Daily Media Links 6/8

June 8, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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The Courts

KOB 4: ‘Viewpoint discrimination’ case may head to Supreme Court

By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A lawsuit claiming that New Mexico county commissioner and Cowboys for Trump cofounder Couy Griffin engaged in “viewpoint” discrimination could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a test-case for free speech rights on social media platforms.

Chaplain and local Democratic Party leader Jeff Swanson lost a federal appeals court ruling in February in a lawsuit claiming he was blocked by Griffin from social media discussions about public county business on Griffin’s Facebook page.

Independent Groups

Politico: A DAO has a PAC, and it’s spooky

By Ben Schreckinger

As its name suggests, 3OH DAO, operates, in part, as a decentralized autonomous organization, a new kind of web-based entity that can be governed with blockchain tokens. Its new PAC is among the first FEC-registered political action committees, if not the first, to be associated with a DAO (The group’s leaders, as well as a spokesman for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit campaign finance watchdog, said they were not aware of others).

This means — to put it briefly — that a pot of political money will now be controlled by whoever purchased digital tokens from a decentralized online group…

Campaign spending by outside groups is subject to complicated legal rules, and things get even more complicated if the outside group is tied to a new type of entity whose relationship to existing legal categories is still being worked out.

Online Speech Platforms

Persuasion: Banning Hate Speech Won’t End Extremist Violence

By Jacob Mchangama

Social media can sometimes serve as a vector for dangerous speech, from fueling jihadist and white supremacist terrorism to large-scale campaigns of ethnic cleansing. But while online expression may sometimes lead to real-life harm, placing restrictions on free speech is not necessarily an effective remedy. Nor is it certain that any benefits of repression outweigh its negative and unintended consequences. 

On the contrary, studies suggest that freedom of expression is associated with less rather than more violent extremism, terrorism, and social conflict in democracies. A 2017 study concluded that in Western Europe, violent far-right extremism was accelerated by “extensive public repression of radical right actors and opinions.” Other research has come to similar conclusions, suggesting that free speech is more likely to serve as a safety valve than a lightning rod for extremist violence and that people are more likely to view violence as justified when governments repress free expression.

Candidates and Campaigns

Wall Street Journal: The Parental School-Board Revolt Continues

By The Editorial Board

The political fallout from school closings and curriculum battles continues, as school board incumbents are losing at an unusual rate. That’s the news from Ballotpedia, which analyzed recent school board elections in three states.

“Incumbents lost at nearly twice the historical average,” the website that tracks election results reported last week.

The States

Salt Lake Tribune: Facing $3 million lawsuit, dredging foe files ‘anti-SLAPP’ action

By Brian Maffly

Staring down the barrel of a $3 million lawsuit, ecology professor Ben Abbott is now turning the legal tables on the company proposing to dredge Utah Lake.

In court filings last week, Abbott’s lawyers laid out their case that Lake Restoration Solutions’ defamation suit is an abuse of the judicial system aimed at gagging Abbott, an outspoken critic of the controversial proposal to scoop a billion of cubic yards of lake bed sediments into a sprawling network of subdivisions on one of the West’s largest freshwater lakes.

The professor’s motion was filed under Utah’s so-called anti-SLAPP statutes, which frown on bad-faith litigation known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation.”

Lake Restoration Solutions, or LRS, filed its suit on Jan. 10, accusing Abbott, a Brigham Young University scientist and leading researcher into Utah Lake’s ecosystems, of “spreading misinformation” about the proposed dredging project and its potential impacts.

WXYZ: Complaint over Shirkey-linked dark money groups referred to AG

By Ross Jones

Two dark money groups that helped fund efforts to repeal Governor Whitmer’s emergency powers now face scrutiny from Michigan’s Attorney General over whether they skirted the law.

A 2020 complaint filed by Robert LaBrant, a longtime Republican power broker in the state, was forwarded to Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office after an elections official found that two funds “took actions that might constitute a violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance act.” …

In his complaint, LaBrant alleged that the “Michigan! My Michigan!” Fund and the “Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility” fund were accepting secret donations — allowable under the law — but then funneling them to the Unlock Michigan ballot proposal, which aimed to take away the Governor’s emergency powers.

City & State PA: Proposed Constitutional amendment aims to give states more power over campaign spending

By Justin Sweitzer

And with a flood of cash expected to deluge Pennsylvania this fall, a national nonprofit organization is looking to kickstart a campaign to limit the influence of money in politics, with Pennsylvania in its crosshairs. 

On Tuesday, leaders from American Promise outlined a plan to push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would give state legislatures more power to regulate political spending. The resolution, which petitions Congress to approve the amendment, is being sponsored by state Rep. Meghan Schroeder, a Bucks County Republican, who said Tuesday that a so-called “For Our Freedom” amendment would give states more authority in determining how to regulate campaign spending. 

Reason (Volokh Conspiracy): New N.Y. Law Aimed at Getting Social Media Platforms to Restrict “Hateful” Speech

By Eugene Volokh

Despite the section heading—”hateful conduct prohibited”—this seems to just mandate platforms to provide a reporting mechanism, and to indicate how they will respond:. Presumably, “we will not take down any such material” or “we might or might not take down any such material, depending on our own editorial judgment” would be a legally permissible response.

Still, both the heading and the body of the law make clear that this regulation is aimed at pushing restrictions on certain viewpoints, and the mandate it imposes is limited to particular viewpoints. Compare a similar law mandating a mechanism to report “anti-American conduct,” defined as “the use of a social media network to vilify, humiliate, or incite violence against the United States of America or any state, their governments, or any of their institutions”—both, it seems to me, are based on the viewpoint of the speech they are targeting, and both should therefore be unconstitutional.

Tiffany Donnelly

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