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Minnesota's 'Safe and Supportive Schools Act' Passes (and a Brief Response to Mr. Fleury's Counterpoint)| Permalink
Bryan Morben, MJLST Managing Editor
On April 9, many students, parents, teachers, and school administrators rejoiced as Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed the Safe and Supportive Schools Act (the 7th engrossment of House Bill 826) into law. Senator Dibble, author of the bill in the Senate, recognized that "[n]o young person should be forced to choose between going to school or being safe. But today, far too many are put in that position." At the same time, however, many others disapprove of the Act as a solution to the bullying and cyberbullying crisis in Minnesota.
Without offering any recommendation to address the problem themselves, opponents of the Act continue to shoot it down on, what seems to me, to be mostly baseless grounds. I address a number of these in my article "The Fight Against Oppression in the Digital Age: Restructuring Minnesota's Cyberbullying Law to Get with the Battle," which can be found here. In that article, I recommended that the Minnesota adopt HF 826 (6th engrossment) to drastically improve Minnesota's antibullying law at the time. Since publication of the article, the bill went through one more engrossment before becoming law.
In a recent blog post, a fellow member of MJLST, Erin Fleury, made a couple counterpoints against adoption of the bill as recommended in my article. Specifically, Mr. Fleury argues that the definition of "bullying" was still overly broad and could encompass behavior not intended by the legislature. The definition Mr. Fleury quotes, however, is not found in the text of the 6th engrossment that I recommended. In fact, the Senate's amended version of the bill, which Mr. Fleury says "remedies these defects by requiring that all bullying conduct be 'objectively offensive,'" is the same in the prior version of the bill that I suggested (with a small change from "harassing conduct" to "harming conduct").
Mr. Fleury also contends that the prior bill could include "class clown" behavior as bullying because it would routinely interrupt and interfere with the learning environment. Again, I think this argument is without merit. First, it is unlikely that this conduct would arise to the "material and substantial" level of interference required by the bill (and interpreted by student-speech case law). And second, both the 6th engrossment and the amended version signed into law specifically state that the school bullying policy, including what constitutes bullying, "applies to bullying by a student against another student . . . ." (See Section 3, Subdiv. 1, emphasis added). Therefore, a class clown not directing his conduct towards any other specific student would not fall under the bullying definition.
As noted in my article, antibullying legislation like the Safe and Supportive Schools Act has been thoroughly reviewed and recommended by experts like the U.S. Department of Education and the MN Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying. The MN Task Force was composed of parents, community members, health care professionals, education experts, school administrators, and policymakers. I believe that they have crafted a well-balanced law that should help curtail the bullying problems occurring in Minnesota schools without infringing on students' rights.
Elliot Ferrell, MJLST Staff
American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, Inc. has seen a surge in the news as the parties head in for arguments next Tuesday, and Justice Alito has no longer recused himself. The case involves copyright issues in streaming television over the internet, specifically asking "Whether a company 'publicly performs' a copyrighted television program when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the internet."
Some of the arguments revolve around the technology used. Aereo maintains that their streaming service is not a "public performance" in violation of copyright law because the DVR'd copy of customer's television content, saved to the cloud, comes from an "individual antenna" accessing "free-to-air broadcasts." However, others counter that Aereo's technology does not save them from violating the law because, when it comes to down to it, they are simply taking a signal, repackaging it, and selling it to their customers without compensating those who produce the content.
Personally, I can see the appeal of such a service. I catch my Game of Thrones on HBOGO, and whatever else I feel like watching on Netflix or the free section on Hulu. A few years ago, if there were a way to watch Lost immediately on the internet, then I may have questioned whether it was worth owning a television at all. However, none of this makes for a particularly compelling legal argument.
Perhaps the most relevant issue that will come out of this for the average person is what will happen to the consumer experience. If Aereo is successful than it could lead to cheaper prices cable bills, as Aereo's service costs a mere $8 per month while the average cable bill is over $100. However, this argument is complicated by the fact that a typical cable package includes a bit more than just the free-to-air broadcasts (but how much of that does the consumer really care about/want to pay for?), and Aereo's service is available in only a few regions. Additionally, one option broadcasters have in the event of an Aereo victory is to remove free-to-air content and sell it instead, perhaps with a streaming service of their own.
The consumer experience has been enriched by the options presented by television streaming services, and Aereo's service seems to supplement the current trend nicely. However, with the proliferation of sites like Netflix and Hulu and individual content producers providing their own similar services, access to free-to-air broadcasts over the internet seems kind of like an inevitability.
by Nathan Peske, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff
On May 1, 1978 Gary Thuerk sent the first unsolicited mass e-mail on ARPANET, the predecessor to today's Internet. Thuerk, a marketing manager for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), sent information about DEC's new line of microcomputers to all 400 users of the ARPANET. Since ARPANET was still run by the government and subject to rules prohibiting commercial use, Thuerk received a stern tongue lashing from an ARPANET representative. Unfortunately this failed to deter future senders of unsolicited e-mails, or spam, and it has been a growing problem ever since.
From a single moderately annoying but legitimate advertisement sent by a lone individual in 1978, spam has exploded into a malicious, hydra-headed juggernaut. Trillions of spam e-mails are sent every year, up to 90% of all e-mail sent. Most spam e-mails are false ads for adult devices or health, IT, finance, or education products. The e-mails routinely harm the recipient through attempts to scam money like the famous Nigerian scam, phishing attacks to steal the recipient's credentials, or distribution of malware either directly or through linked websites. It is estimated that spammers cost the global economy $20 billion a year in everything from lost productivity to the additional network equipment required to transmit the massive increase in e-mail traffic due to spam.
While spam is clearly a major problem, legal steps to combat it are confronted by a number of identification and jurisdictional issues. Gone are the Gary Thuerk days when the sender's e-mail could be simply read off the spam e-mail. Spam today is typically distributed through large networks of malware-infected computers. These networks, or botnets, are controlled by botmasters who send out spam without the infected user's knowledge, often for another party. Spam may be created in one jurisdiction, transmitted by a botmaster in another jurisdiction, distributed by bots in the botnet somewhere else, and received by recipients all over in the world.
Anti-spam laws generally share several provisions. They usually include one or all of the following: OPT-IN policies prohibiting sending bulk e-mails to users that have not subscribed to them, OPT-OUT policies requiring that a user must be able to unsubscribe at any time, clear and accurate indication of the sender's identity and the advertising nature of the message, and a prohibition on e-mail address harvesting. While effective against spammers that can be found within that entity's jurisdiction, these laws cannot touch other members in the spam chain outside of its borders. There is also a lack of laws penalizing legitimate companies, often more easily identified and prosecuted, that pay for spamming services. Only the spammers themselves are prosecuted.
Effectively reducing spam will require a more effective international framework to mirror the international nature of spam networks. Increased international cooperation will help identify and prosecute members throughout the spam chain. Changes in the law, such as penalizing those who use spamming services to advertise, will help reduce the demand for spam.
Efforts to reduce spam cannot include just legal efforts against spammers and their patrons. Much like the international drug trade, as long as spam continues to be a lucrative market, it will attract participants. Technical and educational efforts must be made to reduce the profit in spam. IT companies and industry groups are working to develop anti-spam techniques. These range from blocking IP address and domains at the network level to analyzing and filtering individual messages, and a host of other techniques. Spam experts are also experimenting with techniques like spamming the spammers with false responses to reduce their profit margins. Efforts to educate users on proper e-mail security and simple behaviors like "if you don't know the sender, don't open the attachment" will also help bring down spammers' profit margins by decreasing the number of responses they get.
Like many issues facing society today, e-mail spam requires a response at all levels of society. National governments must work individually and cooperatively to pass effective anti-spam laws and prosecute spammers. Industry groups must develop ways to detect and destroy spam and the botnets that distribute them. And individual users must be educated on the techniques to defend themselves from the efforts of spammers. Only with a combined, multi-level effort can the battle against international e-mail spam be truly won.
by Matt Mason, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff
The net neutrality debate, potentially the greatest hot-button issue surrounding the Internet, may be coming to a (temporary) close. After years of failed attempts to pass net neutrality legislation, the D.C. Circuit will soon rule as to whether the FCC possesses the regulatory authority to impose a non-discrimination principle against large corporate ISP providers such as Verizon. Verizon, the plaintiff in the case, alleges that the FCC exceeded its regulatory authority by promulgating a non-discrimination net neutrality principle. In 2010, the FCC adopted a number of net neutrality provisions, including the non-discrimination principle, in order to prevent ISPs like Verizon from establishing "the equivalents of tollbooths, fast lanes, and dirt roads" on the Internet. Marvin Ammori, an Internet policy expert, believes that based on the court's questions and statements at oral argument, the judges plan to rule in favor of Verizon. Such a ruling would effectively end net neutrality, and perhaps the Internet, as we know it.
The D.C. Circuit Court is not expected to rule until late this year or early next year. If the D.C. Circuit rules that the FCC does not have the regulatory power to enforce this non-discrimination principle, companies such as AT&T and Verizon will have to freedom to deliver sites and services in a faster and more reliable fashion than others for any reason at all. As Ammori puts it, web companies (especially start-ups) will now survive based on the deals they are able to make with companies like Verizon, as opposed to based on the "merits of their technology and design."
This would be terrible news for almost everyone who uses and enjoys the Internet. The Internet would no longer be neutral, which could significantly hamper online expression and creativity. Additional costs would be imposed on companies seeking to reach users, which would likely result in increased costs for users. Companies that lack the ability to pay the higher fees would end up with lower levels of service and reliability. The Internet would be held hostage and controlled by only a handful of large companies.
How the FCC will respond to the likely court ruling rejecting its non-discrimination principle is uncertain. Additionally, wireless carries such as Sprint, have begun to consider the possibility of granting certain apps or service providers preferential treatment or access to customers. Wireless phone carriers resist the application of net neutrality rules to their networks, and appear poised to continue to do so despite the fact that network speeds are beginning to equal those on traditional broadband services.
In light of the FCC potentially not having the regulatory authority to institute net neutrality principles, and because of the number of failed attempts by Congress to pass net neutrality legislation, the question of what can be done to protect net neutrality has no easy answers. This uncertainty makes the D.C. Circuit's decision even more critical. Perhaps the consumer, media, and web company outcry will be loud enough to create policy change following to likely elimination of the non-discrimination rule. Maybe Congress will respond by making the passage of net neutrality legislation a priority. Regardless of what happens, it appears as though we will soon see the installation of speed limits on the information superhighway.
by Ude Lu, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff.
On April 18th, 2013, Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was passed with wide spread controversies. CISPA aims to help national security agencies to investigate cyber threats by allowing private companies, such as Google and Facebook, to search users' personal data to identify possible threats. Commentators argue that CISPA compromises the Fourth Amendment, because, under CISPA, agencies can get privacy data of suspects identified by the privacy companies without a judicial order. CISPA bridges the gap between crime investigations and the privacy data stored and analyzed by social media companies.
by Bryan Dooley, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff
While most would likely agree that threats to cybersecurity pose sufficient risk to warrant some level of new regulation, opinions vary widely on the scope and nature of an appropriate response. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, one of several proposed legislative measures intended to address the problem, has drawn widespread criticism. Concerns voiced by opponents have centered on privacy and the potential for misuse of shared information. Some fear the legislation creates the potential for additional harm by allowing or encouraging private parties to launch counterattacks against perceived security threats, with no guarantee they will always hit their intended targets.
by Bryan Morben, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff
There has been a lot of attention on North Korea and the possibility of a nuclear war lately. In fact, as recently as April 4, 2013, news broke that the increasingly hostile country moved medium-range missiles to its east coastline. It is reported that the missiles do not have enough range to hit the U.S. mainland, but is well within range of the South Korean capital. Tensions have been running high for several months, especially when the North took the liberty to shred the sixty year old armistice that ended the Korean War, and warned the world that "the next step was an act of 'merciless' military retaliation against its enemies."
by Eric Maloney, UMN Law Student, MJLST Staff
Facebook has become a part of everyday life for people around the world. According to Mark Zuckerberg and Co., over one billion people (yes, with a "B") are active on Facebook every month, with an average of more than 600 million active users every day in December 2012. Disregarding bogus or duplicate accounts, that means roughly one-seventh of the entire human population is active on Facebook every month (with the world population currently sitting somewhere in the neighborhood of seven billion people).
Apparently, Facebook has become so commonplace and ingrained in the daily routine of some that they feel the need to use the social networking service from the privacy of their prison cells.
by Kenzie Johnson, UMN Law Student, MJLST Managing Editor
The recent announcements by several large news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg News, and the Wall Street Journal reporting that they have been the victims of cyber-attacks have yet again brought cyber security into the news. These attacks reportedly all originated in China and were aimed at monitoring news reporting of Chinese issues. In particular, the New York Times announced that Chinese hackers persistently attacked their servers for a period of four months and obtained passwords for reporters and other Times employees. The Times reported that the commencement of the attack coincided with a story it published regarding mass amounts of wealth accumulated by the family of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
by Bobbi Leal, UMN Law Student, MJLST Articles Editor
With the dramatic 2012 Presidential election behind us, new information about the campaign funds are being released. A recent Huffington Post article outlining the campaign funds allotted toward the mining and analysis of internet data about potential voters. President Obama and Mitt Romney's campaigns spent a combined total of $13 million dollars on this controversial practice.
The Minnesota Journal of Law Science and Technology's recent publication, "It's the Autonomy, Stupid: Political Data-Mining and Voter Privacy in the Information Age," points out that campaigns utilize data mining as a way to more effectively target voters. The mined data includes information gleaned or purchased from both public and private sources. To make use of the internet's information on the individual, the campaigns use algorithms that match the attitudes of voters on specific issues with individual behaviors and tendencies. The individual behaviors they might look at include where you shop, which team you root for, which petitions you sign, who your friends are, and even what mobile device you use.