Daily Media Links 7/15

July 15, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Supreme Court

Philanthropy Daily: Civil society and its champions dodge a deadly bullet

By Jack Fowler

Those dabbling bureaucrats and their cause will none soon forget July 1, 2021. Indeed, it was as bad a day for them as it was a good one for donors, nonprofit charities, and the First Amendment. For on this day, the United State Supreme Court issued a historic 6-3 ruling that concluded a decade of costly legal turmoil, frustration, setbacks, and a future of fearfulness.

It was a day when a bullet was dodged. For if the High Court ruled otherwise, or had it chosen to not consider the appeal of Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta, Attorney General of California, America and Americans would have suffered a powerful blow to free speech and free association, the letter that important principle harbored in our Constitutional “right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

The Courts

Washington Post: Trump has a point: Facebook’s policing of speech is ominous

By Eugene Volokh

Donald Trump has sued FacebookTwitter and YouTube for deplatforming him. In his suits, he mainly claims that those tech platforms were essentially coerced by the federal government to ban speech with which the government disagreed — such as his claims that there was massive fraud in the 2020 presidential election — and thus became in effect government agents subject to the First Amendment.

This theory is a long shot. While in theory such claims could survive, they require powerful evidence of governmental coercion. It’s unlikely that Trump can provide enough of that — especially when the supposedly coerced companies are rich and powerful and have their own motives to restrict speech, entirely apart from supposed government pressure.

But behind this weak argument lurks a stronger one: that Congress (and maybe states) should pass new laws that indeed limit viewpoint discrimination by these massively important social media platforms.

Politico: Judge throws out Roy Moore’s $95 million suit against Sacha Baron Cohen

By Maeve Sheehey

A federal court on Tuesday threw out the defamation lawsuit filed by Roy Moore, Alabama’s former chief justice, against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

Moore, who served twice in his role on the Alabama Supreme Court and was twice removed from the position, sued Baron Cohen after Moore was interviewed under the pretense that he would receive an award for his support of Israel. Baron Cohen pretended to be an Israeli anti-terrorism expert and claimed he had technology that would show whether Moore was a pedophile — a reference to sexual misconduct allegations against Moore — for the series “Who Is America?”

Moore alleged that Baron Cohen defamed him. He and his wife, Kayla Moore, also alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the case on Tuesday after agreeing with the defendants that because Moore had signed a waiver before the interview, and because of First Amendment protection, Moore’s claims were barred.

IRS

Ron Paul Institute: True Civil Libertarians Must Oppose the IRS

By Ron Paul

[P]rogressives rarely, if ever, speak out against the IRS’s targeting of the opponents of those in power. When liberal Democrats control the White House, the IRS targets advocates of free markets. When hawkish Republicans are in power, the IRS targets antiwar activists.

The Democrats’ election reform legislation would require political organizations to divulge their top donors. Such donor disclosure requirements can be, and have been, used to intimidate donors from supporting “controversial” causes. Yet the requirements are supported by many progressives in the name of getting big money out of politics.

FEC

Chicago Sun-Times: New Dem Party chair to get no seat at table for state fund raising? FEC expected to rule on Kelly role Thursday

By Rachel Hinton

The newly minted chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois won’t be able to personally raise money for state races or have a hand in picking members of a committee tasked with doing so, if members of the Federal Election Commission uphold language in a draft opinion they’re expected to discuss Thursday.

Online Speech Platforms

The Hill: Twitter seeing more government requests to remove journalists’ content: report

By Caroline Vakil

Twitter has reported that it has seen an increase in the number of legal demands by governments to have journalists or news outlets take down content in the second half of 2020, according to the social media’s transparency report published on Wednesday.

The social media company noted that 199 accounts of verified news sites and journalists worldwide “were subject to 361 legal demands” by governments and individuals to remove or take down content. Twitter noted in its report that it represented an increase of 26 percent since the first half of 2020.

Bloomberg: Twitter Is Penalizing More Accounts for Posting Hate Speech

By Kurt Wagner

Twitter Inc. “took action” on a record number of user accounts for violating the company’s hate speech policies during the second half of 2020, a reflection of the company’s decision to expand its rules.

Twitter “actioned” 1,126,990 different accounts between July and December 2020 for infringing its hateful conduct policy, a 77% increase over the prior six-month period…

The social network expanded its hate speech policies last fall to catch more posts. The broader definition included tweets that incite fear or fearful stereotypes about people due to a protected category, like race. The company had seen “increased harassment of some protected categories during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mediaite: Germany Fines YouTube Six Figures for Removing Video of Anti-Lockdown Protest

By Rudy Takala

A German court is ordering YouTube to pay a $118,000 fine for removing the video of a protest against Covid-19 lockdowns filmed in Switzerland last year.

A regional court in Dresden ordered to pay the 100,000 Euro fine last week more than a year after the company ran afoul of German laws. The court ordered YouTube to put the video online in May 2020, a month after YouTube removed it, but the company took weeks to comply. YouTube unsuccessfully argued the video violated its policies on Covid-19 “misinformation.”

The States

Wisconsin Examiner: Wisconsin GOP bill goes after social media ‘Silicon Valley elites’

By Melanie Conklin

Freshman state senator Julian Bradley (R-Franklin) is joining former President Donald Trump in his crusade against private social media companies, AKA “Silicon Valley elites.” On Monday, he unveiled a bill taking on “Big Tech” with six-figure fines for allegedly censoring and stifling “the free exchange of ideas.” …

Noting that social media is an essential method of communication, particularly in politics, the authors — who also include Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), and Reps. Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago) and Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk) — began circulating a memo seeking cosponsors for their bill that accuses Facebook, Twitter and other companies of trying to silence conservative speech, in particular, and preventing “robust political discussions.” …

The bill would force the social media companies to share their algorithms and notify a user if they censor or remove content, or ban a user. The bill carves out exceptions for content that is obscene or constitutes a “credible threat.”

According to the wording in the memo, the bill would require the social media companies to:

Miami Herald: Is Cuban-Americans’ highway protest in Miami breaking Florida’s new anti-riot law?

By Ana Ceballos and Charles Rabin

Dozens of people supporting the growing anti-government protests in Cuba clogged one of Miami’s busiest highways all afternoon and well into rush hour Tuesday, a show of solidarity that could put them in violation of a new law championed by Gov. DeSantis…

Protesters have remained peaceful so far and troopers have not threatened to arrest them for blocking traffic because there has not yet been a dispersal order, said FHP Lt. Camacho…

While Miami demonstrations in support of Cuba have remained peaceful, protesters could potentially face felony charges under the new “anti-riot” law if the gatherings turn violent, disorderly or result in property damage…

When asked about protesters shutting down the highway in Miami on Tuesday, DeSantis sidestepped the question and said what is going on in Cuba is different from protests that take place in the United States.

“What is going on in Cuba in particular, those are not simply normal, run-of-the-mill protests like we see here in the United States. They don’t have freedoms respected there, whereas in the United States, you have a panoply of freedoms that are respected,” DeSantis said. “They are seeking an end to the regime itself.”

He added: “They are trying to end the regime. So that is fundamentally different from what we saw last summer where people were burning down buildings — and this was fortunately not happening in Florida to a large extent — burning down buildings, looting, breaking windows and targeting law enforcement and all those things.”

Washington Post: BLM activists question equal exercise of Florida protest law

By Associated Press

Some Black Lives Matters activists say a double standard is being used as protesters in Florida block busy roadways this week in support of Cubans demonstrating for regime change, with limited action taken by law enforcement despite a new law that enhances penalties against disruptions by protesters…

“When they protest for regime change, which aligns with the governor’s political viewpoint … you see no enforcement from law enforcement,” said Michael Sampson, who co-founded the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, one of many groups that sprung up under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. “I think it’s just downright hypocrisy we’re seeing from the governor, and even law enforcement in how they’re applying this law. It goes to show how our fears that we had earlier … that it will be used against Black people fighting for equal rights.”

Wall Street Journal: Virginia GOP’s Embarrassing Inquisition

By The Editorial Board

Last Thursday the Virginia Republican Party chairman sent a letter to the state university’s president declaring that “ Dr. Larry J. Sabato, founder and director of UVa’s Center for Politics, has been engaging in behavior that appears to violate UVa’s Mission Statement, the Center for Politics Mission Statement, and UVa’s Code of Ethics for Faculty and Staff.”

The letter lists eight tweets Mr. Sabato sent over the last year—mostly typical Democratic invective…

The Virginia GOP wants an “investigation” into whether Mr. Sabato’s “public display of bitter partisanship” broke the rules. But public university administrators, as state actors, can’t lawfully punish students or faculty for First Amendment expression.

Some conservatives want to deploy progressive silencing tactics for their own ends. Good luck achieving that in the liberal university. Inviting bureaucrats to exercise more control over political speech on campus will further cement liberal dominance.

Tiffany Donnelly

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

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