Daily Media Links 7/18

July 18, 2022   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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In the News

Philadelphia Inquirer: The Pennsbury School District will pay $300,000 to settle lawsuit over four men’s curtailed public comments

By Maddie Hanna

The Pennsbury School District will pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit over four men’s curtailed public comments.

The agreement, approved by the school board Thursday night, follows a federal judge’s order in November that directed the Bucks County district to stop enforcing its policy prohibiting abusive, offensive, or personally directed public comments — deeming it a likely violation of the First Amendment.

“School boards across the country should take note. Rules for public comments must respect the First Amendment rights of speakers. If you are limiting which opinions may be shared, you’ll be held liable for violating First Amendment rights,” said Alan Gura, vice president for litigation at the Institute for Free Speech, a Washington-based nonprofit that represented residents Douglas Marshall, Simon Campbell, Robert Abrams, and Tim Daly in a lawsuit.

Under the agreement, the district will pay $300,000 in attorneys’ fees, as well as $17.91 to each of the men — a “symbolic payment” referring to 1791, the year the First Amendment was ratified, the institute said…

The policy Pennsbury invoked in cutting off the comments was based on a model policy written by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association that many area school boards had adopted, and that some district lawyers recommended they suspend. The association said it was reviewing its policy in the wake of Pratter’s order.

Pennsbury, meanwhile, has rewritten its public comment policy and cut ties with its former solicitor, according to the Institute for Free Speech, which is also representing members of the Moms for Liberty group in a case against the public schools in Brevard County, Fla.


Pennsylvania School Board Agrees to $300K Settlement in Lawsuit for Censoring Critics

Last May, a solicitor for the Pennsbury School Board shouted down and censored critics of a new district policy during public comment time at a board meeting, screaming “you’re done!” Several of the targets of his wrath said, “see you in court.” After almost a year of litigation, the board agreed last night to settle the lawsuit and pay $300,000 in attorney’s fees and nominal damages.

In addition, the district has rewritten its public-comment policy to conform to the First Amendment and the federal court’s preliminary injunction ruling. It also abolished its so-called civility policy and parted ways with the law firm that was advising it during the time it censored comments, including the solicitor who shouted down speakers.

Donor Privacy

RealClearPolicy: When Donor Privacy is a Life or Death Matter

By Jianli Yang

On April 13, 2021, the Chinese government forced a businessman named Mr. Lee to appear on its central TV station and confess to a “crime” for which he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. His crime? Financially supporting my organization, Citizen Power Initiatives for China, a pro-democracy movement based in the United States and registered as a nonprofit organization with the Internal Revenue Service.

I founded this organization in 2008 to advance human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy in China. Unsurprisingly, our supporters, including those in America, can face extreme consequences when they are identified by the Chinese government. As a result, the privacy of our members is paramount to our organization’s survival.

Yet increasingly, our privacy is threatened by lawmakers in the U.S. If successful, their efforts would silence many voices and put brave people in danger…

It is no exaggeration to say that privacy is a matter of life and death for our members and donors as well as for our organization itself. Our work would be unsustainable without the ability to shield our supporters. The same is true for many other important causes supported by nonprofits throughout the United States.


Techdirt: Senators Klobuchar And Warren Are Mad That Meta Is Taking Down Abortion Posts; If They Were Serious, They’d Protect Section 230

By Mike Masnick

Almost exactly a year ago, Senator Amy Klobuchar (with Senator Ben Ray Lujan) introduced a bill to create a giant hole in Section 230 for “medical misinformation.” The bill would make social media sites like Facebook and Instagram potentially liable for any “health misinformation” found on their platforms. Of course, as we explained at the time, this is a horrifically dangerous idea on multiple levels. First, since there is no set definition of “medical misinformation” (and, in times of rapidly changing information, like a pandemic, accurate information may initially be labeled misinformation), it means that websites will be much more aggressive in taking down content. Second, it opens the door to widespread abuse because whoever is in power gets to determine what is, and what is not “medical misinformation” (the bill gave that role to whoever was the Secretary of Health and Human Services).

Given all that, it seems wildly ironic, that Senator Klobuchar (now with Senator Elizabeth Warren) have sent Mark Zuckerberg (and Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri) an angry demand letter over the news that Facebook has been banning people for simply mentioning that abortion pills exist following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

If Klobuchar got her way and her medical misinformation bill became law, it’s guaranteed that Facebook and Instagram would be taking down way more posts about abortion. Because they’d be sued left and right if they didn’t.

Free Expression

Wall Street Journal: The Lesson of Carlin’s Dirty Words

By Andy Kessler

“Now everyone is walking around wondering what they can say and censoring themselves and, as a result, lowering the standards of discussion and thought.” Sounds like 2022, but the guy who said this was arrested 50 years ago this week on a charge of “disorderly conduct, profanity.” We’ve come a long way but seem to be looping back.

City Journal: The Problem with “Disinformation”

By Adam Klein

The root of the problem is that “disinformation” invites a focus on the message instead of the messenger. This is tricky terrain for security agencies: Americans have a First Amendment right to speak freely about foreign policy, even if their speech aligns with the views of hostile foreign governments. Foreign intelligence services, by contrast, have no right to propagandize inside the United States, and Congress has empowered our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to stop them. Instead of seeking to purify American public discourse of tainted information, agencies should adhere to their traditional focus on disrupting clandestine activities conducted or directed by foreign intelligence services.

The Media

Fox News: Conservatives, journalists criticize NPR’s new ‘disinformation reporting team,’ recall Hunter Biden dismissal

By Hanna Panreck

Conservatives and journalists were quick to criticize NPR’s new “disinformation reporting team” on Saturday as many pointed to the outlet’s initial dismissal of the Hunter Biden laptop story and more. 

NPR’s Nancy Barnes, SVP of News and Editorial Director, and Terence Samuel, VP and Executive Editor, announced in a note to their newsroom staff that they were launching a “disinformation reporting team.”

Online Speech Platforms

Northeastern: Facebook Ad Algorithms May Be Harmful to Well-Informed Democratic Society, Northeastern Research Scientist Tells European Parliament

By Alena Kuzub

In one of the studies that Sapierzynski and his colleagues conducted in the U.S. in 2019, they ran ads for then presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump targeting Democratic and Republican audiences. Although in the first experiment the ads targeted the same general audiences, the ads for Bernie Sanders were delivered mostly to Democrats, whereas the ads for Donald Trump were shown mostly to Republicans, Sapiezynski said. 

In further experiments, the researchers found out that it was up to four times more expensive to show ads to the targeted audience that already disagreed with the message and did not support the featured candidate.

“This way Facebook limits political advertisers’ ability to reach audiences that, in Facebook’s estimation, do not share those advertisers’ political views,” Sapiezynski said. “This is in stark contrast with advertising in traditional media, where reaching a voter costs the same, regardless of the identity of the political advertiser.”

People are more likely to see ads that reinforce their world view and less likely to be exposed to messages from other parties, even if those parties are actively trying to reach various Facebook users. Users who are algorithmically prevented from seeing different political ads and points of view will have limited sources of information when making their choices at the voting booth, Sapiezynski said.

The States

Voice of OC: No Campaign Finance Reform for Anaheim

By Brandon Pho

No campaign finance reform is coming for Anaheim, a city steeped in one of the largest public corruption scandals in recent Southern California history and whose problems are now discussed at places like the grocery store.

Tiffany Donnelly

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