Daily Media Links 11/10

November 10, 2021   •  By Tiffany Donnelly   •  
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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.]

In the News

Florida Today: Moms for Liberty sues Brevard School Board, saying speech rules discriminate by view

By Bailey Gallion

The Brevard chapter of conservative group Moms for Liberty has sued the Brevard County School Board over its public participation policy, saying the board has used it to limit speech and access for opposing viewpoints during meetings.

School Board policy forbids speakers from making remarks that are “personally directed,” “abusive” or “obscene.” School Board Chair Misty Belford stops speakers from criticizing other school board members or district staff by name, requiring all speakers to direct their comments toward her or the board as a whole. In a complaint filed Friday, Moms for Liberty and four members, including Brevard chair Ashley Hall and former School Board member Amy Kneessy, stated the board has used the policy to silence criticism but allowed personally directed comments when they praised board members or administrators.

Bill Mick Live (Audio): Moms for Liberty Suing Brevard’s School Board

Ed. note: Bill discusses our lawsuit against the Brevard County School Board on behalf of Brevard Moms for Liberty. He also interviews our client Amy Kneessy from 15:30 to 21:00. Learn more about our case here.

KELOLAND: Anti-vax ‘Blue State Refugees’ declare victory over Governor Noem, state government

By Jacob Newton

A group who filed suit against Gov. Kristi Noem and other state officials after being denied a permit to hold an anti-vaccine mandate rally at the Capitol in Pierre has claimed victory.

In a statement titled “Victory: Blue State Refugees Rally to Proceed in South Dakota,” the Institute for Free Speech (IFS) which represented the Blue State Refugees (BSR) group announced the state had agreed to allow their event to proceed during the Legislature’s special session on Monday and Tuesday.

The details of the decision are outlined in a Nov. 5 opinion and order by U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange cancelling the previously scheduled hearing and denying the group’s request for an injunction as moot…

Within the order, Lange outlines on several occasions that under the letter of the First Amendment, BSR and IFS “initially demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims.”

Austin Monitor: City billboard battle lands at U.S. Supreme Court today

By Jo Clifton

The long fight between Reagan National Advertising and the city of Austin is nearing the final field of battle – the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawyers for each side are scheduled to make their arguments this morning over the city’s ban on off-premise digital billboards…

Lining up with the billboard companies is another impressive list of friends of the court. Those filing briefs on behalf of the billboard companies’ position include Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Pacific Legal Foundation, Washington Legal Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom, Cato Institute, Institute for Justice, Out of Home Advertising Association of America, and Institute for Free Speech…

[Ed. note: read our brief in support of Reagan National Advertising here.]

Supreme Court

SCOTUSblog: In First Amendment challenge to city billboard rules, justices will be sign language interpreters

By Amy Howe

In 2015, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that an Arizona town could not impose different restrictions on the display of temporary signs based on the messages they conveyed. The justices did not agree on the rationale for their ruling in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, however, and Justice Elena Kagan warned that the Supreme Court could become “a veritable Supreme Board of Sign Review.” On Wednesday, that board will be in session.

The case, City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising of Texas, is a challenge to a city ordinance that treats signs differently depending on whether they have a connection to the site where they are located.

Reagan National is a family-owned outdoor advertising company with billboards in and around Austin, Texas. In 2017, the company applied to the city for permits to convert existing billboards to digital displays, which allow them to change the images that are shown every few seconds.

The city’s sign ordinance allows signs that advertise “on premises” businesses or activities – that is, businesses or activities with a connection to the site where the sign is located – but generally prohibits new “off premises” signs, which advertise businesses or activities that lack such a connection. The ordinance also prohibits the owners of pre-existing off-premises signs from converting them to digital signs, although it does not impose a similar limitation on on-premises signs.

The city denied Reagan National’s applications…

Online Speech Platforms

Wall Street Journal: Facebook Parent Meta Limits Ad Targeting for Politics and Other Sensitive Issues

By Jeff Horwitz

Starting Jan. 19, [Facebook parent Meta] will no longer allow advertisers to highly personalize their messages to users on topics including politics, race, health, religion and sexual orientation, the company said Tuesday…

Restrictions on political ads have been decried by politicians in both parties, though Democrats have stressed the importance of Facebook in voter turnout efforts focused on minority communities. Ahead of the election, officials in the Trump campaign said Facebook’s decision to be more lenient on political ads would allow more voters to participate in the process…

By limiting advertisers’ ability to specially target niche demographic groups and politically charged interest-based audiences, Facebook will reduce the risk that advertisers could easily incite violence or seek to disenfranchise a subset of voters. But the choice will also make using the platform for civic activism harder.

The move isn’t a total ban on political ad-targeting, in that it still allows campaigns to use publicly available data or their own email lists as ways to reach people on Facebook. Political strategists said as a result the social-media giant would remain an essential tool for organizing.

New York Times: Meta plans to remove thousands of sensitive ad-targeting categories.

By Mike Isaac and Tiffany Hsu

But Meta’s latest changes may be unpopular with the millions of organizations that rely on the company’s tools to expand their audiences and build their businesses. Advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger that is finely tuned to people’s interests is often more affordable and effective than advertising on broadcast television and other media.

Those organizations include political groups and advocacy groups, many of which rely on the platform for fund-raising. Last year, political campaigns and nongovernmental organizations criticized Facebook when it temporarily removed political advertising from its sites around the presidential election; the restriction was lifted in March. Some campaigns said the move had benefited incumbents and larger organizations that didn’t count on small donations through Facebook.

Republicans and Democrats blasted Meta’s changes on Tuesday. Reid Vineis, a vice president of Majority Strategies, a digital ad-buying firm that works with Republicans, said in an emailed statement that the social network had gone from being “the gold standard for political advertising” to throwing roadblocks between campaigns and voters.

“This decision is harmful to nonprofit and public affairs advertisers across the board and will result in fewer charitable donations, limited public debate and a less informed public,” he said…

Augustine Fou, an independent ad fraud researcher, said advertising on Facebook and its other apps had long worked “better than any other display ads elsewhere because Facebook has years of people volunteering information, and it’s pretty accurate.” He added that personalized advertising outside the platform often relied on guesswork that was “so wildly inaccurate that when you try to target based on that, you’re worse off than trying to spray and pray.”

The States

Cincinnati Enquirer: Can a Cincinnati police officer anonymously sue those calling him racist? Ohio Supreme Court hears case

By Cameron Knight and Laura A. Bischoff

The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether a Cincinnati police officer can remain anonymous in a defamation lawsuit he filed against several people who called him racist…

During the course of the lawsuit, the trial court allowed him to proceed under a pseudonym and blocked defendants from publicly identifying Olthaus.

The high court heard arguments on two related cases Tuesday.

First, whether Cincinnati police officer Ryan Olthaus can remain anonymous in court records to protect him against “doxing” … Second, whether a court order in the case put unjustified limits on free speech.

“Can a court say when you’re criticizing a government official you can’t use the person’s name? And our answer is no,” wrote UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who filed an amicus brief on behalf of media organizations, free speech groups and constitutional law professors…

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan…approved a temporary restraining order barring [defendants] from releasing any personal information about the officer.

Jennifer Kinsley, who represents a defendant, argued that any judge’s order restricting the free speech of her client should have been reviewed immediately by a higher court.

“There must be immediate appellate review,” Kinsley said. “My client never got that second look.”

She said part of the question before the Ohio Supreme Court is whether her client’s speech was constitutionally protected, so their decision could impact the rest of the case.

[Ed. note: The Institute for Free Speech filed an amicus brief in support of defendant-appellants with media organizations, free speech groups and constitutional law professors. Read it here.]

Tiffany Donnelly


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