Daily Media Links 10/2

October 2, 2020   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
Default Article

Supreme Court

National Review: The Comey Rule and Citizens United

By Jack Butler

Earlier this week, Showtime concluded The Comey Rule, a two-part miniseries adaptation of former FBI director James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty…

I have neither read Comey’s book nor watched the miniseries, nor do I plan to… But my lack of interest in the show would never extend to a desire to see it banned. This assertion may seem apropos of nothing, but it is not…

[T]he Left has a fantasy about is the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens Election v. Federal Election Commission. In the liberal imagination, this decision essentially allowed corporations to take control of our political system. In reality, the item directly at issue in the case, which led to the Court’s decision, was a movie whose release the then-operative campaign-finance laws had stymied…

Citizens United wanted to release Hillary: The Movie within 30 days of the 2008 Democratic primary; it was concerned that existing campaign-finance law prohibited this, the source of its original suit…

The Comey Rule’s creators have surely sold their program as a honest, accurate depiction of the events Comey describes. And maybe it is. But if, in doing so, it created an unflattering depiction of President Trump, within 60 days (note the difference) of a general election contest for federal office, would this have fallen afoul of pre-Citizens United law? 

The Courts

CBS Philly: Federal Appeals Court Temporarily Restores Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Restrictions On Gatherings

Pennsylvania’s pandemic restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings have been temporarily restored by a federal appeals court on Thursday. It puts on hold a judge’s ruling that threw out statewide limits on crowd size.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, may once again enforce size limits on gatherings while it appeals the lower court ruling…

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV in Pittsburgh, an appointee of President Donald Trump, had ruled against the state’s size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, saying they violate citizens’ constitutional rights to assemble. The state has been enforcing a gathering limit of more than 25 people for events held indoors and more than 250 people for those held outside.

Washington Free Beacon: L.A. Ordered to Pay NRA Six Figures After Losing First Amendment Case

By Stephen Gutowski

A federal court ordered Los Angeles to hand over more than $100,000 to the National Rifle Association after ruling that the city had violated the gun-rights group’s First Amendment rights.

Federal district court judge Stephen Wilson struck down a city ordinance aimed at punishing prospective contractors with ties to the NRA as an infringement on the right to free speech and association. On Tuesday, he ordered city officials to pay for the Second Amendment group’s attorney fees, which totaled nearly $150,000.

Forbes: Texas Councilwoman Fights Back After Her Opponents Had Her Arrested And Jailed

By Andrew Wimer

Sylvia Gonzalez’s story of public service starts out in a typical way. Dissatisfied with pothole-filled streets, she decided to run for city council. She knocked on doors across her neighborhood and won a narrow race against the incumbent. But only a few months into her service, she was charged with a crime, jailed, unseated, and the incumbent she defeated was placed back into the seat.

Now Sylvia is turning the tables and suing the city and the mayor, police chief, and a detective for violating her First Amendment rights. Here’s how a routine city government disagreement ended up in federal court.

Courthouse News: Lawsuit Seeks to Block Trump Sanctions Against ICC

By Adam Klasfeld

The Trump administration’s civil and criminal sanctions against anyone helping the International Criminal Court probe possible U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan are illegal and unconstitutional, a human rights group and law professors claim in a federal lawsuit Thursday…

“[Trump’s] executive order and the regulations impermissibly restrict plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech by prohibiting them from providing the speech-based services and assistance described above, including with respect to ICC investigations and prosecutions that the United States supports,” the [Open Society Justice Institute’s] complaint states. 


Washington Post: Senate panel votes to authorize subpoena targeting Facebook, Google and Twitter executives

By Tony Romm

A Senate committee voted Thursday to authorize subpoenas that could force the chief executives at Facebook, Google and Twitter to testify at an upcoming congressional hearing, escalating lawmakers’ war with Silicon Valley over their policies to police content online…

“These CEOs can make time to spend a few hours with the committee,” said Republican Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), the committee’s chairman, citing the need to explore the tech giants’ efforts to oversee “Americans’ speech at a critical time in our democratic process.”

Even as they voted to approve the subpoenas, Democrats still expressed early concern that the hearing threatened to devolve into a political affair, allowing Republicans to attack social media sites ahead of the 2020 presidential election…

On Thursday, Wicker again raised allegations that social media sites had engaged in “suppression of certain viewpoints” online, essentially “stifling the true diversity of political discourse on the Internet.” The comments triggered some trepidation among panel Democrats, led by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, who urged her colleagues about the “chilling effect” their inquiry might have on the tech giants’ efforts to police their platforms. Many Democratic lawmakers instead suggested the panel instead hold its hearing with Facebook’s, Google’s and Twitter’s leaders after the November election.

The Hill: Lawmakers introduce bill targeting foreign disinformation on social media

By Maggie Miller

Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) on Thursday introduced legislation intended to cut down on foreign disinformation on social media ahead of the election.

The Foreign Agent Disclaimer Enhancement (FADE) Act targets influence campaigns by requiring political content on social media to include a disclaimer if it is produced or sponsored by foreign groups, with the disclaimers remaining if the post is shared. 

The legislation would also expand language in the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to clarify that political ads and other content funded by a foreign source posted to social media that is meant to influence U.S. citizens must also be reported to the Department of Justice. FARA currently generally does not extend to social media posts. 

The Department of Justice would also be required to notify social media platforms if posts that fall under the bill do not have disclaimers, with the agency then directing the social media groups to remove the posts…

A similar piece of legislation was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators earlier this year which would require foreign media outlets to disclose if they are foreign agents. 

The Media

Reuters: Exclusive: Russian operation masqueraded as right-wing news site to target U.S. voters – sources

By Jack Stubbs

The Russian group accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election has posed as an independent news outlet to target right-wing social media users ahead of this year’s vote, two people familiar with an FBI probe into the activity told Reuters.

The latest operation centred around a pseudo media organisation called the Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens (NAEBC), which was run by people associated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency…

The website predominantly focused on U.S. politics and current events, republishing articles from conservative media and paying real Americans to write about politically-sensitive issues. A network of accounts posing as editors and journalists then promoted the articles on social media sites favoured by right-wing users.

A senior U.S. security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the press, said Russian operatives were increasingly recruiting “unwitting Americans” to write articles and post online.

Axios: Google will spend $1 billion to pay publishers for news showcase

By Sara Fischer

Google will pay publishers more than $1 billion over the next three years to create and curate high-quality journalism for a new set of features called Google News Showcase, executives tell Axios.

VTDigger: Media groups condemn Burlington protesters burning newspapers

By Mark Johnson

Two Vermont media groups on Tuesday condemned the hoarding and burning of copies of newspapers during racial justice protests in Burlington last week.

The Vermont Press Association and the Vermont Journalism Alliance said the destruction of the newspapers amounted to censorship and was an attempt to intimidate journalists covering the protests. 

National Review: AP Stylebook Discourages Use of ‘Riot,’ Expands Definition of ‘Protest’ to Include ‘Violence’

By Brittany Bernstein

The Associated Press Stylebook was amended this week to discourage the use of the word “riot” to describe violent protests, instead expanding the definition of “protest” to include violent demonstrations.

“Use care in deciding which term best applies: A riot is a wild or violent disturbance of the peace involving a group of people. The term riot suggests uncontrolled chaos and pandemonium,” said the AP Stylebook, which sets style guidelines followed by many mainstream media publications.

“Focusing on rioting and property destruction rather than underlying grievance has been used in the past to stigmatize broad swaths of people protesting against lynching, police brutality or for racial justice, going back to the urban uprisings of the 1960s,” it added…

“Unrest is a vaguer, milder and less emotional term for a condition of angry discontent and protest verging on revolt,” the AP continued.

Online Speech Platforms

The Verge: Facebook will start surfacing some public group discussions in people’s News Feeds and search results

By Ashley Carman

Facebook is expanding the reach of public groups today with new features that could lead to more people engaging in group discussions, but also potentially more visibility for dangerous or nefarious communities. The company announced multiple updates today for Groups that include automating moderation and covering people’s News Feeds with group discussions.

Buzzfeed News: The Era Of Influencers Being Apolitical Online Is Over

By Stephanie McNeal

The era of influencers being apolitical online is over. Influencers who continue to post their usual content without acknowledging the realities of this country face the risk of appearing so laughably out of touch that it renders anything else they have to say irrelevant. And as we get closer and closer to Nov. 3, an influencer who remains silent about one of the most consequential US elections in history may risk alienating and angering their followers in such a deep way that would be impossible to recover from…

Many influencers have embraced the new normal and have been able to mix their own political beliefs, discussion of human rights issues like Black Lives Matter, coronavirus safety, and more with their usual content. This goes for both sides of the political spectrum. Influencers who lean right-wing have found new audiences in recent months by leaning hard into MAGA – and also child sex trafficking awareness, which is usually a veiled reference to QAnon, a mass delusion that believes President Donald Trump is breaking up huge Democrat-run child abuse rings. The only thing that isn’t working is silence.

Since Trump won the presidency in 2016, it has become less and less possible for public figures to remain silent on their views, even if they belong to spaces that traditionally didn’t wade into the fray. 

ArsTechnica: Coinbase doubles down on anti-politics stance with exit package offer

By Timothy B. Lee

In the last few years, big technology companies have faced growing pressure from employees to become involved in social justice issues. This pressure intensified this summer with the George Floyd protests. But this week, CEO Brian Armstrong of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase staked out a contrarian stance.

“While I think these efforts are well-intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division,” Armstrong wrote in a blog post. “We’ve seen what internal strife at companies like Google and Facebook can do to productivity. I believe most employees don’t want to work in these divisive environments.” …

In an internal email to employees, Armstrong doubled down on the company’s new stance, offering any employee who “doesn’t feel comfortable with this new direction” four to six months of severance to leave the company, according to The Block.

“It’s always sad when we see teammates go, but it can also be what is best for them and the company,” Armstrong wrote. “Life is too short to work at a company that you aren’t excited about.”

Candidates and Campaigns

Election Law Blog: With News That the President Has Tested Positive for Coronavirus (and He Was in Contact with Joe Biden at the Debate Earlier in the Week), What Happens If a Presidential Candidate Dies or is Incapacitated Before Election Day? A Mess

By Rick Hasen

The President and First Lady reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus. As the New York Times notes, “Mr. Trump’s positive test result could pose immediate difficulties for the future of his campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger, with just 33 days before the election on Nov. 3. Even if Mr. Trump, 74, remains asymptomatic, he will have to withdraw from the campaign trail and stay isolated in the White House for an unknown period of time. If he becomes sick, it could raise questions about whether he should remain on the ballot at all.”

And of course with the President having just attended the debate earlier this week with Joe Biden, there could be concerns about Biden’s health as well.

I wish everyone who has contracted this terrible disease a full and speedy recovery.

But as a matter of national importance we need to ask what would happen if one of the presidential candidates died or became incapacitated before election day. Rick Pildes and Joshua Tucker did a two part series on the different permutations of what could happen, but this seems to fall within the cracks. Here’s the most relevant part of that discussion:

Marketplace Tech: Targeted political advertising could change how and whether people vote

By Molly Wood

How effective are targeted ads? If they can change a vote, should they be allowed? I spoke with John Deighton, a professor at Harvard Business School. His research focuses on digital and direct marketing. He says targeted advertising works, but it’s not the real problem. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

[John Deighton]: We need precision in targeting, because the alternative is waste. I think targeting is a reasonably innocent explanation for the popularity of digital marketing. But tailored content [is] not good, because tailored content that gets results is often the content that is most inflammatory. Let’s not try and tame it by forcing people to advertise to people who aren’t in the market for their product. But let’s regulate the content of communication…I don’t think platforms want to spread hate. I think they just haven’t invested enough in how to prevent it from happening…

[Molly Wood]: It is important, too, to say that when we talk about who is waging these political campaigns, part of the goal of not wasting money is to level the playing field a little bit so that incumbents don’t have an advantage, in that they have more money to waste. If you make the advertising more cost-efficient, then you allow non-incumbents a better opportunity to reach potential voters.

NPR: Where Are The Deepfakes In This Presidential Election?

By Tim Mak and Dina Temple-Raston

Despite people’s fears, sophisticated, deceptive videos known as “deepfakes” haven’t arrived this political season. But it’s not because they aren’t a threat, sources tell NPR. It’s because simple deceptions like selective editing or outright lies have worked just fine.

“You can think of the deepfake as the bazooka and the video splicing as a slingshot. And it turns out the slingshot works,” said Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley specializing in visual misinformation.

The States

Willamette Week: Mayor Ted Wheeler Loans His Campaign $150,000 After Desultory Fundraising Effort Flags

By Nigel Jaquiss

Mayor Ted Wheeler has injected some life into his reelection campaign with a $150,000 personal loan…

Iannarone’s campaign manager, Gregory McKelvey, says Wheeler’s loan violates campaign finance limits Portland voters approved in 2018…

Opponents of the 2018 campaign finance limits challenged them in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

That challenge meant the limits did not go into effect immediately. But in April, the Court of Appeals ruled the limits to be legal and sent the case back to Multnomah County Circuit Court.

City elections officials then began enforcing most-but apparently not all-of the provisions May 3, 2020.

That enforcement has led to a slew of violations, including several by Wheeler’s campaign, as candidates adjust not only to the limits but also new rules on disclosure…

“The Auditor’s Office is not currently enforcing the limit on self-financed campaigns because the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently and soundly rejected any limit on a candidate’s expenditure of his or her own funds to finance a campaign,” wrote Louise Hansen of the auditor’s office.

Dan Meek, one of the architects of the 2018 measure, disagrees with that stance. Meek says that in a Multnomah County Court proceedings last week, the city and proponents of the limits agreed on an order than would include enforcement of the $5,000 limit-but Judge Eric Bloch has not yet signed that order.


Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly


Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap