A federal judge rules that public officials are violating First Amendment rights when they block their constituents on social media. News organizations feel the effects of the Gawker lawsuit when pursuing controversial stories. Apple removes VPN apps, essential to bypassing government censorship, from the App Store in China. Buzzfeed launches investigation into the death of Putin’s former media czar Mikhail Lesin in Washington, D.C. in 2015. Hackers at DEF CON take turns exposing security flaws in U.S. voting machines. -Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator.


Federal Court: Public Officials Cannot Block Social Media Users Because of Their Criticism
According to U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris, Phyllis Randall, chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, conceded in court that she had blocked Brian Davidson, a local resident, “because she was offended by his criticism of her colleagues in the County government,” thus engaging in viewpoint discrimination, generally prohibited under the First Amendment.

That R. Kelly ‘cult’ story almost never ran. Thank Hulk Hogan for that.
The fear of lawsuits can result in self-censorship at any stage of a story’s development, maybe before it ever gets out of a reporter’s notebook, or in the hour before planned publication. Or it might be a factor when retracting a story, as CNN did just before it took the extreme measure of sending three journalists out the door.

“Everyone thinks he was whacked”
The U.S. government ruled Mikhail Lesin’s death an accident, but multiple intelligence and law enforcement officials suspect it was a Russian hit. The government is withholding information so today BuzzFeed News has filed a lawsuit to pry the records loose.

Hackers descend on Las Vegas to expose voting machine flaws
Hundreds of cybersecurity experts descended on “Voting Village,” one of the most talked-about features of the annual DEF CON hacker conference. In a cramped conference room, they took turns over three days cracking into 10 examples of voting machines and voter registration systems—some still in use today.


Apple removes VPN apps in China as Beijing doubles down on censorship
VPNs let users in China bypass the “Great Firewall” that heavily restricts internet access to foreign sites. It also allows for privacy by hiding browsing activities from internet service providers. Multiple VPN providers slammed the move, calling it a “dangerous precedent” set by Apple, which other governments may follow.

As Election Nears, German Media Braces for Devious Hacks
The first big attack on the Bundestag in 2015 vacuumed up some 16 gigabytes of emails and digital files from at least 16 members’ offices, including, officials here believe, that of Angela Merkel. None of the data has seen the light of day—yet. But as the newspaper Die Zeit reported, “unknown persons” have registered a new site.

A Chinese Threat to Australian Openness
Australians are increasingly concerned about China’s growing influence, whose push extends to Australia’s universities: agents are said to monitor Chinese students and report on those who fail to toe the Communist Party line. And in another troubling trend, many of the 150,000 visiting Chinese students are importing a pro-Beijing approach to the classroom that is stifling debate and openness.

Myanmar Now editor Ko Swe Win arrested at Yangon Airport
Ko Swe Win is likely to face defamation charges filed earlier this year by a supporter of the Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha. A former political prisoner who spent years in jail for anti-junta activism in the 1990s, Swe Win now faces a potential three-year prison term under section 66(d), the defamation clause of the Telecommunciations Law.

Solitary confinement won’t break my husband, wife of journalist Deniz Yucel says
German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel was arrested in February and has been held in solitary confinement for more than 150 days. Turkish authorities have accused him of spreading propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers Party, and inciting violence in support of Fethullah Gulen.

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