New Lawsuit Challenges FOSTA – The Federal Law Sparking Website Shutdowns

New Lawsuit Challenges FOSTA – The Federal Law Sparking Website Shutdowns
Fears of Criminal Charges Muzzle Online Speech about Sex Work and Force Community Forums Offline
Jun 28 2018

San Francisco – Two human rights organizations, a digital library, an activist for sex workers, and a certified massage therapist have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to block enforcement of FOSTA, the new federal law that silences online speech by forcing speakers to self-censor and requiring platforms to censor their users. The plaintiffs are represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP, Walters Law Group, and Daphne Keller.

In Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al. v. United States, the plaintiffs argue that FOSTA is unconstitutional, muzzling online speech that protects and advocates for sex workers and forces well-established, general interest community forums offline for fear of criminal charges and heavy civil liability for things their users might share.

FOSTA, or the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, was passed by Congress in March. But instead of focusing on the perpetrators of sex trafficking, FOSTA goes after online speakers, imposing harsh penalties for any website that might “facilitate” prostitution or “contribute to sex trafficking.” The vague language and multiple layers of ambiguity are driving constitutionally protected speech off the Internet at a rapid pace.

For example, plaintiff the Woodhull Freedom Foundation works to support the health, safety, and protection of sex workers, among other things. Woodhull wanted to publish information on its website to help sex workers understand what FOSTA meant to them. But instead, worried about liability under FOSTA, Woodhull was forced to censor its own speech and the speech of others who wanted to contribute to their blog. Woodhull is also concerned about the impact of FOSTA on its upcoming annual summit, scheduled for next month.

“FOSTA chills sexual speech and harms sex workers,” said Ricci Levy, executive director Woodhull Freedom Foundation. “It makes it harder for people to take care of and protect themselves, and, as an organization working to protect people’s fundamental human rights, Woodhull is deeply concerned about the damaging impact that this law will have on all people.”

FOSTA calls into serious question the legality of online speech that advocates for the decriminalization of sex work, or provides health and safety information to sex workers. Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international organization that is also a plaintiff, advocates globally for ways to protect sex workers from violence, health risks, and other human rights abuses. The group is concerned that its efforts to expose abuses against sex workers and decriminalize voluntary sex work could be seen as “facilitating” “prostitution,” or in some way assisting sex trafficking.

“HRW relies heavily on individuals spreading its reporting and advocacy through social media,” said Dinah Pokempner, HRW General Counsel. “We are worried that social media platforms and websites may block the sharing of this information out of concern it could be seen as demonstrating a “reckless disregard” of sex trafficking activities under FOSTA. This law is the wrong approach to the scourge of sex trafficking.”

But FOSTA doesn’t just impede the work of sex educators and activists. It also led to the shutdown of Craigslist’s “Therapeutic Services” section, which has imperiled the business of a licensed massage therapist who is another plaintiff in this case. The Internet Archive joined this lawsuit against FOSTA because the law might hinder its work of cataloging and storing 330 billion web pages from 1996 to the present.



Our natural world is disappearing before our eyes. We have to save it

Our natural world is disappearing before our eyes. We have to save it
The creatures we feared our grandchildren wouldn’t see have vanished: it’s happened faster than even pessimists predicted
By George Monbiot
Jun 29 2018

It felt as disorienting as forgetting my pin number. I stared at the caterpillar, unable to attach a name to it. I don’t think my mental powers are fading: I still possess an eerie capacity to recall facts and figures and memorise long screeds of text. This is a specific loss. As a child and young adult, I delighted in being able to identify almost any wild plant or animal. And now it has gone. This ability has shrivelled from disuse: I can no longer identify them because I can no longer find them.

Perhaps this forgetfulness is protective. I have been averting my eyes. Because I cannot bear to see what we have done to nature, I no longer see nature itself; otherwise, the speed of loss would be unendurable. The collapse can be witnessed from one year to the next. The swift decline of the swift (down 25% in five years) is marked by the loss of the wild screams that, until very recently, filled the skies above my house. My ambition to see the seabird colonies of Shetland and St Kilda has been replaced by the intention never to visit those islands during the breeding season: I could not bear to see the empty cliffs, where populations have crashed by some 90% in the past two decades.

I have lived long enough to witness the vanishing of wild mammals, butterflies, mayflies, songbirds and fish that I once feared my grandchildren would not experience: it has all happened faster than even the pessimists predicted. Walking in the countryside or snorkelling in the sea is now as painful to me as an art lover would find visits to a gallery, if on every occasion another old master had been cut from its frame.

The cause of this acceleration is no mystery. The United Nations reports that our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years. The great expansion of mining, logging, meat production and industrial fishing is cleansing the planet of its wild places and natural wonders. What economists proclaim as progress, ecologists recognise as ruin.

This is what has driven the quadrupling of oceanic dead zones since 1950; the “biological annihilation” represented by the astonishing collapse of vertebrate populations; the rush to carve up the last intact forests; the vanishing of coral reefs, glaciers and sea ice; the shrinkage of lakes, the drainage of wetlands. The living world is dying of consumption.

We have a fatal weakness: a failure to perceive incremental change. As natural systems shift from one state to another, we almost immediately forget what we have lost. I have to make a determined effort to remember what I saw in my youth. Could it really be true that every patch of nettles, at this time of year, was reamed with caterpillar holes? That flycatchers were so common I scarcely gave them a second glance? That the rivers, around the autumn equinox, were almost black with eels?

Others seem oblivious. When I have criticised current practice, farmers have sent me images of verdant monocultures of perennial ryegrass, with the message: “Look at this and try telling me we don’t look after nature.” It’s green, but it’s about as ecologically rich as an airport runway.

One reader, Michael Groves, records the shift he has seen in the field beside his house, where the grass that used to be cut for hay is now cut for silage. Watching the cutters being driven at great speed across the field, he realised that any remaining wildlife would be shredded. Soon afterwards, he saw a roe deer standing in the mown grass. She stayed throughout the day and the following night. When he went to investigate, he found her fawn, its legs amputated. “I felt sickened, angry and powerless … how long had it taken to die?” That “grass-fed meat” the magazines and restaurants fetishise? This is the reality.

When our memories are wiped as clean as the land, we fail to demand its restoration. Our forgetting is a gift to industrial lobby groups and the governments that serve them. Over the past few months I have been told repeatedly that the environment secretary, Michael Gove, gets it. I have said so myself: he genuinely seems to understand what the problems are and what needs to be done. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do it.


Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening

[Note: Odd item buried in this article: “Justice Kennedy’s son is Deutsche Bank’s global head of real estate capital markets. Also, Deutsche Bank loaned over $1 billion in loans to Trump when mainstream banks were wary of doing business with him because of his troubled business history.”  DLH]

Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening
By Adam Liptak and Maggie Haberman
Jun 28 2018

WASHINGTON — President Trump singled him out for praise even while attacking other members of the Supreme Court. The White House nominated people close to him to important judicial posts. And members of the Trump family forged personal connections.

Their goal was to assure Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that his judicial legacy would be in good hands should he step down at the end of the court’s term that ended this week, as he was rumored to be considering. Allies of the White House were more blunt, warning the 81-year-old justice that time was of the essence. There was no telling, they said, what would happen if Democrats gained control of the Senate after the November elections and had the power to block the president’s choice as his successor.

There were no direct efforts to pressure or lobby Justice Kennedy to announce his resignation on Wednesday, and it was hardly the first time a president had done his best to create a court opening. “In the past half-century, presidents have repeatedly been dying to take advantage of timely vacancies,” said Laura Kalman, a historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

But in subtle and not so subtle ways, the White House waged a quiet campaign to ensure that Mr. Trump had a second opportunity in his administration’s first 18 months to fulfill one of his most important campaign promises to his conservative followers — that he would change the complexion and direction of the Supreme Court.

When Mr. Trump took office last year, he already had a Supreme Court vacancy to fill, the one created by the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. But Mr. Trump dearly wanted a second vacancy, one that could transform the court for a generation or more. So he used the first opening to help create the second one. He picked Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who had served as a law clerk to Justice Kennedy, to fill Justice Scalia’s seat.

And when Justice Gorsuch took the judicial oath in April 2017 at a Rose Garden ceremony, Justice Kennedy administered it — after Mr. Trump first praised the older justice as “a great man of outstanding accomplishment.”

“Throughout his nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court,” Mr. Trump said, “Justice Kennedy has been praised by all for his dedicated and dignified service.”

That was an overstatement. Justice Kennedy is reviled by many of Mr. Trump’s supporters for voting to uphold access to abortion, limit the death penalty and expand gay rights. Conservatives have called for his impeachment. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, once called Justice Kennedy “the most dangerous man in America.”

Mr. Trump himself said he wanted to appoint justices who would overrule Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion. Justice Kennedy has voted to reaffirm Roe’s core holding. And Mr. Trump has not hesitated to criticize far more conservative members of the Supreme Court, notably Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“Justice Roberts turned out to be an absolute disaster, he turned out to be an absolute disaster because he gave us Obamacare,” Mr. Trump said in 2016, presumably referring to Chief Justice Roberts’s votes to sustain President Barack Obama’s health care law.

There is reason to think, then, that Mr. Trump’s praise of Justice Kennedy was strategic.

Then, after Justice Gorsuch’s nomination was announced, a White House official singled out two candidates for the next Supreme Court vacancy: Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Judge Raymond M. Kethledge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati.


Supreme Court Will Hear Case on Whether The 50 States Must Comply with U.S. Constitution’s Excessive Fines Clause

[Note:  This item comes from friend Judi Clark.  DLH]

Supreme Court Will Hear Case on Whether The 50 States Must Comply with U.S. Constitution’s Excessive Fines Clause
Indiana man requested Supreme Court review after state supreme court held that Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause does not apply in Indiana.
By John Kramer
Jun 18 2018

This morning (June 18, 2018), the U.S. Supreme Court granted review of a case that has nationwide implications for both property rights and criminal justice. The question presented is whether the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause protects against sanctions imposed by state and local authorities.

The appeal is brought by Indiana resident Tyson Timbs, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ).

The case at the heart of this important constitutional debate deals with Tyson, a young man who is overcoming opioid addiction, a recovery made all the more difficult by the government’s seizure of his only vehicle—a $40,000 vehicle he bought with the proceeds from his father’s life insurance policy. The vehicle was seized from him after he was convicted of selling $225 worth of drugs to undercover officers.

“Without my car, it is incredibly difficult to do all the things the government wants me to do to stay clean, like visit my probation officer, go to AA, and keep my job,” explained Tyson. “Right now, I’m borrowing my aunt’s car to go to work so we can pay the bills, and she has to take a bus back and forth to her kidney dialysis appointments. You need a car to do all of these things.”

Tyson continued, “Fighting to stay clean is hard enough. I pleaded guilty to my crime. I served one year of house arrest and paid $1,200 in court fees. I’ve served out my punishment, but now the government is going beyond seeking justice. It wants to punish me out of proportion to the crime I committed. I just want to get my vehicle back and keep my life on track.”

Within months of Tyson’s arrest, the state filed a “civil forfeiture” lawsuit to take title to his vehicle. But the trial court ruled against the government. Because taking Tyson’s car would be “grossly disproportionate” to his offense—for which Tyson had already been punished—the trial court held that the forfeiture would violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed. Tyson suffered from drug addiction, the court noted, but his only record of dealing was selling a small amount of drugs to undercover police. The court also noted the “financial burdens” that Tyson had already faced when he pleaded guilty. Taking his car on top of all that would violate the Eighth Amendment.

Then the Indiana Supreme Court stepped in. Breaking with at least 14 other state high courts, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment provides no protection at all against fines and forfeitures imposed by the states. Until the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, the Indiana Supreme Court said, “We will not impose federal obligations on the State that the federal government itself has not mandated.”

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review that decision.

“This case is about more than just a truck,” said Wesley Hottot, an attorney with the Institute for Justice. “The Excessive Fines Clause is a critical check on the government’s power to punish people and take their property. Without it, state and local law enforcement could confiscate everything a person owns based on a minor crime or—using civil forfeiture—no crime at all.”

“I’m thrilled the Supreme Court will be addressing this important issue,” said Tyson Timbs. “I committed a crime, then I did my time and cleaned up my life. But with forfeiture, they are trying to take away one of the few things I own—that I bought with money from my dad. Forfeiture only makes it more challenging for people in my position to clean up and become contributing members of society.”


The America We Thought We Knew Is Gone

[Note:  This item comes from friend Mike Cheponis.  DLH]

The America We Thought We Knew Is Gone
Jun 28 2018

Because countries are not people, it’s tricky to translate whatever “loving one’s country” means—it’s quite abstract—into the language of heartbreak. It sounds melodramatic. What can heartbreak mean as a civic matter? And yet it is what I feel.

A corrupt but weak president—this has been my comfort, his weakness—has been given a gift that will make him strong. After upholding the travel ban, weakening labor unions, and allowing crisis pregnancy centers to misrepresent themselves to women seeking help, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he was retiring before the midterm elections. That decision empowers a reality-television star who lost the popular vote by millions to reform the Supreme Court for at least a generation—a court that rather than rebut his claim to power has affirmed it. In his own branch, he asked James Comey for a loyalty oath and lamented not getting one from Jeff Sessions, whom he has repeatedly condemned for recusing himself in the Russia investigation, saying he never would have hired him as attorney general had he known. There is every reason to think he will do the same for a Supreme Court nominee. When Neil Gorsuch—who took the seat Mitch McConnell withheld from Merrick Garland—seemed to distance himself from the man who offered him the robes, Donald Trump reportedly considered pulling the nomination. Trump has said he will pardon himself if he needs to, a controversial stance that would likely need approval from the high court. Now he has been given a way to assure it. He holds the power over the person who can rubber-stamp him into invulnerability.

The capitulation of two branches of government to a terrifying third, elected by a minority, is not how our government was envisioned. That is frightening. It is also, depending on the America you want to live in, painful.

The problem isn’t simply that Trump—who styles himself a “law and order” president—values neither: He objected to the Central Park Five’s going free, despite the DNA evidence proving their innocence. He wanted their false imprisonment. It isn’t just that he advocates against due process, tars asylum applicants as criminals, and characterizes even their children as an “infestation.” It isn’t simply that he sees black men as intrinsically guilty, the same as brown refugees. It’s that he shouts about law and order while upholding the immunity of the rich and the cruel: He pardoned Joe Arpaio, who tortured undocumented immigrants in unlivable tent cities he openly called concentration camps, and, in pardoning Dinesh D’Souza, has signaled he will pardon his cronies if they are convicted for illegally helping him.

This is open corruption, and it has been openly embraced.

That fills me with grief, but my grief can’t make it untrue. And if this benthic sadness has any value, it’s that clarity. There is no more equivocating to do. You don’t have to equivocate about Trump’s corruption—or Wilbur Ross’, or Scott Pruitt’s. You don’t have to parse whether a “falsehood” is really a “lie.” It is simply true that the president is corrupt and that his supporters celebrate his corruption. That twisted power has enfeebled the institutions that depend on the very things the president would call weak—honesty and honor and service. As those institutions collapse, so does a polity capable of reasoning without them.

For instance: Confused by the fever that’s seized it, the country has spent days debating the “civility” of a restaurant owner who asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave, after she had defended the president’s policy of putting children in cages as a “deterrent” to other migrants. He called sitting members of Congress “crazy” and pettily insulted that same restaurant’s cleanliness. But Trump’s own discourse somehow doesn’t factor into this earnest discussion of civility.

It is as strange as it is dangerous that everyone—supporters and antagonists alike—now excises Trump from this discussion about how people should treat each other. Even more shocking, though, is that this impulse to cordon Trump off, either by forgiving or excepting him, has extended to the courts, where language must matter if the institution is to function. In upholding Trump’s ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries—which Sean Spicer spent days as Trump’s press secretary insisting was not a ban—the Supreme Court dismissed his many, many public statements that declared an intent to discriminate based on religion. (Note that the justices did the exact opposite—citing evidence that some members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission expressed “bias” against the baker’s religious belief—to rule in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.)


California passes ‘strongest in nation’ privacy bill limiting data harvesting

California passes ‘strongest in nation’ privacy bill limiting data harvesting
California Consumer Privacy Act gives people right to see information collected on them and request it be deleted
By Olivia Solon
Jun 28 2018

California has passed a landmark privacy bill that restricts the data-harvesting practices of technology companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon and gives consumers more control over their personal information.

The California Consumer Privacy Act is designed to provide new protections to the state’s 40 million residents in the wake of major privacy breaches including the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The new rules give Californians the right to see what information is being collected about them and to request that data be deleted, to find out whether their information is being sold to third parties including advertisers and to request that they stop doing so.

Consumer protection groups celebrated the passing of the bill as a major victory.

“The Consumer Privacy Act will allow consumers to take control of and make informed choices about their own data, control that fosters a healthy relationship to technology and overall digital wellbeing,” said Elizabeth Galicia, from Common Sense Media, which co-sponsored the bill. 

“Kids are the most tracked generation ever. Their personal information, activities and networks are exposed and often for sale from birth. This law is a strong first step in protecting kids and all consumers,” she added.

“This bill will be the strongest of its kind in the nation and enact safeguards we need in the 21st century,” said Senator Bill Dodd, one of the bill’s co-authors, ahead of the vote on Thursday. “Big data is big business. It’s time we regulate it appropriately and hold bad actors accountable.”

The bill is slated to come into effect on 1 January 2020. Companies could be penalised up to $7,500 for each violation. The rules will be enforced by California’s attorney general.

Facebook, Google, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon all donated $200,000 to create a $1m fund to oppose the California Consumer Privacy Act, and they are likely to spend the coming months lobbying to water down the law. 

“While this law adds a significant new layer of privacy protections for California consumers, even its authors have acknowledged it is far from perfect and will need revisions in the months ahead as its consequences and workability are better understood,” said Linda Moore, president and CEO of the lobby group TechNet.

The law was introduced late last week by the state senators Rob Hertzberg and Bill Dodd and the assembly member Ed Chau in a rush to pre-empt a stricter privacy ballot initiative that had gathered more than 600,000 signatures from Californians. The group behind the ballot initiative, Californians for Consumer Privacy, agreed to withdraw the ballot if the bill was passed this week.

The Internet Association, a technology trade group whose members include Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, expressed concern over the speed with which the law was passed. 

“Data regulation policy is complex and impacts every sector of the economy, including the internet industry. That makes the lack of public discussion and process surrounding this far-reaching bill even more concerning,” said Robert Callahan, vice-president of state government affairs.


This floating robotic factory will build satellites and spaceships in orbit

[Note:  This item comes from friend Robert Berger.  DLH]

This floating robotic factory will build satellites and spaceships in orbit
• Made in Space founders say 3-D printing will be key to colonizing space. 
• The company’s Archinaut system is a floating, robotic factory that can build satellites in orbit.
• Morgan Stanley expects the commercial space industry to triple by 2040.
By Katie Brigham & Lora Kolodny
Jun 23 2018

SpaceX is the best-known start-up in aerospace today. But what comes after reusable rockets?

The founders of Made in Space say 3-D printing is the key to colonizing space. That’s why they are developing the Archinaut, a floating factory to manufacture heavy equipment, even full satellites, in orbit.

The Archinaut is comprised of an industrial sized 3-D printer, cartridges full of plastics and alloys, and robotic arms programmed to assemble the big items extruded by the printer without any human supervision. All of the Archinaut’s components are rugged enough to survive in microgravity and harsh conditions like lunar dust storms and extreme temperatures.

CNBC visited the Made in Space headquarters at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California (NASA Research Park) to get a look at the Archinaut as engineers prepared it for a thermal vacuum test and to speak with Archinaut’s creators.

Aaron Kemmer, Made in Space’s co-founder and chairman, said the company plans to have the Archinaut launched and cranking out large items like trusses and reflectors for satellites within five years.

Eric Joyce, a project manager, added that the Archinaut should also be able to help astronauts repair their spaceships without having to improvise materials and take the kinds of risks that the Apollo 13 crew did back in 1970.

Ultimately, the company aims to use Archinaut to build entire spacecraft, space stations and habitats in orbit that can help people get to the Moon and Mars leapfrogging between structures along the way.

Investors are lining up to invest in space tech, pouring $3.9 billion into privately-held companies last year, according to a report from Space Angels. Morgan Stanley forecasts that the commercial space industry will triple in size by 2040.

But Made in Space is a rare bootstrapped business that’s growing fast in the industry. So far, the company has financed its operations with a series of government grants, revenue from research and development partnerships and sales of its services or systems.

Made in Space previously developed smaller 3-D printers and installed them on the International Space Station. Those systems were used to make items that researchers aboard the ISS needed to conduct science experiments, among other things.