Friday, January 31, 2014

Freedom to and freedom from

This week in class we had an awesome lecture from Dr. Kyu Youm, the Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon, discussing the first amendment and social media. While the whole conversation was hilarious and interesting, one thing he said in particular struck me.

As Americans, freedom is one of the most important facets of our identities. We LOVE to talk about how free we are and how we are spreading freedom like it is some sort of venereal disease all over the planet and the world will be a better place because of it. Sure. We talk about how free we are to be ourselves and say whatever we want and wear what we want unless you are not wearing shoes or shirt and you need to run into Costco real quick or have something to say about corporate greed and abuse. Anyway, what we (I) don't think about often is freedom FROM certain things and in this context, ( i.e. social media) this is the freedom from the vast amounts of bullshit out there on social media sites.

Under this "protection" we have the right to FREE speech. Not fair speech or true speech...FREE. When we are talking about social media and our freedoms that means that other people have the same right and can basically announce whatever they want about you or your company or a business deal you are working on or or or...or can they? Where is the line exactly when something turns from free speech into defamation? Through scholarly research (Wikipedia) I have this definition and explanation to offer you:

"Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, or traducement—is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation. Most jurisdictions allow legal action to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism.
Under common law, to constitute defamation, a claim must generally be false and have been made to someone other than the person defamed. Some common law jurisdictions also distinguish between spoken defamation, called slander, and defamation in other media such as printed words or images, called libel.
Similar to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. Unlike with libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy. False light laws protect against statements which are not technically false but misleading (Wikipedia-Defamation)."

Firstly, I would like to say that PLENTY of people have defamed me over the years (oh come on, if nobody has nothing bad to say about you I assume you aren't trying hard enough) and not one of them has even gotten into social trouble for doing so, let alone legal. What about if the information is true though?

Full disclosure: I am a vegan animal right activist. There, I said it and now you all know. Out of the cow hugging closet I come. So these sort of laws personally scare me, as well as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Laws like this gag activists from gathering and dispensing any information that damages or impedes upon the operations of animal enterprises. So you know all those undercover videos on factory farms floating around? Yeah, they want to try the people filming them as terrorists for exposing these abuses. Um...

Yall may be thinking, "well that doesn't make any sense, why wouldn't the corporations who are committing the crimes be punished instead of the activists?" Yeah...*crickets... This doesn't sound like free speech to me? How is it that these corporations with all their gazillions of dollars are being considered "people" and swaying government to pass laws to put peace loving, bunny hugging, hippie activists behind bars and what can we do to stop it?

Well, as smart as I am I do not have these answers. In this case I will refer yall to some people who might be able to help in case you are ever chained to a truck tire in protest and suddenly find yourself standing in front of a judge.

Below is a list of links to various informational websites or organizations who can help.

First Amendment Center

In Eugene
Civil Liberties Defense Center

Online activism

I would love to hear of other great organizations working on changing the status quo. Please comment and tell me about your favorite activist groups/networks!

UPDATE: I am sorry to say that this week I have nothing especially funny to tell. I am deep in the throws of Winter term and about to be getting my ass handed to me with projects and due dates. Hopefully next week something tragic and hilarious will happen and I will live to tell about it. Until then, please enjoy this photo of my wife and I holding my newborn niece over the Summer when we visited Ohio. My sister kept calling us lesbian baby snatchers but lord knows I wasn't trying to keep the baby.

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