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Singapore activist found guilty of hosting ‘illegal assembly’ via Skype

An ongoing case in Singapore is testing the legal boundaries of virtual conferences. A court in the Southeast Asian city-state this week convicted human rights activist Jolovan Wham of organizing a public assembly via Skype without a permit and refusing to sign his statement when ordered by the police.

Wham will be sentenced on January 23 and faces a fine of up to S$5,000 or a jail term of up to three years. The judge in charge of the case, however, has not provided grounds of his decision, Wham wrote on Twitter.

I’ve been found guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. But the grounds of decision are not available yet. The judge also did not explain his decision in court. https://t.co/1DjXMUV0tN

— Jolovan Wham (@jolovanwham) January 3, 2019

Wham, 39, is a social worker at Community Action Network Singapore consisting of a group of activists, social workers and journalists advocating civil and political rights. He previously served as executive director of migrant worker advocacy group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics.

On November 26, 2016, Wham organized an indoor forum called “Civil Disobedience and Social Movements” at a small event space inside a shopping mall in Singapore. The event featured prominent Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong who addressed the audience remotely via a Skype video call.

The event’s Facebook Page indicates that 355 people were interested and 121 went. The Skype discussion, which lasted around two hours, was also live streamed on Facebook by The Online Citizen SG, a social media platform focused on political activism, and garnered 5,700 views.

Despite being advised by the police prior to the event to obtain a permit, Wham proceeded without said consent, according to a statement by the Singapore Police Force. Wham faced similar charges of organizing public assemblies without police permits and refusing to sign statements under the Penal Code.

In Singapore, it is a criminal offence under the Public Order Act to organize or participate in a public assembly without a police permit. The Police described Wham’s act as “recalcitrant” in regard to organizing and participating in illegal public assemblies.

Commenting on the charge against Wham, a joint statement from Joshua Wong and members of CAN Singapore argued that the event was “closed-door”.

“Skype conversations that take place within the confines of a private space are private matters that should logically, not require permits before they can be carried out,” raged the statement. “Wham’s discussion with Wong ended peacefully and would not have drawn any further attention if authorities hadn’t decided to act.”

“It was a discussion about civil disobedience and social movements,” Wham pointed out in another Twitter post. “The law says that any event which is open to the public, and is ’cause related’, requires a permit when a foreigner speaks. What is considered ’cause related’ isn’t clear.”

Debullshitifying the free speech debate about CNN and Trump's alt-right wrestling GIF

In the wake of CNN threatening to out a critic if he does not limit his speech in the future, former federal prosecutor and First Amendment champion Ken White has published an eminently sensible post about the incoherence of the present moment’s views on free speech, and on the way that partisanship causes us to apply a double standard that excuses “our bunch” and damns the “other side.”
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Techdirt is being sued by the “I invented email” guy and needs money to fight the case

Indie news outlet Techdirt is being sued for $15M by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email in 1978, eight years after Ray Tomlinson sent an email over ARPANET; Ayyadurai is represented by Charles Harder, a key figure in the Gawker-killing legal campaign that Peter Thiel financed, and who is also representing Melania Trump in her $150m lawsuit against The Daily Mail.
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Google wins ‘right to be forgotten’ battle in Japan

google-shop13 Google has won a long-standing battle in Japan that drew parallels with Europe’s “right to be forgotten” ruling. The Japanese Supreme Court today dismissed four cases against the U.S. company seeking the removal of allegedly defamatory comments in its Google Maps service, including one high-profile case involving a medical clinic. Back in April 2015, the Chiba District… Read More

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Six essays on media, technology and politics from Data & Society

danah boyd writes, “Yesterday, a group of us at Data & Society put out six essays on ‘media, technology, politics.’ Taken
together, these pieces address different facets of the current public
conversation surrounding propaganda, hate speech, and the US election.
Although we only allude to specifics, we have been witnessing
mis/disinformation campaigns for quite some time as different networks
seek to manipulate both old and new media, shape political discourse,
and undermine trust in institutions and information intermediaries. In
short, we are concerned about the rise of a new form of propaganda that
is networked, decentralized, and internet-savvy. We are also concerned
about the ongoing development of harassment techniques and gaslighting,
the vulnerability of old and new media to propagate fear and
disinformation, and the various ways in which well-intended
interventions get misappropriated. We believe that we’re
watching a systematic attack on democracy, equality, and freedom. There
is no silver bullet to address the issues we’re seeing. Instead,
a healthy response is going to require engagement by many different
constituencies. We see our role in this as to help inform and ground the
conversation. These essays are our first attempt to address the
interwoven issues we’re seeing.
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