Posts Tagged ‘free speech’

Social media law roundup

  • “The Moral Panic Behind Internet Regulation” [Matthew Lesh, Quillette] New Congressional Research Service report on free speech and the regulation of social media content [Valerie C. Brannon, Congressional Research Service]
  • “A social media campaign from the French government has been blocked by Twitter – because of the government’s own anti-fake-news law” [BBC via Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • European authorities misidentify many pages on Internet Archive as “terrorist,” demand takedown [Mike Masnick, Techdirt]
  • Armslist case is one in which Section 230 protected Second Amendment rights (that’s not a misprint for First) [John Samples, Cato; Eugene Volokh]
  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)’s bill to require the largest social media firms to obtain certification of their political balance from the FTC, on pain of making them liable for all content posted by users, met with hail of dead cats from knowledgeable observers [Elliot Harmon/EFF, John Samples/Cato and more, Cathy Gellis, Joshua Wright thread, Eric Goldman, Raffi Malkonian on retroactivity and more, Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason] Related: Daphne Keller (“Build Your Own Intermediary Liability Law: A Kit for Policy Wonks of All Ages”);
  • “We sympathize with Plaintiffs — they suffered through one of the worst terrorist attacks in American history. ‘But not everything is redressable in a court.'” [Sixth Circuit, Crosby v. Twitter, affirming dismissal of lawsuits seeking to hold Twitter, Facebook, and Google liable under Anti-Terrorism Act for abetting self-radicalization of perpetrator of Orlando Pulse attack]

Free speech roundup

  • Following similar rulings in Charleston, S.C., and Washington, D.C., federal judge rules Savannah violated First Amendment when it passed law forbidding unlicensed tour guides [Andrew Wimer, Institute for Justice]
  • Pursuing a leak, San Francisco cops raid home of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody, hold him captive, seize his equipment [Yashar Ali, CNN] “SF police got warrant to tap journalist’s phone months before controversial raid” [Evan Sernoffsky, San Francisco Chronicle] Update: judge revokes warrant and says cops didn’t tell her target of wiretap was a journalist [Billy Binion, Reason]
  • Breadth of the Julian Assange indictment and implications for the First Amendment [Eugene Volokh]
  • Three concepts of “hate speech” related to religion, and their different legal treatment: “speech that denigrates religion as such; speech that threatens imminent violence against believers; and speech that insults or denigrates believers on the basis of religion” [Mark Movsesian and Marc DeGirolami podcast, Center for Law and Religion, St. John’s]
  • New York disciplines a civil servant over political opinions he expressed on Facebook. Can it do that? [Center for Individual Rights]
  • “Goldsmith … was charged with simple misdemeanor harassment for a Facebook post he made expressing his criticism of the policing methods he witnessed by an Adams County sheriff’s deputy at a local town festival.” [ACLU] Speaking of that organization: “ACLU (N.H.) Challenging Criminal Libel Statute” [Eugene Volokh last winter]

Free speech roundup

  • Turkish economist “Snatched at Night, Questioned for ‘Insulting’ Erdogan” [Asli Kandemir and Taylan Bilgic, Bloomberg News] “Croatian journalists stage protest against abusive lawsuits” [IFEX]
  • SCOTUS has made clear that First Amendment generally bans government from “retaliat[ing] against a contractor… for the exercise of rights of political association.” That should doom Los Angeles ordinance requiring contractors to disclose ties to National Rifle Association (NRA) [Eugene Volokh]
  • “How Regulation Cripples Online Political Speech” [Cato Daily Podcast with attorney Allen Dickerson with the Institute for Free Speech; related on unconstitutional Maryland law] License to chill: New Jersey bill would require disclosure of donors involved in “providing political information on any candidate or public question, legislation, or regulation” [Emily Kelchen, Federalist Society]
  • Alabama publicity rights law trips up documentary series with focus on deceased man [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
  • “Libel Case Can’t Be Litigated with the Alleged Libel Sealed, Says Federal Court” [Volokh]
  • “Why Is the Fight for Free Speech Led by the Psychologists?” [Scholar’s Stage] From last year, another review of Keith Whittington’s book on academia, Speak Freely [James Stoner; earlier here, here]

Eugene Volokh on anti-libel injunctions

Injunctions against committing libel are one of the important exceptions to the general principle that the government cannot restrain your speech ahead of time, as distinct from prescribing legal consequences that might apply to it afterward. Eugene Volokh is serializing at Volokh Conspiracy some of the main points of a new article he has published in the Penn Law Review that draws a close connection between anti-libel injunctions and another anomaly of speech regulation, criminal libel (which departs from the general modern rule that legal consequences for unjust harm to reputation are generally civil and compensatory). He writes:

An injunction against libel, which carries the threat of prosecution for criminal contempt, is like a miniature criminal libel law—just for a particular defendant, and just for statements about a particular plaintiff. That is its virtue. That is its danger. And that is the key to identifying how the First Amendment and equitable principles should constrain such injunctions.

Injunctions themselves can be divided between permanent injunctions entered after a civil trial on the merits has found earlier speech to be libelous, and preliminary injunctions entered before there exists such a record. The two types of remedy have different potential dangers. The criminal libel comparison makes clear some of the other problems that can arise with libel injunctions, which include overbreadth and the lack of an equivalent of prosecutorial discretion.

Campus speech roundup

  • At UCLA as elsewhere, pledges and obligatory statements about diversity threaten academic freedom [Robert Shibley, Minding the Campus, Paul Caron/TaxProf, Christian Schneider, New York Post, earlier]
  • 2019, 1673, whatever: By calling ourselves “inclusive,” Cambridge explains, we mean “there is no place here for” those who fail to accept key tenets of faith and morals [Robby Soave] He “had just chosen to move from Australia, the country where he earned his degrees and spent most of his career, to China. Why? Because, as a researcher, he has more freedom in China.” [Peggy Sastre, Quillette] Heresy hunts in American academia aren’t exactly new, consider what happened fifty years ago to once-lauded “culture of poverty” anthropologist Oscar Lewis [Bryan Caplan]
  • Remarkable glossary of terms “intended to structure and referee conversations on campus” circulates at Amherst College, whose Office of Diversity and Inclusion has a staff of 20, more than one for every hundred of the institution’s 1800 students [Rand Richards Cooper, Commonweal via Christina Sommers] University of Michigan has at least 82 full-time diversity officers at payroll cost of $10.6 million, a sum would cover full in-state tuition for 708 students [Mark Perry on Twitter] At the University of Texas, diversity-related staffers cost $9.5 million annually [Derek Draplin, College Fix]
  • Some conservatives do their bit to undermine academic freedom when they try to get professors fired for bad speech unrelated to teaching and scholarship [David French, Robby Soave]
  • Law schools debate whether to be even more ideological, although the product of the academy is supposed to be knowledge rather than activism [John McGinnis responding to Samuel Moyn] Outcry after Emory Law School suspends professor who had uttered racial slur in context of critically describing others as using the slur [Paul Caron/TaxProf, more]
  • Rhode Island student drummed out of state college for not advancing “value of social and economic justice” can take his case to a jury, rules state’s high court; Cato Institute had filed amicus brief on his behalf [Ilya Shapiro and Patrick Moran]

Facebook now welcomes social media regulation

In a Cato Podcast with Caleb Brown, John Samples discusses his new Cato policy analysis, “Why the Government Should Not Regulate Content Moderation of Social Media.” One thing that changed just lately: Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in the words of Nick Gillespie,

is explicitly calling for government regulation of specifically political speech on his platform and beyond. In his quest to limit expression on social media, Zuckerberg is joined not only by progressive Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) but conservative Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who are calling for the equivalent of a Fairness Doctrine for Twitter and similar services.

For those of us who believe in freedom of expression, this is a revolting development.

More: event video; “Will a Free Press Cheer on Government Censorship of the Internet?” [Scott Shackford, Hans Bader] Several commentators note that having made Facebook the big success in its market, Zuckerberg can now ask for regulations that would tend to lock in its dominance by heaping compliance burdens on rising competitors [Coyote, Andrea O’Sullivan, Mercatus]

Free speech roundup

  • “In Cato’s latest ‘funny brief,’ Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus are once again telling the Court that scandalous speech is valuable to society and that there’s no way for a government office to be trusted to decide what’s ‘scandalous.'” [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus on Cato certiorari amicus brief (with P.J. O’Rourke, Nadine Strossen, and others) in trademark registration case of Iancu v. Brunetti]
  • Could someone remind the President of the United States that there’s no law against making fun of him on TV? [Jacob Sullum]
  • New Zealand declares it a crime to possess or distribute manifesto of Christchurch mass murderer, begins filing charges against persons who shared on social media [Charlotte Graham-McLay, New York Times via Josh Blackman, Tripti Lahiri/Quartz]
  • Airport concession flap appears to set up a First Amendment case that Chick-fil-A would win, should it choose to pursue its rights against the city of San Antonio [KSAT, Hans Bader] Courts take seriously the doctrine of First Amendment retaliation even in otherwise discretionary areas of government operation [David French on Riley’s American Heritage Farms v. Claremont Unified School District, C.D. Calif. (school field trips to “living history farm” with outspokenly conservative owner)]
  • Courts should narrowly construe “true threat” exception to free speech law to cases where there is objective threat, not just malicious intent [Ilya Shapiro and Michael Finch on Cato certiorari amicus brief in Knox v. Pennsylvania]
  • Did a federal magistrate judge order the Chicago Sun-Times not to publish a juicy, mistakenly unsealed FBI affidavit from the city’s unfolding corruption case? (The paper published anyway) [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]

Free speech roundup

  • We’ll pass the bill first, and let the courts tell us later whether it violates the First Amendment. That’s not how it’s supposed to work [my Free State Notes on a Maryland “cyberbullying” bill]
  • Local laws requiring government contractors to disclose/disclaim ties to the anti-Israel BDS movement have rightly come under criticism. Will that spill over to a constitutionally dubious new Los Angeles ordinance requiring contractors to disclose ties with an advocacy group devoted to a different issue, the NRA? [Eugene Volokh]
  • “Lust on Trial,” new book by Amy Werbel on celebrated vice crusader Anthony Comstock [Kurt Conklin with Alex Joseph, Hue (Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC); podcasts at FIRE with Nico Perrino and ABA Journal with Lee Rawles]
  • “The Rushdie affair became a template for global intellectual terrorism” from Paris and Copenhagen to Garland, Tex.; in a different way, it also foreshadowed the far pettier heresy hunts and sanctity trials of callout culture [Jonathan Rauch]
  • $250 million libel suits as a fantasy way to own the libs? In real life meanwhile big-ticket libel suits are used to silence conservatives [Competitive Enterprise Institute press release (leading media orgs including RCFP, SPJ, ASNE support rehearing of D.C. court ruling favorable toward Michael Mann defamation action), NR editors, Jack Fowler] “The media’s Covington coverage was appalling, but Nick Sandman’s libel lawsuit is not the answer” [Robby Soave, Irina Manta] Another part of the forest: Justice Clarence Thomas criticizes New York Times v. Sullivan [Will Baude, Cass Sunstein, Ramesh Ponnuru]
  • “A new documentary showcased by PBS presents Montana as a success story of campaign finance reform and Wisconsin’s John Doe investigations as a failure.” But “Dark Money” has some omissions [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Steve Klein of the Pillar of Law Institute]

International free speech roundup