Daily Media Links 10/6

October 6, 2021   •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  
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We’re Hiring!

2022 Summer Associate Legal Fellowship

The 2022 Institute for Free Speech Summer Associate Legal Fellowship is a unique opportunity for current law school students to explore a career in public interest and First Amendment law. The program is open to students who will finish their first or second year of law school by the summer of 2022.

Fellows are expected to work full time for 10 weeks in our Washington, D.C. headquarters, but other arrangements may be available to especially outstanding candidates.

Fellows are eligible to earn $10,000 in salary for their 10 weeks of employment.

During the fellowship, students will work with Institute for Free Speech attorneys for a portion of their time. Each fellow will also be expected to complete a project. Applicants are encouraged to be creative in suggesting a project as part of their application.

Those with interest are strongly encouraged to apply as early as possible. Applications received after November 30, 2021 will not be eligible for a $10,000 paid fellowship. Applications received after November 23 will be at a strong disadvantage. Additional fellowships may be available after November 30, but compensation is not guaranteed.

[You can learn more about this role and apply for the position here.]

In the News

Bucks County Courier Times: Pennsbury hit with second lawsuit in two weeks. This one challenges censorship of board meetings

By Ashley R. Williams

Four Pennsbury taxpayers — Doug Marshall, Simon Campbell, Robert Abrams and Tim Daly — filed a lawsuit asking that Pennsbury School Board’s speech policies be deemed unconstitutional…

Filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the suit claims Pennsbury repeatedly violated the First Amendment through its previous censorship of public school board meetings…

Comments from the plaintiffs were cut short and removed from recordings of the public meetings, with the school board citing a violation of Pennsbury School Board Policy 903. The edited videos were then posted on district social media.

“(The defendants) have done everything from shouting down citizens who dare question the official narrative; conspired to silence and denounce dissenters; and even ‘memory holed’ speech based on its viewpoint, deleting speech from public records as though it was never spoken,” the document stated…

“Pennsbury officials are trampling on the First Amendment rights of parents and residents to speak their mind about their schools,” said Institute for Free Speech’s vice president for litigation, Alan Gura, who is representing the plaintiffs.

Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Philadelphia (The Dom Giordano Program): First Amendment Rights Lawsuit Filed Against Pennsbury School District

Simon Campbell, former school board member in Pennsbury, rejoins the Dom Giordano Program for an update on the continued strife between parents and board members in the Pennsylvania town. Campbell went viral back in June after he gave an impassioned speech about the school district’s shady behavior and radical policies with no input from parents. After multiple instances of questionable behavior by the board, Campbell, along with the Institute for Free Speech, filed a federal First Amendment Rights lawsuit against the district.

ICYMI

Almost Half the Country Wants Government to Restrict Misinformation – Other Half Has Read Orwell

By Nathan Maxwell

A Pew Research Center survey conducted this summer revealed that 48% of the country believes the government should step in to restrict false information online. The rest of the headline above is either misinformation or hyperbole, depending on which half you ask.

There are countless issues with combating “misinformation,” and social media companies haven’t failed for lack of trying. Misinformation is nearly impossible to define and police neutrally, and decisions made to that end are extremely controversial. But rather than recount the debate about whether a crackdown on misinformation is necessary or desirable, let’s assume for the moment that it is. Should the government be charged with that responsibility? The short answer is no. And the long one…

The power to classify speech we disagree with as “misinformation” that needs to be eliminated is an invitation to silence the political opposition. “Misinformation” is primarily a political pejorative – that’s just how we use it…

Any hope that Congress would require neutral, bipartisan policing of online misinformation is wishful thinking. We can see many in Congress care very little for neutral speech-policing by looking at how they treat the bipartisan Federal Election Commission. The new “Freedom to Vote Act,” just like its failed predecessors H.R. 1 and S. 1, would undermine even-handedness at the FEC and open the door to targeted enforcement.

Insofar as misinformation is a problem, free speech is the solution.

Congress

RealClearPolicy: Democrats Seek to Stifle Political Speech, SCOTUS Be Damned

By Bill Pascoe

Senate Democrats don’t like free speech, and they’re working to curtail it. What else to conclude from their decision to include in S. 2747 — the latest rewrite of their 800-plus-page “election reform” bill — Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s “DISCLOSE Act”? The aim of this multiple-Supreme-Court-precedent-ignoring donor disclosure measure is to shut down political speech opposed by the Rhode Island senator…

The bill would require certain charitable organizations to disclose their top donors’ information when they make expenditures on non-campaign-related political speech that mentions a candidate for federal office. This is a reversal of current practice. If, for example, a television ad urges viewers to call their member of Congress to urge him to support particular legislation, donors do not presently have to disclose their personal information…

Whitehouse revealed his real purpose in a public Facebook Live chat back in the spring: “What the bill would do is require anybody who’s spending more than $10,000 … to declare that it’s them. … My guess is that more than two-thirds of the big money just goes away.”

Read that last line again: “More than two-thirds of the big money just goes away.” In the Whitehouse scheme, disclosure of the funding source isn’t the end in itself, it’s merely the means to a larger, and more insidious, end — to simply shut down political speech he opposes by starving it of funding.

This, of course, is counter to what our Founding Fathers fought for.

Fox News: Hawley, Cotton grill DOJ official on memo targeting threats against teachers, school board members

By Ronn Blitzer

Republican senators challenged Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco on a new memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland to Justice Department employees that discussed federal intervention in state and local school board meetings.

The memo condemned violence against officials, and while the GOP senators agreed with that sentiment, they expressed concern over other language Garland used in reference to “intimidation” and “harassment” that they worried was vague and problematic for potentially leading to First Amendment infringements.

“Tell me where the line is with parents expressing their concerns,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said, questioning what sort of behavior might warrant federal intervention.

Hawley, who called the memo “wrong” and “dangerous,” said that parents sometimes wait for hours to ask questions about school policies regarding mask wearing and critical race theory. He asked what the DOJ’s memo means when it refers to harassment and intimidation, claiming that these are vague terms that will have a chilling effect on school board meeting participation.

The senator asked if Monaco was aware of any time in American history when the FBI was getting involved in school board meetings.

DOJ

National Review: The Biden Justice Department’s Lawless Threat against American Parents

By Andrew C. McCarthy

Even as President Biden shrugged his shoulders over progressives’ harassment and intimidation of a sitting United States senator of his own party — a crime under Arizona law — Biden’s Justice Department was running roughshod over the First Amendment, threatening to investigate and prosecute parents for protesting against school boards and teachers who insist on indoctrinating children with the cultural Marxism beloved by Democrats…

The Biden Justice Department is just a continuation of the Obama Justice Department, which was the most politicized in American history. The Obama/Biden administration modus operandi was to make the process the penalty — in this case, the investigative process, coupled with the threat of Justice Department criminal or civil prosecution, no matter how invalid.

That is what Obama/Biden officials notoriously did in the IRS scandal, intimidating conservative organizations by investigating them under the threat that they would lose their tax-exempt status. In insidious irony, the administration did exactly what such constitutional provisions as the First Amendment are supposed to forbid — it took government action that effectively thwarted constitutionally protected political activity (such as organizing political opposition to Obama-administration policies).

Free Speech

The Epoch Times: ‘Really Troubling’: Public Defender on Being Fired for Speaking Out Against Critical Race Theory

By Zachary Stieber and Jan Jekielek

A public defender who was fired for speaking out against critical race theory says what happened was troubling and that she expects to win a legal battle she’s engaged in.

“I wasn’t even talking about my job. I was talking about my kid’s schools and my kid’s education. And so the idea that my employer felt that they had the right to weigh in, and to say that my ideas and my thoughts rendered me unfit to do my job, it’s really troubling,” Maud Maron said on EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders.” …

“My union and my employer released statements basically saying that I was unfit to do the job because of the opinions that I held,” Maron told The Epoch Times.

Online Speech Platforms

Wall Street Journal: Facebook Needs to Empower Parents, Not Censor Political Speech

By The Editorial Board

Facebook has become the latest company that everyone loves to hate, and internal documents stolen by an employee have become an opening to blame the social-media giant for America’s ills. The company has made mistakes, but it’s worth sorting the genuine issues from the opportunism of politicians looking to censor opponents.

Both were on display Tuesday as Frances Haugen, the former employee who leaked the documents, testified on Capitol Hill. One of her legitimate concerns is Facebook’s negative influence on the mental health of teenagers…

This is a problem that can’t be solved by government, though some politicians want to try. They’ve proposed eliminating Section 230 liability protection for algorithms or requiring Facebook to submit its algorithms to regulators for review. Just what we need—a Bureau of Algorithms.

Bloomberg: Warren Says Facebook Funds ‘Dark Money,’ Undermines Democracy

By Chris Anstey and David Westin

Senator Elizabeth Warren accused Facebook Inc., along with other social media giants, of using their wealth to exert influence on Washington in a way that undermines the democratic system.

“The loudest voice in this hall is Facebook and the other giant corporations, they hire the lobbyists, they make the big campaign contributions. And even more importantly, they fund dark money — the part that, you never even see their fingerprints on it,” Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television with David Westin on Tuesday. “They’re the ones that undermine the basic premise of democracy.”

TechCrunch: Snapchat rolls out new tool aimed at helping young users run for office

By Aisha Malik

Snapchat is rolling out a new “Run for Office” in-app tool to encourage young adults to run for local office. The company says the new Run for Office tool is designed to help younger users engage with democracy in an easy way. The goal of the tool is to tackle common barriers that young people face when determining whether they want to get involved in local politics…

The tool includes a centralized portal that curates over 75,000 upcoming elections on the federal, state and local levels that users may be eligible to take part in. Users will also be asked to identify issues that they are passionate about so the tool can surface roles that they may be interested in. The new tool also provides access to candidate recruitment organizations and training programs such as Emerge America, Women’s Public Leadership Network, LGBTQ Victory, Vote Run Lead and more.

Snapchat users will also be able to nominate their friends to run for office through the tool. Users will be able to share stickers through the tool to start campaigning on Snapchat with their friends. Further, the tool includes a personalized campaign hub that shows users the steps they need to take to get on the ballot.

Nathan Maxwell

https://www.ifs.org/author/nmaxwell/

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