Sweden’s advertising ombudsman has ruled the much-shared “Distracted Boyfriend Meme” improperly presents women as “sex objects” and is “a stereotypical picture of men seeing women as interchangeable”. While the industry panel itself has no power to impose a legal ban, its views might prove consequential since the Stockholm city council has enacted a ban on sexist billboards in public spaces. [Catherine Edwards, The Local]
A Southern California class action firm “is accused of bribing cash-strapped 20-somethings to serve as lead plaintiffs and submit false testimony.” The firm, Newport Trial Group, is active in many categories of litigation readers of this site may find familiar, including suits over alleged food and cosmetic mislabeling, slack fill, and failure to advise customers that their phone calls were being recorded, and its founder has also been listed as counsel in multiple suits against large corporations over web accessibility and claims of patent infringement by non-practicing entities. [Jenna Greene, American Lawyer Litigation Daily courtesy Texans for Lawsuit Reform]
Ironically, the complicated and protracted litigation that led to the new setback arose not from the numerous suits the law firm or its founder filed against household-name national companies, but from one against a purveyor of nutritional items and supplements such as colloidal silver. Excerpt:
The district court judge, James Selna, explained his reasoning in a June 12 decision that does not bode well for the firm.
Natural Immunogenics, he wrote, “has put forth sufficient evidence to support its contention that defendants operated a fraudulent scheme to manufacture litigation.”
“Specifically, NIC has established that in camera review may reveal evidence that defendants have a pattern of manufacturing litigation, which involves the [Newport Trial Group] defendants identifying companies vulnerable to false advertising or wiretap litigation, recruiting individuals to serve as lead plaintiffs, instructing the individuals on exactly what steps to take to give them the appearance of having suffered actionable injuries, and concealing and misrepresenting the contrived nature of the lawsuits from the courts.”
- State by state survey of 140 bills around the country on hot topics related to religious accommodation, including adoption, service refusals, campus speech, health care, etc. [Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News] And don’t forget to mark your calendar for two weeks from today when Cato will host our half-day conference on adoption, foster care, and pluralism with an array of fine speakers;
- What ails long-haul trucking in a time of prosperity? Federal break regulations, electronic monitoring, artificial constraints on parking among factors [Virginia Postrel, Bloomberg]
- Antitrust debates cut across political spectrum [Daniel A. Crane, Cato Regulation magazine] “Solicitor General Inveighs Against Antitrust-Law Revolution in SCOTUS ‘Apple v. Pepper’ Amicus Brief” [Corbin Barthold, WLF]
- These seem like well-planned-out laws: Google suspends running campaign ads in Washington and Maryland following states’ enactment of new disclosure laws [Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun, Jim Brunner and Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times, Scott Shackford]
- “Missouri appeals court tosses $55 million Johnson & Johnson talc-powder verdict” [Reuters, earlier (courts reverse two other big verdicts) and generally]
- “What Secretary Carson Should Know about Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)” [Vanessa Brown Calder, earlier]
Two things that can both be true:
1) we should find a better system than cash bail;
2) in the mean time bail bond services provide a needed service for some families.
Or as I put it in my new National Review piece:
This week Google and Facebook announced that they would stop accepting ads for bail-bond services. It’s the perfect moral gesture for our times: It makes a grand statement, keeps pressure groups happy, reminds us that the tech giants have weight to throw around, and leaves its intended beneficiaries no better and perhaps imperceptibly worse off.
I go on to discuss stigmatization as a substitute for policy, which sorts of practices if adopted would probably serve as a substitute for cash bail, and the widely held notion that mass incarceration in the contemporary U.S. arose from a plot to expand business revenue. The piece concludes:
If one is going to be suspicious of mercenary motives in the justice system, I recommend starting with the providers among whom defendants’ families do not get to pick and choose in their hour of need in a relatively competitive market. That would include probation providers and jail phone-call providers — and, yes, some firms involved with private prisons.
Of course, those companies aren’t big advertisers, since the only customer they need to convince is the law-enforcement agency. So Google and Facebook are spared the need to worry about what posture to strike toward them.
Whole thing here. For a different view, here’s Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights writing together with the chairman of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and general counsel for Koch Industries. [Malika Saada Saar and Mark Holden]
- Dangerous and misguided: Michigan pursues prosecution on charges of jury tampering of man who handed out “jury nullification” pamphlets on public sidewalk outside courthouse [Jay Schweikert, Cato; Jacob Sullum, earlier here, here, etc.]
- “‘Worst of Both Worlds’ FOSTA Signed Into Law, Completing Section 230’s Evisceration” [Eric Goldman] Among first casualties: Craigslist personals [Merrit Kennedy/NPR, Elizabeth Nolan Brown] And Elizabeth Nolan Brown joins (no relation) Caleb Brown on a Cato Daily Podcast;
- Is reprinting thumbnail headshots fair use? [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- “16 Pulse survivors sue Google, Facebook, Twitter for ‘supporting’ ISIS” [Daniel Dahm, WKMG Orlando]
- Not the group it used to be: ACLU calls for government-owned broadband, claims First Amendment may require as opposed to forbid state-operated communications infrastructure [Randolph May and Theodore Bolema, Free State Foundation] More: Scott Greenfield;
- Cato amicus commercial speech triple-header: Virginia’s ban on promoting happy hours (bars may hold them, but not promote them off premises) is an irrational leftover of Prohibition [Ilya Shapiro] While some commercial speech can be mandated, Ninth Circuit goes too far in upholding government-ordered scripts [Shapiro and Meggan Dewitt on structured-mortgage-payment case Nationwide Biweekly Administration v. Hubanks] Sign laws face tough scrutiny under 2015’s Reed v. Town of Gilbert, and Tennessee’s billboard law, which applies even to noncommercial speech, may run into trouble [Shapiro and Aaron Barnes]
California law compels “crisis pregnancy centers” whose mission is to provide alternatives to abortion to advise clients that the state of California offers free or low-cost abortion, contraception, prenatal counseling, and other services to eligible women. An instance of compelled speech that rises to the level of a First Amendment violation? [Ilya Shapiro as part of SCOTUSblog symposium on NIFLA v. Becerra; Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, and Meggan DeWitt, Cato]
Related: Courts should apply strict scrutiny to compelled-disclosure laws requiring firms to disparage own products or take part in public debate [Shapiro and DeWitt on cert petition in CTIA v. Berkeley, on Berkeley, Calif. law requiring cellphone vendors to warn customers of radio frequency exposures even though the FCC has found no scientific evidence to link to any illness]
- Canada: passenger sues saying low-cost airline boasted of “champagne service” but served only sparkling wine [The Points Guy]
- Not just air: balloon makers face serious copyright issues [Timothy Casey (Baker & Hofstadter), Balloon Professionals Magazine via @JenniferMRomig on Twitter]
- Noteworthy: Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.), citing due process concerns, vetoes state bill adopting into law Obama-era guidance on campus sexual misconduct [Emily Yoffe, The Atlantic]
- New electronic logging mandate eliminates fudge factor for independent and big-fleet truckers alike. What could go wrong? [Alan Smith and Forrest Lucas, The Hill]
- San Diego: “Artist Says Hotel Damaged His Work, Let It Be Used in Porn” [Victoria Prieskop, Courthouse News]
- “U.S. Withdrawal from UNESCO Is A Good Start” [Marian Tupy, Reason]
- Why manufacturers often push for the government to define food terms like “natural” [Peter Van Doren, Cato]
- The curse of Prohibition: how government nearly killed the cocktail [Peter Suderman]
- “Judge tosses class action suits over ‘100 percent grated Parmesan cheese’ label” [ABA Journal] “Food Court Follies: Fraud Suits Fall Apart after Plaintiffs’ Candid Admissions During Discovery” [Glenn Lammi, WLF] “Will a class-action suit really benefit those who bought Starburst [candies] expecting eight-percent fewer calories?” [Baylen Linnekin]
- Farmers are good at replenishing their flying livestock: “How Capitalism Saved the Bees” [Shawn Regan]
- “Menu labeling rules have not proven to have a significant effect on the amount of calories people consume” [Charles Hughes, Economics21 on FDA decision to proceed]
- More reactions to the Seventh Circuit’s caustic ruling (“no better than a racket”) on the Subway footlong settlement [George Leef, Cory Andrews, earlier]
The Supreme Court has been vigorous over the past 40 years in extending First Amendment protection to truthful commercial speech. Yet the “scholarly community has, with only rare exception, been either grudging or downright hostile to extending constitutional protection to commercial advertising. Most, although not all, scholars believe that protecting commercial speech trivializes what the First Amendment is truly about,” endangers vigorous regulation, “and risks diluting the strong protection traditionally given to more valuable areas of expression.” In this new Cato Institute policy analysis, Martin Redish of Northwestern University School of Law undertakes a defense:
…the question of protecting such speech should not be in doubt. Controversy comes from a failure to recognize how commercial speech furthers the values implicit in the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression. To show how commercial speech advances free speech values, I adopt a “perspectives framework” for First Amendment theory. First Amendment values are appropriately viewed from four different perspectives: the speaker perspective, the listener perspective, the regulator perspective, and the rationalist perspective. Subsequently I will show how protecting commercial speech advances freedom of speech from each perspective; in contrast, rejecting or reducing constitutional protection for commercial speech contravenes the reasons each perspective values free speech.