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The world’s largest libertarian student organization — with over 1,500 volunteers across the globe, Students For Liberty (SFL) today condemned the U.S. government’s successful attempts to pressure online classified ad platform Backpage.com into closing their “Adult” section.

The closure is the culmination of years of government pressure, with authorities justifying their actions on the basis that Backpage.com could create a market for child sex-trafficking. As Reason.com’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown put it, “Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and his associates have been subject to lawsuits, criminal charges, economic bullying, and Congressional hearings…in an attempt to thwart this supposed sex trade.”

Daniel Pryor, Media Relations Associate at Students For Liberty, said:

“The congressional inquiry into Backpage.com is the perfect example of how overbearing government tramples on First Amendment rights and ultimately harms marginalized groups.

The government has pressured credit card companies into boycotting the website and subjected Backpage.com to what The Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation call an “invasive, burdensome inquiry” that “creates an intense chilling effect” on Internet freedom.

This is a worrying attack on freedom of expression in the online world.

Sex worker rights organizations and activists have also drawn attention to the various ways in which the closure of Backpage.com’s Adult section will negatively impact sex workers. Student sex workers, often entering the adult industry in response to the artificially high cost of college caused by government subsidies, are no exception. Regardless of one’s personal views on sex work, big government should not be interfering with free contract between consenting adults.

Perhaps most tragically, the government’s actions will make life more difficult for victims of child sex trafficking. Lawmakers congratulating themselves for this misguided moral crusade are ignoring the crucial role that Backpage.com played in cooperating with law enforcement to identify children victimized by prostitution.”

Students For Liberty is committed to defending free expression, whether it takes place on college campuses or the Internet. We also stand with coalitions like the Desiree Alliance and organizations like Amnesty International in calling for full decriminalization of sex work and condemning the U.S. government’s war on the consensual adult industry.

Our activists hold a variety of personal opinions on sex work, but are united on the question of decriminalization. Anna Shnaidman, SFL’s National Coordinator for Israel, opposes sex work on a personal level but believes that government intervention in the adult industry (whether legalization or criminalization) “hurts the people it claims to protect and is a tragedy despite good intentions.” Students across the United States are increasingly wary of government attempts to curtail freedom of expression and sexual freedom, even in less publicized areas such as adult ads.

Students For Liberty and our network of activists are regularly featured in national and international media outlets on a wide variety of topics. Below are some examples of SFL’s media presence during December 2016.

  • We’ve been leading the fight against counterproductive vaping regulations in North America. In the USA, our Senior Development Officer Yaël Ossowski criticized the Nanny State’s anti-vaping bias here.
  • Meanwhile, our Director of North American Programs David Clement joined Ossowski in arguing against proposed e-cigarette regulations in Canada here as part of our ongoing #NoNanny campaign. Clement has also made appearances on various radio stations to discuss SFL’s activism in this area.
  • The growth of Students For Liberty was highlighted in French newspaper La Croix as a key example of how classical liberal ideas are becoming more popular amongst young people. Read the full article in French here.
  • Bill Wirtz, a local coordinator at European Students For Liberty, wrote about Europe’s war on tobacco for the Mises Institute here.
  • Jake Goldberg, a sophomore at Tufts University and guest contributor at Students For Liberty, detailed his experiences of fighting against harmful campus speech codes on Rare.us. Read the full article here.

 

cypherpunk vrg

The late 80s and early 90s saw the creation of the internet, and during these early years a group of programmers, cryptographers, hackers, and activists came together online to outline how this technology had the potential to realize a radically different political order. These were the cypherpunks, and their vision was ‘crypto-anarchy’: a world where nation-states were stripped of their power to coerce, as cryptography would prevent them from ever knowing who they should be coercing.

You might have noticed something: this has not happened.

The creation of the internet has already raised significant challenges both to libertarians (who are now, post-Snowden, aware of the extent of the surveillance state) and to the state itself (which is trying to understand how to regulate new technologies and structures such as cryptography, cryptocurrency, and distributed autonomous organizations). But so far we have only witnessed the early effects of the internet-of-information; since 2008, the world has seen the start of the internet-of-value and the internet-of-things, which also promise radical transformations.

Our new Virtual Reading Group, “Cypherpunks and Libertarianism, aims to explore the links between the cypherpunks and the liberty movement in a variety of areas. Participants will explore how cryptography can challenge state power, the future of intellectual property, social orders in cyberspace, freedom of speech in the context of computer code, and much more!

The deadline for applications is January 6th 2017.

  • Discussion Leader: Dr. Alexander J. Malt, Department of Philosophy, University of Durham (UK)
  • Meeting Dates: Wednesdays 6pm EST, 1/11/2017 – 2/15/2017

Apply now!

November was a busy month at Students For Liberty.

Read the highlights of what our North American team has been up to!

Free pro-liberty activism kits distributed across the USA

activism kits pngEarly in November, Students For Liberty opened applications for our all-new activism kits! These free kits are full of awesome tabling materials to help libertarian campus groups promote the ideas of a free and open society. Highlights in every kit include “End The Drug War” posters, “Don’t Drone Me Bro” stickers, “Stop Watching Us” USB sticks pre-loaded with the anonymous Tor internet browser, and “Don’t Tread On Anyone” bumper stickers! So far, the kits have been distributed to our activists at almost 100 different college campuses in 31 different states across the United States.

Peace, Love, Liberty campaign brings anti-war message to US campuses

Our recently-launched Peace, Love, Liberty grant program is receiving an influx of applications. Interventionism in foreign policy has been a crucial element of mainstream political platforms for decades in U.S. politics, but many libertarians see a foreign policy based on restraint as an essential element in the fight for freedom and prosperity across the world. These $250 grants aim to bring libertarian ideas to an area where they are sorely needed: foreign policy. Applications are still open!

Open Letter to College Democrats met with enthusiasm

New repubOur “Open Letter to College Democrats was picked up by Graham Vyse at the New Republic, who devoted an entire article to explaining the ways in which libertarians and progressives can cooperate on certain issues. In the wake of November’s election, Students For Liberty are emphasizing that we will work with groups from across the political spectrum to promote pro-liberty ideas. We are eager to build coalitions on issues like immigration reform, the failed War on Drugs, and criminal justice reform. Read the full New Republic article here.

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SFL FranceStudents For Liberty and our network of activists are regularly featured in national and international media outlets on a wide variety of topics. Below are some examples of SFL’s media presence during November 2016.

  • SFL France were featured in a full page article in Germany’s largest Sunday paper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, which explored the classical liberal movement in France (pictured right).
  • Writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, Jeffrey Tucker referenced the fact that Students For Liberty has helped incubate pro-liberty organizations that remain key players in the vibrant Brazilian liberty movement. Read the full article here.
  • Our Open Letter to College Democrats was picked up by Graham Vyse at the New Republic, who devoted an entire article to explaining the ways in which libertarians and progressives can cooperate on certain issues. Read the full article here.
  • Bill Wirtz, a Local Coordinator at European Students For Liberty, wrote an extremely popular op-ed for the PanAm Post criticizing apologists for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro following his death. Read the full article here.
  • Martin van Staden, member of African Students For Liberty’s Executive Board, was published in CNBCAfrica. He criticized government interference in the South African healthcare system in the context of the National Health Act. Read the full article here.

UPDATE: Look out for Students For Liberty’s Stephen Duke tonight on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 at 8-9pm ET.