social media

Home » social media

UCF “Cyberbullying” Dismissal A Win For Free Speech

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

UCF “Cyberbullying” Dismissal A Win For Free Speech

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

The University of Central Florida student whose viral “graded” breakup letter to his ex-girlfriend got him suspended for two semesters was cleared of all charges.

Nick Lutz, 21, posted pictures of his ex-girlfriend’s apology letter which was retweeted more than 122,000 times. He gave the four pages of vulnerable, emotional prose a 61 out of 100 — a D minus.

speech

“Long intro, short conclusion, strong hypothesis but nothing to back it up,” he wrote. “While the gesture is appreciated, I would prefer details over statements. Revision for half credit will be accepted.”

That tweet, his university ruled five months after it was posted, was grounds for suspension after his ex-girlfriend went to her hometown sheriff and the university with a complaint that she was cyber bullied.

UCF suspended Lutz for two semesters on charges of breaking the school’s honor code.

His lawyer, Jacob Stuart, called the punishment a violation of his client’s First Amendment rights and after an appeal, the school reversed its decision and dismissed the case entirely.

Stuart said that “Mr. Lutz and his family applaud UCF for recognizing that a student’s right to enjoy the freedom of expression is protected from ill-founded and abusive supervising by a public university.”

The ex-girlfriend was not a UCF student when the snarky tweet was posted, nor has she ever spoken publically about the case. It’s downright perplexing to think that a university would attempt to suspend a student over a petty breakup letter.

Had the suspension held up, it would have set a very dangerous precedent to any student who trolls a social media post. In an age of microaggressions and safe spaces, would publicly funded schools hire administrators just to monitor students’ social media accounts?

Thankfully, this dismissal is a win for free speech for all college campuses and students.

Harvard Treads On Memes

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

Harvard Treads On Memes

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

Prospective members of Harvard University’s Class of 2021 had their admissions offers rescinded after they shared offensive content on social media.

According to screenshots obtained by The Harvard Crimson, messages shared by the individuals in a private Facebook group chat mocked sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children. This group chat originally stemmed from the Harvard College Class of 2021 Facebook group as prospective students formed their own conversations with those who shared similar interests.

HarvardWhen the university’s admissions office became aware of the memes and images shared, they asked students involved to email pictures sent in the group chat for review. Then, Harvard’s administration revoked the students’ admissions offers.

“The Admissions Committee was disappointed to learn that several students in a private group chat for the Class of 2021 were sending messages that contained offensive messages and graphics,” according to an email obtained by The Crimson sent to students involved.

Apparently, the decisions are final.

I agree that the content these individuals shared was gross and offensive, but does that mean that they deserve to have their admissions revoked?

I think it’s important to note that these were teenagers who often don’t make the best decisions. Couldn’t the admissions use this as a teaching moment instead of completely revoking their admissions? After all, these were private conversations. It’s not like these students were speaking on behalf of the university by blasting these memes all over the Internet.

Harvard is a private institution and, ultimately, they can do what they want.

I just wonder if Harvard’s decision sets a negative precedent. Should faculty, current students, and anyone somehow associated with the institution start monitoring absolutely everything they say in private conversations? What does that say about Harvard’s respect for the First Amendment?

Essentially, what should be considered a ‘private’ or ‘public’ conversation? I’d like to know.

Under Gov’t Pressure, Facebook & Others Plan to Censor ‘Terrorist’ Content

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

Under Gov’t Pressure, Facebook & Others Plan to Censor ‘Terrorist’ Content

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

As the United States remains entangled in a series of long-lasting wars abroad, people have given in to fear.

Recently, a poll showed that nearly half of Americans seem to believe that torture can be “useful,” a trend that has been going on ever since the United States invasion of Iraq took place.

SmartphoneWith the constant exposure to war talk, Americans become fearful for their lives and security. The obvious result is that, as more individuals become fearful, they also become more likely to support anything the government will tell them to keep them safe.

One of the actions often embraced by government agencies is censorship, even if officials never use this word to describe their actions.

But with the war on terror abroad being gradually expanded to cover every aspect of the American life experience, going as far as hurting freedom of speech across the board, other groups of Americans are being directly impacted. And, as a result, organizations like Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitter are being increasingly pressured to “do something” about the “terrorist threat.” What we’re now seeing is that, instead of allowing these companies to set their own rules, bureaucrats are now making sure social media websites are blocking content deemed dangerous.

As a result of peer pressure, these companies are combining forces to “curb the spread of terrorist content online.” And now, they are exchanging data on their users with one another in order to identify “violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos or images” so they can be removed from their forums.

According to Tech Dirt, this type of approach appears modeled on arrangements used to track child pornography. But while child pornography is illegal, “terrorist content” is an abstract idea that hasn’t been outlawed — yet.

Instead of acting out of a legal concern, these organizations are making what Tech Dirt calls “a judgement call.”
Once these groups start labeling certain types of content as bad, “false positive designations” will begin flowing across the platforms.
Because mistakes will be made, good people posting content deemed as dangerous will be blocked, leading to a war on information that Tech Dirt calls valuable and necessary.

While private organizations are free to set up their own rules, this decision appears to have stemmed from government pressure. As the line that divides private organizations and government policy remains blurred due to the crony capitalist nature of our government, it’s easy to see why these companies have had a hard time ignoring government pressure.

Instead of censoring or pushing organizations to censor their own users, we should be a loud voice of reason, urging organizations to, instead, allow this type of content to roam freely so that the majority of online users are able to take part in one of the most effective anti-terrorism actions there is: Mockery.

After all, when we are aware of where the problem is coming from, we can act in a decentralized fashion, attacking on different fronts and doing what centralized power often fails to do: Bring awareness to a serious problem and find its solution.

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.

Change We Can Believe In

in Communicating Liberty, From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Change We Can Believe In

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

Obviously, we’re not talking about the campaign slogan from eight years ago.

We are at a point where the dynamics of media are changing. More media outlets, bloggers, instant LIVE broadcasts, and social media drive conversations outside the tightly controlled messaging we’ve seen in the past. Because of the “always on” nature of many of these developments, the way news is presented is changing… For the better.

ChangeWith the ability to break news at any time, how people interact is changing. Today, we know more about what’s happening throughout the world, rather than a narrative that can be controlled.

The Arab Spring probably would not have made the news stateside, had it not been for the images, thoughts, and reporting performed by those on the ground, with the American audience demanding to know more. The dynamics of media are changing, and while the established corporate media tries to hang onto everything they can control, alternative media continues to grow in influence.

These changes also mean that ideas are spreading faster and with a farther reach. Even in some of the most remote areas of the world, a couple touches of a smartphone screen or clicks of a mouse can bring you up to speed on the latest happenings in minutes.

Because of how easy it is to get information, we now see a shift in how ideas spread, with virality, openness, and trust overcoming traditional advertising avenues and the power of vast sums of money. The dynamic is shifting, and greater exposure causes that shift to occur faster.

What does this change mean for libertarians? In this new decentralized dynamic, our voice can be just as prominent. The walls that stopped us before are crumbling, as we now have nearly equal footing.

So, let’s take advantage of this opportunity. The more we discuss our ideas, the moral case for freedom, and what a free society looks like, the greater influence we have on the direction our world moves. We can truly work to change hearts and minds without meeting the barriers of the past.

Knowing this, what will you do for liberty?

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. ​

After Dallas, People Are Being Arrested for Posting Inflammatory Comments Online

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

After Dallas, People Are Being Arrested for Posting Inflammatory Comments Online

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

Speech protections are being denied for those who harshly criticize law enforcement online, The Intercept has reported.

EarsIn Detroit, four men were arrested this past week after posting allegedly inflammatory and “threatening” comments online. While we know that in one of the tweets that led to an arrest, Micah Johnson, or the sniper who shot and killed Dallas police officers, was praised as a hero, the authorities have yet to release the names of the men who were arrested.

What’s troubling about these arrests, The Intercept report suggests, is that neither of the four men allegedly arrested over online posts were charged with a crime.

Without acknowledging whether his wishes contradict the arrestees’ First Amendment protections, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said that he wants the men his team arrested “charged with crimes. … I’ve directed my officers to prepare warrants for these four individuals, and we’ll see which venue is the best to pursue charges.”

But to Bruce Schneier, a security technologist at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University who talked to The Intercept, “arresting people for speech is something we should be very careful about.”

In Connecticut, Facebook user Kurt Vanzuuk was arrested after writing a post claiming that the Dallas sniper was a hero. Vanzuuk allegedly called for the police to be killed. He was later charged with inciting injury to persons over his post.

Ronald Medina, a New Jersey resident, was charged with cyber harassment after allegedly posting that he would “destroy the Perth Amboy police headquarters” on an unidentified form of social media.

Jenesis Reynolds, another Facebook user from Illinois, was also arrested for writing that she would “have no problem shooting a cop for simple traffic stop [because] they’d have no problem doing it to me.” Officers charged Reynolds with “disorderly conduct.”

While “posting that kind of thing on social media is a bad thought,” professor Larry Dubin of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law said, “having a bad thought isn’t necessarily a crime.”

To professor of law at Northeastern University Daniel Medwed, “threats may seem more threatening to police officers around the country” after Dallas, which may cause law enforcement to go after inflammatory speech. “We might be seeing more arrests right now because the police will interpret that they have probable cause to make the arrest,” he continued, “But that doesn’t mean in the end that this will result in convictions.”

Whether social media posts are public or not, it’s hard to justify the arrest of an individual over offensive comments.

In an article for the Mises Institute, Andrew Syrios states that “when you’re popular, you don’t need freedom of speech.” He added that “resorting to the use of political force to silence adversaries is a sign of the weakness of one’s own position.”

If law enforcement leadership is serious about regaining the trust of the public, officers should act like the adults in this conversation. Resorting to force to restrain alleged enemies will only continue to hurt the reputation of US police. ​

More Love

in Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

More Love

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

When we woke up yesterday, the breaking news was about a senseless tragedy that took place overnight in Orlando at Pulse nightclub.

That tragedy took 49 of our families and loved ones.

moreloveAs is often the case, without full information, those seeking to politicize the great suffering caused by the event jumped in with both feet. Whether the issue is terrorism, guns, Muslims, the LGBT community, or immigration, those seeking to promote their agenda took to social media, news interviews, and any avenue they could find to spread the word.

As we noted on Facebook, our first priority is to grieve for the loss of life. Full stop.

There are 49 families who just lost their son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or cousin. There are 49 families who are laying someone they love to rest. There are 49 families who will never be the same.

For the rest of us, the stunned feeling still shakes us, as we learn more about the victims, the perpetrator, and the actions that took place there. We need time to process what happened. We need time to have a full picture of what occurred.

Rather than make assumptions, based on the little bit of information that’s publicly available, let us save our voices for love. Let US share it to our families. Let US share it to our neighbors. Let US share it with our friends. Let US reach out to those affected by the tragic events in Orlando. Let US give blood. Let US be the example of how we should respond.

One of my favorite things about libertarians is how much we have to offer in times of struggle, and how much we help those in need.

Let US do that.

When the grieving wanes, we can have a conversation about what should happen.

But first, let US love.

Take More Pictures

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Take More Pictures

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

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” - attributed to Frederick R. Barnard

As libertarians, we have a lot to say. Often, it is presented as a wall of text… Page after page of words pieced together in a mess without any formatting and filled with footnotes.

We assume that those we convince to read it will see how much time and effort we put into it, as well as how smart we are, and BOOM! they’ll be convinced. While that may work with our fellow libertarians who generally value substance over style and presentation, those who are not libertarian yet are unlikely to be impressed.

taking picturesSo, what does this have to do with taking more pictures?

First, taking and sharing pictures require that you do something worthwhile or interesting to memorialize. Hopefully, we snap a photo of our hard work, highlighting our best examples of living a libertarian life. By sharing them, we show that we understand not only the words, but also the actions, necessary to bring about the change we advocate.

Next, due to our increased activity, we’ll have less time to write those walls of text that inspired TL;DR (Too long; didn’t read). Can you imagine how many thousands of words on the page or screen we can replace with pictures?

Also, as social media continues to evolve, we see the impact that images have to make a “story” go viral. A picture of you speaking to a crowd at a rally or working at a soup kitchen not only exemplifies your commitment to your ideals; it can be inspiring to others to “get off the couch” and do something.

Finally, we can inspire others as we Walk the Walk. As we take and share pictures, we’ll inevitably be asked why we’re taking them. It will open the door to a conversation that we did not have to seek out, and we can share that we are looking to make a change in the world in which we live.

If you’re creating new libertarians passively by setting your example, all of those you persuade actively will have others to associate with. As we continue to grow the libertarian movement, we need more perspectives and routes to it to consider.

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.

Politics Can Wait!

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

Politics Can Wait!

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

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. At 79, he passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, February 13th.

Within hours, political pundits, amateur and professional alike, took to social media and the airwaves to share their thoughts on Scalia’s passing and offered their view on what should happen next with regard to the vacant seat on the bench. The typical partisan divide and political fight appeared almost immediately with Republicans pointing to a delay of the appointment, with Democrats favoring the president’s intent to fill the position during the current term.

We even saw a question at that night’s GOP Presidential debate posed to the candidates, who all agreed that the Republican-controlled Senate should delay any nomination until the 2016 election victor assumes office.

punchThrough the weekend, each “team” lined up with their talking points and punditry about the history of Supreme Court appointments that supported their view. The audience they reach became parrots for those same talking points and historical events to allow them to score political points for their “team.”

Here’s the problem: Everyone was talking past one another to “win” the imaginary debate taking place before the other “team” could.

In a few hours after a man’s death, very few took the opportunity to acknowledge it, praise the good works, lament the loss, and extend condolences to those personally affected by his passing. Instead, it became what politics brings out in people… the worst.

We also see it in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and tragedies like Sandy Hook. Rather than react to the situation to make the lives affected better, a stampede to microphones and platforms takes place to politicize what just happened.

While it may appeal to some to jump into the fray in the wake of a disaster or the loss of a prominent figure, that activity drives away those who aren’t a part of your “team.”

The divisiveness of these conversations is akin to the wedge issues used by politicians to divide the public and prevent discourse about the ACTUAL issues.

Normal people take a moment to reflect on what just happened, while the super political “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Which one are you?

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

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

The US drug war initiated during the Nixon administration has been responsible for skyrocketing incarceration rates, the destruction of the black family, and increase in racial disparities in criminal justice. Now, it’s also responsible for a new wave of fear revolving marijuana users’ Instagram accounts.

That’s right.

According to a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, posting images of recreational use of marijuana on social media may result in a fine up to $150,000. The individual at fault could also spend 18 months in jail.

Pot

“Even though 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states have legalized recreational marijuana,” former DEA agent Patricia D’Orsa-Dijamco said, “marijuana remains illegal federally.”

In an interview for Fox News, the former DEA agent said that nobody should “be posting pictures of themselves smoking pot and using pot-themed hashtags to attract fans and ‘likes’ in any state. People who post pictures of themselves could potentially face criminal charges.”

According to Instagram’s own list of restrictions, users are not allowed to upload “unlawful” content to its site. Images of marijuana use fall under this category.

Despite the potential risks, there has been a rise in images of individuals making use of recreational marijuana on social media. But Instagram users will​ ​continue to be ​targeted by law enforcement if they do not slow down—unless the law changes.

Popular Instagram users like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Wiz Khalifa haven’t suffered any restrictions after posting photos of recreational marijuana use to Instagram. But New Jersey 20-year-old marijuana user Connor Kennedy has.

In July of 2015, Kennedy was arrested by the Winslow Township Police Department after posting photos online of his marijuana use. He was allegedly growing seven marijuana plants in an abandoned backyard down the street from his house at the time.

​ “Concerned citizens” contacted​​ the police​ ​about Kennedy’s behavior​, which prompted the police to​​ catch the young man tending to the plants ​with a hidden​ camera. After this incident, investigators looked him up online. That’s when they found his incriminating photos.

He’s not the only one to have been arrested after posting photos of marijuana on Instagram.

Toward the end of 2015, there was a wave of hope among anti-drug war advocates when reports claiming that Congress had lifted the ban on medical marijuana hit the news. Unfortunately, they were not accurate.

In December of 2014, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included a provision keeping the Justice Department from using funds appropriated by that particular bill to fight against states pushing their own marijuana laws. That means that agencies like the DEA would not be able to use the omnibus bill’s funds to prevent states from passing their own marijuana legislation. This same provision was part of the 2015 omnibus bill.

Despite the bill’s wording, the Justice Department has largely ignored the law by prosecuting and seizing the property of countless medical marijuana suppliers. Officials often argue that these actions don’t “prevent” states from passing their own drug laws.

If the Justice Department is given a free pass and officials continue to ignore the laws written by Congress, it’s not hard to see how Americans’ freedom of speech will continue to suffer.

Until Congress tackles the issue directly by putting an end to the drug war and reforming the criminal justice system, Instagram users and marijuana suppliers will remain vulnerable.

Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee the Right to…Own a Pet?

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

Does the Bill of Rights Guarantee the Right to…Own a Pet?

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

Thomas Jefferson once said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free… it expects what never was and never will be.”

One can only imagine Jefferson’s reaction to a recent national survey by the respected Annenberg Public Policy Center.

The Annenberg survey found that a terrifying large number of Americans are unfamiliar with even the most basic and most fundamental facts about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the structure of the U.S. government.

Rights And, in their ignorance, many are ready to toss out essential liberties and safeguards. Among the findings:

  • Only one in three Americans (31 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government. Thirty-two percent could not identify even one.
  • More than one in four Americans (28 percent) incorrectly thinks a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling is sent back either to Congress for reconsideration or to the lower courts for a decision.
  • Fully 12 percent say the Bill of Rights includes… the right to own a pet.
  • One American in four thinks the Bill of Rights guarantees “equal pay for equal work.”

 
This ignorance, alas, is nothing new. Many surveys over the years have reported similarly depressing findings.

Perhaps this partially explains why the Annenberg survey also found that significant percentages of Americans support getting rid of some of our most fundamental liberties:

  • Thirty-one percent say the government should have the power to outlaw a religion if a majority of voters believe it holds “un-American views.” Another 13 percent don’t care one way or another. Less than half (46 percent) oppose this.
  • Twenty-seven percent say the government should be able to prohibit a peaceful march down a main street if the marchers’ views are offensive to the majority of a town’s residents. Another 15 percent don’t care. A little more than half (54 percent) oppose.
  • Twelve percent support giving the government the power to stop the press from publishing articles critical of the government (prior restraint). Another 9 percent don’t care one way or the other.
  • Nearly half (46 percent) oppose current prohibitions on “double jeopardy,” the practice of retrying a person for the same crime twice if new evidence emerges after a not-guilty verdict.
  • One-quarter of those surveyed (26 percent) favor requiring a person to testify against himself in court. Another 17 percent don’t care either way.
  • A quarter of the respondents (25 percent) agreed that “it might be better to do away with the Supreme Court altogether” if it starts making a lot of rulings most Americans disagreed with.

 
Whatever your beliefs about government, the Constitution — and especially the Bill of Rights — has historically been the greatest resource for the day-to-day peaceful protection of American liberties. Thoughtful people of all political persuasions — liberals, conservatives and libertarians alike — find much common ground in these documents.

The lack of knowledge the Annenberg survey found constitutes nothing less than a civil liberties emergency.

Can anything be done to change this? Can you personally do anything?

Yes. We have many tools available to us, and many opportunities.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Share with your inner circle. Most of us have our greatest influence over those closest to us: children, grandchildren, other family members, close friends, neighbors, business associates, and so on. Share with them the importance of understanding how the government is structured and why our Bill of Rights freedoms are so vital. Encourage them to share them with others, creating a ripple effect. If your children attend a school, ask what is being done to teach these issues.
  • Use social media. Most of us are in contact with a great variety of people through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and other social media. Share this crucial information via videos, memes, links to news stories and articles. (The Annenberg poll press release, linked at the start of this article, will shock and amaze many of your friends and followers.)
  • Use holidays.Bill of Rights Day, (December 15), Constitution Day (September 17), and Independence Day (July 4) offer especially good opportunities to discuss these issues with family, friends, social media followers, and so on. They are great times for letters to the editor discussing the vital importance of our Bill of Rights freedoms and the need to understand them. Such letters can reach thousands or even tens of thousands or more people. Just a few letters in large newspapers can reach millions. Put these holidays on your calendar!

 
(By the way, all publicly funded educational institutions — including any schools receiving federal funds of any kind — are required to provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on or near Constitution Day. So on Constitution Day these matters will definitely be on the minds of many people.)

That’s just a start. Doubtless you can think of other opportunities and forums. As always, use the effective communication skills taught by the Advocates to make your communication appealing and welcome. (You’ll find lots of them in my book How to Be a Super Communicator for Liberty: Successfully Sharing Libertarian Ideas. e-book here)

It’s up to you. Government schools have failed miserably at teaching basic civics. So has the media. (The more skeptical among us might even note that government benefits enormously from having the public ignorant about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.)

As the great libertarian writer Harry Browne pointed out: “If the American people are to learn the importance of limited, Constitutional government, we have to teach them ourselves.” We have the power to reach those closest to us, and to reach — via letters, speeches, social media and many other ways — millions more Americans as well. Are you ready?

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.

 

They Said It… With Doug Bandow, Judge Andrew Napolitano And More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE DRUG WAR GULAG: “The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly one of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is five to 10 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and other democracies… America puts people in prison for crimes that other nations don’t, mostly minor drug offenses, and keeps them in prison much longer. Yet these long sentences have had at best a marginal impact on crime reduction.” — former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Nicholas Turner, “The Steep Cost of America’s High Incarceration Rate,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 25, 2014.

DEATH BY FDA: “The paternalist FDA long has delayed the approval of life-saving drugs, thereby killing thousands of people, far more than the number likely saved by preventing the sale of dangerous medicines.” — Doug Bandow, Cato Institute, “Close the Government to Close Bad Government Programs,” Cato Blog, December 31, 2014.

POLICE WATCHING YOU ONLINE:
Scottish Police on Twitter“Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on social media & any offensive comments will be investigated.” — tweet by the Scottish police, Dec. 30. Such monitoring is on the rise in the UK, according to the UK Independent; about 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online, and some have been arrested and imprisoned.

Judge Andrew Napolitano

NAPOLITANO ON TORTURE: “All torture is criminal under all circumstances — under treaties to which the U.S. is a party, under the Constitution that governs the government wherever it goes, and under federal law. Torture degrades the victim and the perpetrator. It undermines the moral authority of a country whose government condones it. It destroys the rule of law. It exposes our own folks to the awful retaliatory beheadings we have all seen. It is slow, inefficient, morbid, and ineffective. It is a recruiting tool for those who have come to cause us harm. All human beings possess basic inalienable rights derived from the natural law and protected by the Constitution the CIA has sworn to uphold. Torture violates all of those rights.” — Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, “The CIA and Its Torturers,” syndicated column, Dec. 11, 2014.

100 YEARS OF THE WAR ON DRUGS:
Mark Thornton“The War on Drugs … kills thousands of people, destroys untold number of lives, and wastes hundreds of billions of dollars every year. … What has the War on Drugs accomplished? It has not reduced access to illegal drugs. It has not reduced illegal drug use or abuse. It has not reduced the rate of addiction. If anything, the rates of use, abuse, and addiction have increased over the past century. Prison population statistics clearly indicate that it has been used to suppress minorities.

“It has also greatly increased the powers of law enforcement and the legal system and reduced the legal rights and protections of citizens under the tradition of the rule of law. It has greatly increased the militarization of the police and the use of the military in police work. It has also led to a significant increase in U.S. political and military intervention in foreign nations, particularly in the drug supply nations of Central and South America. … it is the number one cause of crime, corruption, and violence in the United States, as well as many of the countries of Central and South America.” — economist Mark Thornton, “The War on Drugs Was Born 100 Years Ago,” Mises Daily, December 17, 2014.

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.

Quick and Easy E-Ways to Help Others Discover Liberty

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section of Volume 18, No. 15 the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

judge_jim_gray_interview_37405be026f“What is your political philosophy? It is an interesting question that few people really give time to think about.”

That’s how Judge Jim Gray — retired Orange County Superior Court judge and 2012 Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate — began a recent column in the Daily Pilot, a newspaper published by the Los Angeles Times which serves Newport Beach and Costa Mesa in Orange County, California.

After an amusing and enlightening comparison of sports to politics, Gray got down to the essentials.

He described “the libertarian values of both financial responsibility and social acceptance” and then asked the reader: “Are those your values too?”

He concluded by offering readers a way to find their place on the political spectrum: take the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

“I think you will find the results to be quite revealing,” he concluded.

Thanks, Judge Gray!

Judge Gray’s article offered nearly 100,000 Daily Pilot readers the chance to take the Quiz. Many of those who do will discover — perhaps for the very first time — that they are libertarians, or at least libertarian-leaning.

I know that most of you reading this don’t write newspaper columns or run for vice president of the United States.

But you, too, can quickly and easily help lots of other people encounter the eye-opening, enlightening power of the Quiz.

Here are two simple ways.

1) Share the Quiz on Facebook and through other social media. Take the Quiz online and right-click on the graphic that shows your results. Save the image and post it on Facebook and other sites. Add a caption along these lines:

“Here’s how I scored on the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. Try it and see which political group agrees with YOU the most in the world of politics!”

Fast, easy, and guaranteed to stimulate interesting comments!

2) Put the Quiz as a signature in your emails. You’re probably familiar with signatures. These are the little quotes or sayings or personal notes seen at the bottom of email messages and online forum posts. Most email programs can be configured to generate them automatically. Signatures have been described as “email bumper stickers.”

Here are some suggested wordings for signatures featuring the Quiz:

  • Are you liberal, conservative, libertarian — or other? It only takes a minute to find out! Try the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz online at: www.theadvocates.org/quiz
  • Fun! Fast! Revealing! Try the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz at: www.theadvocates.org/quiz
  • Who agrees with you in the world of politics? Find out by taking The World’s Smallest Political Quiz at: www.theadvocates.org/quiz
  • Discover your real political identity in minutes — take the world-famous World’s Smallest Political Quiz online at: www.theadvocates.org/quiz 

Prepare different signatures for different audiences. Most email programs allow you to have a variety of prepared signatures ready. Make sure the signature you choose is appropriate for the person(s) who’ll be reading it. Also, variety is the spice of liberty — switch messages frequently so you won’t bore your regular correspondents.

If you email regularly, you can effortlessly and effectively reach a lot of people with these “email bumperstickers” for liberty.

~ ~ ~

How many people you reach with these two fast and easy e-methods depends on you, of course. How often you email. How many people you interact with on social media.

But you might be surprised by the numbers. And the Quiz is so intriguing and fun that many of the people you share it with will in turn pass it on to their friends, family and colleagues.

Even if you reach only a few people, you can make a huge difference. Many liberty activists got their introduction to libertarianism by a chance encounter with the Quiz — and they went from there to help many thousands of people discover liberty.

If everyone receiving this article used these two easy and simple ideas, and reached just a few dozen people over the course of a year… that would add up to over a million people reached with the Quiz and the ideas of liberty.

And that doesn’t even count the ripple effect — the outreach that some of those you reach would in turn engage in.

Not bad for a few minute’s investment!