- Fourth Circuit: Title IX may oblige universities to take action against outside social media sites whose content is said to create hostile environment. By blocking student access to them? [Samantha Harris, FIRE, Eugene Volokh, Robby Soave on University of Mary Washington ruling]
- Return of the loyalty oath? Some senior academics speak out against required faculty diversity statements and pledges, at the University of California [Stephen Bainbridge, Nick Wolfinger, John McGinnis, Law and Liberty] and Harvard [Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Jeffrey Flier, Times Higher Education]
- Speech codes and “The Coddling of the American Mind”: Greg Lukianoff and Adam Goldstein guestblog at Volokh Conspiracy [series: first, second, third, fourth, fifth]
- “OCR’s use of overly broad anti-Semitism definition threatens student and faculty speech” [Zach Greenberg, FIRE] University of Washington lecturer publishes article on sex differences in pursuit of computer careers, it’s cited as gender harassment as part of successful push for training and curriculum review [Stuart Reges, Quillette] Update on “Fourth floor, ladies’ lingerie” joke episode [Katherine Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education, earlier]
- Bias response teams are benign-sounding way to police speech [Dan E. Way, Martin Center] Prescribed first-year programs do much to bend the assumptions surrounding what can be safely said [John Tierney, City Journal] Artists’ intent was to challenge Confederate imagery, but some students were offended, so down it went [Inside Higher Ed: Scott Jaschik and Emily Chamlee-Wright and Sarah Skwire]
- Speech First, recently formed nonprofit group, sues University of Texas over speech policies [Phil Prazan, KXAN, Washington Examiner: Lauren Cooley and Grant Addison]
- Fourth Circuit rejects gag order on parties and potential witnesses in North Carolina hog farm litigation [Eugene Volokh]
- Eighth Circuit, interpreting Missouri law’s obligation to register as “lobbyist,” leaves open possibility that requirement extends to unpaid lobbyists, also known as concerned citizens [Jason Hancock, Kansas City Star; Institute for Free Speech on Calzone v. Missouri Ethics Commission]
- “9 Months in Prison for Forging Court Orders Aimed at Vanishing Online Material” [Volokh] Per one account at least 75 fake court documents have been sent to Google as part of takedown efforts, including an order purporting to come from the UK Supreme Court [same]
- The accused pipe bomber had made online death threats against Ilya Somin, libertarian lawprof and friend of this site. Lessons to draw? [Cato Daily Podcast, more]
- Entanglement of press and state leads nowhere good: Canadian government to allocate C$600 million in subsidies to newspapers and legacy media [Stuart Thomson, National Post; earlier on press subsidies here, here; some Canadian background from 1983]
- Court: First Amendment doesn’t protect Comcast from bias charge over its decision not to carry block of black-owned TV channels [Jon Brodkin, ArsTechnica]
“Big internet platforms for speech are privately owned, but those who would pressure private firms to restrict speech are often the same people who would substantially restrict the rights of people to speak. John Samples and Emily Ekins discuss how Americans think about free speech today and ways to defend it in the modern age.” [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown]
More: John Samples on Facebook moderation policies; Matthew Feeney, “Keep Government Away From Twitter.” And if Congress abrogates the liability protections of Section 230, as some conservatives urge, one predictable consequence will be that more conservatives will wind up getting purged from social media [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
- Repercussions of Supreme Court’s Janus ruling on bar associations’ compulsory extraction of dues from nonmembers [Maxine Bernstein, Oregonian] “State Supreme Court calls a ‘timeout’ for Washington Bar Association to review its rules” [Steve Miletich, Seattle Times] “ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) Cannot Survive the Supreme Court’s Recent Decisions in NIFLA and Matal” [Kim Colby, Federalist Society, earlier on rule banning some types of speech and expression by lawyers on anti-discrimination grounds]
- Pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio sues New York Times for libel [Quint Forgey, Politico; Joe Setyon, Reason; over the years]
- When may governments boycott private companies’ output because those companies promote disapproved ideas? [Eugene Volokh, more]
- First Amendment has consistently foiled Donald Trump’s designs against critics’ speech [Jacob Sullum; related, David Henderson] “The culture of free speech has been deteriorating for long enough that politics, sadly and predictably, is catching up.” [Matt Welch] “Threats of violence discourage people from participating in civic life. This is an unusually good opportunity to deter them.” [Conor Friedersdorf during Ford-Kavanaugh episode]
- “Fighting Words and Free Speech” [John Samples] “A New Podcast on Free Speech: Many Victories, Many Struggles” [same on Jacob Mchangama podcast series]
- “U.K. Supreme Court: Baker Doesn’t Have to Place Pro-Gay Marriage Message on Cake” [Dale Carpenter, Peter Tatchell, Lee v. Ashers]
[J]ust after Twitter and Facebook appeared before Congress, the DOJ released a statement saying that it was investigating whether or not actions by the big internet companies was “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas.” The full statement was short and to the point:
We listened to today’s Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Foreign Influence Operations’ Use of Social Media Platforms closely. The Attorney General has convened a meeting with a number of state attorneys general this month to discuss a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.
The competition question is one that the DOJ’s antitrust division clearly has authority over, but alarms should be raised about the DOJ or state AGs arguing that these platforms are “stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms.” Because while — on its face — that might sound like it’s supporting free speech, it’s actually an almost certain First Amendment violation by the DOJ and whatever state AGs are involved.
There are lots and lots of cases on the books about this, but government entities aren’t supposed to be in the business of telling private businesses what content they can or cannot host. Cases such as Near v. Minnesota and Bantam Books v. Sullivan have long made it clear that governments can’t be in the business of regulating the speech of private organizations — though those are both about regulations to suppress speech.
More: “How Regulating Platforms’ Content Moderation Means Regulating Speech – Even Yours” [Cathy Gellis]; John Samples, Cato Daily Podcast on Trump’s comments about Google searches; Federalist Society debate on social media antitrust; “if you’re going to make an allegation that there’s a big [anti-conservative] conspiracy [on search engine results], you should do your due diligence.” [Zachary Graves] Earlier here, etc.
New Jersey court orders Google to take down newsworthy photo Chicago Tribune had run of plaintiff [Eugene Volokh; note that plaintiff subsequently voluntarily dropped the case] And courts can’t order private media outlets to expunge truthful coverage of charges against someone, can they? [Volokh on Houston judge’s order against website of broadcaster KTRK]
- Senators have big plans for government regulation of social media but U.S. Constitution keeps getting in way [John Samples, Cato; David McCabe, Axios, earlier] “Censorship breeds censorship envy, and that’s true of private suppression by massively influential platforms such as Facebook as well as of governmental censorship.” [John Samples, Eugene Volokh]
- Is it lawful for a state lawmaker to block someone on Twitter who’s publicly discussed ways of murdering him? [Dorit Reiss, PrawfsBlawg, earlier]
- European Parliament delays adopting online copyright directive that critics said would result in Internet content filtering and royalties for linking [Thomas McMullan/Alphr, BBC earlier]
- Is the ACLU OK with French catcalling law? [Robby Soave] With using government to keep the wrong sorts of people from owning radio outlets? [Scott Shackford, related]
- Federalist Society telecast on Ninth Circuit decision on Idaho “ag-gag” law with UCLA lawprof Eugene Volokh and Andrew Varcoe of Boyden Gray & Associates;
- “Arrests for offensive Facebook and Twitter posts soar in London” [Sadie Levy Gale, Independent] Downhill in Denmark: “How the Right Abandoned Free Speech in Europe” [Cato podcast and Reason interview with Jacob Mchangama]
Not using someone’s preferred pronoun — “whether it’s he, she, ‘ze’ or something else” — could become a disciplinary offense, escalating up to firing and expulsion, at the University of Minnesota under a proposed policy [Maura Lerner, Minneapolis Star-Tribune] I’m quoted as saying that although protecting transgender members of its community from purposeful insult or breach of privacy is a legitimate purpose, the university is likely to fare poorly in court if it presumes to punish community members for not using new-coined gender pronouns on demand [Sarah George, The College Fix]:
“As a public institution with an educational mission to uphold, Minnesota can appropriately make some demands of its members, such as respecting norms of collegiality, refraining from insult, observing consistent standards in filling out paperwork, and so forth,” Olson told The Fix via email.
“But this does not constitute a blank check to police and punish language use generally, especially not in politically charged areas of speech, and most especially when the policy departs from viewpoint neutrality to side with some controversial views over others.”…
“Before presuming to force university members to mouth or endorse politically controversial language as a condition of keeping their jobs or remaining enrolled, the university must show that such coerced expression is essential to its functioning as an educational institution. It has not, and I suspect cannot, made such a showing,” he said.
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) proposes to regulate social media bots, or to put it differently, to regulate a form of speech carried on through automated mechanisms [John Samples, Cato]
- “The State of New Jersey Wants to Subsidize News. Uh-oh.” [Jack Shafer, Politico] Canada, farther down this road, moves toward outright government subsidies to newspapers [Mylene Crete and Jordan Press, Canadian Press]
- “Court tosses disbarred lawyer’s suit over newspaper article on his ethics case with a ‘crime’ header” [ABA Journal]
- Compelled speech in NIFLA v. Becerra: “A First Amendment Win in a Case That Was NOT about Abortion” [Ilya Shapiro and Meggan DeWitt, Eugene Volokh, Erica Goldberg] More: DeWitt Cato podcast;
- New Nadine Strossen book on hate speech challenges some conventionally accepted ideas about its effects [John Samples, earlier] Man in Pennsylvania charged with felony ethnic intimidation after calling officers who were arresting him Nazis, skinheads, and Gestapo [Joshua Vaughn, The Appeal]
- Will lawyers face punishment for using wrong-gender pronouns in social or bar-association activities? Lambda Legal suggests the answer is yes [Eugene Volokh]
- Is ACLU changing its tune on free speech for the worse? [Wendy Kaminer, David Cole, Ira Glasser, Nadine Strossen] Symposium on Louis Michael Seidman essay, “Can Free Speech Be Progressive?” [First Amendment Watch, essay excerpt]
- Series of posts and law review article by Eugene Volokh on how Founding-era public understanding of freedom of the press encompassed a much wider swath of activity than just commercial or professional press enterprise [Volokh Conspiracy]
- “Perhaps it would be easier if [Councilman Justin] Brannan just issued a list of who is allowed to speak in his community.” [Karol Markowicz on Brooklyn pol who’s bragged of pressuring venues to cancel GOP and NRA events]
- “Free Speech in International Perspective” symposium this month at Cato Unbound includes Jacob Mchangama, Anthony Leaker, Jeremy Waldron, Jonathan Rauch;
- “An opinion, however moronic or unfair, is absolutely protected [absent special circumstances not present here]…. Though I celebrate an apology for wrongdoing, I can’t celebrate a surrender at swordpoint that encourages censorious litigation.” [Ken at Popehat on $3.375 million Southern Poverty Law Center settlement with Maajid Nawaz]
- Why veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell changed his mind on Northern Ireland cake controversy [The Sun, BBC]