US Censorship News

 2018: Jan-March

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  US internet snooping...

EFF and 23 Groups Tell Congress to Oppose the CLOUD Act

Link Here 14th March 2018  full story: US Snooper's Charter...

US SenateEFF and 23 other civil liberties organizations sent a letter to Congress urging Members and Senators to oppose the CLOUD Act and any efforts to attach it to other legislation.

The CLOUD Act ( S. 2383 and H.R. 4943 ) is a dangerous bill that would tear away global privacy protections by allowing police in the United States and abroad to grab cross-border data without following the privacy rules of where the data is stored. Currently, law enforcement requests for cross-border data often use a legal system called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, or MLATs. This system ensures that, for example, should a foreign government wish to seize communications stored in the United States, that data is properly secured by the Fourth Amendment requirement for a search warrant.

The other groups signing the new coalition letter against the CLOUD Act are Access Now, Advocacy for Principled Action in Government, American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Campaign for Liberty, Center for Democracy & Technology, CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Constitutional Alliance, Defending Rights & Dissent, Demand Progress Action, Equality California, Free Press Action Fund, Government Accountability Project, Government Information Watch, Human Rights Watch, Liberty Coalition, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Black Justice Coalition, New America's Open Technology Institute, OpenMedia, People For the American Way, and Restore The Fourth.

The CLOUD Act allows police to bypass the MLAT system, removing vital U.S. and foreign country privacy protections. As we explained in our earlier letter to Congress, the CLOUD Act would:

  • Allow foreign governments to wiretap on U.S. soil under standards that do not comply with U.S. law;

  • Give the executive branch the power to enter into foreign agreements without Congressional approval or judicial review, including foreign nations with a well-known record of human rights abuses;

  • Possibly facilitate foreign government access to information that is used to commit human rights abuses, like torture; and

  • Allow foreign governments to obtain information that could pertain to individuals in the U.S. without meeting constitutional standards.

You can read more about EFF's opposition to the CLOUD Act here .

The CLOUD Act creates a new channel for foreign governments seeking data about non-U.S. persons who are outside the United States. This new data channel is not governed by the laws of where the data is stored. Instead, the foreign police may demand the data directly from the company that handles it. Under the CLOUD Act, should a foreign government request data from a U.S. company, the U.S. Department of Justice would not need to be involved at any stage. Also, such requests for data would not need to receive individualized, prior judicial review before the data request is made.

The CLOUD Act's new data delivery method lacks not just meaningful judicial oversight, but also meaningful Congressional oversight, too. Should the U.S. executive branch enter a data exchange agreement--known as an "executive agreement"--with foreign countries, Congress would have little time and power to stop them. As we wrote in our letter:

"[T]he CLOUD Act would allow the executive branch to enter into agreements with foreign governments--without congressional approval. The bill stipulates that any agreement negotiated would go into effect 90 days after Congress was notified of the certification, unless Congress enacts a joint resolution of disapproval, which would require presidential approval or sufficient votes to overcome a presidential veto."

And under the bill, the president could agree to enter executive agreements with countries that are known human rights abusers.

Troublingly, the bill also fails to protect U.S. persons from the predictable, non-targeted collection of their data. When foreign governments request data from U.S. companies about specific "targets" who are non-U.S. persons not living in the United States, these governments will also inevitably collect data belonging to U.S. persons who communicate with the targeted individuals. Much of that data can then be shared with U.S. authorities, who can then use the information to charge U.S. persons with crimes. That data sharing, and potential criminal prosecution, requires no probable cause warrant as required by the Fourth Amendment, violating our constitutional rights.

The CLOUD Act is a bad bill. We urge Congress to stop it, and any attempts to attach it to must-pass spending legislation.


  Video game violence Trumps real world violence...

Reports from Donald Trumps meeting with video game makers and their critics

Link Here 12th March 2018

donald trumpDonald Trump organised a private meeting with video games makers and their critics as a diversionary tactic to avoid the debate about gun control.

Republican lawmakers and moralist campaigners pressed the president at his meeting on Thursday to explore new restrictions on the video-game industry.

Some participants urged Trump to consider new regulations that would make it harder for young children to purchase those games. Others asked the president to expand his inquiry to focus on violent movies and TV shows too.

Trump himself opened the meeting by showing a montage of clips of various violent video games.

Video-game executives who attended the meeting Thursday included Robert Altman, the CEO of ZeniMax, the parent company for games such as Fallout; Strauss Zelnick, the chief executive of Take Two Interactive, which is known for Grand Theft Auto, and Michael Gallagher, the leader of the Entertainment Software Association, a Washington-focused lobbying organisation for the industry.

We discussed the numerous scientific studies establishing that there is no connection between video games and violence, First Amendment protection of video games, and how our industry's rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment choices, ESA said in a statement.

The Parents Television Council Program Director Melissa Henson participated in the meeting and commented in a post-meeting statement:

Stop Media Violence What I heard in today's meeting is that the entertainment industry is still fighting to maintain the status quo and is not ready or willing to confront the impact that media violence has on our children. But time is up for the entertainment industry to put a stop to marketing graphic, explicit, and age-inappropriate content to our children.

The video game representatives pulled out their same old talking points that have long been refuted. During the meeting, I was able to interject and say just how untrue their excuses are.

Representative Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri, said she was open to crafting legislation that would make it harder for youngsters to buy violent games. She said:

Even though I know there are studies that have said there is no causal link, as a mom and a former high school teacher, it just intuitively seems that prolonged viewing of violent nature would desensitise a young person.

The White House already has hinted at sustained, broader scrutiny still to come. A day before the meeting, a spokeswoman for Trump said the sit-down with video-game executives and their critics is the first of many with industry leaders to discuss this important issue.

  Trump's opening gambit


  Monsters with guns...

Well if computer games are creating monsters, then why is Donald Trump defending their rights to bear arms

Link Here 8th March 2018
Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition US President Donald Trump is to meet video games company representatives on Thursday to discuss violent content. The meeting comes in the wake of last month's shooting at a school in Florida in which 17 people died.

The Electronic Software Association (ESA), which represents the games industry in the US, said it would be attending. It said in a statement:

The upcoming meeting at the White House will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry's commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices,

Also at the meeting will be the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the organisation responsible for offering age and content guidance for games.

A report from the Washington Post suggested some games developers had also been invited to attend, including Take Two Interactive, the publisher of the controversial Grand Theft Auto series. The company did not return the BBC's request for comment on the meeting. The Post also said key critics of the games industry would be at the table, including Brent Bozell, founder of the Parents Television Council.

On several occasions, President Trump has pointed to video game violence as being a problem potentially affecting American youths. He wrote on Twitter in December 2012:

Video game violence & glorification must be stopped. It is creating monsters!

The games industry has routinely and robustly defended itself against claims its products provoke real-life violence. The ESA explained in a statement:

Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence,

Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States. Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the US has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation.


  But not so much of a risk as guns or religion...

Idaho state lawmakers pass a resolution declaring pornography to be a public health risk.

Link Here 4th March 2018  full story: US politicans and porn harms...US states claim porn to be a public health hazard
idahoIdaho lawmakers on Friday approved a proposal declaring pornography a public health risk.

The resolution, sent to the House floor for debate by the House State Affairs Committee, does not call for a ban but rather is a symbolic gesture that urges state agencies and local officials to recognize the need for education, research and possible policy changes to protect Idahoans -- particularly teenagers -- from pornography.

Representative Lance Clow, a Republican who is backing the resolution spouted:

Pornography has and does have adverse impacts on all members of society. It leads to the abuse men, women and children, destroys marriages and has impacts on young and old Families are being torn apart by this epidemic.


  Trump comes out all guns blazing...

And the targets are video game producers

Link Here 2nd March 2018
Rambo: The Video Game US President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with members of the video game industry next week to discuss violence in games. The announcement comes a week after Trump suggested a link between violent video games and youth violence.

Likely comapnies that will be involved are Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, Activision, Ubisoft.

Trump said recently:

I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts, said Trump last week, after a mass shooting left 17 people dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida. And then you go the further step, and that's the movies. You see these movies, and they're so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn't involved, but killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that.

Of course the idea is to deflect blame for frequent killing sprees from guns to games. But if Trump is right and people are readily corrupted by video games, then surely games players need to banned from owning guns, and that's pretty much the whole population.


 Offsite Article: Free Speech and the Necessity of Discomfort...

Link Here 25th February 2018
new york times logo A lengthy but interesting speech revealing how US journalists feel a little besieged by declining revenue, the politically correct, and Donald Trump. By Bret Stephens

See article from


  Florida declares that porn is harmful whilst guns are not...

They're wrong, even a school kid could tell you that

Link Here 22nd February 2018  full story: Newtown School Killings...Gun lobby vs violent media
Florida state sealFlorida's House of Representatives passed a resolution Tuesday declaring pornography a public health risk. The resolution called for education, research, and policy changes to protect Florida citizens -- especially teenagers.

The bill's sponsor, Ross Spano, said that research has found a correlation between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, unhealthy brain development and cognitive function, and deviant, problematic or dangerous sexual behavior.

The vote followed an earlier session in which Florida legislators declined to hold hearings on a bill banning high-capacity magazines and assault rifles such as the one used last week by suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 students and teachers at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Meanwhile in  Kentucky politicians have returned to the 1990s tactic of blaming video games for violence. Kentucky governor Matt Bevin started the show a couple of days after the shooting, and on Wednesday, Rhode Island state representative Bobby Nardolillo took it a step further.

Nardolillo proposed legislation that would put a 10% tax on video games with an ESRB rating of Mature or higher, Rolling Stone reported . That tax revenue would be used to fund counseling, mental health programs and other conflict resolution activities in schools, according to the press release on Nardolillo's Facebook page. Both Nardolillo and Bevin have high ratings from the gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.

But I'm not sure that blaming porn and video games is a good direction for the gun lobby. Surely if they consider that video games and porn causes the mental health issues that lead to killing sprees, then surely they should recognise that there are people that should not be trusted with guns. And as video games and porn are so ubiquitous then the only safe policy is that nobody should be trusted with guns. QED


  Golden Oldies...

US judge strikes down law banning IMDb from publishing the age of movie stars

Link Here 21st February 2018
imdb logoA Californian law that prevented the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) from publishing the age of movie stars has been declared unconstitutional, and so the law is struck down on First Amendment grounds. A federal judge declared it not only to be unconstitutional, but also a bad solution to the wrong problem.

The law went into effect in 2017 after being signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown. The goal was to mitigate age discrimination in a youth-obsessed Hollywood by requiring IMDb to remove age-related information upon the request of a subscriber.

The judge explained:

Even if California had shown that the law was passed after targeted efforts to eliminate discrimination in the entertainment industry had failed, the law is not narrowly tailored. For one, the law is underinclusive, in that it bans only one kind of speaker from disseminating age-related information, leaving all other sources of that information untouched. Even looking just at, the law requires IMDb to take down some age-related information -- that of the members of its subscription service who request its removal -- but not the age-related information of those who don't subscribe to IMDbPro, or who don't ask to take their information down.

The judge adds that the law is also overinclusive:

For instance, it requires IMDb not to publish the age-related information of all those who request that their information not be published, not just of those protected by existing age discrimination laws, states the opinion (read below). If the state is concerned about discriminatory conduct affecting those not covered by current laws, namely those under 40, it certainly has a more direct means of addressing those concerns than imposing restrictions on IMDb's speech.

Californian officials said the state will be appealing this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


 Offsite Article: Kentucky governor, endorsed by the gun lobby, blames video games for school shootings...

Link Here 17th February 2018
Kentucky state seal But even if he were correct, wouldn't it be a good idea to prevent 'corrupted' gamers from being to get their hands on guns?

See article from


  Living in a dreamworld...

Kansas senators click their heels three times and pass a motion condemning pornography

Link Here 8th February 2018  full story: US politicans and porn harms...US states claim porn to be a public health hazard
Kansas state sealThe Kansas Senate has approved a resolution condemning pornography, claiming it causes infidelity and erectile dysfunction. The motion was passed on a 35-4 vote. The resolution has no legal effect. The House passed a similar measure last year.

The resolution says pornography is potentially biologically addictive and is linked to lessened desire.

Republican Senator Barbara Bollier mocked the resolution. She responded by saying:

Seriously? We'll see how excited they are about public health when it comes to guns.


  Censorship tyranny...

Virginia lawmaker proposes a $20 tax charge for internet users to be able to access adult websites

Link Here 31st January 2018  full story: Pole Tax...Discriminatory taxes on adult entertainment in USA
Virginia State SealA Republican Virginia lawmaker has revived the nonsense idea to impose a state tax charge on every device sold to enable access to adult websites.

State Representative Dave LaRock's has introduced a bill misleadingly called the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, which would require Virginians to pay a $20 fee to unblock content on adult websites.

LaRock has track record of being anti-porn and anti-gay. He once tore down advertising for an adult bookstore and railed against recognition for a local LGBTQ pride month.

Opponents point out that the proposal amounts to a tax on media content and would violate the First Amendment. The Media Coalition, which tracks legislation involving the First Amendment, sees the bill as nothing more than a tax on content, which is unconstitutional, said executive director David Horowitz. People have a First Amendment right to access this content, and publishers have a First Amendment right to provide it.

Claire Guthrie Gastaņaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said the organization just can't take the bill seriously.


  Heard the one about the billionaire and the bellboy?...

Donald Trump parody suddenly vanishes from Amazon

Link Here 26th January 2018
trump temptationsIn 2016, comedian and social provocateur Elijah Daniel wrote and published a short piece of porny fun about Donald Trump. It's titled Trump Temptations and is introduced on promotional material:

Full of uncomfortably lusty scenes of comically sexual acts, the 10-page essay was, according to Daniel , written while he was really fucking drunk and in 4 hours. The premise of the book is as follows:

It all started one fateful afternoon in summer of 2012. I was working as a bellboy at the Trump Hotel in Hong Kong on an internship program. This was my first time in a big city. It was all I could have ever dreamed of, and more. But little did I know, it was all about to change.

Elijah Daniel has fine eye for political satire. He went on to became mayor of a Michigan city and promptly used his office to  ban heterosexuality.

The title has now suddenly been removed from Amazon and Daniels blames Trump. Daniels tweeted:

Donald Trump deadass had Trump Temptations removed from Amazon its literally been out for like two years. dont you have a government shutdown to worry about and you out here getting parody porn ebooks removed from Amazon Im crying hahahaha. Lil Phag (@elijahdaniel).


  State moralist...

Utah set to scrap its role of porn czar

Link Here 26th January 2018

Utah state sealUtah's porn czar, the butt of many a national joke, is a role that is set for the scrap heap.

The state's House voted unanimously on Thursday to pass HB50 , which formally removes from state code the obscenity and pornography complaints ombudsman. The measure now goes to the Senate.

The Legislature created the position in 2000, saying it would provide resources for residents to curb pornography in their neighborhoods and online. Attorney Paula Houston was hired and given a budget of $150,000 a year, and became the nation's first and only porn czar in 2001.

The role of porn czar made Utah the laughingstock of the nation, it attracted news stories by media from around the world and jokes by late-night comedians. However hen the attorney general's office had to cut its budget, the ombudsman post was among items axed in 2003 -- although language allowing an ombudsman remained on the books.


  House Fails to Protect Americans from Unconstitutional NSA Surveillance...

Laws extending the US snooper's charter pass the House of Representatives

Link Here 14th January 2018  full story: Internet Snooping in the US...Snooping continues after Snowden revelations

US SenateThe House of Representatives cast a deeply disappointing vote today to extend NSA spying powers for the next six years by a 256-164 margin. In a related vote, the House also failed to adopt meaningful reforms on how the government sweeps up large swaths of data that predictably include Americans' communications.

Because of these votes, broad NSA surveillance of the Internet will likely continue, and the government will still have access to Americans' emails, chat logs, and browsing history without a warrant. Because of these votes, this surveillance will continue to operate in a dark corner, routinely violating the Fourth Amendment and other core constitutional protections.

This is a disappointment to EFF and all our supporters who, for weeks, have spoken to defend privacy. And this is a disappointment for the dozens of Congress members who have tried to rein NSA surveillance in, asking that the intelligence community merely follow the Constitution.

Today's House vote concerned S. 139, a bill to extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a powerful surveillance authority the NSA relies on to sweep up countless Americans' electronic communications. EFF vehemently opposed S. 139 for its failure to enact true reform of Section 702.

As passed by the House today, the bill:

  • Endorses nearly all warrantless searches of databases containing Americans' communications collected under Section 702.

  • Provides a narrow and seemingly useless warrant requirement that applies only for searches in some later-stage criminal investigations, a circumstance which the FBI itself has said almost never happens.

  • Allows for the restarting of "about" collection, an invasive type of surveillance that the NSA ended last year after being criticized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for privacy violations.

  • Sunsets in six years, delaying Congress' best opportunity to debate the limits NSA surveillance.

You can read more about the bill here .

Sadly, the House's approval of S. 139 was its second failure today. The first was in the House's inability to pass an amendment--through a 183-233 vote--that would have replaced the text of S. 139 with the text of the USA Rights Act, a bill that EFF is proud to support. You can read about that bill here .

The amendment to replace the text of S. 139 with the USA Rights Act was introduced by Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and included more than 40 cosponsors from sides of the aisle. Its defeat came from both Republicans and Democrats.

S. 139 now heads to the Senate, which we expect to vote by January 19. The Senate has already considered stronger bills to rein in NSA surveillance, and we call on the Senate to reject this terrible bill coming out of the House.


  Unwelcome guest...

The deservedly unpopular internet censor who ended net neutrality in the US cancels CES tech trade show visit after death threats

Link Here 8th January 2018  full story: Net Neutrality in USA...US internet censors at FCC seem intent on letting big business take control
ajit paiChairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FFC), Ajit Pai, has been forced to cancel his scheduled appearance at the world's biggest tech conference, CES, after receiving death threats.

That's according to a report by Recode, which cites two agency sources familiar with the matter. This seems to be in response to the disgraceful FCC decision to scrap the US government's net neutrality rules, made in December last year.

For those not up-to-date, net neutrality is the concept that internet service providers should enable equal levels of access to all web services. The decision enables big business to assert a lot more control over the internet and to let them charge websites and customers for differing levels of service.


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