Monday, September 23, 2019

Arrest of US Army private may have more significance for Internet speech that the media is missing so far

A US Army private at Fort Riley KS has been charged with distributing information on (apparently) building weapons of mass destruction, when apparently a social media or Facebook discussion of a plot that might have been targeting a newsroom was uncovered by the FBI.  Vice Media has a typical story.

It is not, as of this writing, completely clear if this is a UCMJ prosecution or one under normal United States code.

I can recall not only the pulling of the Christchurch “manifesto” (and making possession of it illegal in New Zealand) but also of the shorter El Paso piece (from 8chan).  There were warnings by some bloggers that the last page of the EP manifesto had technical weapons information which should not be published online.

All major social media platforms ban this material, but more out of public pressure and other countries.  With hosted content it is less clear (especially since Charlottesville). 

However, I had never heard that it is a crime for a civilian to post this information online.  There could be a question if the information is classified and passed to the person illegally (I.e., Assange or Chelsea Manning). 

Normally, I am particularly concerned if the mere posting of (previously published and non-classified) information online is a crime (there is a short film, “O.I.”, in DC Shorts which indirectly deals with this problem in the abstract).

For example, in early September 2001, Popular Mechanics published a piece about a flux device that could cause disruption of electronic devices and power grids.  There was not enough information that someone could have built one that would work, but nevertheless the article (one week before 9/11) disappeared. Normally EMP (E1 and E3) is a topic associated with high altitude nuclear weapons, but the topic has not been discussed openly in the mainstream media, leaving the impression that it is a fantasy of conservatives and doomsday preppers.  The entire nation could be at risk if this issues isn’t paid attention to.
So this arrest may have significance that the mainstream media has so far missed. Maybe Electronic Frontier Foundation will watch this one.

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