By Michelle Sohn
On Friday, the District Court for the Northern District of California struck down 18 U.S.C. § 2709 due to its failure to meet First Amendment standards, reports the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”). The statute is known as one of the “National Security Letter” (“NSL”) statutes, which allows the FBI to issue requests for subscriber information from Internet service providers, telephone companies, and others. The ruling was a response to the EFF’s 2011 petition challenging the constitutionality of the 2709(c) “gag” provision, which prohibits companies from disclosing that they have received an NSL as well as the judicial review provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3511 (b). District Court Judge Susan Illston’s decision to bar NSLs differs from a prior ruling on the issue from the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit, in Doe v. Mukasey, approved NSLs as long as the FBI took voluntary measures to protect against abuse. Unlike the Second Circuit, Judge Illston’s decision held that since the gag provision was meant to work in concert with the rest of the statute, the power granted to the FBI to compel subscriber information from providers also be struck down. The District Court’s decision is likely to be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Social Media Added Fuel to the Fire in Stuebenville Rape Case
Two Ohio high school football players accused of raping a 16-year old girl were convicted Sunday, reports USA Today. The case was largely driven by and followed in social media. Throughout the trial, texts and videos from Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook were used to incriminate the accused. The episode even got the attention of hacktivist group, Anonymous, which made public a private video of students joking about the incident. On Monday, two Ohio girls were arrested after making threats against the victim on Facebook and Twitter.
Presidential Commission Concludes Anthrax Vaccine Testing on Children Unethical without Further Research
The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released a report Tuesday warning against a government proposal to test anthrax vaccines on children without conducting more preliminary research, NPR reports. The proposal for testing is rooted in two major concerns: first, the likelihood that anthrax would be the weapon of choice in a bioterrorist attack, and second, the uncertainty that the vaccine would work effectively in children. To date, the anthrax vaccine has been given to more than one million adults in the military, but the vaccine’s effects on children are not known. The Commission’s report concluded that more research would have to show that testing would pose no more than a minimal risk to children. The report also suggests testing on animals and young adults first. The Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that charged the Commission with evaluating the proposal, will have the final say in whether to go ahead with the experiment.