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Category Archives: Free Speech

The Supreme Court is about to decide the future of online speech

The Verge: “Social media companies have long made their own rules about the content they allow on their sites. But a pair of cases set to be argued before the Supreme Court on Monday will test the limits of that freedom, examining whether they can be legally required to host users’ speech. The cases, Moody v. NetChoice and NetChoice v. Paxton, deal with the constitutionality of laws created in Florida and Texas, respectively. Though there are some differences between the two laws, both essentially limit the ability of large online platforms to curate or ban content on their sites, seeking to fight what lawmakers claim are rules that suppress conservative speech. This fight has reached the Supreme Court level in part because an appeals court in Florida declared that state’s version of the law unconstitutional, while a separate appeals court allowed the Texas law to stand, creating a legal rift. The laws’ opponents warn that a ruling for the states could force social media companies to carry “lawful but awful” speech like Nazi rhetoric or medical misinformation, which would likely repel a wide swath of users. Rather than offend users, critics argue, platforms may choose to block whole categories of discussion — around topics like race — to avoid legal blowback.  It’s not just big social media platforms that are concerned about the effects of the laws. The nonprofit that runs Wikipedia and individual Reddit moderators have worried that they might need to fundamentally change how they operate or face new legal threats. More traditional publishers have warned that a ruling in the states’ favor could undercut their First Amendment rights as well. But even some opponents of the laws fear that a broad ruling for NetChoice could hobble any future attempts to regulate a powerful industry. These cases are about the future of public discourse online,” says Scott Wilkens, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, “and the extent to which that public discourse serves democracy.”

Émigrés Are Creating an Alternative China, One Bookstore at a Time

The New York Times [no paywall]: “From Tokyo and Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Amsterdam and New York, members of the Chinese diaspora are building public lives that are forbidden in China and training themselves to be civic-minded citizens — the type of Chinese the Communist Party doesn’t want them to be. They are opening Chinese… Continue Reading

Tools for Thinking About Censorship

ReactorMag – “One price of free speech is eternal humility, recognizing that none of us is immune to becoming a tool of censorship if we fail to recognize its manipulative tactics. Was it a government action, or did they do it themselves because of pressure?” This is inevitably among our first questions when news breaks… Continue Reading

Politics makes bastards of us all: Why moral judgment is politically situational

Kyle Hull, Clarisse Warren, Kevin Smith. Politics makes bastards of us all: Why moral judgment is politically situational [full text free to read]. Political Psychology, 2024; DOI: 10.1111/pops.12954 – “Moral judgment is politically situational—people are more forgiving of transgressive copartisans and more likely to behave punitively and unethically toward political opponents. Such differences are widely observed,… Continue Reading

The Dignity Index is designed to prevent violence, ease divisions, and solve problems

“The Dignity Index scores distinct phrases along an eight-point scale from contempt to dignity. Lower scores (1-4) reflect divisive language while higher scores (5-8) reflect language grounded in dignity. In its pilot season, a trained group of students supported by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and the Hinckley Institute of Politics… Continue Reading

Why the Most Educated People in America Fall for Anti-Semitic Lies

The Atlantic [read free] “By now, December’s congressional hearing about anti-Semitism at universities, during which the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT all claimed that calls for the genocide of Jews would violate their university’s policies only “depending on the context,” is already a well-worn meme. Surely there is nothing left to… Continue Reading

Book Banning Goes Digital: Libraries Suspending Their E-Book Services and the Complications It Poses For First Amendment Doctrine

Book Banning Goes Digital: Libraries Suspending Their E-Book Services and the Complications It Poses for First Amendment Doctrine – Catherine E. Ferri.  Stanford Technology Law Review, Stanford Law School. Volume 27  Issue 1.  “Book banning predates the United States and has survived and thrived in a splintered twenty-first century political climate. As the fight for… Continue Reading

“Cast as Criminals, America’s Librarians Rally to Their Own Defense”

The New York Times [read free]: “…As America’s libraries have become noisy and sometimes dangerous new battlegrounds in the nation’s culture wars, librarians like Ms. Neujahr and their allies have moved from the stacks to the front lines. People who normally preside over hushed sanctuaries are now battling groups that demand the mass removal of… Continue Reading

A Brief History of the Grand Old American Tradition of Banning Books

LitHub: “Book banning is a chaotic and illogical business. How a book is received or understood is often subject to the historical moment—and the tastes of individuals. The notion of an objective measure or checklist to decide what is “appropriate”—something far-right school boards have worked to police and enforce—has long been slippery to define. In… Continue Reading

The Chronicle of Higher Education Releases Updated DEI Legislation Tracker

Business Wire: “The Chronicle of Higher Education today announced its updated DEI Legislation Tracker, which is following 49 bills in 23 states to restrict efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion and prohibiting colleges from a range of DEI initiatives. Republican politicians in early 2023 launched an assault on colleges’ diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to recruit… Continue Reading

Protecting Students from Faulty Software and Legislation: 2023 Year in Review

EFF: “Lawmakers, schools districts, educational technology companies and others keep rolling out legislation and software that threatens students’ privacy, free speech, and access to social media, in the name of “protecting” children. At EFF, we fought back against this overreach and demand accountability and transparency. Bad bills and invasive monitoring systems, though sometimes well-meaning, hurt… Continue Reading

International Threats to Freedom of Expression: 2023 Year in Review

EFF: “2023 has been an unfortunate reminder that the right to free expression is most fragile for groups on the margins, and that it can quickly become a casualty during global conflicts. Threats to speech arose out of the ongoing war in Palestine. They surfaced in bills and laws around the world that explicitly restrict… Continue Reading