October 27, 2014

IFAction News Roundup, October 19 — October 25, 2014

The Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. Click here to subscribe to this list. For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit the IF Action archive. Below is a sample of articles from September 19  — September 25, 2014.

Filtering, Censorship, Whistle blowing, Free Press, and Free Speech Articles  

ACLU, Liberals Express Concern Over Houston’s Subpoenas of Sermons

Houston Hustle – Claim: The city of Houston, Texas, subpoenaed several pastors’ sermons as part of a crackdown on preaching against homosexuality.

For Art’s Sake! Prisoner Sues over Book Ban [CT]

Copyright Law Stifling Free Speech And Artistic Criticism

FCC Warns Political Campaigns and Promoters Against Robocall Abuse

 

Access, the Digital Divide, Net Neutrality, and Intellectual Property Protection Articles

Three House Dems, three proposals for net neutrality. Here’s what they look like.

The right wasn’t always opposed to regulations protecting online innovation

With no internet at home, kids crowd libraries for online homework

Four ways to advocate for school libraries

Letter: Make Park Ridge library users pay for the use of the library [IL]

 

Privacy, Surveillance, Hacking, and Cybersecurity Articles    

FEMA administrator warns of cellphone vulnerabilities during disasters

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on Defining Privacy

[Omaha] Mayor’s Office proposes letting police check out library patron information

The internet of things is here, but the rules to run it are not

Youth Internet Safety: Risks, Responses, and Research Recommendations

October 16, 2014

Highland Park, Texas censoring books based on ALA’s Most Frequently Challenged List

highlandparksevenlongwhiteThe Highland Park, TX Independent School District has been in the news recently regarding seven books that were unilaterally suspended last month from the English curriculum by Superintendent Dawson Orr.

Opponents to several titles questioned how books are chosen for school assignments and they have demanded that books be removed until they have been re-approved by new committees.  On September 24, parents in the school district received an email from Superintendent Dawson Orr and Principal Walter Kelly responding to the requests. You can read in the email that books (Nineteen Minutes and Perks of Being a Wallflower) that were on the approved list before have been removed. Seven books were suspended from the current curriculum.  And books that may have “unsuitable” content now require a parent permission form.

Dr. Dawson Orr received a lot of criticism for banning the books. Many parents joined efforts to reverse his action.  There were many concerns about how removing the books would effect the standing of AP classes with the College Board. And parents demanded that their children have the freedom to read books that were chosen by professionally educated teachers. In Dr. Orr’s September 29 email to parents, he openly takes responsibility, explains his reasoning, and apologizes for his misstep. While the superintendent has since reinstated those books to the reading list, there is still much discussion about district policy, book selection, and permission slips.

According to the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, parent permission slips should be sent home for all books that meet the following criteria:

  • Books that currently are being challenged by HPISD parents
  • Books that are on the American Library Association’s Top 10 Challenged Book List by Year — going back 10 years (http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10)
  • Books that have been indicated by our local HPHS literary selection committee as needing a permission slip

This is where the Office for Intellectual Freedom has stepped in. OIF Director Barbara Jones submitted a letter to the school board, superintendent, and principal expressing concern at the use of permission forms and particularly at the use of ALA’s annual Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged and Banned Books List as a means of identifying so-called “objectionable texts.”  In the letter, Jones writes:

[ALA’s] Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged or Banned Books List is not and has never been a judgment on the quality or educational suitability of a work or a valid designation that the book is “objectionable.” This is especially so since many challenges to books are determined to be without merit. Indeed, many challenges are motivated not by a challenger’s concern about educational suitability but instead by the challenger’s discriminatory and often unconstitutional beliefs regarding literature that incorporates themes and elements addressing race, religion, homosexuality, or unorthodox views. These biased and uninformed challenges, often disguised as an “unsuited for age group” objection, should never be used as grounds for determining restrictions on public school books and curricula. Employing the ALA’s Top Ten Most Challenged or Banned Books List as a curriculum standard substitutes the unthinking opinion of a crowd for the considered judgment of the professional educators on your
faculty.

Moreover, delegating the Board’s legal authority to determine what books may be freely taught in the classroom to a private association like the ALA raises certain due process issues, especially when the criteria used to determine the ALA Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged and Banned Books list are not narrowly and reasonably drawn definitive standards but the mere circumstance that someone, somewhere, complained about the book for any one of a number of reasons.

Read the rest of the letter from OIF here.

The Highland Park School Board met on Tuesday night and the issue continued to dominate discussion.  Read a report of the meeting here.

October 13, 2014

E-books and Privacy …. Again.

A few years ago, after the disclosure that Amazon was collecting and storing user data associated with the loan of library e-books to Kindle users, I wrote an article briefly exploring the “digital dilemma” associated with providing users access to e-books and other resources via third party vendors. At the time I noted that

[t]he current model of digital content delivery for libraries places library users’ privacy at risk. Authorizing the loan of an ebook or the use of a database can communicate unique identifiers or personally identifiable information that reveals a user’s identity. Databases and e-readers create records of users’ intellectual activities that can include search terms, highlighted phrases, and what pages the individuals actually read. Easily aggregated–and then associated–with a particular user, such records can be used against the reader as evidence of intent or belief, especially if the records are stored on vendors’ servers, where they are subject to discovery by law enforcement.

Now the same issue has arisen in regards to Adobe Digital Editions’ collection of reader data and its transmission back to Adobe as unencrypted data sent through unsecured networks.  The Library Information Technology Association’s LITA Blog outlines the technical issues.  ALA President Courtney Young has commented on the issue and outlines ALA’s  planned response.

The ethical issues are clear: it is the responsibility of librarians to establish policies to prevent any threat to privacy posed by new technologies. Libraries need to ensure that contracts and licenses reflect their policies and legal obligations concerning user privacy and confidentiality. Whenever a third party has access to personally identifiable information (PII), the agreements need to address appropriate restrictions on the use, aggregation, dissemination, and sale of that information, particularly information about minors. In circumstances in which there is a risk that PII may be disclosed, the library should warn its users. (See Questions 13 and 22 in the IFC’s  Q & A on Privacy and Confidentiality, and Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.) In addition, careful thought should be given to the kinds of data that are collected and stored about library users’ reading habits; no personally identifiable data should be collected unless it is essential for the provision of resources and services to the library user, and any data collected should be discarded as soon as it is no longer needed (See the 2006 Resolution on the Retention of Library Usage Records.)

The legal issues are murkier. The majority of state library confidentiality records require libraries to prevent disclosure of library users’ records to third parties in the absence of user consent or a court order or other legal process compelling disclosure. But these laws often do not govern the behavior of third party vendors entrusted with library users’ information. Both Missouri and California have tried to address this by amending their library confidentiality laws to extend the duty to protect library user records to vendors.  (See Missouri §185.815 – §185.817, amended and Cal. Gov. Code §6267.)   Ultimately, however,  the library must be responsible for assuring the privacy and confidentiality of their users’ records.

As libraries move to adopt digital content and new technologies, librarians need to assure that the use of library users’ data for these services does not weaken privacy protections for library users’ data or blur the line between public and confidential records. This will require a firm commitment to the profession’s obligation to protect the confidentiality of library users’ information and the will to advocate for greater legal protections for library users’ data that ensure reader privacy and protect against censorship, whether it is a private, contractual arrangement with the vendor or a public policy solution that includes amending or adopting library confidentiality laws that apply equally to any entity, public or private, that manages, stores, or uses library user data.

October 3, 2014

Persepolis removed, then reinstated in Chatham, IL

It was a quiet but happy day when OIF was informed by librarian Susan Klontz that Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis will continue to be read by Glenwood High School seniors in the small Central Illinois town of Chatham.

Klontz contacted OIF after the book, which was assigned for a human rights unit, was recalled from the students following a parent’s complaint to the Ball-Chatham School District superintendent.

Per school policy, a committee was formed to evaluate the text and review the parent’s complaint. NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) provided a stellar rationale for the book. ALA provided additional support in the form of reviews, articles about the value of graphic novels, and suggestions for engaging community support.  Several organizations provided letters of support to those opposed to the ban – see OIF’s letter, below.

On Monday evening Principal Jim Lee presented the committee findings and letters of support to the board of education, which then voted unanimously to retain the selection.  Read the local State Journal-Register newspaper article here.

A huge thank you to NCAC (National Coalition Against Censorship), ABFFE (American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression), AAP (Association of American Publishers), CBLDF (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund), NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), and PEN for supporting Glenwood High School, their teachers, librarians, and especially their students.

For more information about reporting challenges to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, visit our Challenge Reporting website.

ala.persepolis1 ala.persepolis2

September 30, 2014

IFAction News Roundup, September 21 — September 27, 2014

The Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. Click here to subscribe to this list. For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit the IF Action archive. Below is a sample of articles from September 21 — September 27, 2014.

Filtering, Censorship, Whistle blowing, Free Press, and Free Speech Articles  

Why Gay Characters Matter

Challenges to books at Inland schools stir debate

Banned Books By The Numbers (INFOGRAPHICS)

Arizona Could Send You to Prison for Sharing Nude Celebrity Pictures

Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music

 

Access, the Digital Divide, Net Neutrality, and Intellectual Property Protection Articles

‘Piracy’ That Creates Amazing New Music

Connecting All Schools and Libraries — Learning from State Strategies and Data

World Wide Web inventor slams Internet fast lanes: ‘It’s bribery.’

Digital Education: One Giant Leap for Students – and Teachers Too?

Academic Skills on Web Are Tied to Income Level

 

Privacy, Surveillance, Hacking, and Cybersecurity Articles    

Google and Apple Won’t Unlock Your Phone, But a Court Can Make You Do It

We know the password system is broken. So what’s next?

Collaborative Approaches for Medical Device and Healthcare Cybersecurity; Public Workshop; Request for Comments

Lawmakers seek new powers for privacy board

Facebook’s Fine Print Includes Permission to Track

 

September 24, 2014

Midweek Round Up: Banned Books Week Across the Country

Cross-posted to bannedbooksweek.org

We are already halfway through Banned Books Week, and the response has been overwhelming! There have been so many events, articles, and conversations that it’s hard to keep up. Once again the creativity of those marking this occasion continues to impress.

Here are just a few standouts:

  • Dav Pilkey, Creator of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, the number one most banned book in 2013, created this video on banning books.
  • Sherman Alexie, one of the most frequently challenged authors in America, discusses book banning, censorship, and the erotic novel in this video.
  • Jeff Bridges, actor, and banned authors Ana Castillo and Lois Lowry join hundreds for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out. Check back to www.youtube.com/bannedbooksweek for more videos including one from legendary comic creator, Stan Lee (coming soon).
  • Books, Inc., an independently owned and operated bookseller in California created this promotional video for Banned Books Week.
  • Mooresville Public LIbrary, of Mooresville, Indiana, created another promotional video for Banned Books Week.
  • A “Which Banned Book Are You” quiz was developed by librarians at Columbus State Community College (CSCC) in Ohio to celebrate Banned Books Week. CSCC is one of seven recipients of grants from the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund.
  • Jeff Smith, best-selling author of the graphic album series BONE, wrote this Reading Rainbow blog on behalf of Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community —- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types —- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, National Association of College Stores, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, PEN American Center, and Project Censored. Banned Books Week is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress

More information is available at www.bannedbooksweek.org

 

September 23, 2014

Celebrating Banned Books Week and Ana Castillo for the Virtual Read-Out!

Happy third day of Banned Books Week! We hope you are enjoying the week by reading your favorite banned/challenged book! If you would like ideas on what to read, please check out our frequently challenged books section for some ideas.  Other ways to get involved:

  1. Find an event in your community at: http://bannedbooksweek.org/events
  2. Follow us on Twitter at @BannedBooksWeek and Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/bannedbooksweek for the latest news and updates
  3. Add our Twibbon to your profile pic: http://twb.ly/432U2GAF
  4. Tape yourself reading from your favorite banned book during our Virtual Read-Outhttp://www.bannedbooksweek.org/virtualreadoutsubmission
  5. Attend the SAGE/OIF Banned Books Week webinar, which takes place tomorrow, Wednesday, September 24, at noon (EST): http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=5122

Our sponsors have also been busy planning events and rallying their communities. Learn more:

  1. American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression’s Banned Books Week Handbook and press release
  2. American Library Association press release
  3. Association of American Publishers press release
  4. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Banned Books Week Tour
  5. Freedom to Read Foundation Krug-Sponsored Banned Books Week events
  6. National Coalition Against Censorship events

And now, without further ado, check out the video of Ana Castillo, author of “So Far From God,” “Loverboys,” and many more. Both “So Far From God,” and “Loverboys,” are two titles on the list in the banned book controversy with the TUSD in Arizona. For more Virtual Read-Out videos, check out www.youtube.com/bannedbooksweek.

For more information about Banned Books Week, please visit www.ala.org/bannedbooksweek and www.bannedbooksweek.org.

September 22, 2014

Celebrating Banned Books Week with Dav Pilkey, creator of Captain Underpants

Happy Banned Books Week! We hope you are celebrating your freedom to read by reading your favorite banned book.

It’s day two of Banned Books Week. Many libraries, bookstores, schools, and communities across the country and around the world are celebrating this week by hosting read outs and various other wonderful events. To find one in your area, go to http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/events.

If you cannot attend an in person event, we hope you will consider joining us for the SAGE/ALA OIF free webinar online: Regional Issues for Banned Books in 2014, on Wednesday, September 24, 9am PT/12pm ET. Register today!

We also hope you consider contributing a video for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out! Instructions on what to do can be found at http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek/events/virtualreadout/participate. Check out the videos we’ve received thus far on www.youtube.com/bannedbooksweek.

And speaking of the Virtual Read-Out, Dav Pilkey, the creator of Captain Underpants, which is the most frequently challenged book of 2012 and 2013, created a video in celebration of the week:

To learn more about Banned Books Week, check out www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek, and www.bannedbooksweek.org.

September 19, 2014

IFAction News Roundup, September 7 — September 13, 2014

The Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. Click here to subscribe to this list. For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit the IF Action archive. Below is a sample of articles from September 7 — September 13, 2014.

Filtering, Censorship, Whistle blowing, Free Press, and Free Speech Articles  

A Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Relating to Contributions and Expenditures Intended to Affect Elections

Another Problem with Banned Books Talk

A Whistle-Blower Spurs Self-Scrutiny in College Sports [UNC Chapel Hill]

Drag queens in Facebook name row

 

Access, the Digital Divide, Net Neutrality, and Intellectual Property Protection Articles

The State Department’s plan to spark a global SOPA-style uprising around Internet governance

Broadband policy history reflects unusual bipartisanship

Is the library dead? The answer is complicated

Libraries may digitize books without permission, EU top court rules

TV monitoring service is fair use, judge rules

 

Privacy, Surveillance, Hacking, and Cybersecurity Articles    

Legal memos released on Bush-era justification for warrantless wiretapping

Devastating ‘Heartbleed’ flaw was unknown before disclosure, study finds

Spy court renews NSA metadata program

Yahoo ‘threatened’ by US government with $250,000-a-day fine

Five million Gmail addresses and passwords dumped online

September 16, 2014

Affirm the Freedom to Read During Banned Books Week, Sept. 21-27, 2014

It may surprise some to find out there are hundreds of reported attempts to ban books every year in the United States. It may be even more astounding for them to hear that since 1990, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has received reports of more than 18,000 attempts to remove materials in schools and libraries for content deemed by some as inappropriate, controversial or even dangerous.

Banned Books Week, Sept. 21 — 27, 2014, reminds Americans about the importance of preventing censorship and ensuring everyone’s freedom to read any book they choose. According to ALA’s OIF, for every banned book reported, there are many more that are not.

This year’s Banned Books Week is spotlighting graphic novels because, despite their literary merit and popularity as a format, they are often subject to censorship. Graphic novels continually show up on the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Top 10 List of Most Frequently Challenged Books. The most current list for 2013 includes two graphic novels: Dav Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants” series at the top spot and Jeff Smith’s series “Bone” at #10.

“Our most basic freedom in a democratic society is our first amendment right of the freedom to read,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “Banned Books Week is an opportunity for all of us — community residents, librarians, authors and educators — to stand together protecting this fundamental right for everyone and for future generations. We can never take this precious right for granted.”

Banned Books Week has been celebrating the freedom to read for 32 years. Libraries, schools and bookstores across the country will commemorate Banned Books Week by hosting special events and exhibits on the power of words and the harms of censorship. On Sept. 24, SAGE and ALA’s OIF will present a free webinar discussing efforts to un-ban books by visiting activists and speakers in London, Charleston, S.C., Houston and California. For the fourth year the public is invited to read from their favorite banned books by participating in the popular Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out on YouTube.

Past participants have included highly acclaimed and/or frequently challenged authors such as Judy Blume, Chris Crutcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Lauren Myracle and many more. This year’s new videos will feature Ana Castillo, Stan Lee and Lois Lowry, among others.

In addition to book challenges, online resources, including legitimate educational websites and academically useful social networking tools, are being overly blocked and filtered in school libraries. To help raise awareness, the American Association of School Libraries (AASL), a division of the ALA, has designated one day during Banned Books Week as Banned Websites Awareness Day, Wednesday, Sept. 24. During Banned Websites Awareness Day, the AASL is asking school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how excessive filtering affects student achievement.

Many bookstores, schools and libraries celebrating Banned Books Week will showcase selections from the ALA OIF’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2013. The list is released each spring and provides a snapshot of book removal attempts in the U.S. The Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2013 reflects a range of themes and consists of the following titles:

  1. “Captain Underpants” (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie.|
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  4. “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. “A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl,” by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. “Bless Me Ultima,” by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. “Bone” (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, National Association of College Stores, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, PEN American Center, People For the American Way and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

For more information on Banned Books Week, book challenges and censorship, please visit the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books website or bannedbooksweek.org.