In the News
E-Pluribus: May 4, 2022
By Jeryl Bier
Tiffany Donnelly writes at Reason that, as there is nothing new under the sun, “disinformation” is not new, and we should be more concerned about giving the government power over speech due to the current panic…
Read it all here.
By Luke Wachob
Creating a “Disinformation Governance Board”? Bad idea. Placing it inside the Department of Homeland Security? Bad idea. Choosing a leader who seems like they were designed in a lab to irritate anyone to the right of The New York Times editorial board? Probably, a very bad idea.
The feds can’t be surprised when Americans react with skepticism to a government campaign to counter “disinformation” about politically sensitive topics. The potential for abuse and propagandizing are obvious. And yet, it appears no steps were taken to try to assuage the inevitable concerns of critics. The rollout of the Disinformation Governance Board makes it look like everything you would fear it to be.
Wall Street Journal: A Parental Victory on Free Speech
By The Editorial Board
Parents continue to fight for a say in their children’s education, often against hostile administrators. Three cheers, then, for Ohio mother Ashley Ryder for successfully challenging a policy that limited what parents could say at school board meetings.
Ms. Ryder sued the Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education in an Ohio federal court in March. She said it had violated the First Amendment with a policy that allows the presiding officer at school board meetings to “interrupt, warn, or terminate” any public statements he deems “abusive,” “personally directed” or “antagonistic.” In late April the board settled with Ms. Ryder and agreed to end its restrictions on speech.
Ms. Ryder’s experience illustrated how the school board had abused the policy to silence critics.
Courthouse News: Judge dumps Trump bid to get back on Twitter
By Matthew Renda
A federal court judge dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit seeking to get reinstated on Twitter.
U.S. District Court Judge James Donato found Twitter was within its rights as a private company to bar the former president from its platform.
“Twitter is a private company, and the First Amendment applies only to governmental abridgements of speech, and not to alleged abridgements by private companies,” Donato wrote in the terse 17-page ruling.
Donato said the only way plaintiffs could hope to prevail is to show the government compelled, either directly or indirectly, to enforce the bans in question…
The lawsuit also attempted to have Section 230, which legally immunizes publishers of “interactive computer service” from what others say, do and publish on their websites, declared unconstitutional. Donato also dismissed that claim.
First Amendment News hosted by FIRE: Floyd Abrams weighs in on the Disney controversy and corporate speech — FAN 338.2
By Floyd Abrams
Two aspects of the Neuborne-Chemerinsky offerings seem to be of special interest — one relating to what they said and the other to what they did not.
The first is startling. A dozen years after the Citizens United opinion was issued, these two distinguished and justly admired scholars who have repeatedly criticized the ruling through the years now acknowledge that, after all, given the “facts” of the case, the Court was correct to rule in Citizens United’s favor. Hola!
The second is that they wisely make no effort to support the hyperbolic response to the decision of so many of our usually better-grounded publications. The Washington Post’s editorial response to the ruling was that “corporate money, never lacking in the American political process, may now overwhelm . . . the contributions of individuals” — precisely the opposite has occurred. That of The New York Times was that the effect of the ruling would be “to thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century” — nothing of the sort has occurred. So far as I can tell, there have been no apologies.
By Jonathan Turley
[When White House press secretary Jen Psaki ]was asked about the potential targeting of justices and their families at their homes, and whether that might be considered extreme. It should have been another easy question; few Americans would approve of such doxing, particularly since some of the justices have young children at home. Yet Psaki declared that “I don’t have an official U.S. government position on where people protest,” adding that “peaceful protest is not extreme.”
In reality, not having an official position on doxing and harassing Supreme Court justices and their families is a policy…
Even if protests at justices’ homes are constitutionally protected, that does not make them right, any more than the lawful Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 were right.
In 1954, the left was targeted for its political views; today, it is the left which is calling for censorship, blacklisting and doxing. In such moments of reckless rage, presidents often have become calming voices, tempering extremist passions in their own parties.
Wall Street Journal: A Ringing Defense of Free Speech
By John J. Miller
Then came a new controversy, not over burning books but over banning them. A bill in Parliament demanded that printers receive government approval for their publications, in part to guard against the supposed heresies of Milton and his fellow authors. For Milton, this licensing scheme was an illiberal outrage—and he said so in “Areopagitica,” which is now widely regarded as the world’s first important essay in defense of free speech…
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties,” wrote Milton, in a line that has echoed across centuries.
Online Speech Platforms
By Mitchell Clark
Google says it’s expanding the types of personal information that it’ll remove from search results to cover things like your physical address, phone number, and passwords…
According to a blog post, Google’s giving people the new options because “the internet is always evolving” and if its search engine gives out your phone number or home address, that could be both jarring and dangerous.
By Armin Rosen
On May 3, a trio of so-called “advocacy groups” sent a letter to Twitter’s major corporate advertisers, including image-conscious and regulation-sensitive heavyweights like Coca-Cola and Disney, urging them to pull their business from Twitter if Musk proves unwilling to censor speech on the platform to those organizations’ satisfaction. “Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will further toxify our information ecosystem and be a direct threat to public safety,” began the missive, distributed under the letterhead of Media Matters for America, Accountable Tech, and UltraViolet, and co-signed by another two dozen groups, including the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, and NARAL Pro-Choice America. These groups are promising to mobilize their activists, and whatever other resources they might have, to punish companies that will stick by Twitter if it junks its pre-Musk content moderation regime. The pitch was a simple one: Nice store you got there. It would be a shame if someone threw a rock through your window.
Musk seemed to take the not-so-subtle threats of brand damage and possible federal regulation as a challenge. “Who funds these organizations that want to control your access to information? Let’s investigate …” Musk suggested on Twitter. But while the question showed moxie, its scope was also clearly too limited. Better to ask: What function do these “advocacy groups” serve? And for whom?
By Sandra Fish
A bipartisan effort to clarify how much money political nonprofits can spend supporting or opposing Colorado ballot measures before they have to disclose their donors would likely allow the so-called dark-money groups to keep their finances secret in most cases.
Two political nonprofits that often work against each other on Colorado ballot initiatives — the liberal-leaning Bell Policy Center and conservative-leaning Advance Colorado Action — are supporting Senate Bill 237, which passed the state Senate unanimously Thursday.
The bill, sponsored by Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, a Douglas County Republican, would require political nonprofits to disclose their donors only if their spending on two or more ballot measures exceeds 30% of their total spending over three years. If they’re spending on only one ballot measure, the spending can’t exceed 20% of their total expenditures for three years if they want to keep their donors secret.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: 2 candidates challenge restrictions on the display of campaign signs at Arkansas’ Capitol
By John Lynch
A 7-year-old law restricting how political candidates and public officials can display campaign signs on their cars at the state Capitol violates freedom of speech protections, say two Republican office-seekers, both attorneys, who filed a lawsuit Thursday.
Lawyers Chris Corbitt of Conway and Robert Steinbuch of Little Rock petitioned Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright to strike down Arkansas Code 7-1-114 as a violation of free speech protections guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions.
“This case involves the right of a citizen, namely a candidate, to display a campaign sign on his vehicle while on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol,” the suit states. “This law regulates political speech on a private vehicle that happens to be on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds.”
By Jon Levine
Rep. Tom Suozzi’s candidate for lieutenant governor, Diana Reyna, owes $138,658 to the city Campaign Finance Board for “outstanding repayments of public funds,” the agency told The Post.
The former City Council member’s debts stem from her third Council campaign back in 2009 and have remained unpaid ever since.
New York City authorizes generous taxpayer-funded matching funds to candidates for city office, but the cash comes with a blizzard of strings and reporting requirements.
“Campaigns must account for all public funds received by providing documentation (invoices, contracts, payroll, etc) for expenditures that equal the amount received,” said Matt Sollars, spokesman for the NYC Campaign Finance Board, adding that Reyna’s roughly $31,000 in qualified expenditures were well short of what she received…
Last month Hochul’s running mate, Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin, resigned after being hit with bribery and corruption charges. This week Hochul tapped upstate Rep. Antonio Delgado to replace him.