Tuesday, September 8, 2020

‘Believe anonymous sources’ / ‘I finally know who I am’ / Not THAT free

‘Believe anonymous sources.’ Poynter’s Tom Jones dissects controversy over The Atlantic’s reporting that President Trump has disparaged Americans who died in war.
 Free Speech Center director Ken Paulson on a new report from the Knight Foundation and Gallup: Are America’s news media more biased than ever before, or are we simply looking in the mirror?” (Image: Bybzee from the Noun Project.)

‘Attacks on the people’s press.’ Journalism prof Jeff Jarvis says Donald Trump’s war on TikTok in the U.S. and Rupert Murdoch’s legislative assault on Facebook in Australia undermine freedom of expression.
  He condemns traditional journalists who haven’t spoken in opposition: “The old press still thinks the meaning of the press is a machine that spreads ink.”

‘The right to peacefully protest needs better supporters.’ Freedom Forum Fellow Lata Nott says an Indiana lawmaker’s proposed “Support Peaceful Protest Act” seems in fact to be designed to “make individuals think twice before attending any sort of protest.”
Columnist Irv Leavitt: “For winning over people still on the fence, you can’t top images of defenseless but brave partisans being attacked with billy clubs, firehose streams and police dogs, and not raising a hand.”
A federal judge has at least temporarily ordered Detroit cops to stop using batons, gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters.
Without a late Oregon Supreme Court justice who concluded that state’s free-speech protections are more expansive than those in the First Amendment, a Portland journalist says protests there “wouldn’t have been the same.”

‘I finally know who I am.’ Daniel Thompson, an editor who quit Wisconsin’s Kenosha News over an inflammatory quote in the headline of a protest story, says he’ll use a GoFundMe windfall to launch new projects.
His ex-boss conceded the headline was “a little bit insensitive.”
Thompson tells CNN’s Reliable Sources podcast: “I don’t think the old ways of covering things … works anymore.”

It’s that time. Theft of campaign yard signs around the country is triggering First Amendment protests in letters to editors—for instance, here in Iowa and here in Florida.
Tips to discourage sign theft: Vaseline, dog poop and glitter.

Not that free. Ruling in the case of a man who—without permission—took and transmitted intimate photos of a person changing in a bathroom, a Texas appeals court says the state’s “Invasive Visual Recording” ban doesn’t conflict with freedom of speech.
Hotel Management ponders whether bosses can terminate an employee for offensive social media posts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

TikTok block / Understanding 'under God' / Anti-anti-riot ruling

TikTok block. Owners of the China-based video app are suing the U.S. government over President Trump’s effort to ban TikTok for national security reasons.
The company says the ban threatens its First Amendment rights and “creation of 10,000 American jobs.” (Image based on work by ElisaRiva from Pixabay.)
Separately, a TikTok employee is suing the administration, contending the president’s order unlawfully jeopardizes his family’s livelihood.
A Yale student suggests that, instead of attempting to force TikTok’s sale to a U.S. company, the administration should “use TikTok as a guinea pig to test a global data governance framework.”

Facebook’s fears. The Verge’s Casey Newton suggests “Facebook would much rather live in a world where it has to compete with TikTok than one where a social network can be banned whenever it displeases the ruling party of one country or another.”
Users of the Chinese-owned WeChat app are suing the Trump administration over the president’s confusing order banning “any transaction” with the app.
A human resources expert answers the question “Can comments on Facebook get me fired?

Understanding ‘under God.’ The Associated Press’ fact-check finds Trump distorted what happened to those words in the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democratic National Convention.
Snopes: The DNC did not issue any guidelines forbidding the use of the phrase.”
But, as Fox News notes, that didn’t keep Republicans in the days following from leaning into those two words.
The National Constitution Center reviews the history of legal challenges to the pledge.

‘I learned that the Democrat Party plans to abolish the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, Jesus, and the suburbs.’ Esquire’s Charlie Pierce sarcastically recaps Monday’s opening session of the Republican National Convention.
A New York Times roundup notes the founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA told the convention the nation’s creation was “centered around central biblical ideals,” even though the First Amendment expressly prohibits a national religion.
Libertarian Reason magazine editor-at-large Matt Welch fact-checks Night One: “No, Trump has not fiercely defended the First Amendment.”
Journalism critic Jack Shafer, reviewing a new book, The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media, concludes Trump “might not even rank in the top five” of the greatest presidential enemies of the First Amendment.

‘The First Amendment protects some pretty hideous speech.’ TechDirt says a federal appeals court ruling out of Ohio provides a reminder of that protection even for statements uttered by public servants.
The same court has ruled the First Amendment doesn’t trump an Ohio law forbidding health practitioners from soliciting accident victims.

‘It’s the opposite of what must be taught.’ Texas’ governor wants a teacher fired for giving students an assignment that included a political cartoon comparing police officers to slave owners and Ku Klux Klan members.
An employment lawyer on workers’ rights to wear Black Lives Matter garb on the job: “With very few exceptions, there are no free speech rights in the private workplace.”
Veteran political reporter Bob Lewis: Free speech is “not free of consequence. Never has been. Never will be.”

Anti-anti-riot ruling. A federal appeals court has limited the reach of a 1968 anti-riot law the Trump administration used to charge white supremacists who punched and kicked counter-demonstrators during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
But, Politico reports, the ruling could have been worse for the Justice Department.
Wonkette:Tennessee Republicans: Protesters Can Either Have Free Speech Or Voting Rights, Not Both.”

‘This is a moment in journalism to experiment. The status quo is buckling.’ Columbia Journalism Review’s publisher has signed on to the advisory council for a new news cooperative with an unusual business model.
Nieman Lab:Some Countries are Using the Pandemic as an Excuse to Crack Down on Journalism.”
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission says that, with the exception of obscene, indecent, or profane programming, U.S. broadcasters have “discretion to determine what content to air … even if that programming could be objectionable to some viewers.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Facebook's 'local news' crackdown / Masks and the 1st / 'No-protest zone' protest

Facebook’s cracking down on bogus ‘local news.’ A new policy will keep U.S. publishers with “direct, meaningful ties” to political groups from claiming a news exemption in Facebook’s authorization process for political ads.
But they can still advertise.
The new policy is aimed at limiting the influence of what Columbia Journalism Review calls “networks of shadowy, politically backed ‘local news websites’ designed to promote partisan talking points and collect user data.”
Here’s Facebook’s statement.
Irvine, Calif., Mayor Christina Shea faces a First Amendment lawsuit, accused of blocking a critic’s comments on her Facebook page.

‘Third-person references … hide the fact that [they’re] one and the same.’ The Daily Beast: Donald Trump’s “official” super political action committee has launched a news website.
Washington Post book critic Ron Charles: Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz’s claim a fictional lawyer on CBS’ The Good Fight has defamed him could “jeopardize … creativity—and generate a host of lawsuits.”
Poynter’s Tom Jones ponders: Would a Trump loss in November be bad news for the news biz?

Masks and the First. A Wesleyan University professor explains why mask mandates don’t violate the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech—or religion.
But businesses may need more than a legal argument to persuade intransigent customers.
Free-speech experts are calling on schools not to punish students who share photos of other students going maskless.

Zoom fume. New Jersey’s Stockton University is reviewing disciplinary action against a student who used an image of Trump as his background for a class session on Zoom—a thing he says is protected by the First Amendment.
Podcast (with transcript): The pandemic’s effect on campus free speech.

Facial recognition’s free-speech defense. One of the nation’s most prominent First Amendment lawyers, Floyd Abrams, is taking on a new client: Clearview AI, whose social-media scraping tech has given its government and business clients the power, in The New York Times’ words, “to identify nearly anyone with just a photograph.”
Clearview client Macy’s faces a federal suit in Chicago alleging it’s violated Illinois’ biometric-privacy law by using the technology on its customers.
Electronic Frontier Foundation Civil Liberties Director David Greene says President Trump’s campaign against TikTok “raises serious First Amendment concerns.”

‘All I was doing was videotaping.’ A man whom Gary, Ind., police arrested as he recorded another person’s arrest is considering filing a First Amendment lawsuit.
The Free Speech Center’s First Amendment Encyclopedia: “Recent court decisions have recognized a First Amendment right to film police interactions.”
San Diego cops have been writing tickets under a 103-year-old law that outlaws “seditious language,” but that a public defender says “seems to be highly unconstitutional.”

‘No-protest zone’ protest. Death-penalty opponents are going to court to fight an Indiana State Police ban on demonstrations outside the gates of a facility that houses a U.S. Bureau of Prisons execution chamber.
An anti-racism group is suing Louisville’s police department over protest restrictions that include requiring pedestrians to stick to the sidewalks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

'Rioters and anarchists' / 'These objections are nonsense' / Animated debate

‘Rioters and anarchists.’ Appearing today before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Bill Barr condemned the protesters against which his administration has been using federal agents—in the words of the committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler—“to forcefully and unconstitutionally suppress dissent.”
 ABC News’ live blog of the proceedings: Barr and Nadler mixed it up over charges Barr has politicized the Justice Department.
See Barr’s testimony on C-SPAN.
Satire from The Onion:‘We Are Upholding The Rule Of Law,’ Bill Barr Tells Congress While Federal Agents Drag Jerry Nadler Into Unmarked Van.”

‘Left vomiting and unable to eat.’ Portland activists are suing Barr and the Department of Homeland Security on First Amendment grounds to end the use of tear gas against protesters.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Minnesota’s leading law enforcers, accusing them of violating the civil rights of protesters wounded in demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd while in police custody.
Berkeley, California, is considering legislation that would raise the bar for imposing protest curfews.

‘These objections are nonsense.’ An emeritus professor of government at Wesleyan University: “The Constitution doesn’t have a problem with mask mandates.”
A CNN legal analyst: A lawsuit filed against Whole Foods for forbidding staffers from wearing “Black Lives Matter” masks “is a warning shot fired in the direction of corporate America regarding employee free speech rights.”
President Trump’s move to punish social media websites for alleged bias against conservatives is now in the hands of the Federal Communications Commission.

No. 4. ‘Violence is not protected by the First Amendment.’ Free Speech Center director Ken Paulson offers five takeaways from the Black Lives Matter protests.
Paulson explains why Seattle journalists are fighting police subpoenas for protest photos and video.
Chicago is assembling “a critical incident response team” of about 250 cops to deal with large protests.

Beware ‘progressives seeking new restrictions on speech.’ The CEO of the literary and free expression organization PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, warns that people “advocating more aggressive government policing of online hate put enormous trust in officials to draw boundaries around permissible speech.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists is honoring four journalists who’ve been arrested or faced criminal prosecution in reprisal for their reporting.

Animated debate. The man fired after 27 years as The Simpsons’ lead composer accuses Disney’s newly acquired Fox divisions of age and disability discrimination, but the company’s defending the decision on First Amendment grounds.
A circuit court has rejected a former University of Kansas animation professor’s claim the First Amendment should have protected her from firing after students described her as a “Nazi sympathizer.”

Watchmen watch. HBO’s comic book-inspired and civil rights-themed miniseries has received more Emmy nominations than any other show this year.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

No free speech for robots / Curtain rising on free-speech fight / 'Unprecedented violence'

[Welcome to a new newsletter from the Free Speech Center. We hope you find it useful and engaging. Send comments, suggestions, complaints and corrections to FreeSpeechCenter@mtsu.edu.]

No free speech for robots. Rejecting a First Amendment defense, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a nearly 30-year-old ban on automated calls to cellphones—including campaign ads and previously allowed robocalls to people who owe the government money.
Veteran telecom lawyer Eric Troutman calls the ruling “a dark day for the First Amendment,” setting the stage for the government to “restrict all speech to everyone so long as it does so evenly.” (Image: Gerhard G./Pixabay.)
Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman sees court conservatives applying a rigid view of free speech that could be used to attack government regulation of, for instance, what information appears on drug warning labels (Bloomberg; behind a paywall).
Consumer Reports: How to protect yourself from robocalls (April 2019 link).

Music to our ears. Nearly two dozen Nashvillians—including the legendary Loretta Lynn, multi-Platinum award-winning artist Kane Brown, and multi-Grammy Award-winning musicians Rosanne Cash, Jason Isbell, Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker—have signed on to support the Free Speech Center’s “1 for All” campaign, encouraging Americans to know and use their First Amendment rights.
Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels, winner of the 2006 First Amendment Center/Americana Music Association “Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award,” is dead at 83.

Curtain rising on free-speech fight. Movie theater chains are suing New Jersey’s governor, contending they have a First Amendment right to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a continually updated log, the Free Speech Center is tracking how the pandemic is affecting First Amendment protections—and vice versa.

Seattle media vs. cops. The Seattle Times and four TV stations are opposing a Seattle police subpoena seeking unpublished images from protests May 30.
The city calls the subpoena “narrowly tailored,” but it seeks “any and all” images gathered by journalists in a downtown area during a 90-minute afternoon period.

‘Unprecedented violence.’ With student journalists on the front lines of protest coverage, the Student Press Law Center has posted a guide to help young reporters stay safe in the face of police brutality.
Lead “winner” in public radio WGBH-FM/Boston’s “New England Muzzle Awards” is a school district that briefly investigated and placed a teacher on leave for telling sixth-grade poetry students some police officers are racist.

Free throws, not all-that-free speech. The National Basketball Association has reportedly agreed to let players replace their names on the back of their jerseys with social justice slogans—but only if those words are on an approved list.
The Women’s National Basketball Association will let players wear the names of female victims of racialized violence.

‘The First Amendment is not designed to protect the president from people who disagree with him.’ Columnist and author Ellis Cose says Donald Trump’s rhetoric over the Fourth of July weekend “could have been lifted almost verbatim from the government’s anti-dissident playbook of over 100 years ago.”
Professor and book reviewer John Warner calls on the president to stop trying to quash free speech by authors critical of him …
… including his niece, psychologist Mary Trump, whose new book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man, condemns Donald Trump as “incapable of growing” and “unable to regulate his emotions.”
The Washington Post: The book portrays the president’s father as “a daunting patriarch who ‘destroyed’ Donald Trump by short-circuiting his ‘ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotion.’
The book reveals Mary Trump’s critical role in helping The New York Times win a Pulitzer for its investigation of the president’s taxes.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Moving violation? / 'A partisan ploy' / Abortion and the 1st

Moving violation? The Utah Tax Commission is wrestling with a complaint that “DEPORTM” runs afoul of rules forbidding vanity license plates that “express contempt, ridicule or superiority of a race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation.”
Lawmakers are investigating, too.
• Letter to the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune: “Freedom of speech is meaningful only if it includes the freedom to offend.”

‘A partisan ploy.’ Benjamin P. Marcus of the Freedom Forum Institute: “It’s time we stop reducing complex questions of religion and education to political debates about prayer.”Snopes gives a False rating to the claim that President Trump has “returned prayer” to public schools.

‘Kids need their rights to speak up.’ Fifty years after a historic Supreme Court ruling that the First Amendment applies to students, the woman at the heart of the case when she was 13 told University of Virginia law students that the right to free speech is often still denied to children of color.• State lawmakers are considering a law that would force University of Wisconsin campuses to discipline students who disrupt public speeches.


Abortion and the First Amendment. The CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women says of the historic Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion: “We should be celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. We should not have to be fighting to uphold it.”• U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos compares being pro-choice to supporting slavery.
• Opponents to a Nebraska bill to further limit abortions: “It is no accident that the first 11 words of the First Amendment … deal with religion.”
• Trump became the first sitting president to speak at the annual anti-abortion March for Life.