In the News
By Karen Hansen
The Freedom Forum’s newly released “The First Amendment: Where America Stands” survey gives a deep and detailed picture of Americans’ knowledge of and attitudes about the five freedoms the amendment protects…
We asked a wide range of First Amendment advocates and experts what struck them most about our findings…
“Presumably, people who take the position [that hate speech should be banned] think that no one would ever call their belief system ‘hate speech,’” says Bradley Smith, chairman of the Institute for Free Speech (IFS). “And yet, 45% admit that they sometimes do not speak for fear of ‘punishment.’” …
Smith [also] says, “Bias, agenda-based reporting and just plain sloppy journalism have led 74% of Americans to think ‘fake news’ is a problem and 72% favor banning it. Such overwhelming majorities suggest a rejection of mainstream news reporting, not just fringe publications.”
By Andrew Chung
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear the Federal Election Commission’s bid to restore a campaign finance law that caps the amount of money that candidates can be reimbursed for personal loans to their campaigns in a challenge brought by Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
The justices took up the FEC’s appeal of a lower court ruling that found that the cap violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech by unjustifiably burdening political expression.
The case involves a provision of a 2002 campaign finance law that limits the amount of money that candidates can accept from donors after an election as they try to recoup money they personally lent to their formal campaign organizations.
By Adam Rogan, Racine Journal Times
Wisconsin Democrats announced Wednesday that they are filing an Internal Revenue Service complaint against Kevin Nicholson, a Republican who announced he plans to run for a statewide elected office in 2022, but hasn’t said which office he intends to seek.
The specific complaint regards Nicholson’s use of a nonprofit, and more than $1 million in advertising buys, to elevate his status and criticize Democratic Gov. Tony Evers without actually filing to run for office. He told WTMJ-TV last week that he plans to have his name on a ballot in 2022…
The nonprofit in question is No Better Friend Corp., a 501(c)(4) nonprofit launched in 2019 which has a stated goal to “move the conservative movement forward.” Nicholson is the public face of the nonprofit…
Through the nonprofit…a recent $1.5 million TV advertising buy featuring Nicholson was announced. The advertisement shows Nicholson saying “the world is a mess” and asking viewers to “join us.”
Democrats allege that the use of the so-called “dark money” nonprofit to elevate the status of a candidate-to-be constitutes a violation of IRS law, which requires public disclosures of all donations to and spending of political campaigns.
By Elizabeth Nolan Brown
U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance tells Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the federal government should seize money from nonprofit organizations and redistribute their wealth.
The proximate cause of these brain farts is the fact that a fellow with the Ford Foundation—a nonprofit organization dedicated to social justice—got into an argument with some of her fellow students at Arizona State University over a “Police Lives Matter” sticker. For daring to associate with someone who would commit this heinous transgression, Vance suggests that the Ford Foundation should have their assets seized and redistributed.
“Why don’t we seize the assets of the Ford Foundation, tax their assets, and give it to the people who’ve had their lives destroyed by their radical open borders agenda?” Vance asked on Carlson’s show last night.
In the past, conservatives and libertarians have freaked out—with very good reason—at the idea of the IRS or any other government agency targeting tax-exempt groups based on these groups’ beliefs. To have charities, think tanks, grant-making foundations, activist groups, and other nonprofit organizations subject to the whims and will of each passing political administration would be antithetical to free speech, free markets, and the civil liberties of these groups and their donors.
Republicans—including Tucker and Vance—would surely be horrified if the Biden administration started taking any action against conservative nonprofits, let alone seizing their assets and handing it over to causes liberals support.
Online Speech Platforms
By Gerrit De Vynck
YouTube is taking down several video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who experts say are partially responsible for helping seed the skepticism that’s contributed to slowing vaccination rates across the country.
As part of a new set of policies aimed at cutting down on anti-vaccine content on the Google-owned site, YouTube will ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. The company previously blocked videos that made those claims about coronavirus vaccines, but not ones for other vaccines like those for measles or chickenpox…
The change marks a shift for the social media giant, which streams more than 1 billion hours’ worth of content every day. Like its peers Facebook and Twitter, the company has long resisted policing content too heavily, arguing maintaining an open platform is critical to free speech. But as the companies increasingly come under fire from regulators, lawmakers and regular users for contributing to social ills — including vaccine skepticism — YouTube is again changing policies that it has held onto for months…
Mercola, an alternative medicine entrepreneur, and Kennedy, a lawyer and the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy who has been a face of the anti-vaccine movement for years, have both said in the past that they are not automatically against all vaccines, but believe information about the risks of vaccines is being suppressed.
By Scott Shackford
In response to Australian court decisions holding media companies legally liable for the comments by users, CNN has blocked access to some of its Facebook pages from users in that country.
This is an inevitable outcome of a bad decision and a reminder of why it’s important not to try to force government-mandated moderation policies onto massive social media platforms that will inevitably lead to either censorship or lack of access to information…
The Wall Street Journal now reports that CNN has decided the risk is just not worth it and will cut access to some of their pages. According to the Wall Street Journal’s report, representatives from CNN asked Facebook to implement the ability for outlets to disable all comments for their Australian pages in order to reduce the liability exposure. Facebook apparently declined to do so, leaving them only with the option to moderate individual comments:
Ultimately, CNN concluded that managing comments on posts from each of its accounts was too time-consuming and instead opted to restrict access to its pages in the country, the person said. CNN executives believe that Facebook should be responsible for helping publishers comply with laws that apply to content on its platform, the person said.
By Hannah Metzger
The Aurora City Council approved changes to its campaign finance law Monday after a court ruled in favor of Mayor Mike Coffman, who sued the city over provisions he claimed violated his freedom of speech.
The lawsuit argued that the measure, passed by the council in 2020, prohibited former and future candidates from pushing for ballot issues or helping other candidates with their campaigns, which Coffman said was intended to prevent his supporters from mobilizing in support of other candidates.
An Arapahoe County District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction in June, ordering the city to cease enforcing the new campaign finance law until the lawsuit is resolved.
“The City Council enacted an extreme ordinance that was clearly designed to stifle my fundamental right to publicly support candidates or ballot initiatives just like any other American,” Coffman said Tuesday. “I’m grateful that the court’s injunction clearly showed them how misguided their measure was.” …
“The Aurora City Council could’ve saved everyone a lot of time and money by just listening to Mayor Coffman the first time around,” said Dan Burrows, legal director of the Public Trust Institute which represented Coffman. “Instead, it took getting spanked by a judge before they rethought their decision to trample on basic First Amendment rights.”