Daily Media Links 5/27

May 27, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

The First TV: True Story with Mike Slater

Founder and Chairman for the Institute of Free Speech, Brad Smith, is here to speak about the H.R. 1 and S. 1 voting reform bills, and the dangers it poses to Free Speech. He breaks down the voting rights parts and the implications of limiting Free Speech.

IHeartRadio: The Michael Berry Show

Alan Gura, Vice President of Litigation at the Institute for Free Speech, makes an appearance to talk about a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote entitled “Congressional Democrats’ Court-Picking (Not Packing) Scheme.”

[Ed. note: His interview begins at 48:10.]

Congress

The Hill: House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure

By Naomi Jagoda

A group of House Democrats on Wednesday sent a letter to the Treasury Department and IRS urging them to reverse a Trump-era rule that limits donor disclosure requirements for politically active nonprofits.

The letter from the House Democrats comes after Senate Democrats sent a version of the letter to Treasury and the IRS last month.

“As it stands, this policy weakens federal tax laws, campaign finance laws, and longstanding efforts to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

More than 30 House Democrats signed the letter, including Reps. Ted Deutch (Fla.), Peter Welch (Vt.), David Cicilline (R.I.), and Jason Crow (Colo.).

Treasury and the IRS last year finalized regulations under which certain tax-exempt groups no longer have to disclose to the IRS on annual forms the names and addresses of major donors…

Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), introduced legislation last week aimed at codifying the rules the remove the reporting requirements.

“Americans would remain free from a federal dragnet collecting private information that it neither needs nor uses for legitimate law enforcement purposes,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech. “Information that can be mishandled — or worse, used to target and harass Americans based on their views.”

Insider: Elizabeth Warren will introduce a bill to ban members of Congress from ever trading individual stocks again

By Dave Levinthal and Warren Rojas

Members of Congress routinely trade stocks, buying and selling the shares of companies that often have significant business before the federal government — and that sometimes spend lots of money to lobby lawmakers…

Sen. Elizabeth Warren plans to introduce legislation during this congressional session that would bar members of Congress and other top government officials from buying and selling individual stocks, she told Insider…

The legislation would be based on the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which Warren introduced in 2018 and reintroduced in 2020, both times without Senate cosponsors. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, sponsored companion legislation in the House last year.

Both Warren bills died in the then-Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee.

What’s different now is that Democrats control the Senate, and Warren, who sits on the Finance Committee, has greater leverage to push the bill forward.

The Courts

Washington Post: Oath Keepers asks judge to dismiss Capitol riot lawsuit, saying its members planned only peaceful protest

By Spencer S. Hsu

Lawyers for the Oath Keepers urged a federal judge Wednesday to toss out a lawsuit accusing the group, former president Donald Trump, lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and another far-right organization of inciting the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, calling its actions a form of peaceful political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The Oath Keepers said it was “conclusory and speculative” to assert that its members planned anything other than to attend a speech of the president at the Ellipse near the White House that day, march to the Capitol and make known to Congress their views opposing the presidential election certification…

If “the right of the people to exercise their right to peaceably assemble for the purpose of petitioning Congress for redress of grievances should be subject to a conspiracy law,” there will be “nothing left” of the constitutional right to petition at all, Oath Keepers attorney Kerry Lee Morgan of Michigan wrote in a 44-page filing.

Disclosure

Daily Caller: The Mob Is After Chip And Joanna Gaines Again, This Time Over Critical Race Theory

By Mary Margaret Olohan

Media reports surfacing Tuesday and Wednesday went after Chip and Joanna Gaines for donating to a campaign run by Chip Gaines’ sister that critiques critical race theory.

The “Fixer Upper” stars donated $1,000 to Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) School Board candidate Shannon Braun’s campaign, The Dallas Morning News reported last week…

Media outlets such as The Hill, Business Insider, the San Antonio Current, and the Dallas Observer headlined stories about the Gaines’ donations without mentioning that Braun is Chip Gaines sister. These headlines instead focused on Braun’s anti-CRT stance.

The Media

Washington Post: How the AP wronged Emily Wilder

By Erik Wemple

The 22-year-old [now former AP reporter Emily] Wilder received her dismissal notice following a successful attempt by conservatives to promote outrage over her activist work while attending Stanford University, where she served as a leader of Students for Justice in Palestine. The episode points to two emerging facts of life in contemporary mainstream media — one, that editors at large news organizations quake when right-wing actors target their colleagues; and two, publishers’ concerns over ethical appearances and perceptions are reaching irrationality…

According to Wilder’s dismissal letter, the rumblings from Stanford — and inquiries from the Washington Free Beacon, Fox News and others — prompted a deeper look into the AP rookie’s social media history. “As discussed, over the last few days some of your social media posts made prior to joining AP surfaced,” reads the dismissal letter. “Those posts prompted a review of your social media activity since you began with the AP, May 3, 2021. In that review, it was found that some tweets violated AP’s News Values and Principles.”

Online Speech Platforms

Bloomberg: Facebook to Limit Reach of Personal Accounts That Spread Misinformation

By Kurt Wagner

Facebook Inc. will begin doling out harsher punishments for individual accounts that repeatedly share false or misleading posts, an expansion of the social network’s efforts to crack down on misinformation. 

Under the new system, Facebook will “reduce the distribution of all posts” from people who routinely share misinformation, making it harder for their content to be seen by others on the service. The company already does this for Pages and Groups that post misinformation, but it hadn’t previously extended the same policy to individual users. Facebook does limit the reach of posts that have been flagged by fact-checkers, but there wasn’t a broader penalty for account holders who share misinformation.  

Facebook declined to specify how many times a user’s posts have to be flagged before the new punishment kicks in.

The Menlo Park, California-based company will also start showing users a pop-up message if they click to “like” a page that routinely shares misinformation, alerting them that fact-checkers have previously flagged that page’s posts.

Politico: Facebook no longer treating ‘man-made’ Covid as a crackpot idea

By Cristiano Lima

Facebook will no longer take down posts claiming that Covid-19 was man-made or manufactured, a company spokesperson told POLITICO on Wednesday, a move that acknowledges the renewed debate about the virus’ origins.

Facebook’s policy tweak arrives as support surges in Washington for a fuller investigation into the origins of Covid-19 after the Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in late 2019 with symptoms consistent with the virus. The findings have reinvigorated the debate about the so-called Wuhan lab-leak theory, once dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory.

Protocol: Facebook says U.S. is among top 5 sources of influence operations

By Issie Lapowsky

In a report published Wednesday, Facebook named the U.S. as one of the top countries where social media influence operations originated over the last three years. The U.S. ranked fourth on Facebook’s list, behind Russia, Iran and Myanmar and just ahead of Ukraine.

Facebook defines influence operations as “coordinated efforts to manipulate or corrupt public debate for a strategic goal.” The U.S., the report said, is also the top target for these campaigns, which is to say, it’s the country where Facebook has detected and removed the most networks engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior.

This is the second white paper Facebook has produced related to influence operations.

Newsweek: How to Apply Non-Discrimination to Digital Platforms via Common Carriage

By Adam Candeub and Clare Morell

Social media platforms’ power to control national political discussions and create personalized political echo chambers is unparalleled in our history. From deplatforming President Trump to stifling the New York Post’s laptop exposé about Hunter Biden before the 2020 election, the content moderation decisions of the dominant Big Tech conglomerates appear to many reasonable observers to be censorship of conservative speech.

To remedy this problem, many have recently been looking to the common law doctrine of common carriage—particularly since Justice Clarence Thomas’s recent concurring opinion that highlighted this possible approach…

Option 1: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could regulate social media platforms directly under Title II common carriage requirements…

Option 2: Congress could regulate social media platforms by drafting a law such as the 21st Century FREE Speech Act recently introduced by Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) or Senator Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) Section 230 bill from last Congress that would require content moderation decisions to be politically unbiased…

Option 3: The FCC could promulgate interpretive rules on Section 230 to regulate social media liability…

Option 4: States could regulate platforms under their own common carrier authority, as Texas is apparently ready to do…

The States

The Oregonian: Campaign finance reform bill missing the ‘reform’

By Editorial Board

There are two bills in the Oregon House proposing campaign contribution limits. One, House Bill 3343, proposes clear, modest limits and has the support of good-government groups that have long fought to cap donations. The other, House Bill 2680, does little to curb the massive contributions that corporations and labor unions have long donated to candidates and political parties.

So, guess which bill has the momentum?

Unfortunately for Oregonians who want to get big money out of politics, that would be HB 2680, which is scheduled for a work session in the House Rules Committee on Friday.

The bill, in its current version, does impose some limits. Candidates for a statewide office – such as governor or secretary of state – could not accept more than $2,900 per election from a person or $40,000 from a political party caucus committee. Candidates for state house and senate seats face lower limits. Local governments could set their own caps, provided they do not exceed the state’s.

The range of per-person contributions are much higher than the $500 to $1,000 caps contemplated by HB 3343, but more important, HB 2680 would have little effect on changing the dynamics set by the same players who have long dominated the political landscape – corporations and unions.

Washington Post: Laws against teaching critical race theory in college are unconstitutional

By Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr.

Across the United States, state legislatures are showing a newfound interest in — and aversion to — critical race theory, or CRT, an academic movement that systematically considers how even seemingly neutral laws, regulations and social norms can have different impacts on particular racial and ethnic groups…

CRT originated in U.S. law schools in the 1970s and remains well established and widely accepted there. But in recent weeks, some Republican-dominated state legislatures have adopted laws that ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools. Some, such as the laws in Idaho and Oklahoma, even restrict the use of CRT in public colleges and universities. Other states, including Georgia and Utah, are actively considering similar legislation or administrative action. A bill has even been introduced in the U.S. House (where the Democratic majority presumably will reject it).

These laws are both misguided and unconstitutional; they constitute bad educational policy, and in the higher education context, they violate the First Amendment.

Tiffany Donnelly

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

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