The recent passing of Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore at age 94 has brought back well-deserved stories about how this tech legend played a leading role in developing silicon microprocessors, which served as the foundation for the exponential growth of our modern computer age. But this Big Bang in Silicon Valley was preceded by a series of events that created the environment that allowed Moore and his brilliant colleagues – notably Intel co-founder Robert Noyce – to achieve the technological breakthroughs that have changed the world.
Silicon Valley is a noted center of technological advancement and entrepreneurship, achieving innovations that have left lasting and unmatched imprints on society, here and abroad. Its centrality to such developments as the personal computer, social networks, and cloud computing has made the region so successful, with continual fueling by venture capital. Few are aware, however, that the staggering growth of the area had its roots in Washington, D.C., during the regulation-intensive climate of the late 1940s through the late 1950s.
Continue reading “How Silicon Valley’s Leap Ahead Was Preceded by Visible Government Footsteps”
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”
Amidst the growing concern over TikTok’s massive availability in the United States, Congress now is ramping up its public scrutiny of that company, which is owned by China’s ByteDance. That foreign ownership has raised serious concerns regarding whether the company might constitute a national security threat that warrants an outright nationwide ban.
Such a ban, which has been advocated by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, raises First Amendment concerns that the government may not be able to justify under the constitutional strict scrutiny test of the Supreme Court that likely would apply in this case. It is unclear, and at this point unlikely, that a sufficient showing could be made to convince a federal court that the gravity of the national security risk in practice would justify restricting the ability of 150 million Americans to use the app for sending and receiving information.
Continue reading “The Ticking Clock on Legally Restricting TikTok”
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.”
Continue reading “A Ray of Hope for Media Literacy”
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”
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.
Continue reading “Why Russia Should Be in the Rearview Mirror for Telecom Companies”
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”