Daily Media Links 9/8

September 8, 2021   •  By Nathan Maxwell   •  
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We’re Hiring!

2022 Summer Associate Legal Fellowship

The 2022 Institute for Free Speech Summer Associate Legal Fellowship is a unique opportunity for current law school students to explore a career in public interest and First Amendment law. The program is open to students who will finish their first or second year of law school by the summer of 2022.

Fellows are expected to work full time for 10 weeks in our Washington, D.C. headquarters, but other arrangements may be available to especially outstanding candidates.

Fellows are eligible to earn $10,000 in salary for their 10 weeks of employment.

During the fellowship, students will work with Institute for Free Speech attorneys for a portion of their time. Each fellow will also be expected to complete a project. Applicants are encouraged to be creative in suggesting a project as part of their application.

Those with interest are strongly encouraged to apply as early as possible. Applications received after November 30, 2021 will not be eligible for a $10,000 paid fellowship. Applications received after November 23 will be at a strong disadvantage. Additional fellowships may be available after November 30, but compensation is not guaranteed.

[You can learn more about this role and apply for the position here.]

New from the Institute for Free Speech

Welcoming Stacy Hanson, First Amendment Fellow

The Institute for Free Speech is pleased to welcome Stacy Hanson as our second First Amendment Fellow in the 2021-2022 class. Stacy will work with the Institute’s now nine-member legal team to tackle all aspects of trial and appellate practice in cases challenging restrictions on the rights of Americans to freely speak, publish, assemble, and petition the government and their fellow citizens. The Institute previously announced the first member of our 2021-2022 First Amendment Fellow class, Glynis Gilio, in mid-August.

As Stacy explains, “I knew early on during law school that I wanted to immerse myself in the fight for liberty. Robust First Amendment rights are essential to promoting civil discourse during an otherwise polarizing time. Fighting to protect those rights on a daily basis is something I couldn’t have ever imagined I would have the privilege of doing so early in my career. I’m thrilled that IFS has provided me the opportunity to learn and work beside some of the best First Amendment litigators in the country.”…

We are excited to work with Stacy during her fellowship and benefit from her passion for protecting Americans’ First Amendment political speech freedoms. Please join us in offering her an enthusiastic welcome.

Washington Supreme Court Should Override $18 Million Chill on Political Speech

By Nathan Maxwell

In an amicus brief filed in mid-August, the Institute for Free Speech urged the Washington State Supreme Court to overturn an unprecedented $18 million penalty against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) for campaign finance violations.

To provoke such a tremendous penalty – nearly five times greater than the largest campaign finance fine ever imposed by the federal government – you would assume the group must’ve participated in the most corrupt political scandal in a generation.

Nope. Washington seeks to silence GMA – and intimidate onlooking advocates – over a clerical issue.

In 2013, GMA made a legal contribution to a coalition opposing ballot measure I-522, aptly named “No on I-522.” The measure, which voters rejected, would have required certain products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled accordingly and would have established financial penalties for noncompliance. Even though No on I-522 and GMA both reported the contributions and GMA’s interests in the measure were no secret, “the State hit GMA with a fine tantamount to a death sentence for most groups,” the Institute’s brief reads. GMA faces potential financial ruin simply because it did not realize it was required to register as a PAC opposed to I-522 and expose its supporters.


Cato Institute: 20th Annual Constitution Day

The Supreme Court: Past and Prologue. A Look at the 2020 and 2021 Terms.

Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC

September 17, 2021, at 10:30 AM – 7 PM EDT

First Amendment Panel, Featuring:

  •  Douglas Laycock, Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Bradley A. Smith, Josiah H. Blackmore II/​Shirley M. Nault Professor, Capital University Law School
  • David L. Hudson, Jr., Assistant Professor, Belmont University College of Law

Register here


The Hill: Democrats stare down nightmare September

By Jordain Carney

Amid the spending fights, [Sen. Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer has also teed up a voting rights brawl that Democrats are hoping will move their holdouts on changing the chamber’s legislative filibuster.

Republicans previously blocked the For the People Act, a sweeping bill to overhaul federal elections, from getting the 60 votes needed to start debate.

Democrats are hoping that they’ll have a voting rights bill ready by the time they return that could unite all 50 Democrats. But even if they did, they don’t have the 50 votes needed to nix or pare back the legislative filibuster.

The Media

Jonathan Turley: Can the Media Survive Without Half of the Population? A New Poll Raises Questions About the New Media

We have often discussed the increasing bias and advocacy in major media in the United States. While cable networks have long catered to political audiences on the left or right, mainstream newspapers and networks now openly frame news to fit a political narrative. With the exception of Fox and a couple of other smaller news outlets, that slant is heavily to the left. What is most striking about this universal shift toward advocacy journalism (including at journalism schools) is that there is no evidence that it is a sustainable approach for the media as an industry… The question is whether the mainstream media can survive and flourish by writing off over half of the country.

The new study from the non-partisan Pew Research Center shows a massive decline in trust among Republicans. Five years ago, 70 percent of Republicans said they had at least some trust in national news organizations. In 2021, that trust is down to just 35 percent.

Conversely, and not surprisingly, 78 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying they have “a lot” or “some” trust in the media. When you just ask liberal Democrats, it jumps to 83 percent.

Free Speech

Reason: Meet the Property Owner Who Created a Toilet Garden to Protest Local Officials

By Lenore Skenazy

Hank Robar just turned 80, and he’s a happy man. The toilet gardens he erected around his hometown of Potsdam, New York, were declared protected by the First Amendment this spring…

The first seeds of the project were planted in 2004 when local authorities refused to grant Robar a zoning change that would have allowed him to sell some property to a buyer to build a Dunkin’ Donuts…

These porcelain gardens did not sit well with the city elders, who sued Robar for local code violations in 2008. The case was dismissed when the code enforcement officer arrived at court without the documents against him.

In 2018, the town made one last attempt to dethrone Robar. The board of trustees passed a law against visible junk…

At that point, said Robar, it was time to sue or get off the pot.

“I hired a lawyer and another lawyer,” he says. “I have my First Amendment rights.”

That’s what his lawyers argued, too, alleging that the junk law was retaliation against Robar’s artistic and political freedom of expression. They filed a federal lawsuit against Potsdam for violating Robar’s rights, and demanded $7 million in damages.

In February, the town rescinded its junk statute, but the federal lawsuit barreled on. And in April, Robar won his case. “I got a settlement but I can’t say what it was,” says Robar. “I’m happy with it.”

Online Speech Platforms

National Review: The ‘Misinformation’ Excuse for Censorship

By Jason Richwine

It is dismaying that so many people have adopted the same censorious mindset. Last week the Washington Post ran this headline: “Misinformation on Facebook got six times more clicks than factual news during the 2020 election, study says.”… Well, first note that the headline itself is misinformation. According to the text of the article, the content that received six times more clicks was not specifically alleged to be misinformation; rather, it was merely posted by “news publishers known for putting out misinformation.”

The Post article provides no examples of actual misinformation, but it does name Occupy Democrats and Dan Bongino as “publishers known for misinformation” on Facebook. I went to their pages to see for myself. Occupy Democrats mainly posts progressive memes. Dan Bongino mainly posts clips from cable-news shows and town halls. I don’t doubt that one could find factual problems on both pages with enough searching, but I saw nothing obvious. To censor either of these pages would be to go far beyond rooting out “misinformation.” And perhaps that’s the point. Dismissing entire sources of news as misinformation far more effectively narrows the boundaries of acceptable discourse than does stamping out individual ideas.

Washington Post: Facebook says misinformation studies miss the full story. So does Facebook.

By The Editorial Board

A forthcoming study about misinformation on Facebook will say that false stories earned more clicks than facts six times over during the 2020 election, The Post reports. Facebook will say the study itself misinforms.

This story is familiar: Researchers repeatedly publish findings on the far and fast spread of sensational material on social media sites, and the sites reply that the data the researchers are using is flawed — all the while withholding access to numbers they claim are more elucidating…

There is no way for researchers to produce the complete picture Facebook protests they are missing if Facebook won’t let them see half of what they’re trying to paint…

Congress can do more than express frustration about platforms’ stinginess: crafting a system that compels companies to produce specific types of data under specific circumstances, as well as shields them from privacy repercussions when they comply. The alternative is more studies all saying the same thing, and more responses from Facebook saying just the opposite.

The States

Cadillac News: Residents voice concern that city’s sign ordinance may stifle political speech

By Chris Lamphere

Several Cadillac residents spoke out Tuesday during a public hearing, saying they believed proposed changes to the city’s temporary sign ordinance may infringe on their First Amendment rights…

During public feedback, residents objected to a few specific points about the proposed amendment, including the limitation on the number of signs, the distance between signs and size of signs…

[Resident Glenn] Kangas said he currently has a white flag in his yard signifying the U.S.’s “surrender to the Taliban.” He said he also has 13 smaller flags on his property in honor of the service members who died during the Kabul airport suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

He commented that the proposed size limitation of 4 square feet per sign is “not enough for me to express my opinion.”…

As a compromise between the goals of the ordinance and feedback of residents, council voted unanimously to increase the number of signs people can have in their yards from the proposed four to six; reduce the distance between signs from 10 feet to 2 feet; and reduce the required distance between a sign and the city right of way from 10 feet to 6 feet, or if a sidewalk is in front of a home, along the edge of the sidewalk.

Nathan Maxwell


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