The Ohio legislature last summer unanimously enacted, and Gov. John Kasich signed, a law prohibiting “knowingly posting text or audio statements or images on a website ‘for the purpose of abusing… or harassing another person.'” Now plaintiffs of several political stripes have joined in a legal challenge alleging that they or their organizations “‘routinely engage’ in protected speech that ‘may be considered provocative'” and that the law is so vaguely and broadly worded as to subject them to “a credible risk of prosecution.” The suit was initiated by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh with assistance from his First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic. [AP/WHIO]
Try to track down the notaries who signed on this search-engine-scrubbing scheme as witnesses, and they melt away as if but a dream [Eugene Volokh]
Those free online course materials may be gone from the University of California, Berkeley, courtesy of a U.S. Deparment of Justice interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related statutes, but they’re not gone from the Internet: “20,000 Worldclass University Lectures Made Illegal, So We Irrevocably Mirrored Them” [LBRY] Won’t that infringe on a lot of copyrights? The site claims not: “The vast majority of the lectures are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows attributed, non-commercial redistribution.” Earlier coverage here, here, here, and here.
As someone put it, it looks as if the internet recognizes ADA litigation as damage and routes around it.
In the name of combating harms from false reports as well as injury to reputation, the government of Germany is considering imposing a tough legal regime on Facebook and other social media sites. Next year it “will take up a bill that’d let it fine social networks like Facebook $500,000 [per post] for each day they leave a ‘fake news’ post up without deleting it.” Both official and private complainants could finger offending material. The new law would also require social networks to create in-country offices charged with rapid response to takedown demands, and would make the networks responsible for compensation when posts by their individual users were found to have defamed someone. [David Meyer Lindenberg, Fault Lines; Parmy Olson, Forbes]
P.S. If not closely, then at least distantly related: “Ridiculous German Court Ruling Means Linking Online Is Now A Liability” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention panel discussion on Justice Scalia, originalism, and the First Amendment with Profs. Nadine Strossen, David Forte, Michael McConnell, and David Rabban, moderated by Judge Carlos Bea;
- Sad day for liberal Netherlands tradition of free political opinion [CNN on conviction of Geert Wilders, leader of prominent political party] More Euro speech-throttling: France mulls ban on anti-abortion websites (only) that “mislead” or “manipulate” [Guardian]
- Judge grants motions to dismiss, and to strike as SLAPP, the suit in California demanding “R” ratings on films with tobacco use [Greg Herbers, Washington Legal Foundation, earlier here and here, related here and here]
- “Congress’s rotten idea for fighting anti-Semitism” [Jacob Sullum, New York Post on S. 10, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016]
- “Lawyer seeks to identify author of three-word ‘horrible’ Google review” [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal; Eugene Volokh]
- Section 230 vindicated: “Judge Tosses Charges Against Backpage Execs, Tells Kamala Harris To Take It Up With Congress” [Tim Cushing/TechDirt, Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason]
- Breaking Thursday morning: court allows defamation claims by climate scientist Michael Mann to go forward against several defendants including Rand Simberg of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and columnist Mark Steyn, but throws out claim against National Review editor Rich Lowry over editorial [BuzzFeed, Jonathan Adler, CEI statement quoting CEI’s Sam Kazman and attorney Andrew Grossman]
- Fuller investigation of that “reputation management” ruse of filing dummy court cases with the aim of getting critical web posts taken down [Eugene Volokh and Paul Alan Levy, Levy first and second followups, earlier here and here]
- “When Civic Participation Means Shaming A Non-Voter’s Kid” [my Cato post about an ill-considered public service announcement]
- Why America’s regulation problem is so intractable: Fortune magazine cover story [Brian O’Keefe]
- El Paso benefits from immeasurable advantage over neighboring Juarez, Mexico: rule of law and related American cultural attitudes [Alfredo Corchado, City Journal]
- Tort litigation in Pennsylvania is at its most intensive in a few counties, and residents pay the price [Peter Cameron, Scranton Times-Tribune, I’m quoted]
- California AG Kamala Harris orders BackPage execs arrested; Section 230 be damned? [TechDirt]
- “EEOC to Gadsden Flag Lovers: Shut Up or Face Costly Lawsuits” [Hans Bader]
- Ellen de Generes raises First Amendment defense in suit by real estate agent with joshed-over name [Ronald Collins]
- Background: in England (generally unlike U.S.), tasteless jokes and online insults have been prosecuted as crime [Guardian on moves there to classify “misogyny” as hate crime]
- Melania Trump’s defamation suit against U.K.-based Daily Mail is filed in Maryland, also names obscure blogger from that state [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- Tale of ginned-up out-of-state defamation lawsuit meant to aid in “reputation management” takedowns gets even weirder [Paul Alan Levy, earlier]
- University of Tennessee, a public institution, cites First Amendment in dropping probe of Prof. Glenn Reynolds over controversial tweet [Robert Shibley, FIRE]
Billed as a federal remedy for so-called revenge porn, the proposed Intimate Privacy Protection Act is hailed by Peter Thiel in Monday’s New York Times as a “step in the right direction.” For contrasting views, compare Mark Bennett at Defending People and Scott Greenfield (“poorly drafted and ill-conceived”).
The North Carolina Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional the state’s recently enacted so-called cyberbullying ban [Scott Greenfield] The court noted that the “statute criminalizes posting online ‘private, personal, or sexual information pertaining to a minor'” even though “these terms are not defined by the statute.” And the definition urged by the state would restrict a potentially wide range of discussion of “personal… information pertaining to a minor,” at least when proceeding from prohibited “intent to intimidate or torment.”
Earlier, New York’s highest court said the similar law in that state could not pass First Amendment muster. And a Eugene Volokh amicus brief challenges Maryland’s cyberbullying law, which I criticized at the time of its passage three years ago.