Free Speech

New York movement seeks to ban anonymous comments

The idea of freedom of speech seems to be pretty straight forward.  You don’t infringe on anyone’s right to say things.  However, some Republican lawmakers in New York want to ban anonymous comments on blogs and newspaper websites in the Empire State.

The legislation, which has been proposed both in the State Assembly and Senate, would require New York-based websites such as blogs and the online hubs of newspapers and other media outlets to “remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post.”

“This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York,” an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology told Wired, which first reported the news on Wednesday.

Despite the obvious constitutional implications, the co-sponsors of the Internet Protection Act have described the legislation not so much as an assault on free speech and the open web, but more as a safeguard for people—say, politicians—who sometimes find themselves the victims of anonymous online invective.

Has the world gone mad?

ObamaCare’s massive increase of government involvement in health care is already causing its share of problems.  You simply cannot give government a bigger role in something so personal without creating all sorts of conflicts about what should be covered, and what should not.  There are simply too many competing groups with values and needs that do not overlap. The current health care system is already a mess because of this, and further nationalization will only make it far worse.

It’s also not terribly surprising that the first major battle of this war has to do with reproductive health.  During the passage of the law this was already a fierce debate.  Now, the storm that is consuming much of the public discourse is regarding the coverage of contraceptives.  Some argue that they should be covered under the mantle of “preventive services”, while others object to this for religious or fiscal reasons. Whether we like it or not, this is a matter of public interest now.  While most libertarians and some conservatives want to eventually remove government from the issue, it is there for the foreseeable future.  So it’s a debate we must have.

Over the last week, this debate has all revolved around the testimony of Sandra Fluke, a 30-year-old law student at an expensive university who nonetheless found it outrageous that she and her fellow students should have to pay for their own birth control.  Her statements brought up a number of issues, and, in my mind, provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the mess that government involvement in health care creates, and the entitlement mentality that has pervaded our culture.  This mentality is all around us; just last week I witnessed a woman throwing a near fit at my local Rite Aid because her $9 over-the-counter allergy meds were not paid for by her insurance.

SOPA author not done with the internet

After the unprecedented protests throughout the internet, one might think that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) would figure out that perhaps folks take the internet pretty seriously.  One might think that…but they would apparently be wrong.

Another day, another threat to internet freedom. According to International Business Times, beloved Texas Representative Lamar Smith is the author of a new bill that includes extreme surveillance provisions, and a name that will make opponents sound like criminals: H.R. 1981 (bump that last digit up three times for a more fitting title), or the ‘Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011.’

The new name has outraged many opponents of SOPA and other bills that could bring more government control to the internet, like PIPA and ACTA. It’s hard to imagine the whole world turning out against a bill with the words ‘protect’ and ‘children’ in the title, regardless of the actual contents of the bill.

In the words of Business Insider’s David Seaman, it’s “just a B.S. name so that politicians in the House and Senate are strong-armed into voting for it, even though it contains utterly insane 1984-style Big Brother surveillance provisions.” Ouch.

SOPA: Freedom and the Internet, Victorious

Yesterday, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives about the massive online protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) and the PROTECT IP Act (“PIPA”), legislation that poses a dire threat to the Internet and to liberties that our enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

You can watch my speech and read the transcript below:

Long ago, Jefferson warned, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” The exceptions to that rule have been few and far between recently, and ought to be celebrated when they occur.

One did this past week with the announcement that supporters of the so-called “Stop On-Line Privacy Act” and the “Protect Intellectual Property Act” have indefinitely postponed their measures after an unprecedented protest across the Internet.

SOPA and PIPA pose a crippling danger to the Internet because they use the legitimate concern over copy-right infringement as an excuse for government to intrude upon and regulate the very essence of the Internet - the unrestricted and absolutely free association that links site to site, providing infinite pathways for commerce, discourse and learning.

The State of Our Union is Dire

Tonight President Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address, but something that happened yesterday illustrates the true state of our union far better than anything you’ll hear tonight. As we reported yesterday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was detained by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials at the Nashville International Airport. Paul was detained by TSA officials after refusing an invasive full body pat-down following some kind of anomaly in the body scanner’s reading. Some might argue that there’s nothing to get worked up about here. After all, shouldn’t we expect senators to be treated like everyone else? But it is precisely because everyday citizens are subjected to these invasive procedures on a daily basis that Sen. Paul’s detention is so alarming. His high-profile detention by the TSA serves as a reminder that Americans are having their privacy violated every day on their way through the nation’s airports.

You probably won’t hear about Sen. Paul’s detention by the TSA in President Obama’s address tonight. You’re not likely to hear anything about it in the GOP response delivered by Governor Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.), nor even in the Tea Party response offered by businessman and former presidential candidate Herman Cain (R-Ga.). You probably won’t hear about the National Defense Authorization Act, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or any of the other manifold ways that Washington has undermined the Bill of Rights. But whether our politicians want to raise these issues or not, these are the issues that define the state of our union in the 21st century. And the state of our union is dire.

Chris Dodd Thinks Anti-SOPA/PIPA Websites Are Abusing Their Power

If you’re like me, you hoped that you wouldn’t be hearing anything more from allegedly corrupt former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) after he decided in 2010 not to seek a sixth Senate term. Unfortunately those hopes were dashed when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decided it just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hire somebody who allegedly knows exactly what it takes to buy a senator. The MPAA selected Dodd as its new head lobbyist chairman and CEO last year. Now Dodd is taking aim at Wikipedia, Google, and other websites involved in today’s protest against the SOPA/PIPA internet censorship legislation pending in Congress:

It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.

Drop the SOPA: Protect the Internet from censorship

I’m kind of a rare breed of libertarian.  I actually believe in the concept of intellectual property.  As such, some might be under the belief that folks like me would be in favor of something like the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.

Of course, they would be horribly, horribly wrong.

Regardless of ones feelings on IP, the reality is that SOPA is nothing less than a NDAA or PATRIOT Act for the internet.

You see, the internet is the last bastion of freedom anywhere in the world.  While it’s entirely possible to render something illegal in one country, it’s virtually impossible to stamp it out.  Laws and regulations become meaningless as physical borders mean nothing on a cyberscape free from such lines.

The kick in the butt with this bill, as with many similar bills, is that it really won’t do a whole heck of a lot to combat piracy.  Of course, there are some that will argue that what SOPA seeks to do is crush that freedom. That ideas breed in such freedom, and such ideas can not be allowed to incubate.

I don’t know if I would go that far, but what is clear is that SOPA is nothing more than a powergrab.  Those that are supposed to support and defend the Constitution have instead decided to just ignore the document completely.

SOPA seeks to require your ISP to spy on you.  It seeks to hurt companies like Mozilla that haven’t done what the powerful want it to do.  It seeks to rewrite the current laws regarding the internet and remake it into a place where innovation no longer happens.

Now, SOPA may not be all bad.  After all, plenty of companies will love to open up their nations to the off-shore dollars that are bound to flee the United States after a SOPA-like bill is passed.  While I’m not an opponent of out sourcing per se, I’d prefer it not to be encouraged through idiotic legislation.

SOPA must be shot down by Congress

On the heels of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively shredded the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Habeas Corpus, Congress will likely take up the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) at some point early next year.

For those of you that haven’t followed SOPA, Tina Korbe at Hot Air offers a very good introduction to the legislation:

Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by representatives from both parties (the bill has a total of 31 co-sponsors!), the Stop Online Piracy Act purports to stop “foreign online criminals from stealing and selling America’s intellectual property and keeping the profits for themselves.”

According to Rep. Smith’s website, “IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. The Stop Online Piracy Act specifically targets foreign websites primarily dedicated to illegal activity or foreign websites that market themselves as such. The bill ensures that profits from America’s innovations go to American innovators.”

That sounds relatively harmless, but there has been a lot of concern among tech-advocates that SOPA would would lead to censorship and deter innovation on the Internet.

Korbe continues:

Time, Place, and Free Speech

You would think the First Amendment is a relatively easy legal precept to grasp, and that the idea of free speech is an equally easy general concept to comprehend. Naturally, this being 21st century America, that just isn’t so.

Take this example from the Arizona Daily Star, this Tuesday:

Northern Arizona University students who were passing out American flags Friday in remembrance of 9/11 got a bigger response than they expected.

No fewer than four university officials and a police officer descended on the group, accusing them of hindering foot traffic and lacking an advance permit.

“9/11 is very important to me,” said student Stephanee Freer. “That’s why I do the event. Every year, I do something for 9/11 and it’s never been disrupted like this.”

University spokesman Tom Bauer said it had nothing to do with what they were saying and everything to do with keeping traffic moving.

“I don’t think that this is a freedom of speech issue. We were not asking them to be quiet. We were not asking them to leave,” he said. “We were asking them to move to a different location within the same area. This is basically clearing the walkways.”

Freer said she meant to pass out flags all weekend but canceled the rest of her plans after the dust-up.

Read the rest of the story. Read the arguments of both sides; the students basically say “First Amendment! Free speech!” while the school officials just say “time, place, and manner.”

“Clearing the walkways,” uh-huh.

Sarah Palin And The Obsession With Minutia, Or Something

I must admit that this is a subject I wanted to stay away from but the continuing “uproar” saddens me. I want to like Sarah Palin but she makes it hard sometimes . At some point she is going to have to stop playing the victim card and act like a big girl.

I heard the Rahm Emanuel “retard” comment before Palin responded to it (I actually agreed with him). But something told me somebody would say something. Somebody would be offended. Somebody would act like a speech Nazi. Somebody would express an opinion that would attack the natural right of free speech.

As a former member of the GOP I can remember getting into debate after debate with “lefty” Statists on the subject of language. I guess because of who I am and how I was brought up I feel like I have a right to speak my mind and if you’re the “political correct” type you can get over it (Being raised in NYC probably contributed a ‘lil as well). I am not offended by anything that comes out of somebody’s pie- hole. Many people say things that alarm me, but being offended is somehow being “hurt” by what is said. Ms. Palin kept referring to her “thick skin” on the campaign trail. Did it somehow disappear?

I’ve already heard other people make the point that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck use the word “retard” on their shows and Sarah hasn’t criticized them. Blah, blah, that isn’t nearly the issue here. The fact that the “Right” is now acting like the language police leads me to believe I left the GOP at the right time.

Let me create a scenario for dear Sarah and see how she would handle it.

 
 


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