The Institute for Free Speech is excited to welcome Eric Peterson to the External Relations team as a Senior Policy Analyst. Prior to joining IFS, Eric was a Senior Policy Analyst at Americans for Prosperity, where he worked on issues ranging from pensions to occupational licensing reform. He graduated from Tulane in 2012 with degrees […]
Archives for June 2018
Filed Under: Blog
By Alex Baiocco
The greatest threats to civil liberties often occur in the name of “national security.” History has shown that free political speech is almost always among the first rights to be curbed. In the ongoing debate surrounding appropriate remedies and responses to foreign election campaign interference, we must remain skeptical of any proposal that risks repeating this shameful history.
This brings us to the Honest Ads Act. The sponsors of the bill in Congress are pitching their proposal as a response to Russian ad buys on social media. Most of these ads were meant to inflame existing political tensions in the United States by echoing controversial views on contentious issues. Some were an attempt to influence our opinions of candidates during the run up to the 2016 election. While this legislation seeks to broadly regulate political communications online, it will not meaningfully address the kind of foreign meddling we saw in 2016.
But it will chill core political speech from Americans. Why? The bill holds both online platforms and speakers liable for violations of its many confusing provisions. The risk of legal liability for speech offenses necessarily chills speech. All speech liability imposed by the bill would fall squarely on Americans engaging in or facilitating political speech…
The incompatibility of liability for speech and freedom of speech is easy to understand. If speakers risk running afoul of the law when expressing their opinions, many will simply choose silence. If platforms also risk penalties when hosting such opinions, some will steer clear of allowing such speech altogether. The more vague or complex any new regulations of speech are, the higher the risk of violating them.
The rules in the Honest Ads Act are both vague and complex, not to mention burdensome.
Yesterday, a California judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges Twitter’s ban of one of its former users, the controversial Jared Taylor. I may write more on the case later, but the transcript of the ruling makes for pretty entertaining reading, as far as these things go. My understanding is the ruling is permanent. […]
By Ken Dixon
State Sen. Joe Markley of Southington and Rep. Rob Sampson of Wolcott were ordered this spring to pay $2,000 and $5,000 fines respectively, for what the State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled was an effort to help Republican Tom Foley’s challenge to Malloy.
Now, the Alexandria, Va-based Institute for Free Speech has agreed to pursue the case in state Superior Court along with Mike Cronin, a legal adviser for Senate Republicans.
“Talking about our opinions of the governor is almost essential campaign speech,” Markley said in a Tuesday interview. “The case, on a certain level, makes people scratch their heads.”
Markley, who won the state GOP endorsement for lieutenant governor last month, said the fines are an “unreasonable barrier to political speech.”
“This policy effectively bans candidates from speaking to voters about one of the most important responsibilities of the office they seek to hold – checking the power of the executive,” said Allen Dickerson, legal director of the non-profit institute…
[The SEEC] said that Sampson and Markley made illegal expenditures for Foley, who would have had to share the cost of the mailers…
Sampson, who is seeking Markley’s Senate seat, and the senator split the cost of mailers that, while highlighting their achievements in office, also mentioned Malloy’s tax hike and overall policies. Two more ads from Sampson mentioned the governor’s policies…
Markley recalled that about two dozen other Republican candidates had similar complaints against them and settled with the SEEC, but that in August, 2016, he and Sampson refused, and instead looked for support from First Amendment advocates.
By Luke Wachob
For Facebook, government regulation of political and issue ads on its platform is the lesser of two evils. Russian interference in the 2016 election, which involved the purchasing of politically-charged Facebook ads, has sparked calls for government to regulate the social media giant. It has also raised awareness of the way Facebook’s business model relies on collecting data on its users and allowing advertisers to target users with messages designed to appeal to their interests.
Public unease with this aspect of Facebook’s business could be a major problem for the company. It’s therefore in Facebook’s interest to do whatever it can to shift the conversation away from its user privacy protections – or lack thereof. The company’s first reaction to the Russia controversy, which was simply to deny that any problem existed with the platform, failed to persuade. So now Facebook is on to plan B: support some dumb legislation and self-censor until the politicians get off its back.
Enter the Honest Ads Act. Notably, prior to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s endorsement of the bill in April, the Honest Ads Act had been languishing in Congress. That neglect was for good reason. Drafted in a rush to capitalize on media coverage of Russian interference, the Honest Ads Act fails to provide real solutions to foreign meddling. Compared to the more targeted approach pursued in other proposals, the Honest Ads Act would indiscriminately increase regulation for all online political advertising…
Online speech has long been regulated with a light touch out of a bipartisan recognition that the Internet is an empowering and diversifying medium capable of uplifting marginalized voices. Regulating Internet ads like expensive television and radio ads breaks with that tradition and recasts the Internet’s ability to accelerate social change as a bug rather than a feature.
By Christine Stuart
Two Republican lawmakers are appealing the ruling of the State Elections Enforcement Commission in Superior Court saying that election regulators violated their free speech rights in 2014.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission fined Sen. Joe Markley $2,000 and Rep. Rob Sampson $5,000 for failing to get Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s opponent or their party to help pay for mailers attacking Malloy…
The Institute for Free Speech has agreed to take the case to court on behalf of Markley and Sampson…
“Just as candidates for Congress must be able to discuss the president, candidates for state legislature must be able to discuss the governor,” Institute for Free Speech Legal Director Allen Dickerson said. “Yet Connecticut law prevents candidates for the General Assembly from criticizing the governor’s policies in ads unless they first secure the approval and funding of one of the governor’s opponents. This policy effectively bans candidates from speaking to voters about one of the most important responsibilities of the office they seek to hold – checking the power of the executive.”
Markley and Sampson through their attorneys are asking the court to dismiss the fines and declare the law unconstitutional.
“Requiring legislative candidates to get permission and funding from a gubernatorial candidate in order to discuss the governor in campaign ads violates the First Amendment,” the two said in a press release.