In the News
By Tom Bosco
It’s the president’s favorite way to talk to the American people and the word: Twitter. He’s got more than 60-million followers, but a court has ruled he can’t block followers just because he doesn’t agree with what they say. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld a lower court judge who said Trump violates the Constitution when he blocks critics.
David Keating, president of the Institute for Free Speech in Virginia explained the court’s ruling, which said that the president’s Twitter account is a function of the government and must be a place for free speech.
“The court said, hey, Mr. President, you created a public forum here, and you can’t discriminate by viewpoint,” Keating said.
New from the Institute for Free Speech
By Mark D’Ostilio
If politicians are genuine when they call for fair and competitive elections, they should turn to the Virginia model to achieve their goal. As the Institute for Free Speech noted in our Free Speech Index, Virginia is one of five states (along with Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon, and Utah) with no contribution limits whatsoever on giving to candidates. (In total, eleven states don’t have any limits on individual giving to candidates.)
In fact, the ability to promote greater diversity and competition in elections through political giving was just seen in recent prosecutors’ races in Virginia’s Arlington and Fairfax counties. Both contests showcase how unlimited contributions can promote emerging viewpoints and improve competition in elections. Thanks in part to large donations from Justice & Public Safety PAC, a group which seeks to assist “reform-minded prosecutors,” challengers Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in Arlington County and Steve Descano in Fairfax, were able to challenge – and ultimately unseat – their county’s incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The defeat of Fairfax County’s “35-year courtroom veteran” led to the scrutiny of Justice & Public Safety PAC and its “megadonor” George Soros. Some also called for new restrictions on the ability to financially support candidates in the state. But a fair election is one where both everyone can enter, and candidates and supporters are free to promote their views to voters. Thanks to Descano’s ability to fundraise freely, he was able to spread his progressive message and reach as many voters as possible.
By Deanna Paul
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is facing two federal lawsuits for blocking Twitter users who were critical of her or her policies. Republican congressional candidate Joseph Saladino and former New York assemblyman Dov Hikind sued the freshman congresswoman Tuesday, shortly after a New York appellate court upheld an earlier decision affirming that President Trump violated the First Amendment for doing the same.
“I have officially filed my lawsuit against AOC for blocking me on twitter. Trump is not allowed to block people, will the standards apply equally?” Saladino wrote on Twitter after filing his claim Tuesday in the Southern District of New York.
Hikind, who also filed Tuesday, said in a statement to Fox News, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has blocked me on Twitter yesterday apparently because my critique of her tweets and policies have been too stinging.”
Citing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit decision as “a precedent that Ocasio-Cortez must follow,” he said, “Elected officials cannot block individuals from their Twitter accounts.”
Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment on pending litigation.
The First Amendment limits government action and bars it from discriminating against viewpoints. Public officials, the court said Tuesday, cannot exclude members of the public “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.” …
“Since he took office, the President has consistently used the Account as an important tool of governance and executive outreach,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote in the 29-page opinion. “Because the President, as we have seen, acts in an official capacity when he tweets, we conclude that he acts in the same capacity when he blocks those who disagree with him.”
Associated Press: Judge: New Orleans can’t take down Trump quotes mural
By Janet McConnaughey
New Orleans cannot make a landowner take down a mural of infamous quotes recorded when Donald Trump was on “Access Hollywood” in 2005 because the city’s mural regulations violate freedom of speech, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge Martin Feldman ruled the day after he heard arguments about landowner Neal Morris’ assertion that the regulations are unconstitutional and the city should be barred from enforcing them.
“It’s a victory for the First Amendment and for artistic expression. The city had no business deciding what is and isn’t art,” said Bruce Hamilton, who represented Morris as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.
In large capital letters with cartoons replacing four words, the mural painted on a fence transcribes part of the future president’s recorded conversation…
“Because the City of necessity must determine whether a mural contains commercial speech, and, therefore, should be regulated as a sign, the ordinance is a prohibited free speech enemy,” Feldman wrote in a 31-page opinion.
He also agreed with Hamilton’s argument that the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague.
It uses “indistinct, shapeless and obscure” phrases to define murals, leaving people unable to understand when a permit is required, Feldman wrote.
He also handed down an order against enforcement.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “has consistently held that the loss of First Amendment freedoms constitutes irreparable injury. … Balanced against this grave threat is the City’s … interest in identifying those commercial messages that may be masquerading as murals,” Feldman wrote.
Wall Street Journal: Big Tech Is a Likely Target at White House Social-Media Summit
By Ryan Tracy
A “Social Media Summit” at the White House this week will offer a platform for supporters of President Trump who say they face censorship by left-tilting Big Tech-and a preview of a likely theme in Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.
Attendees include the Claremont Institute think tank, media company Prager University and the Media Research Center, a nonprofit critical of national news organizations. Also expected to attend are more familiar Washington conservatives, including the Heritage Foundation.
Not on the guest list: social-media giant Facebook Inc., which said it didn’t get an invitation. Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc., which owns YouTube and Google, also weren’t invited, according to people familiar with the situation…
It isn’t known whether the event will lead to any concrete policy changes or directives. Mr. Trump has hinted he wants the government to take action against social-media companies, without being specific. “What they are doing is wrong and possibly illegal and a lot of things are being looked at right now,” he said in a July 1 Fox News interview…
At a June hearing hosted by the Federal Trade Commission, a Texas official said regulators should consider using laws against deceptive business practices to charge social-media platforms with making false statements about neutrality.
“Are big tech companies misleading users about whether they are truly viewpoint neutral, as they have represented?” Texas First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer asked in a presentation that quoted the CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter “Evidence suggests that [they] may not be living up to those representations.”
Short of tangible action, calls to rein in tech firms could be a political winner on the campaign trail. In a March Wall Street Journal/NBC survey of 1,000 American adults, 54% said they weren’t satisfied with federal government regulation and oversight of social-media companies, compared with 36% who were satisfied and 10% who weren’t sure.
By Philip Bump
The invitations included ones to O’Keefe from Project Veritas and Twitter user @CarpeDonktum, whose pro-Trump videos and animations have been repeatedly shared by the president.
They also included cartoonist Ben Garrison, whose cartoons of a buff Trump conquering his various enemies are popular with the president. Garrison tweeted a picture of his invite.
In short order, some of Garrison’s past cartoons resurfaced…
A cartoon in which Garrison drew national security staffers controlled by both George Soros and a family that’s long been a centerpiece of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories quickly made the cartoonist’s invitation a focus of criticism.
On Wednesday morning, an update from the White House: Garrison was no longer invited to the social media summit. Which, of course, is exactly the sort of decision-making by social-media companies that the summit was created to rail against.
Garrison appears not to have been one of the users who Twitter de-emphasized in its searches (the so-called “shadow banning”). He tweets his cartoons regularly, including the one that got him booted from the social media summit. It was fine for Twitter, but not for the White House.
By Adam Goldman, Charlie Savage and Matthew Rosenberg
Inside a London office building in early June, three investigators for the Justice Department’s inspector general took a crucial step toward clearing the political fallout from the Russia investigation: They spent two days interviewing Christopher Steele…
The interview was a key step in the investigation by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, into the facts underlying a bitter partisan feud: Did F.B.I. officials do anything wrong in 2016 when they sought to understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia – including how they used information from Mr. Steele?
That question has hovered over the Russia inquiry for two years as President Trump and his allies repeatedly assailed the investigators who scrutinized him and his advisers. Attorney General William P. Barr, who has accused the F.B.I. of “spying” on the Trump campaign, has begun his own review that will include intelligence agencies as well.
But the investigation by Mr. Horowitz, who has maintained a reputation for being above the partisan fray, may have a better chance of being accepted across party lines as credible. Mr. Horowitz, who is expected to release a much-anticipated report of his findings in the coming weeks, is believed to be weighing whether to recommend that the Justice Department tighten rules for any future counterintelligence investigations of a presidential campaign, which was a novel dilemma in 2016, according to people familiar with aspects of his investigation…
Investigators working for Mr. Horowitz have asked witnesses about whether the F.B.I. properly opened the Russia investigation and how the bureau handled a pair of informants, including Mr. Steele, whose work was financed by Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee…
Investigators flagged, in a lengthy footnote in the wiretap application, that Mr. Steele’s research was funded by someone “likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” Mr. Trump’s campaign. They did not specifically identify the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
By Tyler O’Neil
Last week, Brendan Carr, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), sent important letters asking exactly why two liberal nonprofits seem to have abused their FCC-provided broadband internet to fund pet projects. The Educational Broadcast Service (EBS) licenses are intended to help schools…
“The FCC lets schools use valuable spectrum – a public resource – for free to offer students educational programming. Turns out that national organizations may be siphoning off millions of dollars for their own purposes, including political activity. I’ve asked for answers,” Carr tweeted on Wednesday with one of the letters.
“Back in the day in the 1960s, the FCC gave organizations access to this spectrum for the purpose of providing educational access to schools,” Carr told PJ Media in an interview…
“In addition to letting schools use it, we opened it up to allow qualifying nonprofits to hold these licenses,” he explained. “They had to be nonprofits for the purpose of providing educational material…” …
Yet in recent years, “these national nonprofits have been doing little to nothing in terms of providing educational materials, even though that is the reason they exist as nonprofits. Instead, they have been siphoning off millions of dollars a year and pawning that money off into political activity.” …
These facts raise two major legal issues, Carr said. First, “are these entities qualified to hold these licenses – which are worth millions if not billions of dollars – if they’re not in fact doing the thing they’re supposed to be doing to have the licenses?” Second, “as nonprofits have they engaged in some illegal activity, which is self-dealing contracts that pay themselves or giving money to overt political activities?”
Online Speech Platforms
By Kalev Leetaru
When we look back someday on our mad rush towards our Orwellian future, it may very well be that we realize the start of it all was our mad effort to combat “fake news,” misinformation, disinformation, digital falsehoods and foreign influence. One of the most defining characteristics of the modern era has been the rejection of our past history’s dark hours of allowing authorities to define what constitutes “truth.” Throughout history, repressive governments have maintained control of their populations by defining reality, constantly changing what is “true” and what is “false” to benefit those in power and maintain order. To this day, governments arbitrating “truth” is a defining characteristic of dictatorships and repressive regimes. Democracies have no such arbitrators, allowing the public to define “truth” through consensus. Yet in our rush to combat digital falsehoods, we are increasingly embracing the idea of a handful of for-profit companies becoming the ultimate arbitrators of “truth” for the modern world…
With the rise of social media and its empowerment of the world’s population to publish their every thought and belief to the world, the online world has become awash with digital falsehoods.
In their rush to combat these falsehoods, social platforms have shown a remarkable unwillingness to alter their underlying profit-engine algorithms that are specifically tuned to help propel these falsehoods.
Instead, Silicon Valley has embraced the idea of itself as ultimate arbitrator of “truth” in the new digital era.
Today’s digital dictatorships have granted themselves the unconstrained power to decide what is “truth” and what is “false” across the entire world and to instantly banish any thought with which they disagree, deleting it in an instant to the memory hole.
Candidates and Campaigns
By Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is raising cash for the Democratic primary season at a clip expected of a front-runner, but his poll numbers are exposing a rift between donors and voters.
As second-quarter fundraising numbers continue to trickle in, the $24.8 million haul Buttigieg’s campaign announced last week looks even more impressive, outpacing a former vice president and several United States senators.
The Midwestern mayor, though, hasn’t kept up in polling. A CNN/SSRS poll conducted June 28-30, just after the June debates, showed him in a distant fifth place among voters, at 4 percent. And that’s not an outlier. Other polls taken after the debates show similar results…
It’s not time for Buttigieg’s campaign to panic, of course. His fundraising has provided the resources for him to stay in the race and continue to build name recognition, which as a small-city mayor lagged that of other nationally known candidates…
“I think he has tremendously excited the LGBT community all across the country,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “This is a historical candidacy, and the way they look at it, Buttigieg can’t lose. He’s standing up for a marginalized community and they’re all investing in the future.
“The donors have stars in their eyes, but money does not determine the race. Just ask Jeb Bush. Ask Hillary (Clinton). It just doesn’t happen that way.”