It is now becoming commonplace for security offices at colleges and universities to monitor the social-media accounts of members of the College community for potential threats, crimes, and miscellaneous troublemaking. Sometimes they outsource the work to specialist companies (such as Social Sentinel, which curates and customizes a list of several thousand words whose appearance in posts can trigger investigations).
“Big Brother: College Edition”
Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed, December 21, 2017
“Social Media Monitoring: Beneficial or Big Brother?”
Amy Rock, Campus Safety Magazine, March 12, 2018
“University Police Surveil Student Social Media in Attempt to Make Campus Safer”
Ryne Weiss, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, March 16, 2018
Put yourself in the shoes of a student on campus. What would you do if you're aware that anything you post may be flagged by the school administration or police for containing one of the keywords in Social Sentinel's library of harm? Do you make the decision to tweet less? Do you restrict your posts to friends only? It seems hard to imagine how you could moderate your tweets to avoid thousands of words when you have no idea what they are.
And assume you do get flagged and questioned by police. Many people would probably change their behavior. And while people might want to be mindful of what they post publicly online, fear of police and their school monitoring them and misinterpreting their messages shouldn't be something students have to navigate. …
The free exchange of ideas on campus is an invaluable and irreplaceable part of the ideal college experience, and the chilling effect of student social media surveillance actively undermines that.
“Arizona's Anti-BDS Statute Lands Arizona State University in Federal Court”
Adam Steinbaugh, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, March 12, 2018
Earlier this month, the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit against Arizona State University on behalf of Hatem Bazian, a Berkeley lecturer and chair of American Muslims for Palestine, who was invited to speak at ASU by the university's Muslim Students Association. The agreement provided to him by ASU contained a provision — required by Arizona state law — demanding that he affirm he will not boycott Israel. Bazian's planned presentation concerned the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement targeting Israel.
Arizona's statute prohibits any “public entity” from entering into any “contract with a company to acquire or dispose of services … unless the contract includes a written certification that the company is not currently engaged in, and agrees for the duration of the contract to not engage in, a boycott of Israel.” The statute broadly defines “boycott,” in turn, to include not simply refusing to engage in business, but undertaking “other actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel.”
The article reproduces the offending contract and includes some plausible legal argumentation explaining why the legislative language “contract with a company to acquire or dispose of services” really does apply to a contract with an individual to give a talk.
Arizona is only one of twenty-four states, including Iowa, that has passed ridiculous and patently unconstitutional legislation of this kind. Pulling this crap is going to get us into several different kinds of trouble:
“State Anti-BDS Laws Are Hitting Unintended Targets and Nobody's Happy”
Ron Kampeas, The Times of Israel, October 24, 2017
“John Perry Barlow, Internet Pioneer, 1947—2018”
Cindy Cohn, Deeplinks, Electronic Frontier Foundation, February 7, 2018
Major parts of the Internet we all know and love exist and thrive because of Barlow's vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance. …
Barlow's lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth … a world where anyone, anywhere, may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”
Good news! Some federal judges are still acquainted with the Constitution!
“In a Major Free Speech Victory, a Federal Court Strikes Down a Law That Punishes Supporters of Israel Boycott”
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, January 31, 2018
The enjoined law, enacted last year by the Kansas legislature, requires all state contractors — as a prerequisite to receiving any paid work from the state — “to certify that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel.” The month before the law was implemented, Esther Koontz, a Mennonite who works as a curriculum teacher for the Kansas public school system, decided that she would boycott goods made in Israel, motivated in part by a file she had seen detailing the abuse of Palestinians by the occupying Israeli government, and in part by a resolution enacted by the national Mennonite Church. …
A month after this law become effective, Koontz, having just completed a training program to teach new courses, was offered a position at a new Kansas school. But, as the court recounts, “the program director asked Ms. Koontz to sign a certification confirming that she was not participating in a boycott of Israel, as the Kansas Law requires.” Koontz ultimately replied that she was unable and unwilling to sign such an oath because she is, in fact, participating in a boycott of Israel. As a result, she was told that no contract could be signed with her.
In response to being denied this job due to her political views, Koontz retained the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the commissioner of education, asking a federal court to enjoin enforcement of the law on the grounds that denying Koontz a job due to her boycotting of Israel violates her First Amendment rights. The court on Tuesday agreed and preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the law.