Facebook

Home » Facebook

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

in First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Censorship never works. Especially when it comes to speech that is considered offensive or criminal. Why? Because when individuals are given a platform where they may express themselves openly, they become more visible, giving others who disagree with their methods or philosophy an opportunity to spot them and stay out of their way.

TwitterBut when fear is at play, people tend to lose grasp of their emotions and what could have turned into a reasonable debate turns into a witch hunt.

As politicians and others urge companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to crack down on users who identify as Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) fighters and sympathizers, encouraging these users to be banned from their platforms, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admits that banning ISIS users from online platforms pushes them “to a place where they’re less able to proselytize broadly but more able to communicate in a secure way.” Meaning that, when users are blocked from Twitter, it makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them down.

Who would have thought?

According to Tech Dirt, intelligence officials are usually able to get good intelligence from paying attention to social media accounts from ISIS fighters. But in spite of what many consider to be a risk associated with how easily ISIS fighters are able to recruit by keeping active accounts on social media, Tech Dirt points out that nearly every single study on radicalization shows that online recruitment is not as effective as many would think.

Silencing users might help to keep social media websites “clean” from speech we find offensive, but instead of making us safe, it just pushes individuals who follow dreadful philosophies into the shadows, making it harder for us to spot them and keep an eye on what they are up to next.

When translated into enforcement, the banishment of users from online platforms only makes it hard for officials to track terrorists down.

As US officials continue to press private tech companies to open backdoors so that law enforcement is able to closely spy on American citizens, public pressure to ban offensive speech adds fuel to the fire, oftentimes giving officials reasons to lobby for the expansion of government’s spying powers.

Instead of allowing our feelings to speak louder than reason, we must always remember that what may seem as the best solution superficially might not produce the desired outcome. No matter how many times we implement the same policy.

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Homeland ‘Security’? Gov’t Wants to Collect Travellers’ Social Media Info

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In Omnipotent Government, Ludwig von Mises writes that tending toward “a transgression of the limit” of the application of violence is a natural impulse among professionals who use violence in their line of work, even if the particular application of violence is seen as legitimate.

These transgressions are seen everywhere, from instances of police brutality to the ever-growing presence of law enforcement agents on our borders and airports.

SmartphoneNow, this transgression is entering another realm, making way for law enforcement to have an even more formally accepted online presence.

According to a new Department of Homeland Security proposal, officials are considering asking visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program to disclose information pertaining to their social media presence.

If the DHS has its way, visitors would have to fill out a form with links to their Twitter, Facebook, and other online applications. According to the DHS, the collection of this information would “enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

But the wording in this new proposal is broad enough to allow officials to dig at will, increasing the risk of abuse of power—a surveillance issue that has already been associated with 4th Amendment violations in the past. To privacy advocacy organizations like Restore The 4th, this new transgression is everything but legitimate.

In a press release, the organization explained that the DHS new proposal is toxic.

In a letter addressed to the US Customs and Border Protection, the group along with “over two dozen human rights and civil liberties organizations” outlined the program’s “disproportionate risks, excessive costs, and other serious shortcomings.”

According to the letter, the DHS will be further invading individual privacy, putting freedom of expression at risk if this proposal is implemented. Furthermore, the federal government would have to worsen the national debt due to the high cost of implementation. The maintenance of this program would also cost taxpayers greatly, Restore The 4th added, and these costs “appear to be unaccounted for in the DHS Paperwork Reduction Act statement.”

The advocacy group also claims that the DHS would ignite the expansion of the surveillance state by opening a new window into the traveler’s private life. If implemented, this new rule could impact particular groups of travelers, allowing law enforcement to refer to their racial and religious bias in order to do their job.

Restore The 4th explains:

“This ‘disparate impact will affect not only travelers from visa-waiver program countries, but also the Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans whose colleagues, family members, business associates, and others in their social networks are exposed to immediate scrutiny or ongoing surveillance, or are improperly denied a visa waiver because of their online presence.’”

The letter urges CBP to dismiss the DHS proposal altogether. ​

12-Year-Old Arrested Over Instagram Post Showing Guns, Bombs

in First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

12-Year-Old Arrested Over Instagram Post Showing Guns, Bombs

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In a world where everything happens online, Americans struggle to identify what is and what is not a credible threat. But while doing so, liberty advocates suggest, authorities should go above and beyond to avoid trampling people’s freedom of speech rights.

Instagram In the state of Virginia, a middle school student is currently facing charges over an online post in which she used “emojis” of guns and bombs. According to the Washington Post, the 12-year-old from Fairfax, VA was accused of threatening Sidney Lanier Middle School, which led to legal charges. Police justified the legal move by claiming that the girl had posted a message on her Instagram account in December that features a gun, a bomb, and a knife, all in the “emoji” formats.

The message read in part:

Killing (gun emoji)

“meet me in the library Tuesday” (gun, knife and bomb emoji)

After the post went live, authorities launched an investigation that led to the IP used by the 12-year-old. With a search warrant in hand, police officers learned that the girl had crafted the post, but had used another student’s name to publish it. After admitting to being the author of the post, police charged her with threatening the school and computer harassment.

While police often try to judge how serious the threat is in order to assess whether they should get involved, attorneys often argue that emoji should not be used as evidence. According to experts, it’s difficult to determine in court what the defendant means to express by the emoji he or she uses. The confusion often leads to mistakes, and police investigators often target individuals who are just being playful.

The case is now on track for juvenile court, which should happen later this month. According to the child’s mother, who still hasn’t been identified publicly, the post was created to “bully” another student. The mother also told the Washington Post that charges against her daughter were unwarranted.

According to RT.com, many other cases involving school children or older social media users and emojis ended up resulting in legal troubles for the individuals involved.

At least one case involved the use of the “:-P” emoji, which represents a face sticking a tongue out.

Anthony Elonis from Pennsylvania was arrested over allegedly threatening his estranged wife via Facebook posts. The man argued his conviction should be overturned considering he had posted the alleged threats as his rapper persona, and that the posts in question, which included graphically violent lyrics about killing his wife, were all fictitious. To him, the lyrics were art or therapy. Since many of the posts were followed by the “:-P” emoji, Elonis says he assumed people would understand those posts were jests.

During the Elonis trial, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts quoted Eminem lyrics during his oral arguments, claiming that the lyrics he had read to the court weren’t much different from the words posted online by Elonis. Using the Eminem lyrics, Justice Roberts wanted to make others think about the posts and when a piece of communication crosses the line into being a threat.  

While the justices ultimately sided with Elonis, the law enforcement community has yet to refrain from taking emojis into account when assessing threats online.

Unrest at Mizzou: A Timeline

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Unrest at Mizzou: A Timeline

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

**Editor’s Note: Tim Wolfe’s resignation as president of the University of Missouri prompted us to take a look at the events surrounding his resignation. We have complied them in a timeline here. 

September 12: Student Government President Payton Head posts on Facebook his frustrations after people riding in the back of a pickup truck screamed racial slurs at him. “For those of you who wonder why I’m always talking about the importance of inclusion and respect, it’s because I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at THIS university, making me not feel included here,” he wrote in the widely shared post.

September 17: Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, the top resident official on the Missouri campus, issues a statement deploring “recent incidents of bias and discrimination.” He calls them “totally unacceptable.”

Mizzou

October 1: A “Racism Lives Here rally” is held on campus. “White silence is violence, no justice no peace,” protesters chanted, according to a report by the Columbia Missourian newspaper.

October 4: A drunken white student disrupts an African American student group, the Legion of Black Collegians, preparing for homecoming activities and uses a racial slur when they asked him to leave. “Not only did this individual disrupt our rehearsal, but we were also made victims of blatant racism in a space that we should be made to feel safe,” the group said. Loftin issues a statement the next day, saying “racism is clearly alive at Mizzou.” “What we have done is not enough. Every member of our community must help us change our culture,” he said.

October 8: Loftin orders diversity and inclusion training for students and faculty in 2016. “This training will inform all of us about the diversity of our campus and the organizations present on campus and make us conscious of how to be inclusive in our words and behaviors,” he wrote.

In an open letter to Loftin in the campus newspaper, student leader Jonathan Butler welcomes the announcement as “a step in the right direction,” but criticizes the chancellor for not acknowledging the work of African American students in developing diversity programs and for failing to acknowledge the breadth of racial issues on the campus.

October 10: Protesters block university President Tim Wolfe’s car during the Missouri homecoming parade to voice their concerns. Wolfe doesn’t respond to their complaints, something he later apologizes for, and his car taps a protester, which angered the group. No one was hurt, but protesters later accused police of using excessive force to clear the street.

October 20: The student group Concerned Student 1950, named for the year African-American students were first admitted to the university, issues a list of demands: an apology from Wolfe, his removal from office and a more comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum overseen by minority students and faculty. There is no immediate response from administration.

October 24: Another incident roils the campus. Someone uses feces to draw a swastika on the wall of a residence hall. A similar incident had occurred in April, but with ashes, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

October 26: Wolfe meets privately with Concerned Student 1950 members, but doesn’t agree to meet their demands, according to the Missourian.

November 3: Butler launches a hunger strike, saying “Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.”

November 4: A student boycott in support of Concerned Student 1950 begins.

November 6: Wolfe issues an apology to Concerned Student 1950. “Racism does exist at our university and it is unacceptable. It is a long-standing, systemic problem which daily affects our family of students, faculty and staff,” he says.

November 8: Black football players announce they won’t practice or play until Wolfe is removed. The Athletic Department, Coach Gary Pinkel and many white players announce their support for the protest.

November 9: The Missouri Students Association’s executive cabinet calls for Wolfe’s ouster, saying the system’s administration “has undeniably failed us.” Soon afterwards, Wolfe announces his resignation.

November 10: Threats begin to circulate online towards the safety of minority students. The author of the posts on the anonymous location-based messaging app YikYak and other social media, threatened to “shoot every black person I see.”

November 11: Hunter M. Park, a 19-year-old sophomore studying computer science at a sister campus in Rolla, was arrested shortly before 2 a.m. at a residence hall for the anonymous social media posts. Some professors cancel classes, others do not, which sparks outrage from students and in one instance, resignation.

 

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

in Liberator Online, Walk the Walk by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

This week, a friend of mine blocked and unfriended someone they’ve known for years after years of arguing over issues that do not directly affect either of them, but get them fired up. I understand wanting to rid one’s self of negativity and people who drive that stress level up, UP, UP!, but what is accomplished by walling yourself off from someone with whom you disagree?

FacebookWhen you post political, economic, and social commentary on Facebook, you invite your “circle,” and possibly strangers (if your posts are public), to comment, debate, and engage in that topic. For me, this is an OPPORTUNITY to share libertarian ideas and possibly persuade others to join us in the libertarian movement.

Have you ever changed your mind about an issue or stance you hold after a major Facebook argument that ends a friendship, even one solely on a social network?

Me neither.

My views have only been changed when presented with newly-available information or by better understanding a principle that I had not previously. None of those would be possible if we shut the door on someone who holds a different opinion.

As an administrator of Facebook pages in addition to a personal profile, I have had the opportunity to share content and engage with millions of people. In just the last seven days, our Facebook page reached 1.1 million users.

Would that be possible if we walled ourselves off from those who disagree on some tenets of libertarian philosophy?

We continue to grow and reach more people with the seeds of Liberty we plant with each post, comment, and share. We also provide fellow libertarians with quality content to share with their networks to begin conversations about libertarian philosophy.

Will you do the same?

Happy Facebooking for Liberty!

Celebrating 30,000!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Hooray! The Advocates Facebook page just reached a new milestone: we’ve crossed the 30,000 mark for “Likes” on our page.
Facebook
If you were one of these fans, THANK YOU!

If you haven’t yet liked our page, please check it out. I think you’ll really… “like” it. (Sorry — couldn’t resist!)

Looking closer at these numbers shows why this is such good news for liberty. Some of our original content has reached over half a million people on Facebook with a single post.

Weekly, we reach an average of over 300,000 people with entertaining and thought-provoking commentary, memes and other posts.

So our Facebook outreach is getting the word of liberty out there to lots of people eager for these ideas.

Please note: all this is due to our Facebook supporters who “Comment” on, “Like,” and “Share” our posts. I invite you to join them.

Take a moment right now to connect with us on Facebook — and also on Twitter, and Instagram, if you use those forums — to enjoy and share the great libertarian content you will find there, and to keep up with the latest Advocates news and activities.

Many thanks to Brett Bittner, former Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, who is in charge of our social media. Great job, Brett!

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

Are You on the Fed’s Terrorist Watchlist?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

You can be pulled into the NSA’s database, put on a terrorist watchlist, and receive discriminatory treatment from local, state, and national law enforcement agents — without warning or notice, and for something as innocent as a Facebook or Twitter post.

So reports journalist Arjun Sethi in a shocking story in The Guardian, August 30, entitled, appropriately enough, “The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post.”

“Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. …

“It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors…

“The Terrorist Screening Database watchlist tracks ‘known’ and ‘suspected’ terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the U.S. government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information — including a Facebook or Twitter post — to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.”

Indeed, according to the investigative journalism website The Intercept, the Terrorist Screening Database has about 680,000 people on it — and more than 40 percent are described by the government itself as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That’s a whopping 280,000 people.

Continues the Guardian: “These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard — so-called ‘reasonable suspicion’ — in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

“Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither ‘concrete evidence’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence.’ Instead, an official is permitted to consider ‘reasonable inferences’ and ‘to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience.’”

Further, the loose rules allow watchlisting without even the minimum standard of  reasonable suspicion. Non-citizens can be watchlisted just for being associated with a watchlisted person, even if the relationship is totally innocent. If a source or tipster describes a non-citizen as an “extremist,” a “militant,” or some similar term, and the FBI can make some vague connection, this could be enough to watchlist a person. The watchlist designation is secret, so no one is able to challenge these allegations.

But being on the watchlist can bring terrible consequences, notes the Guardian:

“Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years, isolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

“Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements. …

“A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, agrees: “We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge. The fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad.”

The Guardian concludes with a question you’re probably already asking yourself:

“Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?”

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

Before You Click “Share”

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Oops! Was my face red!

Last week I saw a fascinating article on Facebook. It was entitled “Amazing things you didn’t know your cell phone could do.”

Wow! I had no idea cell phones could do all that. I immediately shared it with my Facebook friends.Don't Believe Everything You Read On the Internet - Abraham Lincoln

Bad move. I was quickly informed that the article was almost totally bogus. (I’m sorry to inform you that you can’t use your cell phone to unlock your car — unless, as a friend pointed out, you throw it through the window.)

Normally I check such things out before forwarding them. But this time my enthusiasm got the best of me — such amazing and useful information! — and I made the classic Internet mistake of forwarding info I hadn’t checked out. Ouch!

In this particular case, the consequences weren’t dire. I wasted a bit of my friends’ time and made myself look silly.

But sharing false political information can have much more serious consequences. Especially for libertarians.

When we send something around that turns out to be false, people may wonder: “Are libertarians just stupid — or are they trying to deceive me?”

They may think, “This libertarian has sent me something I know isn’t true. So I can’t trust anything he or other libertarians say.”

Those aren’t reactions we want from our social media outreach.

This is a serious problem. The web is clogged with fascinating facts, mesmerizing memes, compelling quotes and startling stories — that are not true.

So before you hit that “Share” button on Facebook or the “Forward” button in your email, take a moment confirm the validity of the material.

Note, this doesn’t mean you have to verify everything you share. Jokes, fables, cartoons, cat videos… fire away.

But before sending a quote or a fact, take a moment and fact-check it.

It’s easy. Type it wholly or in part into Google. See if it can be verified at a reliable source. Something like “funnytruequotes.com” (I just made that up) isn’t sufficient. A legitimate online thesaurus, book, scholarly site, or reputable newspaper or magazine source is needed.

You can also use Google Books to instantly search millions of books to see if the quote or fact shows up in a reputable book.

Does this sound like too much trouble? Do you just “know” your quote is accurate, because it just “sounds right”? I invite you to try it on a few anyway. You will be shocked how many false quotes are attributed to the Founders, to Ron Paul, to various presidents, and the like.

The more amazing the fact or quote, the more it confirms your prejudices… the more likely it needs to be vetted. “Eighty percent of U.S. tax dollars goes to foreign aid” might sound plausible to some people, but check it out and you might be surprised. If you can’t verify it at a legitimate source (newspaper, magazine, think tank, book, etc.) don’t send it out.

If a story sounds too good to be true, that’s a warning sign. Check out snopes.com or a similar site to see if it’s one of the thousands of phony tales mugging truth-seekers on the web. (I know, Snopes.com has its own biases, but it’s a great place to start.)

Once you’ve pushed the “Share” button, it’s hard to take it back. Some people will never see your retraction, and many of your friends will have already forwarded it to dozens or hundreds of others. In one irreversible moment, you’ve helped contribute to the ignorance of the human race. Not good.

As ambassadors for libertarian ideas, we need to make sure we always display integrity. As seekers of the truth, we must always be truthful in the information we share with others in making our case for liberty.

As Liberator Online columnist Michael Cloud is fond of saying, “The facts are friendly to freedom.”

We’ve got the truth on our side. Falsehoods and bad information only hurts our cause.