retail, or attempt to rent to another, a video movie in this state unless the official rating or the motion picture from which it is copied is clearly displayed on the outside of its cassette, case, jacket, or other covering. The statute also states that those movies which carry no official rating must be marked "NR" or "Not Rated."

Benjamin said the obscure law was meant to target video stores carrying mainstream movies and not adult video stores when you have a sign that says no one under 18 admitted and says that if sexual content offends you don’t come in, then (using this law) is absurd.

Benjamin said he has yet to find an instance in which the law or similar laws were applied to adult video stores in Florida or elsewhere: Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia have similar laws, but I have never seen them applied to adult stores.

Benjamin said authorities are simply trying to close down the nine-month-old business: The sheriff in the community has made it no secret that he wants to close down the store.

XMart is already facing charges for allegedly selling obscene materials to undercover officers last year. That case is under appeal, Benjamin said:
The industry needs to be alerted that this occurred in Florida for the first time and that once the rest of law enforcement gets wind of this, there’s a potential for enforcement will take place in other areas with that same law.

 

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