Daily Media Links 2/18

February 18, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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We’re Hiring!

Summer Associate Legal Fellowship

The Institute for Free Speech Summer Associate Legal Fellowship is a unique opportunity for law 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 2021.
Fellows are expected to work full time for 10 weeks in our Washington, D.C. area headquarters, but other arrangements may be available to especially outstanding candidates. In light of the ongoing pandemic, the possibility remains that fellows will work remotely for some or all of the summer fellowship.

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. While many projects may produce papers suitable for publication, we will consider any project related to protecting or advancing First Amendment rights.

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

In the News

Conservative HQ: H.R.1 – The Democrat Plan To Appoint A National Speech Police Czar

Our friends at the Institute for Free Speech report that nine former Federal Election Commission commissioners have released a letter to congressional leaders fiercely criticizing both H.R. 1 and S. 1, the bills we have characterized as the “intimidate conservatives” bills.

The key point the former Commissioners have added to the discussion of the proposed legislation is the bill’s proposed “speech czar.”

The former Commissioners wrote that rather than improving the Commission, H.R. 1 would abandon bipartisan enforcement of the law in favor of a top-down approach led by a speech czar chosen by the president. The letter expresses concern about the considerable new powers given to this czar, who would inherit the title of FEC Chair but hold a very different office…

Lest anyone misunderstand, what this means is that H.R.1 would give partisan Democrats control over what Republicans can and cannot say in election ads and allow Democrats to weaponize the power of government against their partisan opponents.

In a nutshell, H.R. 1 does away with the FEC’s existing bipartisan structure to allow for partisan control of the regulation of campaigns and enables partisan control of enforcement. It also proposes changes to the law to bias enforcement actions against speakers and in favor of complainants.

Bradley A. Smith, Chairman of the Institute for Free Speech wrote, since it was created in 1974, the FEC has been a true bipartisan commission, with each major party effectively controlling 3 of its 6 seats. 

Congress

Reuters: Exclusive: Big Tech’s Democratic critics discuss ways to strike back with White House

By Nandita Bose and Jarrett Renshaw

Congressional Democrats have begun discussions with the White House on ways to crack down on Big Tech including making social media companies accountable for the spread of disinformation on matters such as the U.S. Capitol riot and addressing the abuse of market power to harm corporate rivals.

The conversations, described by a lawmaker and congressional aides, have included the contentious topic of what to do with a measure called Section 230…

The conversations between lawmakers and Biden aides represent the first sign that the White House has begun actively getting involved in considering how to take on Big Tech. They also show how lawmakers are trying to get Biden staffers on board as part of the lengthy lawmaking process on a wide range of issues. Biden took office on Jan. 20.

Democratic Representative Tom Malinowski, a member of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said he has begun conversations with the White House on how to hold large social media platforms accountable for amplifying radicalizing content that triggers violence…

Several congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said members of Biden’s team are listening to concerns raised by lawmakers on issues involving Big Tech, asking questions and participating in conversations about potential future action.

Online Speech Platforms

Protocol: Facebook blocks all news in and from Australia

By Issie Lapowsky 

The company announced Wednesday that it would no longer allow Australian publishers to share news on Facebook or allow Australian people to view or share international news sources.

The change comes as Australia prepares to pass a law that would require companies like Facebook and Google to pay news publishers to carry their stories. “The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content. It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” Facebook’s managing director of Australia and New Zealand, William Easton, wrote in a blog post. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.”

New York Times: Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’ Faces Its First Major Test

By Jameel Jaffer and Katy Glenn Bass

Facebook’s new Oversight Board is considering whether the company was justified in indefinitely suspending Donald Trump from its platform. The question is important, but it would be a mistake for the board to answer it right now, or on Facebook’s terms. To do so would effectively absolve the company of responsibility for its part in creating the circumstances that made Mr. Trump’s speech – both online and offline – so dangerous…

Content moderation decisions can be consequential, of course. But Facebook shapes public discourse more profoundly through its decisions about the design of its platform. Its ranking algorithms determine which content appears at the top of users’ news feeds. Its decisions about what types of content can be shared, and how, help determine which ideas gain traction. Its policies and tools relating to political advertising determine which kinds of users see which political ads, and whether those ads can be countered by ads offering different viewpoints and correcting misinformation.

Candidates and Campaigns

Roll Call: In our political rewards system, fundraising tops accountability. That has to change

By David Winston

The political reward system has created a model that works for consultants, the media and super PACs that dominate the political environment, but it is failing candidates, the donors who fund campaigns and those who value civil political discourse and democracy. And it’s dividing the country in the process.

Today, our system of campaign politics rewards anger and defines success by a model that produces money for campaign consultants, whether they win or lose. We can thank the combination of the McCain-Feingold law and the Citizens United decision for our current predicament.

Together, they minimized the role of the parties and candidate campaigns and made PACs and super PACs the dominant power in many campaigns for one simple reason: That’s where the money is. Many times, you won’t find top strategists or ad people working directly on major campaigns these days. They operate independently, legally restricted from any interaction with the candidates and campaigns they are supporting and often serving up background information for the media. But most importantly, they employ a circular model to attract donors by offering them a way to have a bigger impact on the election and its outcome.

The States

KELO: South Dakota Legislature roundup for Thursday, February 18, 2021

By Bob Mercer

DONOR ANONYMITY: The Senate voted 33-2 Wednesday for SB 103 that would create a state law guaranteeing a right to personal privacy and confidentiality for personal information of people who donate to nonprofit corporations.

Senator Casey Crabtree, a Madison Republican, gave examples of six- and seven-figure anonymous contributions to several community-oriented organizations. He said the legislation doesn’t change existing laws related to campaign finance disclosures.

It would work with HB 1079, according to Crabtree. That’s the governor’s bill prohibiting state government’s executive branch from disclosing information about charitable trusts and nonprofits.

No one else spoke. The legislation now goes to the House where the lead sponsor is Representative Kirk Chaffee, a Whitewood Republican.

The Federalist: South Dakota Bill Would Help Starve Cancel Culture By Letting People Donate Privately

By Patrice Lee Onwuka

Most Americans believe they have a right to privately support the causes they believe in without harassment. The South Dakota legislature has a chance to affirm that belief this legislative session. If two important bills pass, South Dakota would be positioned as a leader nationally in philanthropic protections, just as it is already a leader in trust protections…

House Bill 1079 would allow South Dakota foundations to focus on advancing their mission rather than fighting more red tape. This bill prevents any executive, bureau, board, or state officer from forcing new filing or reporting requirements that are more restrictive or expansive than what is already on the books…

The other bill for consideration in South Dakota, Senate Bill 103, would prohibit public agencies from disclosing or releasing personal information about membership, volunteers, and financial and nonfinancial donors to 501(c) non-profit organizations, except as required by law. This measure would uphold the First Amendment rights of association for all South Dakota citizens regardless of the causes they choose to support…

For politically motivated bureaucrats, chilling donations to causes they oppose may be the goal, but nonprofits of all kinds would end up starved of critical funds. The civil rights, women’s suffrage, and LGBTQ movements have all benefitted from the right of supporters to remain private. If disclosure laws were in place, the organizations that drove these movements might not have survived.

Rapid City Journal: Free speech and privacy are American values

By Dale Bartscher

Free speech and the freedom to associate with others who share your beliefs have been a cornerstone of public discourse in the United States since the founding of our country. 

Americans have also traditionally had the right to speak anonymously and privately support causes. That has often been some of the most important and impactful speech as our country has debated ideas that speak truth to power…

Some Americans today are choosing to stay quiet because of the threat of social media harassment, doxing, cancel culture, and being fired from a job. This is not good for public debate about the issues facing our country and it does nothing to work toward the “unity” that some politicians claim they want.

Bills currently before the South Dakota state legislature, HB1079 and SB103, would prevent nonprofit organizations from being required to report more information than they currently need to submit to the government about their supporters. With the passage of this legislation the privacy of South Dakota citizens would be protected, and information about the causes we support – whether it’s a church, local food bank, or social issue organization such as South Dakota Right to Life. This legislation would assure that our protected private information – would be kept away from the prying eyes of government officials, the media, and activists who want to target us for our beliefs.

KAWC: Arizona Measure Would Create New Crime: ‘Violent or Disorderly Assembly’

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

A House panel voted Monday to give police more options to arrest people at demonstrations approving legislation that foes contend will be used to target minorities.
HB 2309 would create a new crime of “violent or disorderly assembly.”

It would apply to those who, along with seven or more person intends to engage in conduct constituting a riot and causes damage or property or injury to someone else.

The 8-5 party-line vote in the Republican-controlled Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee moves it along to the full House.

“This bill is going to infringe on the right of free assembly by intimidating people away from exercising their rights out of fear of criminal penalty,” said Rhonda Neff, a lawyer speaking for Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice…

Neff said the Phoenix Police Department and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office already are using existing laws to target what she said have been legitimate protests.
“And it has been largely politically motivated against people’s stance of law enforcement,” she said.

Marilyn Rodriguez of the American Civil Liberties Union went a step farther, saying the measure “allows police and prosecutors to target black and brown communities who speak out against the brutality they face at the hands of police each and every day.”

Kenosha News: Virginia Senate panel advances campaign finance reform bill

By Sarah Rankin, Associated Press

A Virginia Senate committee advanced a House measure Tuesday that would prevent politicians from putting campaign funds toward personal uses, with an exception for child care-related expenses.

The bill’s continued advancement this year seems to be a breakthrough on an issue lawmakers have previously been reluctant to tackle. Virginia has one of the least restrictive and policed campaign finance systems in the country, with lawmakers only barred from using campaign funds for personal use once they close out their accounts.

Tiffany Donnelly

Tiffany Donnelly

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

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