Daily Media Links 8/11: Donor Disclosure in an Age of No Privacy, In defending Milo Yiannopoulos, ACLU gets pushback from some of its own, and more…

August 11, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Free Speech

Techdirt: Techdirt: Now With More Free Speech Reporting

By Mike Masnick

As you are likely aware, we are currently facing a First Amendment fight for our life. I’ve spoken about the chilling effects the lawsuit has been having on our reporting — but also have noted that we are trying to be inspired by this situation to focus more of our reporting efforts on attacks on free speech online, and to tell the stories of those who they’re impacting most. As you may recall, we have already launched the crowdfunding site ISupportJournalism.com to support our ability to continue reporting on these issues, and I’m happy to announce today that we’ve further partnered with the Freedom of the Press Foundation and a group of other companies and organizations to fund more free speech reporting, which will now be included under a new “free speech” tab on the site. Attacks on free speech have been growing, not shrinking, and we need to shine much more light on these attacks, and we’re thrilled to be able to do as much as we can.

Donor Privacy

ALEC: VIDEO: Donor Disclosure in an Age of No Privacy

By Sarah Wood

Guy Benson, Darcy Olsen, and Pete Coors addressing the ALEC 2017 Annual Meeting on donor disclosure in an age of no privacy.

The Courts

New York Times: Citing Free Speech, A.C.L.U. Sues Washington Metro Over Rejected Ads

By Jacey Fortin and Emily Cochrane

Since 2015, the Metro agency has prohibited advertisements that aim to “influence public policy,” or to “influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions,” according to its guidelines.

“That is the most mushy, subjective language,” said Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney at the A.C.L.U., in an interview on Wednesday. “And it is totally inappropriate for our government to be using that as a standard.”…

“These types of First Amendment cases make strange bedfellows,” Gabe Walters, counsel and manager of legislative affairs for the PETA Foundation, said in a phone interview. “The government cannot pick and choose who gets to speak based on their viewpoint, no matter how controversial.”

On that last point, Mr. Yiannopoulos agreed. “I think PETA is deranged and I have been dismayed, to put it lightly, by positions the A.C.L.U. has taken in the past,” he said in a statement emailed by a spokesman. “But on this issue we are all united: it is not for the government to chase so-called ‘controversial’ content out of the public square.” 

Reason: ACLU Sues D.C. Metro for Rejecting Ads, Including One With Text of the First Amendment

By C.J. Ciaramella

“The four plaintiffs in this case perfectly illustrate the indivisibility of the First Amendment,” Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement. “In its zeal to avoid hosting offensive and hateful speech, the government has eliminated speech that makes us think, including the text of the First Amendment itself. The ACLU could not more strongly disagree with the values that Milo Yiannopoulos espouses, but we can’t allow the government to pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable.”

Metro adopted those guidelines after anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller attempted to purchase ads on Metro in 2015 that showed a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.

The new rules’ results were entirely predictable: Metro employees, tasked with determining what is too controversial for the mores of morning commuters, restricted speech based on undefinable terms and inconsistent guidelines. They err on the side of censorship because their jobs depend on it, and because there’s always someone somewhere waiting to be offended.

Washington Post: In defending Milo Yiannopoulos, ACLU gets pushback from some of its own

By Martine Powers

The ACLU filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in D.C. alleging that the transit agency’s ad policy violates the First Amendment…

But in defending Yiannopoulos, the ACLU’s latest action also angered some of its traditional and strongest supporters, even within its own ranks – like Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the organization.

In a message posted on Twitter on Thursday, Strangio expressed disappointment in the organization’s decision to represent Yiannopoulos, a polarizing figure because of views he expresses that many consider racist, sexist, xenophobic and transphobic…

Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU-D.C. and lead counsel in the case, said Thursday that the organization always expected “some unhappiness” about the decision to represent a man whose views run counter to many of the tenets of the ACLU itself. But, he pointed out, the ACLU has a long history of defending the rights of people whose views are considered indefensible.

New York Post: Trump may be ordered to unblock Twitter users behind legal spat

By Kaja Whitehouse

President Trump should be ordered to unblock seven Twitter followers suing him for violating their First Amendment right to free speech, the free-speech group heading up the lawsuit argued in court papers Tuesday.

The seven people suing Trump for blocking them on Twitter – including a Texas cop and an NYC comic – are suffering “irreparable injury to their First Amendment rights” and should be unblocked while fighting the lawsuit, lawyers for Knight First Amendment Institute said in court papers filed Tuesday.

They also requested the judge schedule a hearing on their planned request for a preliminary injunction…

“Without preliminary relief, Plaintiffs will continue to suffer irreparable injury to their First Amendment rights during the pendency of this litigation,” the Knight group’s lawyers said in a letter.

The Department of Justice is expected to file a response to the lawsuit shortly.

The Media

OZY: Should Publishing Fake News be a Crime?

By OZY Editors

Critiques of fake news often proceed with murky definitions of the term and overly simplistic theories of communication. Hastily turning to a solution of punishment will only make the problems with America’s public worse…

The real question is not whether fake news is protected, but under what circumstances would fake news not be protected. Obscenity, certain forms of invasion of privacy and, in some narrow circumstances, defamation are not protected. The best argument against repressing the other side is that it does the opposite of what you think. Repressing your interlocutor does not change their perspective or persuade them – it makes them more intense…

But what if the fake news is so powerful that people are blinded by ideology? If someone disagrees with you, they must be duped by the media. What if some of the arguments that are labeled fake news are not fake at all, but are arguments intended to frame values and aesthetics? Dismissing the expression of values, feelings and forms would backfire.

Candidates and Campaigns

Vice: What Facebook Knows

By Noah Kulwin

In last year’s election, millions of people shared and read the stories on Facebook saying the pope had endorsed Trump; that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor; that Democrats wanted to impose Sharia law in Florida. They were also targeted by political stealth ads, so-called “dark posts” that are only visible to the recipient and not subject to public disclosure, the way campaign expenditures on TV, newspapers, or the open web would be…

Special Counsel Bob Mueller, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and its counterpart in the House are all looking into whether Trump’s digital campaign operation, which spent heavily on Facebook in the closing weeks of the campaign, had any connection to Russian cyber ops conducted on Facebook…

This kind of information black box sets Facebook apart from TV, radio, newspapers, and even the open web, where political spending is tracked and monitored by myriad third parties and reported to the Federal Elections Commission.

“It’s a problem that there are these holes in our disclosure regime, especially because it looks like this is the future,” said Ian Vandewalker, a campaign finance expert at the NYU-Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “Digital ads are going to be where more political spending happens.”

The States

Washington Post: Are most American politicians profiting from their offices? Not according to this data.

By Kevin Fahey

Very few state lawmakers get rich while in office. Only the most electorally secure are financially rewarded while serving. Even then, they do not make much money for their efforts…

I looked at state legislators because these politicians face a potent mix of incentives to use their offices for self-enriching activity. In most states, lawmakers work part time for low pay. When not conducting the people’s business, these men and women live just like everyone else – working, investing and saving for retirement. They don’t face media scrutiny or sustained public attention, particularly in a world of shrinking journalism budgets. At the same time, they wield enormous power over state budgets and set policy on matters including public health and attracting businesses.

And yet for the most part they don’t appear to be profiteering – which suggests that they’re in office for the public service.

Alex Baiocco

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