Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign

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Example Blue Ribbon graphic EFF encourages websites to use.

The Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign (officially the Blue Ribbon Campaign for Online Freedom of Speech, Press and Association) is an online advocacy campaign for intellectual freedom on the Internet, orchestrated by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Web site owners are encouraged to place images of blue ribbons on their sites and link to EFF's campaign. This is done so that they can help spread awareness of the threats to unrestricted speech in new media.


The campaign was launched immediately after the passing of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) in the United States on February 1, 1996, followed by the Black World Wide Web protest on February 8, 1996, and remained popular throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s. The Communications Decency Act was ruled unconstitutional in large part by the Supreme Court on June 26, 1997 in a joint ACLU/EFF suit. EFF relaunched the campaign on June 15, 1998 to raise awareness of other legislation that they felt threatened freedom of expression online, especially the CDA follow-up bill, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), also eventually overturned.

MIT Student Association For Freedom of Expression[edit]

The Student Association for Freedom of Expression, also known as SAFE, was an organization founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT. The group formed in response to their observations that free speech rights were being infringed upon at their school and was active during the 1990s. The Student Association for Freedom of Expression was also a contributor to the Blue Ribbon Campaign.[1]

History of SAFE[edit]

When the Student Association for Freedom of Expression was first formed there were only about five to ten active members in the organization.[1] Although the group was small, they worked hard to gain awareness at MIT, using such methods as a poster campaign. Perhaps one of the most notable things about SAFE is that it was one of the very first websites to focus on civil liberties. This website was constructed by Seth Finkelstein.[1] The Student Association for Freedom of Expression is no longer active on the MIT campus.[1]

Goals of SAFE[edit]

The goal of the Student Association for Freedom of Expression was to keep the rights that Americans have to freedom of expression intact, especially at MIT.[1] The group worked by speaking out against the policies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology they felt were going against their rights granted by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In particular, SAFE worked to help fight the harassment policy at MIT because their definition of harassment was too broad. MIT wanted their harassment code to allow freedom of speech, but at the same time, take away peoples’ right to offend others with their speech when it would be unreasonable to do so.[2] Any expression of ideas that could be found offensive to someone would be strongly discouraged for both students and faculty.[3] MIT’s harassment code also allowed the school to punish employees or students by termination if they felt the person was guilty of not upholding the harassment code. Members of the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression wrote a letter to MIT that expressed their concerns about the new harassment code. They thought the code took away peoples’ right to freedom of expression and without this, people at MIT would be limited intellectually.[4] In particular SAFE felt it was important to protect peoples’ freedom of speech online.[1] One specific member of SAFE, Seth Finkelstein, chose to participate in a forum about an article that was written by an MIT faculty member. The article told a story about a woman who was offended by the pornographic material she saw on a neighboring computer in the library. When she asked the man viewing the material to remove it, he had refused. The article told about the court case that followed this event and used derogatory language when talking about the man’s side of the case. Seth Finkelstein expressed his opinion about the case by stating that the man was exercising his rights to freedom of expression and her rights were not infringed upon. Finkelstein voiced his opinion that people do not have the right to not be offended.[5] SAFE felt as though people should have the freedom to express themselves online and took measures such as these to defend their right to do so.

Press for SAFE[edit]

The Student Association for Freedom of Expression found other opportunities for press, in addition to their poster campaign on MIT’s campus. They were featured on a local radio show. Also, MIT’s student newspaper, The Tech, published articles that told of SAFE’s actions on campus and beliefs about peoples’ rights to freedom of expression. The school newspaper also printed a letter written by SAFE to a new professor on campus, telling him about the school’s new harassment code.

External links[edit]

General information


  1. ^ a b c d e f Finkelstein, Seth; Kaitlin Schaller (2010-10-25), SAFE at MIT, retrieved 2010-11-08 
  2. ^ Stevenson, Daniel C. (1994-02-18). "Student Forum Addressed Harassment Procedures". The Tech. 
  3. ^ Imrich, Vernon (1993-10-03). "Freedom of Expression Needs to Thrive at MIT". The Tech. 113. 
  4. ^ Reever, Bill; Don Davies (1993-12-03). "Harassment Code is Embarrassment to MIT". The Tech. 62. 
  5. ^ Finkelstein, Seth; gjackson (1993-12-23), "More Comments About Your Stopit Article", email