Daily Media Links 9/1

September 1, 2021   •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  
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ICYMI

Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta: Questions and Answers

By Brad Smith

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that California could not constitutionally require charities and other nonprofit organizations to submit an annual list of donors to state officials as a pre-condition for lawfully soliciting contributions in the state. The case, known as Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta (“AFPF”), was decided on July 1, 2021 and should have a substantial, positive impact on the rights of Americans to keep their memberships and financial support for causes and organizations private.

This short primer [PDF] answers some of the more common questions about the decision, its immediate impact on nonprofits, and possible consequences going forward, including the constitutionality of other state and federal laws mandating disclosure of members and donors to nonprofits.

Amicus Brief: Cato Institute v. Securities and Exchange Commission

The Cato Institute is challenging the constitutionality of the SEC’s Gag Regulation. Cato alleges that the SEC “uses its extraordinary leverage in civil litigation to extract from settling defendants a promise to never tell their side of the story.”

Cato wants to write a book and host a public discussion with and about individuals who “have settled enforcement actions with the SEC” and who “would like to speak publicly” about the Commission’s allegations. Cato cannot engage in this speech, however, because the settling defendants “are prohibited from [speaking publicly] because of gag orders” that they agreed to pursuant to the Gag Regulation.

The Institute filed its amicus brief in support of Cato. A panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Cato, arguing that they did not have a “redressable injury.” Our brief explains why this ruling was in error, as a matter of law and fact.

Read the full amicus brief here.

The Courts

Times Union: Prosecutor dismisses politically charged Saratoga County trespassing case

By Wendy Liberatore

After nearly two years and five courts, trespassing charges brought by influential Republican donors against two Democratic political canvassers have been dismissed.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s office put forth an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal on Thursday at Galway Town Court, finally freeing Ballston Spa Trustee Liz Kormos and Democratic operative Keith Lewis of trespassing charges lodged against them in October 2019 for doing what is considered legally permitted – going door to door dropping off campaign materials…

The incident that led to the charges took place at Mohican Hill Apartments, owned by the Rossi family, who are politically connected Republicans. Frank Rossi Sr., who has for years contributed to local campaigns, insists that anyone canvassing on his property must seek permission first and also have an escort.

This appears to violate several federal court rulings, including a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton, which held that citizens have the right to go door to door and advocate for religious, political or other noncommercial causes.

Congress

Washington Post: House Jan. 6 committee asks telecom companies to retain phone records related to Capitol attack as it ramps up investigation

By Dave Clarke and Felicia Sonmez

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol asked 35 telecommunications and social media companies Monday to retain phone records and other information relevant to its inquiry…

The request that went out Monday was sent to tech and social media companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Signal, as well as telecommunications companies such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

[The] committee asked for the preservation of material from individuals who were “involved in organizing, funding, or speaking” at January’s “Stop The Steal” rallies, as well as individuals who were “potentially involved with discussions of plans to challenge, delay, or interfere” with the electoral certification process…

On Friday, it asked technology companies — including Facebook, Twitter and Google — for “all reviews, studies, reports, data, analyses, and communications” regarding misinformation generated by foreign and U.S. actors, “domestic violent extremists” associated with the attack, and other efforts to overturn the election results.

In addition, the committee said it is focusing on how social media companies policed their own platforms, such as whether their algorithms helped speed the spread of misinformation, how they identified which posts to take down and what information has already been requested by law enforcement agencies.

Online Speech Platforms

Axios: Scoop: Facebook’s new moves to lower News Feed’s political volume

By Sara Fischer

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

Details: Moving forward, Facebook will expand some of its current News Feed tests that put less emphasis on certain engagement signals, like the probability that a user will share or comment on a post, in its ranking algorithm.

The Hill: Advocacy groups tell TikTok to take ‘substantive action’ against hate speech, extremism

By Rebecca Klar

A coalition of tech advocacy and human rights groups is urging TikTok to crack down on the spread of hate speech and extremism after a recent report detailed the reach of such content on the platform. 

More than a dozen groups signed on to a letter sent to top TikTok executives Monday, calling for the platform take “substantive action” against hate speech and extremism, citing a report released by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) last week that outlined the breadth of the harmful content on the video-sharing app.

Washington Post: The battle of the Youngz vs. the Oldz

By Megan McArdle

Consider a Twitter thread by Jon Stokes, one of the founders of the tech-news website Ars Technica, which recently said something important about a TikTok video apparently made by a young American servicewoman. In it, she said some things that sounded unlovely when clipped and taken out of context. As Stokes noted: “The problem for the military that this video highlights is the same problem all institutions have right now in the age of social media — universities, professional guilds, orgs of all kinds: you can’t have randos in your ranks speaking to the world on behalf of your group.” He concluded, “We can either have institutions or we can have this, but not both.”…

[Much] of this activity could be halted, along with its negative consequences, if employers simply forbade employees to tweet; or to use their professional uniforms or titles on Twitter or other platforms; or to behave in uncollegial, unprofessional ways online or in internal networks. Yet despite the frequent scandals, mostly organizations haven’t even tried.

One reason is that they’re simply helpless in the face of a sizeable and idealistic youth movement…

But that’s arguably half of the story. The other half is the demographic structure of the older generations, which seem…to be muting even the resistance we might expect.

The States

The NonProfit Times: 3 States Suspend Demanding Schedule B Of Form 990

State charity regulators in New York, New Jersey and California, who typically require major donor documents to be included with annual fundraising registration, have stopped collecting Schedule B after last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling. 

The Texan: Social Media Censorship Bill Awaits Consideration by Full Texas Senate After Receiving House Approval

By Hayden Sparks

By a vote of 77 to 49 on Monday, the Texas House passed House Bill (HB) 20 upon third reading of the bill, and it proceeded to pass the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee in a bipartisan vote of seven to two. Senator Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) joined his GOP colleagues in support of the bill…

The bill defines “censor” as “any action taken to edit, alter, block, ban, delete, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, regulate, restrict, inhibit, inhibit the publication or reproduction of, or deny equal access or visibility to expression, to suspend a right to post, remove, or post an addendum to any content or material posted by a user, or to otherwise discriminate against expression.”

The proposed law would make it illegal for social media companies with more than 50 million users to censor content based on the viewpoint of the content or the geographic location of the user.

Nathan Maxwell

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

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