Supreme Court strikes down video game violence law on free speech grounds

Arguing that video games qualify for First Amendment protection, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that California’s video game violence law is unconstitutional.

The state law restricted the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, the court upheld a Ninth Circuit court of appeals ruling that said the act violated the First Amendment. For the first time, the highest court in the country will give the same legal protection that books, plays, and movies enjoy, because games “communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium.” The court cited a previous case that held, “the basic principles of freedom of speech do not vary with a new and different communication medium.” With that, a long chapter of legal warfare will end and the video game industry can enjoy its own measure of creative freedom.

Seems pretty obvious, in retrospect. I’m surprised such a bill even made it this far.

Banjo – Social Networking on the Go

Banjo has three main goals. One is to connect you to your social networking friends you didn’t know were nearby – for example, a friend from Facebook or Twitter, killing time at the airport, only a few gates away from you. It also wants to hep you find out what’s going on nearby by providing access to status updates and tweets from everyone around you, in a radius you specify. It also provides you with a way to virtually visit other locations, even when you’re far away, to see what’s going on with the people there.

This last feature seems custom-built for journalists, we think. Imagine being able to provide the app with the name of a location where bombs have just been dropped, an earthquake has occurred, or a plane has just crashed.

Sounds vaguely similar to Sonar – I’m going to be giving this one a spin all week long.

Major Internet Service Providers Cooperating with NSA on Monitoring Traffic

Three of the nation’s largest Internet service providers are cooperating with a new National Security Agency program to sift through the traffic of major defense contractors with the goal of blocking cyberattacks by foreign adversaries, senior defense and industry officials say.

The novel program, which began last month on a voluntary, trial basis, relies on sophisticated NSA data sets to identify malicious programs slipped into the vast stream of Internet data flowing to the nation’s largest defense firms. Such attacks, including one last month against Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, are nearly constant as rival nations and terrorist groups seek access to U.S. military secrets.

Well, that could be the start of something truly terrifying. Simply setting up the infrastructure to do this kind of monitoring is a very dangerous first step. I wonder how they’re intercepting traffic without violating the privacy rights of those communicating from inside the US for non-Terrorist reasons?

Vancouver Rioters Exposed on Crowdsourced Tumblr

Soon after the Vancouver Canucks lost game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins, rioting broke out, and pictures of said rioting started flooding the web. In response to the Vancouver Police Department’s request that people collect those photos, a Tumblr popped up overnight to do just that.

Vancouver 2011 Riot Criminal List is now flush with photos depicting those who flipped cars, set fires, looted stores and generally caused mayhem after the loss.

The creator of the Tumblr kicked off the blog with the post: “Lets hold people accountable for their actions! Alright everyone, lets start posting pictures of the idiots setting fires and looting. Let’s get identifying these criminals.”

I’m kinda shocked these photos could actually be used as evidence; I know there’s no expectation of privacy in public spaces, but what’s to stop people from photoshopping in random folks and making unfounded accusations? Seems like a slippery slope.

Google Begins Tracking & Will Rank Individual Content Creators

Google announced today that it has begun indexing attribution of content to particular authors, not just to the websites they appear on. Links associated with the author of a page can now have the code rel=”author” added to them and Google will understand that to mean that the linked name is the linking page’s author. That’s a potentially significant change to the balance of power between sites and the individuals that create for them.

Widespread adoption of rel=”author” in a web of open data could create a wide variety of other possibilities as well. There’s no reason to believe that Google will be the only company indexing this structured markup. That which is marked-up in a standardized, publicly and programmatically accessible way can be measured, monitored, optimized and more. Now the work, and the success, of particular authors will be trackable across publishing platforms and websites.

There are a lot of future scenarios that could become real as a result of this. Imagine a famous author, for example, able to leave one of the great publications of the previous era and take their PageRank (or a future AuthorRank) with them. That could shake things up and that’s just one of many things that could be possible with the instrumentation of authorship.

 

U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right

A United Nations report said Friday that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law.

The report railed against France and the United Kingdom, which have passed laws to remove accused copyright scofflaws from the internet. It also protested blocking internet access to quell political unrest (.pdf).

While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, states have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The report continues:

The Special Rapporteur calls upon all states to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest. In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.

Big news for international internet policy. Given the UN has absolutely NO authority over countries’ legal stance regarding internet access, I’m not sure exactly what this will accomplish, but it certainly keeps the conversation moving in the right direction.