Free Speech

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
chilling effect, eff, nsa, parody

Companies:
at&t



AT&T Exec Claims EFF's Mocking NSA Logo Creates A 'Chilling Effect'

from the and-if-anyone-knows-about-chilling-effects... dept

For quite some time, the good folks at EFF have offered awesome NSA Spying Hoodies with their brilliantly re-imagined NSA logo:
You might notice the AT&T logo in the middle there. That's not there just for show. Many years before the world knew of Ed Snowden, an AT&T technician by the name of Mark Klein literally walked in the front door of the EFF's old offices, and revealed how the NSA was installing hardware directly on AT&T's premises to tap directly into the internet backbone, in order to collect basically all internet traffic.

This is the same hoodie that Snowden himself used to wear around the NSA office in Hawaii where he worked (his coworkers thought he was being ironic). Either way, the logo is pretty well known by now.

Not surprisingly, last week during the RSA conference, plenty of folks thought it would be an appropriate venue to wear the hoodie (or similar t-shirts). And guess who took offense? According to the NY Times, an anonymous AT&T exec claimed such a logo created a "chilling effect" on discussion:
Around San Francisco this week, some were seen sporting Electronic Frontier Foundation T-shirts featuring a retooled N.S.A. logo with an eagle using its talons to plug into the American telecom network, symbolized by AT&T. Asked about the T-shirts, one AT&T executive, who asked not to be named, said they had a chilling effect.

“There are many of us at AT&T who are disturbed by what we’ve been hearing about the N.S.A.,” this person said. “But when you see that,” he said, pointing to the T-shirts, “a conversation becomes impossible.”
I don't think that cowardly exec knows what a "chilling effect" really means. I'd argue that secretly giving the NSA full access to the internet backbone, to collect whatever data they want is what creates a real chilling effect. Opening up pretty much just about everyone to intrusive and excessive surveillance by a secretive government agency? That's a chilling effect. Having someone wearing a t-shirt or hoodie that makes fun of your company for allowing such surveillance? No, that's not a chilling effect. It's the opposite. It's called exercising their right to expression.

Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Designerfx (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 8:56am

    Ah, I know what this is

    This isn't chilling effects. It's this, turned from religion to corporations.

    http://amptoons.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/christian_oppression_pie1.png

    The "help help we're being oppressed" with AT&T attempting to be portrayed as the victim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 8:57am

    To be clear I think they are disturbed that citizens are now aware of how complicit in the spying on everyone who touched an ATT network they were.
    The conversation isn't impossible because of a logo, it is impossible because the company refuses to admit for how long, how deep, and how helpful they were to these programs. They didn't give a damn when they were being paid to assist but suddenly they worry about their image.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      "They didn't give a damn when they were being paid to assist but suddenly they worry about their image."

      Because now it is starting to have a chilling effect on their salaries. ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:20am

      Re:

      Just throwing it out there that they probably had no choice in being vocal about what they were doing. NSLs and all that jazz. Still dicks but their silence could well have been forced.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:31am

        Re: Re:

        There are courts to appeal to if one has the will.
        The letters are powerful, but not all powerful.

        It was cheaper to go along, than to stand up for the customers, their rights, or the rule of law.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re:

        "they probably had no choice in being vocal about what they were doing. NSLs and all that jazz."

        Yes, but they were completely silent about their compliance to these sorts of requests even before NSLs gags were a thing, so that doesn't excuse them at all.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Designerfx (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 10:58am

        Re: Re:

        Lots of companies have tried to fight back on NSL's, in fact that's how they became public.

        Guess who didn't? AT&T.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 12 Mar 2014 @ 3:50pm

      Re:

      Beyond that:

      The only reason an AT&T employee or other representative should be uncomfortable at the sight of this logo is if they actually agree with, or otherwise support, the policies, principles, and attitudes which the logo is trying to call out.

      If they disagree with those policies, and agree with the ideas behind the logo, then there's no reason they should feel uncomfortable, and no reason discussion should be in any way inhibited.

      If they do agree with those policies, then making them uncomfortable helps put pressure on them to change their minds, and thereby to increase opposition to those policies - which is exactly what the logo is all about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:16am

    If the logo chilled him - I have a hoodie he can wear...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rich Fiscus (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:18am

    Clearly a chilling effect is when people stop believing AT&T.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:24am

    Not Alone

    I have the same logo, issued last year, with the Verizon logo in place of ATT. Just waiting for all of the rest of them.
    .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 10:27am

      Re: Not Alone

      they are selling the whole multi-vendor collectors set.

      if you act now, you can still get a limted edition EUBR edition...but this one has white out on it now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    scotts13 (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:26am

    A conversation becomes impossible...

    ...because someone has the facts right on their shirt. That makes prevarication impossible (not, IMHO, a bad thing). The chill is going down the AT&T reps spine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:36am

    Thank you for the reminder.

    I have now paid the 2014 EFF Titanium Level membership fee.

    Thanks for the reminder, TechDirt, and AT&T!

    Ehud

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Eric Goebelbecker (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 9:51am

    For a second there...

    For a second there I was wondering why an AT&T executive would even attempt to participate in such a discussion, then I realized it was at an NSA, er I mean RSA, conference.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 10:34am

    Spoken like a true corporate shill.

    If anything, it's a conversation starter - unless, of course, you happen to be CEO of a multibillion dollar telecommunications giant who is complicit in said spying. The poor, thieving, stinking rich bastard... Break out the violins and let's hear his sob story about how he and his company are the "real" victims here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 11:47am

    If it had a chilling effect on him, then it worked...

    Maybe now he won't be so hot to get in bed with the NSA knowing that people out there are speaking out against this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 12:10pm

    “There are many of us at AT&T who are disturbed by what we’ve been hearing about the N.S.A.,” this person said. “But when you see that,” he said, pointing to the T-shirts, “a conversation becomes impossible.”

    Just another weak-spined millionaire pussy who's only NOW upset about his compliance with what is now an unpopular program.

    The conversation is impossible because of secret courts, writing secret decisions, that must remain secret.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2014 @ 12:20pm

      Re:

      Exactly, it's not the people upset about it that are causing the chilling effects here, it's the government agencies that seek to keep it a secret from the American public, and the corporations that are going along with it without a second though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 3 Mar 2014 @ 4:47pm

    Cold in here

    So AT&T feels that their complicity with the NSA in spying on American citizens has a chilling effect? Or that documentation of their complicity does? Truth hurts? What exactly is their position, because I'd love to know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daemon_ZOGG, 3 Mar 2014 @ 7:44pm

    "..anonymous AT&T exec claimed such a logo created a "chilling effect""

    I find nothing "chilling" about this. I've known about this since the 1980s. Only, wasn't able to prove it back then. Yes. There really are "black boxes" in strategic AT&T locations. Able to monitor phone calls and the backbone of the internet (that means you, me, everybody, and your grandma). Here's to a brave new world. May the common people of the world prevail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 3 Mar 2014 @ 10:42pm

    chilling effects inhibit actions, right?

    So why is inhibiting actions that are dishonest, probably illegal and certainly contrary to the spirit of our entire legal system a bad thing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe, 4 Mar 2014 @ 5:58am

    Great shirt

    I'd buy one if it was $20. $75 for a hoodie seems in line with government toilet costs...3x the actual costs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2014 @ 8:16am

      Re: Great shirt

      It's expensive, yes. But it's costly because the funds help support the EFF. They've done so many great things I scraped together enough to buy more than one. It's a small price to pay in the long run and I'm sure the money is used much more wisely and for a better purpose than providing excess for government employees.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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