Assignment 2: Freedom of expression

Three readings are assigned this week. Find links to two of them on the Course Schedule page, and one more is in ARES.

What we’ll focus on this week is some of the essential freedom-of-expression guarantees that people in the United States, Canada, and the European Union enjoy. These include freedom of speech, of the press, and of association, assembly and petition. (The right to privacy will be discussed in a later week.)

Students often hear a lot about freedom of the press, but individuals’ rights to speak, write, publish, and gather together in groups are no less important.

For this week’s essay (I’ll stop calling them blog posts), please read the assigned readings and then find an article or Op-Ed or essay online from a reputable source that discusses, in depth, a related case or cases that involves online media, mobile communications, social media platforms, or any other aspect of “new media.” My hope is that you will give us more to discuss and think about via the case you find.

  • Don’t choose a case that involves the press, the news media, or an established news organization. Go for an individual, a group, an organization (can be an NGO) that is not “the press” or a journalist.
  • The case can be about censorship, a lawsuit, removal of content, or about a complaint that content should have been removed but wasn’t. Freedom of association, assembly and petition all involve people forming and meeting in groups; you case you choose might involve an attempt to suppress a group rather than content.
  • The case might involve content or group activity that was permitted, or that was taken down or forbidden.
  • The case can be in any country. It doesn’t have to be a country with a democratic system of government.
  • It does not need to be a legal case. Courts or legal proceedings need not be part of the incident or events.
  • You don’t need an academic journal article. Something from The Atlantic, The New York Times, or another reliable source is fine. An opinion piece or analysis is fine. Just make sure it’s substantial enough to warrant discussion.

In your essay, briefly summarize the case, link to it, and then specifically state which parts of the readings are illustrated by the case. Do your best to expand on the ideas of protected speech, assembly, petition.

The usual length requirements apply.

Blog post 1: This is your assignment

Before you can begin writing your first blog post, you need to do two other things:

  1. Set up a new blog for this course. Read the instructions. There is a Friday deadline here.
  2. Read all of the assigned readings for the week. Two articles are assigned this week (Week 2). Find Week 2 on the Course Schedule, and you’ll see the names of the authors of the two articles there. Then go to the ARES Course Reserves and download the two PDF files. Read how to access the course readings.

Requirements (such as length) for all of your weekly blog posts are found in Required Work. Be sure to read the section under the heading “Weekly blog posts.”

Your deadline for publishing Blog post 1 is Monday, Aug. 27, at 9 a.m.

You must follow the instructions below, and then simply publish the post to your own blog.

Before writing: While you are reading the two assigned articles, make a note of anything that’s new to you, anything you don’t fully understand, or anything you question (that is, you are not willing to accept it without further information, or you believe it to be incorrect). After you’ve finished reading, use Google to look up the things you have noted. Make it your goal to really understand everything you have read in the two articles. The same goes for words or phrases you do not understand.

SLUG: The TITLE of your blog post about these articles must begin with the words “Internet and democracy.” This will make it easy for me (and other students in your class) to identify this first graded post in your blog! DO NOT use blog or post or 1 in the title.

Content of the post: Of all the things you looked up (see above), write about the two (2) most interesting results. I expect these to be ideas that were new to you or that really challenged your thinking. Supply a functioning link to further information for each of those two (that is, two links total; not more than two). DO NOT use any links to Wikipedia (that’s too basic, and not very scholarly). The links can be to news articles, essays, blog posts, etc. — they need not be journal articles.

Make sure you write specifically about both of the two assigned articles.

Include each link within the sentence where it is most relevant. DO NOT paste links at the end of your post. Link correctly — here’s how.

The point of the two links is to show what you learned, and where you learned it, while reading the assigned articles. Do not post a link to something you did not read, or something you did not learn from. The links tell a lot about you.

When I read your blog post, I must have NO DOUBT that you have carefully read both articles completely. The best way to convince me is to actually read them, thoroughly, and look up anything that you don’t understand. If you write about something simplistic, or something mentioned only in the first two pages of the article, can you imagine what I will think about you and your commitment to learning? As a graduate student, your first job is to THINK.

If you need any clarification about this assignment, please make a comment on this post. I will answer it here.

There may be a delay before you see your comment, because I have comment moderation enabled for this blog. That means I will receive an email asking me to approve your comment. I will need to log in to WordPress and send the approval; afterward, your comment will appear and be visible to everyone. NOTE: This happens on YOUR blog too. Comments are not visible until you approve them!

Make sure you are LOGGED IN to before you post a comment here!

Week 1: Starting your blog – 2018

To complete the assignment that is due on Monday morning, Aug. 27, you will first need to set up a new blog at

If you already have a blog, DO NOT use that one. You must set up a NEW blog to be used only for this course.

Follow this Quick Start Guide. Or, if you need more help, use the more detailed Get Started guide. Choose the FREE plan. No need to pay.

Make sure you WRITE and SAVE both your username and password for If you forget your username, you will lose your blog.

NOTE: In Step 2, “Find a custom address,” go to the bottom and select “No thanks.” DO NOT PAY.

If you already have a site, simply log in at and create a new blog using the same account. Do that here.

Required work:

  1. After you have created your NEW blog, please write and publish a new post in it that briefly introduces you. What are you studying at UF, why are you taking this course, what’s your hometown, etc. Be sure to include your real first and last name so I can see who you are! The post can be quite short, e.g. 100 words.
  2. Please give the post an intelligent title.
  3. Check your blog site ( to make sure the new post is visible.
  4. After you complete steps 1–3, copy the complete URL of your blog from the Web browser address bar and paste it into a comment on THIS post (which you are reading right now).
  5. Add a photo of your face (large face) and your full name to your account. Do it here.

Complete this task list before midnight on Friday, Aug. 24, so that you have ample time to complete the OTHER work that is due on Monday at 9 a.m.

Note: Don’t worry if you do not see your comment appear below immediately after you post it. I have to approve it before it appears, which means I need to see a little notice that WordPress sends to my email. As I am not staring at my email every minute of the day, it might take some time before your comment appears here.

First week: How to access the course readings

Most but not all of the articles for this semester are available now in ARES Course Reserves (see link at right). The remaining articles will be added soon.

PLEASE NOTE that to get access to the articles, in most cases you MUST be logged into the UF VPN.

Find out HOW TO INSTALL THE UF VPN client. Or save time and simply download the UF VPN client installer. (The UF library has some additional information about the UF VPN.)

If you have any trouble with the VPN, contact the UF Computing Help Desk.

Most articles have a convenient link that says “View this item.” In most cases, this link will take you to a page that shows only the abstract for the article. On that same page, you can find a link to download the PDF of the complete article.

In all cases, you will have FREE access to the PDF file, or to a Web page containing the article. You do NOT need to pay for ANY articles (but you must be logged in with the VPN to get this free access).

Facebook removes protest events

From a news story published Sept. 11, 2017:

“Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook’s event-management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, The Daily Beast has learned.

“A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast that the social-media giant ‘shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week.’ The company declined to elaborate, except to confirm that the events were promoted with paid ads. (This is the first time the social-media giant has publicly acknowledged the existence of such events.)”

This is closely related to our class topic about protest groups and hate groups organizing online and using social media to plan events and attract followers.

Now we see Facebook — possibly for the first time in this context — using its power to delete organizers’ materials.

Note also the use of Facebook ads to promote the protest events — those ads profit Facebook directly.

More things about algorithms

Here’s the brand-new series of articles about algorithms, published by investigative powerhouse ProPublica (very relevant to this week’s topic!):


Here’s the Khan Academy course about algorithms (in class, I showed the first video from this course, which gives examples of various kinds of algorithms):


Also shown: Google Trends and Explore Google Trends; and FAQs about trends on Twitter.

We mentioned “brute force” algorithms (e.g. for winning at checkers) vs. machine-learning algorithms, which were necessary for this amazing achievement: How the Computer Beat the Go Master (March 2016).

TED Talk by Wael Ghonim

This is the video I mentioned in class, in which Wael Ghonim discusses how the Internet must change to support social change in the world. Wael was mentioned in the Week 3 readings as the well-known creator of the Facebook page “We Are All Khaled Said,” which helped to unite Egyptians in a mass protest during the Arab Spring in 2011. Thanks to Osama for this link!

An added note: In an article I like very much, scholar Merlyna Lim expands on the “We Are All Khaled Said” example:

Previous movements in Egypt “had already created a basis for a mass political action. Indeed the story of Khaled Said can also be read as a culmination of the longstanding online campaign against torture waged on blogs such as Wael Abbas’s Egyptian Awareness, Nael Atef’s Torture in Egypt, and Bloggers Against Torture. However, the critical new important element introduced by the “We are all Khaled Said” movement was a strong symbolic representation, an iconic figure to fight against the authorities” (Lim, 2012, p. 241; boldface added).

Think carefully before you claim that one blog or one hashtag started a movement! There is often a long history of activism before the spark that lit the fire.

How effective is surveillance?

Here is a short article from ProPublica, a well-respected independent non-profit news organization:

What’s the Evidence Mass Surveillance Works? Not Much (Nov. 18, 2015)

Very pertinent to yesterday’s presentation and discussion.

Transparency is a big issue: The government claims surveillance has helped to prevent some attacks, but no evidence is given. We are simply supposed to believe the claim because the government said so.