Daily Media Links 7/26

July 26, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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Supreme Court

Cato: Privacy and Free Speech

By Timothy Sandefur

In March 2012, then–California attorney general Kamala Harris surprised the managers of many nonprofit organizations by announcing a new rule: her office would no longer let them submit annual reports in a way that concealed personal information about their high‐level donors (meaning people who gave more than $5,000). In previous years, the state had allowed nonprofits to file redacted forms to ensure against the accidental disclosure of donor names, addresses, and other personal data. But even though Harris’s office still had other ways to get that information if necessary (for instance, through a subpoena), she now insisted that the paperwork be provided without redactions — a demand her successor, Xavier Becerra, kept in place.

That alarmed the nonprofits, including prominent free‐market think tanks such as the Goldwater Institute and public interest law firms such as the Thomas More Law Center. Although Harris’s office promised to keep this information private, government officials often release such data accidentally, or put it into online databases that can be hacked. Public disclosure can be dangerous because it exposes people to harassment or retaliation by others who disagree, sometimes violently, with the policies advanced by the organizations to which people donate.


Politico (Morning Tech): Klobuchar’s medical misinfo bill draws rebukes

By Emily Birnbaum

[Senator Amy] Klobuchar introduced legislation to fight online medical misinformation on Thursday, but the critics are already piling on. Her bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), is an effort to put some policy muscle behind Democrats’ (and the Biden administration’s) threats to crack down on social media platforms over their role in enabling the spread of misleading posts about Covid-19 vaccines. The bill strikes right at the heart of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — the longtime tech liability shield law — by holding the tech platforms responsible for letting when they users to post health misinformation during a public health emergency…

Tech groups quickly began to raise questions around whether Klobuchar and Lujan’s bill would violate the First Amendment. “Sen. Klobuchar’s bill is unconstitutional because it gives the government control over how private media entities treat legal speech,” said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice, a group that counts Google, Facebook and Amazon as members.


New York Times: For Republicans, Deep Wounds Fuel Resistance to Bolstering the I.R.S.

By Alan Rappeport

A plan by Democrats to pay for infrastructure investments by beefing up the Internal Revenue Service to catch tax evaders has resurfaced old resentments for Republicans, whose distrust of the agency has simmered for years, erasing hopes of a bipartisan legislative accord built on narrowing the so-called tax gap…

For conservative activists, who have harbored enmity toward the I.R.S. for more than a decade, the agency is considered a threat that is beyond reclamation.

“As we learned in 2013, Democrats have weaponized the I.R.S. as a political tool, and now they want an even more powerful I.R.S. to target their political enemies just as they did under Obama,” said David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth, a free-enterprise advocacy group.

Online Speech Platforms

OC Register: Conservative social media platforms can’t succeed without content moderation

By Jessica Melugin

The latest social media platform from the Trump team, Gettr, went from an intended safe space for conservative beliefs to a hellscape of imposter accounts, offensive memes and pornography within hours of its launch. This illustrates what nascent, conservative-friendly platforms have done wrong: in claiming to be bastions of unfettered free speech, they are fighting current market leaders with one arm tied behind their backs.

If the voices on the right complaining about the leftist bias of “Big Tech” are serious about competing with the largest social media platforms, they should consider using the same tools that made Facebook and Twitter multi-billion-dollar behemoths. They too must embrace content moderation.

Moderating one’s own platform for content is consistent with long-held conservative and libertarian respect for private property rights and is no betrayal of free speech. The First Amendment guards against government suppression of speech; it doesn’t empower citizens to hold a political rally without permission in their neighbor’s yard.

The States

The Atlantic: The Hate-Crime Case in Which No One Was Intimidated

By Conor Friedersdorf

Earlier this month, a California college student passing through Utah wanted to show contempt for a sheriff’s deputy who stopped her friend, so she defiled a pro-police sign. The cop watched, then arrested her.

Now she has been charged with a hate crime and faces possible jail time under a bipartisan hate-crime law passed in 2019. The law allows prosecutors to seek harsher punishments for criminal offenses targeting people for any of more than a dozen reasons, such as the victim’s race, religion, gender identity, or—fatefully—status as a police officer. A law previously portrayed as a historic stand against intolerance is now being used to punish speech that state actors dislike.

Proponents of hate-crime legislation tend to assume that they will stigmatize or deter attacks on marginalized and vulnerable groups. But not all authorities with the power to enforce these laws share that vision. The Utah case is a stark reminder that laws intended to impede discrimination can be risky. They can enable government agents to subvert core civil-liberties protections by punishing or chilling speech that its armed enforcers dislike.

New York Times: It Is Every American’s Right to Curse the President

By The Editorial Board

There is little question that Gary Bundy, a municipal court judge in New Jersey, violated the constitutional rights of Andrea Dick this month by ordering her to remove three banners emblazoned with crude messages about President Biden.

The Supreme Court has made clear that the offending word Ms. Dick used in the banners, which she posted on her mother’s fence in Roselle Park, is legal in political statements. It ruled in a famous 1971 case that a draft protester had the right to wear a jacket with a message that one of his lawyers memorably described as “not actually advocating sexual intercourse with the Selective Service.”

Americans, especially judges, have an obligation to know the law. The limits of free speech are subject to debate, but Ms. Dick’s case does not approach those boundaries. She has the right to curse out the president of the United States, and it should not require an appeals court to deliver that news to Roselle Park.

Missourian: Parson vetoes law that would have addressed the legality of Columbia mayor’s campaign finance committee

By Caitlin R. King

The legislation that hit [Gov. Mike] Parson’s desk would have created an exemption to an existing state statute and clarified that lobbyists running for municipal and school district offices could maintain candidate committees.

Because Parson vetoed that exemption, lobbyists running for office must dissolve any candidate committee, according to the statute…

The exemption Parson vetoed was included in House Bill 685, a bill introduced by Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Steelville, at the beginning of the legislative session…

In Parson’s veto letter, he said “public officers should have the interests of the people they represent in mind, not those of the organization they have been hired to represent.

“This change would also only affect a few select individuals. I do not believe that such special laws, which are designed to benefit a few, should guide our state policy.”

Newsweek: Florida and Texas Threaten Sanctions Against Ben & Jerry’s Over Israel Boycott

By Daniel Villarreal

Florida and Texas have both threatened sanctions against the ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s following the brand’s announcement of an upcoming boycott that will end sales of its product within Israel’s occupied Palestinian territories.

Florida and Texas are two of 35 states that have passed laws or have executive orders that forbid companies and organizations from participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). The BDS movement seeks to economically harm Israel for its actions against Palestinian people.

Tiffany Donnelly

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