A Ray of Hope for Media Literacy

Although the tidal wave of misinformation continues unabated, the New Year already has seen one ray of hope. In early January, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the first-in-the-nation law that requires public schools to teach media literacy at all grade levels – K-12.

Murphy noted in his signing statement: “Our democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of misinformation that is eroding the role of truth in our political and civic discourse. It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction.”

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Let C-SPAN Have Unrestricted Camera Access to U.S. House Proceedings

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.

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Why Elon Musk’s Digital Town Square Model for Twitter Remains Elusive

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.

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Two Teachable First Amendment Moments

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.

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Why Russia Should Be in the Rearview Mirror for Telecom Companies

Since Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine in February, companies with a history of operating in complex and challenging markets have been weighing the difficult realities of their responsibilities to the people they serve. Those that supply essential goods and services, such as internet connectivity, pharmaceuticals, food, and consumer products have confronted difficult choices. The war has highlighted which companies must choose between providing essential services and managing the reputational and regulatory risks of operating as usual in Russia.

The risks that telecom companies operate in are evident. This month, telecommunications company VEON – the owner of Ukraine’s largest mobile company, Kyivstar, and Russia’s third-largest mobile company, Beeline – announced it would start selling its operations in Russia. This is a significant announcement because Beeline is a company providing essential internet connectivity service to the Russian population and because it represents a noticeable turning point.

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Let’s Add the First Amendment to the Nation’s Back-to-School Checklist

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.

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Ukraine War’s Powerful First Amendment Lessons

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. 

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Consumers May Hold the Key to Confronting Election Misinformation

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.

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Fifteen Days in June: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers Case

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.”

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Invest in Better Digital Privacy Protection Along With Faster Broadband Speeds

Among the key provisions of the trillion-dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (aka the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal) signed into law by President Joe Biden on Monday, Nov. 15, is $65 billion that will be dedicated to improving access to reliable high-speed Internet.  This will include both increased availability of broadband to more than 30 million Americans who do not have minimally acceptable broadband speeds, and assistance in lowering prices for Internet services so that more households can afford better Internet service.

This new law aimed at closing the digital divide also should be used to close the digital privacy divide – the gap between more personal information being stored and shared and the level of privacy protection for online users that is provided to them.

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