I am a lawyer, First Amendment scholar, and an endowed journalism and electronic media enterprise and leadership professor at a major research university. Given these multiple professional identities, my thoughts on a recent headline-grabbing incident at Stanford Law School cannot be summarized by a pithy tweet, which is the coin of the realm in the social media world.
A recent Stanford Law event sponsored by its Federalist Society, a conservative and libertarian legal organization, has received widespread national media attention for the chaos it caused in real time, and more importantly, the threat to free speech that it represents.
Continue reading “Stanford Law’s Free Speech Teachable Moments”
After the chaotic process that led to the 15th-round election of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, there is much talk about how much power he needed to give up in order to achieve his narrow-majority victory. But even with the new rule changes for the 118th Congress – such as allowing for a single member to make a motion to vacate, triggering a vote on retaining the Speaker – there is one clear power that Speaker McCarthy has not forfeited. That’s the power to let C-SPAN have unrestricted camera access to House proceedings, as it did during the dramatic events leading up to the final vote tally.
Continue reading “Let C-SPAN Have Unrestricted Camera Access to U.S. House Proceedings”
When Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October, he sent a prominent virtue signal. Musk indicated that under his ownership, Twitter would be “a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner.”
This notion was quickly picked up in numerous glowing tweets, then amplified by media worldwide. But we have learned in the ensuing months that there never was and never will be a digital town square.
Continue reading “Why Elon Musk’s Digital Town Square Model for Twitter Remains Elusive”
Since Election Day 2022, we have experienced two extraordinary teachable moments about the First Amendment. Those all along the political spectrum should review them as a crash-course refresher for the clear red line that our nation’s Founding Fathers envisioned when they crafted this bedrock of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, has decided to lift a nearly three-year ban on using the popular social media platform that had been imposed on Donald J. Trump during the final days of his presidency. Musk indicated this reversal represented “the will of the people,” based on a quick, unscientific online poll he posted that indicated a slim majority approved of former president Trump being allowed to use Twitter again to reach the 88 million people who had been his followers at the time of his banishment.
Continue reading “Two Teachable First Amendment Moments”
People are easy to dupe. Give us something for free and we will open the door to just about anything in return, including our most sensitive family, health, and financial information.
The ancient Greeks knew something about the human psyche when they built a massive wooden horse and put it outside the enemy gates at Troy. Unsuspecting Trojans marveled at the gift and ushered it inside unexamined. Hidden in the horse were the Greek men of war who emerged to sack the city.
Continue reading “TikTok Is China’s Trojan Horse”
With high school teachers nationwide now in the process of planning their return to begin a new academic term, a new piece of valuable summer homework for them is recommended. It’s the survey results from the Knight Foundation Future of the First Amendment project. This is the eighth such survey conducted since 2004, and it deserves a close reading and a plan of action for when students return to the classroom.
Viewed over time, there can be a sense of optimism that both American high school students and their teachers have maintained a consistency over many years regarding the notion that people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions. Yet that view now is clouded when they are confronted with “offensive” or “threatening” speech. In these instances, the level of support drops below half. And only 57% in this survey indicated that news organizations should be able to publish without government censorship.
Continue reading “Let’s Add the First Amendment to the Nation’s Back-to-School Checklist”
As Americans, we are witnessing the horror that Russia is inflicting on Ukraine with its bloody invasion that is causing massive devastation and death throughout the country. Ironically, the tragic events abroad also can help us gain a greater appreciation for the democratic values that we enjoy at home – values that Ukraine would like to emulate as it struggles to remain a democratic country.
That’s because the proverbial Iron Curtain has been fortified by Vladimir Putin as a barrier against the Russian people. The populace there now is experiencing an unprecedented news and information crackdown by the government, which is shutting off outside news media and social media outlets or causing them to leave the country.
Continue reading “Ukraine War’s Powerful First Amendment Lessons”
NewsGuard is a company created by a team of journalists who assess the credibility and transparency of news and information, including whether a website repeatedly publishes false content.
Recently, it found that 113 websites out of 7,000 reviewed were spreading election misinformation in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 presidential vote and are still active in doing so. Of these, 81% have continued to spread false claims about the election and its aftermath, including about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Continue reading “Consumers May Hold the Key to Confronting Election Misinformation”
Last month, Justice Charles D. Wood of the Westchester County Supreme Court issued a controversial order blocking The New York Times from publishing or seeking various documents related to Project Veritas. The Times had published an article on Nov. 11, 2021 that discussed the group’s journalistic practices, along with an investigation by the Department of Justice concerning the potential theft by Project Veritas of President Biden’s daughter Ashley’s diary. The article also mentioned a separate defamation case against the Times that Project Veritas had initiated in 2020, based on coverage of a video the group had released alleging voter fraud related to the campaign of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn).
Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet commented that “[t]his ruling is unconstitutional and sets a dangerous precedent. When a court silences journalism, it fails its citizens and undermines their right to know. The Supreme Court made that clear in the Pentagon Papers case, a landmark ruling against prior restraint blocking the publication of newsworthy journalism. That principle clearly applies here. We are seeking an immediate review of this decision.”
Continue reading “Fifteen Days in June: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers Case”
Pity the plight of poor Anthony Comstock. The man H.L. Mencken described as “the Copernicus of a quite new art and science,” who literally invented the profession of anti-obscenity crusader in the waning days of the 19th century, ultimately got, as legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield would say, “no respect, no respect at all.”
As head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and special agent for the U.S. Post Office under a law that popularly bore his name, Comstock was, in Mencken’s words, the one “who first capitalized moral endeavor like baseball or the soap business, and made himself the first of its kept professors.”
Continue reading “The Censor’s Dilemma”