Daily Media Links 8/25

August 25, 2021   •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  
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We’re Hiring!

2022 Summer Associate Legal Fellowship

The 2022 Institute for Free Speech Summer Associate Legal Fellowship is a unique opportunity for current law school students to explore a career in public interest and First Amendment law. The program is open to students who will finish their first or second year of law school by the summer of 2022.

Fellows are expected to work full time for 10 weeks in our Washington, D.C. headquarters, but other arrangements may be available to especially outstanding candidates.

Fellows are eligible to earn $10,000 in salary for their 10 weeks of employment.

During the fellowship, students will work with Institute for Free Speech attorneys for a portion of their time. Each fellow will also be expected to complete a project. Applicants are encouraged to be creative in suggesting a project as part of their application.

Those with interest are strongly encouraged to apply as early as possible. Applications received after November 30, 2021 will not be eligible for a $10,000 paid fellowship. Applications received after November 23 will be at a strong disadvantage. Additional fellowships may be available after November 30, but compensation is not guaranteed.

[You can learn more about this role and apply for the position here.]

The Courts

The Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati State pays settlement to political petitioners arrested on campus

By Cameron Knight

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College has paid $75,000 to three political petitioners to settle a lawsuit following their arrest on campus in October 2019, according to the petitioners’ lawyer.

Kurt Saindon, Jodi Davis and Byron Pargo were hired to gather signatures in support of a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants in Northern Ohio…

The trio was charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and obstruction of official business.

Davis and Saindon said the charges against them were a violation of their First Amendment rights to speech and assembly…

“We were shocked that these officers would think that it was a crime for us to engage in political speech on their campus,” Davis said in a statement Friday. “What we were doing is important to our democracy and we believe that we had every right to do it”.

New York Post: Trump calls on Florida judge to help reinstate his YouTube account

By Will Feuer

Former President Donald Trump on Monday asked a Florida judge to issue a preliminary injunction in his case against YouTube that would compel the company to reinstate his access to the platform.

Trump’s lawyers said they plan to make similar requests in his suits against Facebook and Twitter in the coming weeks.

The request for a preliminary injunction against YouTube argues that a failure to issue one would result in irreparable harm to both Trump as a potential political candidate in the future and the Republican Party as a whole, court documents dated Monday show.

Notably, the injunction would allow Trump to continue selling merchandise on YouTube, potentially critical to political fundraising efforts.

Law & Crime: Federal Appeals Court Rejects Claim of Far-Right Group Whose Event Was Canceled After Violence in Charlottesville

By Elura Nanos

In a divided 2-to-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled Monday against VDARE, a website that takes its name from Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the colonies, leading many white nationalists to take her up as an icon. The majority found that the Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers did not violate VDARE’s free speech rights by skewering them. Rather, the government was merely exercising its own…

After the fatal violence in Charlottesville drew national media attention, leaders across the country began to speak out against white nationalism. One such leader was Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers…

The next day, the Cheyenne Mountain Resort canceled VDARE’s event…

The government, explained Judge [Gregory A.] Phillips, is entitled to make content-based choices and viewpoint-based decisions. It can choose to fund some programs and encourage certain favored activities, while declining to fund other programs. These choices do not constitute “discrimination,” or even “regulation of speech,” but rather, are simply an expression of the government’s viewpoints.

Independent Groups

The Colorado Sun: Conservative dark-money group battles to keep its donors secret in showdown with Colorado’s secretary of state

By Sandra Fish

Last week, an administrative law judge recommended a $40,000 fine for Unite for Colorado after it spent $4 million to support or oppose three 2020 ballot initiatives, finding that the group should have revealed its donors. The ruling also requires the nonprofit to file as an issue committee and reveal its donors from August 2020 through January.

Unite for Colorado plans to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, progressive activists filed a new complaint against Unite for Colorado last week centered on the $3.7 million it has donated to two ballot initiatives likely to be considered by voters in November. 

Political nonprofits don’t have to disclose their donors as long as their primary purpose isn’t to support or oppose causes and candidates. They’re often called dark money groups, and they are some of the biggest spenders in Colorado elections for both Democrats and Republicans.


Chicago Tribune: In a first for Illinois politics, Lake County treasurer accepts campaign donations of Bitcoin, Dogecoin and other cryptocurrencies

By John Keilman

Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim, a Democrat who is running for reelection next year, became the first Illinois political candidate to accept digital currency when a supporter gave her a $3 donation in Litecoin, with the promise of more to come later…

Her campaign accepts the most popular cybercurrencies, including Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Litecoin and Ethereum, along with more obscure forms such as Bitcoin Cash and Dai. The election board is treating them as if they’re in-kind donations of corporate stock, rather than cash…

Those who make crypto donations to candidates will have to identify themselves and list their address and occupation, just as with traditional contributions. Kim said that kind of openness might be an adjustment for some Bitcoin fans, who are accustomed to nameless transactions.


Denver Gazette: Redistricting lobbying laws violated, new complaint alleges

By Evan Wyloge

A complaint filed today with the Colorado Secretary of State accuses a group of secretly-funded political operatives of illegally lobbying the state’s redistricting commissioners.

The complaint, filed by former Democratic state lawmaker Stanley Matsunaka, accuses former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty and former Colorado House and Senate member Greg Brophy, both Republicans, of lobbying the state’s independent redistricting commissioners, without formally registering as lobbyists. It also accuses Republican political consultant Alan Philp, along with McNulty and Brophy, of failing to report payment for lobbying activity.

All three are paid by a 501c4 nonprofit group called Colorado Neighborhood Coalition to work on redistricting…

Philp said in response to the complaint that he believes he complied with advice he said he was given by the Secretary of State’s office in April. Philp said they told him that specifying on a single report that he was being paid “$2,000 per month” was sufficient disclosure.

Online Speech Platforms

Reason: Since Platform-by-Platform Censorship Doesn’t Work, These Researchers Think, the Government Should Help ‘Halt the Spread of Misinformation’

By Jacob Sullum

The study, published today in Harvard’s Misinformation Review…found that tweets with warning labels “spread further and longer than unlabeled tweets.” And while blocking engagement with messages was effective at limiting their spread on Twitter, those messages “were posted more often and received more visibility on other popular platforms than messages that were labeled by Twitter or that received no intervention at all.”…

The problem, as [the researchers] see it, is insufficient cooperation across platforms. They suggest the government should do more to overcome that problem.

“Taken together, these findings introduce compelling new evidence for the limited impact of one platform’s interventions on the cross-platform diffusion of misinformation, emphasizing the need to consider content moderation at an ecosystem level,” the researchers write…

This crusade to “halt the spread of misinformation” should trouble anyone who values free speech and open debate…

Given the many ways that the federal government can make life difficult for social media companies, they have a strong incentive to cast a net wide enough to cover whatever speech the administration considers “misleading,” “harmful,” or unhelpful.

Washington Post: Instead of restricting political ads on social media, actually address the misinformation in them

By The Editorial Board

When social media sites restricted political advertisements last year in an effort to curtail misinformation, many critics bridled at the affront to free expression. A new report on the policies’ effect raises another problem: The bans may not even have worked.

The Duke University paper analyzes the effect of Facebook’s decision to stop accepting new ads in the final week of the general election, as well as Facebook and Google’s prohibitions on all political and social issue ads for several weeks following the vote… The aim was to prevent politicians from paying to inundate the Internet with falsehoods at a historically sensitive time. The result, however, appears to have been mostly to stymie poorer campaigns from reaching voters — and, worse, to stop would-be truth-tellers from correcting the lies that still ran rampant…

The report’s authors call on Congress to criminalize disseminating disinformation with the intent of suppressing the vote, an idea then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) proposed in 2007, and which now appears in the For the People Act of 2021. What social media sites can do to address the rest of the misinformation in ads has always been somewhat obvious: Hold paid posts to at least the same standards for fact-checking as unpaid posts. In other words, actually address misinformation in ads, rather than banning them entirely.

National Review: Conservatives Should Remember Their Opposition to Compelled Speech

By Iain Murray

Conservatives rightly grow angry at the facts considered by the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. This case involved a Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, who had refused to custom-design a cake to help celebrate a gay wedding. As a Christian, Phillip objected to advancing a message that conflicted with his sincerely held religious beliefs. Once he had done so, he was prosecuted under equal-protection laws. Although the Supreme Court dodged the issue in its decision, this was at heart a question of compelled speech…

Many [conservatives] looked at the verdict and felt as if the Court’s silence on protected speech amounted to privileging the civil-rights laws above the First Amendment — which meant they’d need to use similar means to protect their own speech. In other words, “political viewpoint” should become a protected class…

Instead, conservatives should be standing up for the Constitution and its fundamental rights of free speech and free association.

That means not forcing speech on anybody, period. No matter how two-faced and hypocritical a platform is, it shouldn’t be compelled to carry speech it disagrees with; that is at the core of our First Amendment protections.

Washington Post: A group of moms on Facebook built an island of good-faith vaccine debate in a sea of misinformation

By Elizabeth Dwoskin, Will Oremus and Gerrit De Vynck

Amid the online scare stories and anti-vaccine memes, an army of local influencers and everyday users is waging a grass-roots campaign on Facebook, Reddit and other platforms to gently win over the vaccine skeptical. They’re spending hours moderating forums, responding to comments, linking to research studies, and sharing tips on how to talk to fearful family members…

Their work exemplifies Facebook’s stated goal to “bring the world closer together.” But [Vaccine Talk cofounder Kate] Bilowitz and others who run similar forums say that the interventions made by technology companies are often counterproductive, and that software algorithms frequently delete valuable conversations mistaken for misinformation.

“Facebook is attempting to shut down misinformation by shutting down all conversation entirely,” she said. “I strongly believe that civil, evidence-based discussion works, and Facebook’s policies make it extremely difficult for that to happen.”

The States

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia, an ‘outlier’ on campaign finance reform, considers new restrictions

By Andrew Cain

A new state panel, the Joint Subcommittee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reform, is assessing whether to recommend changes in Virginia law to the General Assembly. The panel is tasked with producing a report for legislators by Nov. 1.

Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, the panel’s chairman, said Monday at the group’s first meeting, that he hoped to first gauge: “In what sense is our campaign finance system an outlier?”

Christi Zamarripa, a policy associate with the National Conference of State Legislatures, set out to give the panel some perspective.

Nathan Maxwell

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