Free speech roundup

  • “New Puerto Rico law threatens jail time for spreading ‘false information’ about COVID-19” [Committee to Protect Journalists, earlier] Freedom for publishers and platforms to associate with whomever they want permits them to exclude quackery and health misinformation, and that’s a feature not a bug [Matthew Feeney]
  • It takes the FCC all of one day to reject petition from absurdly named pressure group Free Press demanding broadcast limits on statements by Trump and his allies about the novel coronavirus [Robby Soave, Eugene Volokh] Obscure West Coast group sues Fox over its coronavirus coverage [Volokh] Meanwhile, Trump camp is at it again: “Trump Campaign Sues TV Station for Running ‘Defamatory’ Coronavirus Attack Ad” [C.J. Ciaramella, earlier]
  • “A Teenager Posted About Her COVID-19 Infection on Instagram. A Deputy Threatened To Arrest Her If She Didn’t Delete It.” [Scott Shackford; Oxford, Wis.]
  • Technical countermeasures, as opposed to calling in the cops, most practical way to fend off that new form of anti-social activity, “Zoom-bombing” [Eugene Volokh]
  • “How the Telephone Consumer Protection Act Unconstitutionally Privileges Government Speech” [Trevor Burrus on Cato amicus brief in Supreme Court case of Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants]
  • From before the crisis, hate speech mini-roundup: Connecticut state agency sees it as part of its mission to defend an unconstitutional “racial ridicule” law enacted in 1917 [Volokh] “Hundreds of Scots who tell ‘offensive jokes’ on social media are being secretly logged on police database” [Ruth Warrander, Scottish Sun] Bad proposal in U.K. to give communications regulator authority to address material that “is not illegal but has the potential to cause harm.” [Matt Kilcoyne] Social media regulation: “No one is saying freedom of speech must be limited,“ says New York lawmaker filing bill to limit the freedom of speech [Sen. David Carlucci]


  • With respect to the Wisconsin teen, where have we gotten as a society where a cop thinks he can act this way? And of course, if she had just told the cop to go pound sand (which she had every right to do–after all, the First Amendment trumps “you will respect my authoritay”), we’d have people saying she deserved whatever she got etc.

    This is an unacceptable state of affairs. The cop should be prosecuted under federal civil rights laws, and the sentence should be incredibly stiff.

    • The cop should be prosecuted under federal civil rights laws, and the sentence should be incredibly stiff.

      That should be plural. There were two involved. Both are now defendants in a federal lawsuit seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, monetary damages, attorney fees and costs of suit.

      Among the facts alleged in the suit, this one is particularly disturbing:

      36. Sergeant Klump stated that he had direct orders from Sheriff Konrath to demand that Amyiah delete this post, and, if she did not, to cite Amyiah and/or her parents for disorderly conduct and to “start taking people to jail.”

      Also, although neither are defendants in the suit, Westfield’s District Administrator and the Marquette County Public Health department did not exactly shower themselves in glory. Another fact alleged in the same lawsuit:

      48. Administrator Meicher’s update stated that, “It was brought to my attention today that there was a rumor floating out there that one of our students contracted Covid-19 while on the band trip to Florida two weeks ago. Let me assure you there is NO truth to this. This was a foolish means to get attention and the source of the rumor has been addressed. This rumor had caught the attention of our Public Health Department and she was involved in putting a stop to this nonsense. In times like this, the last thing we need out there is misinformation. I asked her to prepare a short statement for the purpose of this update. I’ve pasted it below.”

      Although it’s far short of a federal criminal indictment, at least the bad actors can be publicly identified.

      The lawsuit complaint is here (PDF file):

      • Thanks for the correction.

        This is a civil rights violation under 18 USC 242. What’s scary is that if the family had refused, then people would have been arrested. Once again, the First Amendment for this family might as well have not been enacted. This is why criminal enforcement is necessary, as is life-ruining damages to be paid by the police officers.

        In addition, the people who libeled the girl ought to have to pay damages.

  • It appears to me that the WI authorities were engaging in the same kind of political actions that we sometimes see when a jurisdiction tries to fudge crime statistics to make themselves look better. Those people need to remember what their public service jobs are about. Don’t law enforcement officials take an oath to uphold the constitution? I strongly suggest the sheriff read it!

    • He understands qualified immunity. That’s all he needs to know.

      In America, more and more, the Constitution is: “You must respect my authoritay.” It’s funny on South Park. Not so funny when some thug is at your door taking away your free speech rights.

      • I was under the impression that qualified immunity is lost when a LEO knowingly violates his/her oath. It’s hard to believe that someone can take an oath to uphold the constitution and subsequently get away with denial of knowing what’s in it. If so, then the oath means nothing!

        • The problem is QI has been so twisted by the courts, including the SC, that it makes no sense.

          For QI to be overcome, the facts have to almost PERFECTLY line up with some previous case where the courts have said something violated the Constitution.

          But there’s a catch… The courts had to have said that past act violated the Constitution. Many times they just rule that QI was not overcome, without saying that a right was even violated. Which means the next time something EXACTLY the same happens, the court will still likely say the cop did not know better because there was not ruling with the exact same facts that said such actions were bad.

          And don’t even get started on courts ruling that QI is not overcome even when the alleged act is theft. How should cops know that stealing someone else’s property violated a right?

          QI is a monstrous violation of rights and has become perverted well beyond the original theory.