Daily Media Links 1/11

January 11, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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New from the Institute for Free Speech

IFS Says Goodbye to Director of External Relations Matt Nese

The Institute for Free Speech wishes to congratulate Matt Nese, our longtime Director of External Relations, on his new position as Vice President at People United for Privacy Foundation.

“We’re sorry to see Matt leave but pleased he will continue the fight for freedom of assembly at one of our close allies. We congratulate Matt on this well-deserved opportunity and thank him for his many years of service to the Institute for Free Speech,” said IFS President David Keating. “Since 2012, Matt has spearheaded our legislative outreach and coalition efforts and later supervised our policy, research, and communications teams. The Institute, and the First Amendment, would not be as strong as they are today without him.”

In two stints totaling nearly twelve years, Matt played a crucial role in the growth and success of the Institute for Free Speech. He undertook the considerable challenge of monitoring legislative and regulatory proposals affecting the Institute’s mission, both federally and in the states. He earned the respect of policymakers and expert organizations across the country and built relationships that help us sound the alarm when First Amendment rights come under attack.

Today, Matt is rightfully regarded as one of the nation’s top experts on state activity pertaining to freedom of speech and association. Behind the scenes, he played an equally critical role in assembling and developing the Institute’s team of policy, research, and communications experts. Those who have worked closely with Matt, both inside and outside of the Institute for Free Speech, have all benefitted from his remarkable expertise, diligence, integrity, and generosity.

In his new role at People United for Privacy Foundation, Matt will continue working to defend and advance Americans’ right to give privately to the causes of their choice. While we have lost a great colleague, we are glad to be keeping a great ally.

Congratulations, Matt.


HuffPost: Senate Begins Final Push On Voting Rights Bills With Eye To Filibuster Reform

By Paul Blumenthal

The Senate is expected to first hold another test vote on one or both voting rights bills this week. The test vote, aimed at getting Republicans to filibuster the bills for a fifth time, will likely be held Wednesday or Thursday, according to Democratic sources with knowledge of the matter. Democrats would then turn to heightened negotiations over changing the filibuster rules.

Manchin is in “active conversation” with a small group of moderate Democrats about what changes to filibuster rules he could support, according to a senior Democratic source with knowledge of the negotiations. The negotiations with Manchin are being led by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.)…

The potential filibuster changes discussed with Manchin include a carve-out for voting rights legislation and some form of a talking filibuster that would put the onus on the minority to speak and hold at least 41 members on the Senate floor at once in order to block legislation. But Manchin has already publicly expressed his distaste for a carve-out, saying, “Anytime there’s a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey.” Still, Democrats are pleased that he remains engaged in negotiations.

Reuters: Biden to push Senate rule change in bid to pass voting-rights law

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jarrett Renshaw

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday will begin an effort to weaken rules that allow a minority group of senators to kill proposed laws, arguing democracy is in peril unless new voting-rights legislation passes, the White House said.

Online Speech Platforms

Washington Post: Tech giants banned Trump. But did they censor him?

By Will Oremus

Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, is no fan of Trump. She believes the platforms probably made the right call by suspending him, and, if anything, should have done it sooner.

But she also believes that everyone — including those on the left — should be deeply concerned that unelected tech leaders possess such power over political speech, not only in the United States but throughout much of the world. And she thinks “censorship” is the right word for it, even when it’s justified.

“By not calling it censorship, we do ourselves a disservice,” York says. “We shouldn’t limit the term to just things we disagree with.”

The States

Reason: Washington’s Governor Wants To Prevent Another January 6 with Unconstitutional Censorship

By Scott Shackford

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants to make it a misdemeanor for politicians to lie about election results. Yes, of course this would violate the First Amendment…

In August, five Republican legislators in Inslee’s state held a rally encouraging the conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. They cannot be punished for such speech, because the First Amendment protects such arguments—yes, even false arguments.

Inslee thinks he can get around these protections by targeting falsehoods that are spread “for the purpose of undermining the election process” and “likely to incite or cause lawlessness.” The wording of the bill is not publicly available yet, but the governor seems sure that it will fit within the limits of Brandenburg v. Ohio, the 1969 Supreme Court case establishing that speech inciting lawless action is not protected.

But that precedent requires the threat of lawless action to be “imminent.” Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, notes that this is not a minor threshold.

“If I’m standing outside a police station and yelling ‘burn it down,'” that counts as calling for imminent lawless action, Volokh explains. “But just saying an election is a fraud and we should do about it isn’t incitement.” And to the extent that speech can incite imminent violence, Washington already has a law criminalizing it.

Tiffany Donnelly

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