Archive for the 'USA' Category

Apple and Net Neutrality – Relevant?

In recent months the legal and ethical debate over net neutrality and its implications for freedom of expression has drawn quite a bit of attention. Net neutrality is of utmost cultural, societal, and legal significance. Net neutrality regulation is one of the most important decisions the world’s lawmakers will have to make in the upcoming years. A prominent example can be found in Apple, the company famous for its computers, mp3 players, and most recently the iPhone. The quarrel over the submission and review policy for publishing an application on the Apple App Store has become highly controversial. Now, the actual review policy is too long to include in this blog but the gist is explained quite well in Apple’s official summary:

‘The app approval process is in place to ensure that applications are reliable, perform as expected, and are free of explicit and offensive material. We review every app on the App Store based on a set of technical, content, and design criteria…’ Continue reading ‘Apple and Net Neutrality – Relevant?’

Was Sarah Palin’s blog incitement to Violence? – The extent of the First Amendment’s protection

In the wake of the appalling acts in Arizona perpetrated by Jared Lee Loughner, Aryeh Neier, in the Guardian, argued that the only method of preventing a recurrence was ‘the traditional remedy for bad speech: more speech.’ It has taken the murder of six and wounding of thirteen to suddenly jolt us into the realisation that the indiscriminate application of this theory has failed.

Neier was, essentially, justifying the extremely strict test of incitement to violence in the US. In fact, a State cannot prosecute individuals who encourage the use of violence unless this encouragement is directed towards producing imminent lawless action and that it was likely to do so (Brandenburg v Ohio). Continue reading ‘Was Sarah Palin’s blog incitement to Violence? – The extent of the First Amendment’s protection’

Truth, Justice & Elections

It is generally accepted that freedom of expression must be guaranteed in the run up to elections for such elections to be democratic. In the context of the recent UK and US elections, two contrasting approaches to freedom of expression in the context of elections can be observed. Continue reading ‘Truth, Justice & Elections’

Amazon’s conflicting censorship policy

Amazon.com has had a chequered history when it comes to its policy regarding books with ’sensitive’ or ’adult’ content. In February 2009, a large group of books including those with gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender (GLBT) themes lost their sales ranks on Amazon. When asked about this on different occasions by authors, Amazon responded: ’In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.’ Later, however, Amazon claimed that this was a technical error and there was no new Amazon policy on ‘adult’ titles. Moreover, Amazon stated that this error had affected books on various other themes, although no list was provided. It has been argued that this incident was in fact, a more deliberate action on the part of Amazon who, following consumer pressure, decided to change their stance. Continue reading ‘Amazon’s conflicting censorship policy’

Protection or Prosecution for Hate Speech?

This month saw the continuation of two high-profile cases exploring the outer limits of speech freedom in the United States and the Netherlands.

In the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Snyder v. Phelps, the case centering on a lawsuit brought by the father of a marine against the Westboro Baptist Church, after the fundamentalist church used his son’s funeral to spread its message that fallen soldiers are punishment for tolerance of homosexuality in the United States.  The central question in the case is whether the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right of church members, who stood outside the funeral holding signs declaring Thank God for Dead Soldiers and God Hates You, to protest at funerals. According to the church, it has held more than 44,000 such protests over the course of 20 years.

Continue reading ‘Protection or Prosecution for Hate Speech?’

What’s in a Name? Counter-Terrorism Measures v Open Justice

It is a general principle of any justice system that not only must justice be done but justice must be seen to be done. At least part of this second limb is literal: court cases and trials are held in public and reported, in full, to the public unless there are extenuating circumstances which warrant closed proceedings or reporting restrictions (see, in particular, Scott v Scott [1913] AC 417).

This is the principle of open justice and, according to Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, it ‘represents an element of democratic accountability, and the vigorous manifestation of the principle of freedom of expression. Ultimately it supports the rule of law itself. […]’ (§ 39, The Queen on the application of Binyam Mohamed v the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, [2010] EWCA Civ 65) Lord Judge went so far as to state that ‘[…] the principles of freedom of expression, democratic accountability and the rule of law are integral to the principle of open justice and they are beyond question. […]’ (§ 41, supra)

Continue reading ‘What’s in a Name? Counter-Terrorism Measures v Open Justice’

Freedom to incite?

Muslim nations across the world have appealed to the US government to stop plans of a US pastor to publicly burn Korans on the anniversary of September 11. The Indian government has called for a media blackout, urging media outlets not to publish images of the event. Despite widespread criticism, US officials have stated that First Amendment constitutional rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly and religion, prevent them from prohibiting the event.

Pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, United States, has said that he will go ahead with the event, insisting that the burning is a way to “confront terrorism”. The controversy comes at a time of heightened tensions in the US about the role of Islam, following heated debate about plans to build an Islamic centre close to Ground Zero in New York.

US military commanders have warned that the burning could spark violent retaliation against US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Senior members of the Obama administration, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and leading Christian and Jewish figures have condemned the planned event.


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