Daily Media Links 8/26

August 26, 2021   •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  
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New from the Institute for Free Speech

The Danger of “Security Concerns” Being Weaponized to Limit Assembly Rights

By Alec Greven

The right to peacefully assemble and protest is a cornerstone of our constitutional government. It is imperative that government officials respect this right regardless of who is exercising it. However, recent events in California and Florida highlight how easily vague or flimsy security concerns can be invoked to limit assembly rights.

In California, the City of Anaheim recently canceled an “America First” rally that was set to be headlined by Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. The city stated that the rally was canceled because of “public safety concerns,” but added in a tweet, “[a]s a city we respect free speech but also have a duty to call out speech that does not reflect our city and its values.” This statement suggests that political disagreement may have influenced the decision by city officials to cancel the event. Viewpoint discrimination of this nature is a disgrace to the First Amendment.

The problem doesn’t end there. If security concerns were an issue, the city did not respond effectively to them. The city’s statements did not explain what it would do to ensure the rally could be hosted safely in the future. If safety concerns can permanently cancel an event or subject events to extreme delays, then those who threaten the safety of others would have a heckler’s veto over speakers they wish to silence. Even if the viewpoints expressed by those hosting the rally did not influence the city’s decision, its failure to stand up to or guard against alleged threats is troubling for First Amendment rights in its own way.

The Courts

CBS Miami: Legal Battle Over Florida Protest Law Could Offer Grammar Lesson

By CBSMiami.com Team

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker this week ordered attorneys to diagram wording in part of the law (HB 1), which, among other things, enhances existing penalties and creates new crimes related to violent protests.

Groups including the Dream Defenders and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP filed the lawsuit in May, alleging that the measure will have a “chilling” effect on protected speech and violates equal-protection and due-process rights…

Walker is slated to hold a hearing Monday on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to block the law. But first, he wants attorneys in the case to analyze a section of the law that creates a new definition of “riots.” The section is a key focus of the lawsuit.

“All persons guilty of a riot, or of inciting or encouraging a riot, shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree,” the law says.

In a two-page order issued Tuesday, Walker wrote that, because “the primary issue in this case is the language and syntax” of that part of the statute, lawyers in the case “shall diagram” it. The chief judge gave lawyers until Friday to file responses.

Congress

Politico: Jan. 6 investigation will seek phone records related to attack, including lawmakers

By Nicholas Wu

The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection will seek electronic communications records related to the attack, including from members of Congress, the panel’s chair said Monday.

Select Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters his panel would be sending letters to telecommunications companies and social media companies, requesting they preserve relevant documents.

Fundraising

FiveThirtyEight: Why Long-Shot Candidates Are Raising More Money Than Ever

By Geoffrey Skelley

If you had to guess which House candidate has raised the most money so far, you might guess that person was a well-heeled incumbent or someone running in a competitive district. After all, incumbents usually have a lot of cash on hand and competitive races tend to attract more money because they are more likely to determine which party wins power.

Yet, among non-incumbent candidates running for the House in 2022, the top fundraiser is a Democrat with no political experience running in a deep-red seat: Democrat Marcus Flowers has raised over $2 million (as of June 30) in his bid to unseat controversial Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District…

Flowers’s windfall might seem strange given the long odds he — or any Democrat — faces in defeating Greene, but it also reflects a growing trend wherein candidates with little hope of winning still achieve eye-popping fundraising hauls. Based on political science research and an analysis of congressional fundraising, it’s clear that these candidates are the beneficiaries of two larger trends in American politics: a strong antipathy for the opposing party and the ease with which someone can now donate to a campaign on the internet. And together, these forces can help long-shot candidates bring in huge sums — whether they are no-name candidates or well-qualified contenders.

Independent Groups

Capital Research Center: What Is Dark Money and Is It Bad?

By CRC Staff

There’s been a lot of talk in Washington about “dark money.” Activists on the left love to use the term to paint conservatives as funders of shady backroom politics. But is dark money really the scourge of transparent politics? And is it the exclusive tool of the Right?

The answer to both questions is “no.”

To watch our video, click here.

Free Speech

Reason (Volokh Conspiracy): First Issue of the Journal of Free Speech Law Now Online

By Eugene Volokh

I’m delighted to report that, six months after the Journal of Free Speech Law was announced (and less than eight months after it was first conceived), the first issue of the Journal is now online (at http://JournalOfFreeSpeechLaw.org), and will be printed in the next few weeks. We have two submitted articles plus a symposium on free speech and social media platforms, for a total of over 500 pages of material.

Our authors include some of the most-cited legal academics, such as Mark Lemley (Stanford) and Jack Balkin (Yale); Nadine Strossen (the former President of the ACLU); and many more. (We also hope to have articles by Kate Klonick and Genevieve Lakier, who participated in our Zoom symposium, in our next issue, likely in a few months.) I’ll be blogging the abstract for each of the articles separately, but in the meantime, here’s a link to the four-page introduction, Robe and Gown: Why Faculty- and Judge-Edited?

And here is our Table of Contents, with links:

Online Speech Platforms

New York Times: Facebook Said to Consider Forming an Election Commission

By Ryan Mac, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel

Facebook has approached academics and policy experts about forming a commission to advise it on global election-related matters, said five people with knowledge of the discussions, a move that would allow the social network to shift some of its political decision-making to an advisory body.

The proposed commission could decide on matters such as the viability of political ads and what to do about election-related misinformation, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential. Facebook is expected to announce the commission this fall in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections, they said, though the effort is preliminary and could still fall apart.

Outsourcing election matters to a panel of experts could help Facebook sidestep criticism of bias by political groups, two of the people said. The company has been blasted in recent years by conservatives, who have accused Facebook of suppressing their voices, as well as by civil rights groups and Democrats for allowing political misinformation to fester and spread online.

Forbes: Reddit Moderators Demand The Platform Take Action Against Covid Disinformation

By Carlie Porterfield

Moderators of some of Reddit’s most popular subreddits published an open letter calling on the company to do more to prevent the dissemination of medical disinformation that they say runs rampant on the platform, demanding Reddit ban message boards they assert “exist solely” to spread coronavirus disinformation and undermine efforts to fight the pandemic…

The open letter states that the disinformation on Reddit “attains an air of legitimacy through sheer volume of repetition,” and that “people begin to believe [it] wholeheartedly.”…

“There is a good chance that the disinformation that Reddit is currently inundated with will necessitate people a stay at the toxicology department in the hospital or even cost them their lives. There can be no room for leniency when people are dying as a result of misinformation on this platform,” the open letter states.

The States

Associated Press: Bill to increase riot penalties clears North Carolina Senate

By Bryan Anderson

The North Carolina Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to raise penalties on those who engage in violent protests, bringing the measure just one step away from clearing the General Assembly.

The proposal from Republican House Speaker Tim Moore comes as a response to rioting and looting that took place in Raleigh last year amid frustration over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody…

But many Democrats and civil rights groups fear the measure could have a chilling effect on free speech and assembly rights by instilling fear among activists and dissuading them from going into the streets to voice their frustrations…

“It sends a message that will cause people to police themselves and simply stay at home,” said Sen. Natalie Murdock, a Durham County Democrat.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is among those opposed to the bill, as it considers the proposal a “flagrant attempt to vilify the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Nathan Maxwell

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

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