For Your Eyes Only: Anti-censorship sites

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Amidst all the controversy surrounding the legislation aimed at censoring the content of the Internet lies a great nugget of irony: The Internet itself has become an important tool for anti-censorship organizations to track freedom of expression infractions all over the globe.

Battles over freedom of expression can usually be traced to the Religious Right's ongoing assault against everything from filmmaker Marlon Rigg's Tongues Untied to bawdy email jokes. The Institute for First Amendment Studies claims to be the only nonprofit educational and research organization focusing solely on the activities of this irrational but influential group, and the Institute has made much of its valuable work available for free and accessible online. AlterNet's Democratic Values Project is a comprehensive archive of material used by journalists, activists, and other people interested in subverting the Right's definition of what's proper. Besides archiving resources and alternative press articles on the politics of censorship, the site hot links to lots of organizations tracking the Right, including the Center for Democratic Renewal, Feminists for Free Expression, the National Coalition Against Censorship, People for the American Way, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The ACLU Free Reading Room, a site maintained by the infamous American Civil Liberties Union, is also notable for its wide collection of censorship-related documents and legal analysis.

Many of the most contentious censorship fights concern works of art. The most comprehensive and interactive anti-censorship site keeping tabs on the art world is The File Room, a huge archive that spans the globe and features documentation, artists installations, and opportunities for visitors to report incidents of censorship directly. What is refreshing about the site, which is maintained by the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago, is that dogma gives way to critical analysis, and visitors are encouraged to make up their own minds about conflicting claims surrounding a censored work.

For politicians eager to score votes with ticked-off urban dwellers, censoring graffiti is synonymous with cleaning up the streets. Usually, though, this form of political expression gets overlooked in the censorship debates. Art Crimes, a gallery of graffiti art from cities around the world, is an exception to the rule. Devoted to the digital preservation of art perpetually under threat of erasure, the collection comes from around the world, offering a unique window into what pushes people's buttons -- and spray cans -- in other cultures.

The news operates in a constant state of censorship, with stories suppressed at the whims of economic and political interests. We've mentioned this site before, and we refer you once more to Project Censored, a collection of news stories 'about significant issues of which the public should be aware, but is not, for one reason or another.'

Finally, those who appreciate the iconoclastic aspects of the Web should check out See/Hear/Speak No Evil, a site run by former UPI reporter and Playboy publicist Bill Paige. Along with his own broadsides against state-sponsored prudery, No Evil features rants on censorship from thinkers like rock & roll critic Dave Marsh and yippie Abbie Hoffman.

1/21/2009 10:49:35 AM

re: For Your Eyes Only: Anti-censorship site The hyperlink you use for "Democratic Values Project" does not work, and comes up "not available on this server." This works, though: Furthermore "Chilling Effects documents many of these cease-and-desist letters" appears to require a password to view. Keep on doing your fine work! Thank you SO much!

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