Daily Media Links 6/7

June 7, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Charleston Gazette-Mail: Joe Manchin: Why I’m voting against the For the People Act

By Joe Manchin

Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support…

With that in mind, some Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support…

It has been said by much wiser people than me that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, what I’ve seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely. Our founders were wise to see the temptation of absolute power and built in specific checks and balances to force compromise that serves to preserve our fragile democracy. The Senate, its processes and rules, have evolved over time to make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country and I believe that’s the Senate’s best quality…

I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party’s agenda…

I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.

The Courts

Roll Call: Sen. Ted Cruz prevails in campaign finance lawsuit

By Todd Ruger and Kate Ackley

A federal court in Washington sided with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday to strike down a “somewhat obscure” section of a 2002 campaign finance law, which is expected to give a boost to wealthier candidates who self-fund their campaigns.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act unconstitutionally infringes on candidates’ free speech rights.

That section prohibits federal candidates who made personal campaign loans before the election from using more than $250,000 in post-election contributions to repay them.

The Federal Election Commission argued in the case that Congress could impose the limit to stop the risk and appearance of corruption when elected officeholders solicit contributions that will be used to repay their personal loans.

But the court wrote that there are no examples of that kind of quid pro quo corruption. And the decision leaned on a previous Supreme Court ruling that extended free speech protections to campaign financing because “effective speech requires spending money.”


Washington Post: Amid controversy, Justice Dept. says it won’t seek to compel journalists to give up source information

By Matt Zapotosky

The Justice Department on Saturday announced that it will no longer use subpoenas or other legal methods to obtain information from journalists about their sources — a major policy shift that came just a day after the New York Times revealed that the department had prohibited the newspaper’s lawyers and executives from disclosing an effort to seize email records of four reporters.

“Going forward, consistent with the President’s direction, this Department of Justice — in a change to its long-standing practice — will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs,” Anthony Coley, the department’s top spokesman, said in a statement…

“The Department strongly values a free press, protecting First Amendment values, and is committed to taking all appropriate steps to ensure the independence of journalists,” Coley said.

Free Speech

New York Times: Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the A.C.L.U. Faces an Identity Crisis

By Michael Powell

It was supposed to be the celebration of a grand career, as the American Civil Liberties Union presented a prestigious award to the longtime lawyer David Goldberger. He had argued one of its most famous cases, defending the free speech rights of Nazis in the 1970s to march in Skokie, Ill., home to many Holocaust survivors.

Mr. Goldberger, now 79, adored the A.C.L.U. But at his celebratory luncheon in 2017, he listened to one speaker after another and felt a growing unease.

A law professor argued that the free speech rights of the far right were not worthy of defense by the A.C.L.U. and that Black people experienced offensive speech far more viscerally than white allies. In the hallway outside, an A.C.L.U. official argued it was perfectly legitimate for his lawyers to decline to defend hate speech.

Mr. Goldberger, a Jew who defended the free speech of those whose views he found repugnant, felt profoundly discouraged.

“I got the sense it was more important for A.C.L.U. staff to identify with clients and progressive causes than to stand on principle,” he said in a recent interview. “Liberals are leaving the First Amendment behind.” …

[The A.C.L.U.] finds itself riven with internal tensions over whether it has stepped away from a founding principle — unwavering devotion to the First Amendment…

The organization, said its former director Ira Glasser, risks surrendering its original and unique mission in pursuit of progressive glory.

“There are a lot of organizations fighting eloquently for racial justice and immigrant rights,” Mr. Glasser said. “But there’s only one A.C.L.U. that is a content-neutral defender of free speech. I fear we’re in danger of losing that.”

ACLU: Defending Speech We Hate

By David Cole

The ACLU is committed to the principle of free speech today, just as it was in the 1990s, 1970s, and long before that. And we are specifically committed to the proposition that the First Amendment’s guarantees (like those of the rest of the Constitution) apply to all, not just to those with whom we agree. At the same time, the ACLU also remains devoted to defending other fundamental civil rights and civil liberties, including equal protection of the law — as we always have been. Addressing the tensions that sometimes arise between these commitments is not easy. But we seek to do so, today as always, not by abandoning any of our core commitments, but by acknowledging and confronting the conflicts in as forthright, inclusive, and principled a way as we can…

Some of our critics argue that by considering the content and impact of the speech in assessing how to proceed, we are walking away from a commitment to all free speech. That’s an ahistorical and overly simplistic analysis of our free speech work: One must consider the content of the speech and the nature of any regulations to assess whether a First Amendment claim is likely to prevail…

One thing we rejected was any abandonment defending those with whom we disagree. Yet a small number of disgruntled voices continue to charge that we have done just that. But the record demonstrates otherwise.

So to Speak Podcast: Ep. 137 The Constitution of Knowledge with Jonathan Rauch

What differentiates Albert Einstein from a madman? How do we turn disagreement into knowledge? How do we know what’s true in a world filled with disinformation, conspiracy theories, trolling, and social media pile-ons? On today’s episode of So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast, we are joined by Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Jonathan Rauch to discuss his new book “The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth,” which is set for release on June 22, 2021.

Donor Harassment

New York Times: Cancel Culture Works. We Wouldn’t Have Marriage Equality Without It.

By Sasha Issenberg

A largely forgotten story is the way a group of political entrepreneurs changed the economic terrain on which cultural conflict was waged. They demonstrated that shaming and shunning could amount to more than an online pile-on and serve as a potent tactic for political change…

[In 2008, a retired Republican political operative named Fred Karger] decided to make famous every significant donor to the $40.5 million effort to pass Proposition 8. His group, Californians Against Hate, mined disclosure reports and listed everyone who contributed $5,000 or more to pro-Prop 8 committees on a “dishonor roll” website, with phone numbers and business addresses. Other activists made the data searchable via Google Maps, and he pitched out-of-state newspapers to cover local megadonors to the pro-Prop 8 group Protect Marriage.

He picketed upscale supermarkets in New York City and Washington, D.C., to discourage shoppers from buying smoothies and dressings from Bolthouse Farms, whose eponymous founder put $100,000 behind the referendum. After Proposition 8 passed, Mr. Karger led a two-week boycott of the Utah-based Ken Garff Automotive Group, which had 53 dealerships across three states, because one of Mr. Garff’s relatives had given $100,000 to pass Proposition 8. “Individuals and businesses gave a vast amount of money to take away our equality, and we want you to know who they are,” Mr. Karger wrote…

But Mr. Karger recognized how the internet had lowered barriers to rallying consumers. Instead of relying on national organizations to mediate their activism, individuals could start and promote their own boycotts. While news organizations covered his protest at the Grand Hyatt, he was not dependent on them to get out information; he disseminated information about his targets on a blog.

Online Speech Platforms

Wall Street Journal: Facebook’s New Trump Rules

By The Editorial Board

Facebook is trying, by progressive demand, to referee American politics, and the results aren’t pretty. On Friday the social-media giant issued two new decisions—first, Donald Trump will remain banned from the platform until at least Jan. 7, 2023; and second, posts by politicians will be subject to more scrutiny by the company’s censors…

Facebook says Mr. Trump’s ban could be extended if “there is still a serious risk to public safety.” The company “will look to experts to assess whether the risk to public safety has receded.” …

Facebook also indicated that more speech by politicians may be taken down in the future. The company has previously said it would refrain from censoring politicians because their views are important for the public to see. That was a sound judgment that helped avoid tying up the social-media firm in political fights.

Yet now Facebook says that “when we assess content for newsworthiness, we will not treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else.”

New York Times: Nigeria Bans Twitter After President’s Tweet Is Deleted

By Ruth Maclean

Nigeria has blocked Twitter after the social media site deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened secessionist groups in the southeast who had been responsible for attacks on government offices.

The government suspended Twitter, which is used by millions of Nigerians, on Friday night, after a government official called the microblogging platform’s presence in Nigeria “very, very suspect.”

The ministry of information posted the announcement of Twitter’s suspension — on Twitter.

Twitter users in Nigeria expressed outrage at the blocking of one of the main outlets that they have to criticize their government and try to hold it to account. Many circumvented the suspension by using virtual private networks to access the service, raising questions of how effective the ban will be.

Twitter said Saturday that it was “deeply concerned” by Nigeria’s action and would work to restore access “for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world.”

Apparently incensed by defiance of the ban, Nigeria’s attorney general, Abubakar Malami, ordered prompt prosecutions of anyone found flouting it. A spokesman for Mr. Malami, Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, said Saturday in a statement reported by Nigerian news media that prosecutors had been directed to “swing into action” and “ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders without any further delay.”

Protocol: India’s social media crackdown could go global

By Ben Brody

A rising clash in India between social media companies and the government, which increasingly demands content censorship, could signal a spreading crackdown on speech by other countries, digital rights groups and international tech policy experts warn.

Reason: The Media’s Lab Leak Debacle Shows Why Banning ‘Misinformation’ Is a Terrible Idea

By Robby Soave

Facebook made a quiet but dramatic reversal last week: It no longer forbids users from touting the theory that COVID-19 came from a laboratory…

This change in policy comes in the midst of heated debate about how to respond to the perception that social media is amplifying the spread of false information. For the last several years, journalists and politicians have pushed to police so-called misinformation through various means. Major news organizations have hired mis- or disinformation reporters. Lawmakers such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) have urged social media sites to prohibit speech deemed wrong or dangerous—and have sometimes suggested that this should be required by law. More recently, various groups have asked President Joe Biden to establish a federal initiative to combat online misinformation.

But Facebook’s concession that the lab leak story it once viewed as demonstrably false is actually possibly true should put to rest the idea that banning or regulating misinformation should be a chief public policy goal.

It’s one thing to discuss, debate, and correct wrong ideas, and both tech companies and media have roles to play in fostering healthy public dialogue. But Team Blue’s recent obsession with rendering unsayable anything that clashes with its preferred narrative is the height of hubris. The conversation should not be closed by the government and its yes-men in journalism, in tech, or even in public health.

Candidates and Campaigns

Politico: How Political Parties Can Win Converts

By Alexander Coppock, Donald P. Green, and Ethan Porter

Most political advertisements fail. They might be memorable; they might be well-produced. But recent, high-quality political science studies conclusively show thatads have small effects on political views. Changing people’s minds about politics is hard. Two leading scholars recently summarized the evidence from dozens of rigorous studies of political campaigning, writing, “the best estimate of the size of persuasive effects in general elections … is zero.”

But what if the failure of political advertising is, at least in part, a failure of imagination? Almost all political ads, whether from candidates or party committees, are produced to achieve a very narrow goal: winning the next election. What if parties instead took a longer view, producing ads designed to win them new partisan supporters in election after election?

We recently conducted a series of randomized experiments to test whether parties can win over new loyalists, and we found that partisanship can be moved—at least to a point. When subjected to enough ads promoting a particular party, people’s partisan identities shift in the direction of that party. To be clear, the shift is small. But it isn’t entirely temporary. And the fact that it exists at all presents a significant opportunity.

The States

Statesman Journal: HB 2323 A stops misinformation

By Reps. Julie Fahey and Jack Zika

This pressing issue [of misinformation] motivated us to sponsor Oregon House Bill 2323 A, a measure that would make it illegal to knowingly spread misinformation about the election process, voting methods, and ballot access.

This bill, which recently passed the Oregon House of Representatives in a bipartisan 54-3 vote, will prohibit people from purposefully disseminating false information intended to mislead voters about election dates, ballot delivery deadlines, voter registration deadlines, voter registration methods, and ballot drop-off locations. These protections would apply to social media, traditional mailings and robocalls within 30 days of a primary or special election and within 60 days of a general election. It would also require a “non-official” label on voter pamphlets designed to imitate official election materials. 


Tiffany Donnelly

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