Daily Media Links 8/23: What gives censors any right to censor?, Justice Department Backtracks on Collecting Data of Visitors to an Anti-Trump Website, and more…

August 23, 2017   •  By Alex Baiocco   •  
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Free Speech

Richmond Times-Dispatch: What gives censors any right to censor?

By A. Barton Hinkle

“The ACLU Needs to Rethink Free Speech,” argues a fellow with the UCLA School of Law. “Censor White Supremacy,” advocates a writer in The Week. “Speech in America is Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control,” bemoans campaign-finance scourge Richard Hasen in the Los Angeles Times.

Here in Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has temporarily banned demonstrations at the Lee monument in Richmond. City leaders in Portsmouth are debating whether to adopt a similar ban, at least with regard to hate groups. On the other side of the country, Nancy Pelosi wants a permit revoked for an alt-right rally. Transit authorities in New York and Washington have been trying to limit controversial (and even noncontroversial) advertising. And so on.

Those demanding censorship sometimes try to put a fig leaf on the demand. “This executive order has nothing to do with infringing upon First Amendment rights,” McAuliffe claimed, even though that was its whole point…

The current debate has focused on whether certain vile ideas have any value, and whether the people who espouse them deserve to be able to voice them. This looks at the question from the wrong end.

The more important question is: What right does anybody have to shut them up?

City Journal: First Amendment in Peril?

By Aaron M. Renn

Google and Apple, with a combined 98 percent market share in mobile-phone operating systems, have banned Gab, an upstart Twitter competitor with a free-speech policy quaintly modeled on the First Amendment itself, from their app stores. Google cited “hate speech” as its reason for exclusion; Gab doesn’t censor. What few people yet understand is that Google and Apple have used their duopoly status to revoke the First Amendment on mobile phones. Because the Internet is now majority mobile, and a growing majority of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, the First Amendment is now effectively dead in the mobile sphere unless policymakers act to rein in the tech giants who serve as corporate gatekeepers to digital speech…

The mobile-Internet business is built on spectrum licenses granted by the federal government. Given the monopoly power that Apple and Google possess in the mobile sphere as corporate gatekeepers, First Amendment freedoms face serious challenges in the current environment. Perhaps it is time that spectrum licenses to mobile-phone companies be conditioned on their recipients providing freedoms for customers to use the apps of their choice.  

The Courts

Time: Justice Department Backtracks on Collecting Data of Visitors to an Anti-Trump Website

By Eric Tucker, AP

The Justice Department amended a request for information about an anti-Trump website that prosecutors allege was behind destructive Inauguration Day protests, attempting to address concerns that the records demand was sweeping and unconstitutional.

Yet prosecutors also defended as lawful a warrant they obtained for information about the site. They said in a court filing Monday that the information they sought was part of a criminal investigation into the “premeditated riot” that accompanied the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald Trump as president. And they rejected allegations that they were trampling on free speech protections, saying they were focused on criminal behavior surrounding the protests.

“The government values and respects the First Amendment right of all Americans to participate in peaceful political protests and to read protected political expression online,” the court filing states. “This warrant has nothing to do with that right. The warrant is focused on evidence of the planning, coordination and participation in a criminal act- that is, a premeditated riot.”…

A hearing is set for Thursday in D.C. Superior Court.

Gizmodo: Justice Department Drops Request for IP Addresses of 1.3 Million Visitors to Anti-Trump Site

By Kate Conger

The DoJ is now asking the court to narrow the data covered by its warrant to exclude visitor IP logs and unpublished drafts and images.

Gizmodo contacted DreamHost and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is assisting DreamHost with its case..

“I am not surprised, to be perfectly honest. This is exactly what I expected them to do initially after DreamHost approached them about narrowing the warrant,” EFF senior staff attorney Mark Rumold told Gizmodo.

Even though the Justice Department has dropped its request for expansive IP logs, Rumold says the warrant still seems like a misguided attempt to gather information about the planning of the protest. “Before it was more or less a dragnet and a witch hunt and now it’s just a witch hunt,” he said. “It’s substantially narrower but they’re still after a substantial amount of content.”

Congress

Concord Monitor: Broken campaign finance system hurts our democracy

By Sen. Maggie Hassan

I recently joined 45 of my colleagues in introducing the DISCLOSE Act of 2017… 

As we work to pass the DISCLOSE Act, I am also pursuing other avenues to increase transparency in the political system, joining a number of my colleagues in sending a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton urging the SEC to require public companies to disclose to their shareholders their political spending.

While transparency is critically important, transparency alone is not enough to fix our broken campaign finance system. That is why I also helped introduce the Fair Elections Now Act, which would reduce the influence of big donors and corporate special interests by creating a voluntary system of public financing for Senate candidates.

Finally, in order to get at the root of this problem, and ensure that corporate special interests do not control our politics, I helped introduce a constitutional amendment that would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.

Political Parties

NBC: DNC Struggles to Cash In on Anti-Trump Fervor

By Alex Seitz-Wald

But the DNC’s fundraising struggles make it the exception, not the norm, of Democratic groups in the Trump era, many of which have been inundated by donations from the energized liberal base…

Several Democratic donors, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly, said they’re staying away from the national party, at least for now, because they’re not confident Perez has brought the organization back up to speed and think their money can have a bigger impact elsewhere…

Donors have more options than ever now for where to invest their money, Buttigeig said, so it’s not obvious “how much of it needs go through the particular piping of the DNC.”…

And the grassroots donors who contribute smaller amounts online may be more interested in giving to individual candidates…

[A] bumper crop of new “resistance” groups have sprung up to claim pieces of the seemingly expanded Democratic fundraising pie.

With all the competition, the DNC’s share will likely never be as big as it once was.

The States

U.S News & World Report: State House Speaker to Drop Donor Disclosure Ballot Measure

By Associated Press

South Dakota’s House speaker says he doesn’t plan to pursue an initiative that would have forced nonprofit advocacy groups to reveal top donors if they make big contributions to ballot question campaigns.

Republican Mark Mickelson said this week that he plans to pull the proposal.

It would have required disclosure of the 50 largest contributors to such groups, including labor organizations, business leagues and social welfare organizations, if they give $25,000 or more in a year to a ballot measure committee.

Mickelson has said it would be helpful for voters to know who is behind different ballot measures. Critics argued that residents have the right to support causes without fear of harassment.

Mickelson is sponsoring two other initiatives that would ban out-of-state contributions for ballot questions and raise tobacco taxes to improve tech school affordability.

Washington Post: ACLU criticizes McAuliffe’s temporary ban on protests at General Lee statue

By Jenna Portnoy

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Monday called Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order to temporarily block protests at the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond “constitutionally suspect.”

The statement comes three days after McAuliffe issued an executive order barring public demonstrations at the monument, citing safety concerns after violence broke out at a gathering of white nationalists in Charlottesville.

He said no protests would be allowed at the Lee statue for three months to allow a task force to write regulations that would allow protests in a peaceful manner….

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said fear or safety worries should not diminish the commitment to basic rights, including freedom of speech, guaranteed by the Constitution.

“It is a sad reality of this moment that nearly every protest carries with it a risk of violence,” she said in a statement. “We cannot allow fear and loathing to drive us to abdicate the rule of law or temper our fealty to basic constitutional principles. We cannot allow government to use safety considerations as a thin veil for broad and sweeping prior restraints on our speech or other expressive activities in public spaces.”

Alex Baiocco

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

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