Reason Roundup

Civil Liberties Groups Plead With Biden To Stop Persecuting Julian Assange

Plus: Oklahoma cosmetologists fight insane licensing requirement, Australia doesn't understand how search engines work, and more...


Two dozen civil liberties and human rights groups are pleading with President Joe Biden to make things right with journalist Julian Assange. "We, the undersigned press freedom, civil liberties, and international human rights advocacy organizations, write today to share our profound concern about the ongoing criminal and extradition proceedings relating to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act," the letter opens.

It is signed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International USA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the First Amendment Coalition, Human Rights Watch, the Knight First Amendment Institute, PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, and more.

The groups urge Biden to give up on the Trump administration's appeal of a United Kingdom court decision denying the United States' request to have Assange forcibly returned to the U.S.

They argue that the prosecution and extradition attempt is "a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad," since the "criminal" conduct Assange is accused of "is conduct that journalists engage in routinely—and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do."

"Some of the charges included in the indictment turn entirely on Mr. Assange's decision to publish classified information," their letter points out. "News organizations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public of matters of profound public significance."

The Assange situation "will present the Biden administration with an early test" of whether he plans to carry on the Trump administration's hostility to journalists and press freedom, suggests Jameel Jaffer at Just Security. While "Assange is a complicated figure, and he seems to have alienated basically everyone," there is still "near-universal agreement among human rights, civil liberties, and press freedom organizations that the case against him poses a major threat to press freedom not just here in the United States but around the world."


The Institute for Justice (IJ) fights for Oklahoma cosmetologists:


Google is threatening to leave Australia if an insane new draft law requiring search engines to pay for content they link to becomes law. "If the code becomes law, Google would have no real choice but to stop providing search in Australia," Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, told Australian lawmakers last month. Many in the media—the people this dumb bill was designed to protect, supposedly—are crying foul.

"It would have a significant impact on our ability to connect our content to our audience," Neil Ackland of Junkee Media told The Financial Times.

Ackland warned the code, which government sources expect will be enacted within weeks, could "potentially be fatal" for small publishers such as Junkee, which rely on Google and Facebook to drive 75 per cent of traffic to their websites….

Both [Facebook and Google] say the code is unworkable in its current form and argue they derive little financial benefit from displaying news.

Google has warned it would break the way its search engine operates and undermine a fundamental principle of the internet by forcing the company to pay to provide links to news websites. Facebook has said it would remove all news, local and international, from its platform in Australia if the code is enacted.


• Read an excerpt from John McWhorter's new book The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and their Threat to a Progressive America.

• A new bill in New York state would stop putting people behind bars for parole violations. "Instead of having punishment-based system, we have an incentive-based system," Emily NaPier Singletary, co-founder of the advocacy group Unchained, told Spectrum News. "We use earned time credits. For every thirty days a person goes without violating their parole, they earn thirty days off their parole supervision period."

• New York City's prison population keeps going up despite Mayor Bill de Blasio bragging about the opposite.

• Against the European Union's proposed Digital Markets Act.

• "The changing face of celebrity and the rise of cancel culture is intimidating journalists into uniformity," writes British journalist Eleanor Halls.

• Big changes may be coming to Twitter.