Category: Free Speech

Trump Again Calls For Changing Libel Laws After NYU Professor’s Faked Quote [Updated]

President Donald Trump has previously — and unwisely — called for changing libel laws to combat what he calls “fake news.” I have previously criticized  Trump for his calls for greater liability of the media for its coverage of the controversies surrounding his Administration, including his desire to sue Saturday Night Live.  Now, due to the publication of a false quote from Trump by New York University Professor Ian Bremmer, Trump is again calling for a change in the law and ignoring that our defamation standard is anchored in the first amendment. Ironically, Trump himself was recently accused of posting a doctored clip of Nancy Pelosi and has repeatedly retweeted false or defamatory statements.

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The Assange Case Could Prove The Most Important Press Case In 300 Years

Below is my column for BBC on the Assange espionage charges. As I have written, I believe that Attorney General Bill Barr is dead wrong on these charges — a view apparently shared by at least two of the prosecutors on the team. Until now, President Donald Trump’s disturbing rhetoric against the media has been disconnected from actual moves against the media with the exception of suspending press passes or changing rules for the White House press corp. This is a quantum leap in the wrong direction. Indeed, this prosecution could easily become the most important press case since John Peter Zenger.

Here is the column:

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Bill Barr Is Wrong On Assange

Bill Barr has been (in my opinion) wrongly attacked for many of his actions with regard to the Special Counsel Report. Indeed, I defended his decisions in print and I testified in favor of his confirmation. I still believe that he is an excellent choice for Attorney General. However, on the charges against Julian Assange, he is wrong. Dead wrong. As I stated in a recent column, the use of the Espionage Act strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Now, the Washington Post is reporting that two prosecutors involved in the Wikileaks case argued against the new charges.

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France Continues Crackdown On Journalists

France appears to be launching a crackdown on the free press with the same vigor it has shown in destroying free speech guarantees in the nation famous for its 1784 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of all the Citizen. Recently, we discussed how the French government was criminally investigating journalists who uncovered false statements by French officials on the country’s role in the war in Yemen. Now, a senior reporter at the renowned French Le Monde has been called in for questioning after Ariane Chemin revealed that a security aide to President Emmanuel Macron has been summoned for questioning by the domestic intelligence service.

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Florida To Impose Sweeping Anti-Semitism Ban On Florida Schools

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is reportedly planning to travel to Israel and use the trip to sign a bill that imposes a sweeping anti-Semiticism law that raises serious free speech implications. Florida and other states are enacting a bill being duplicated through the country that would ban statements that “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective.” I have previously raised my concerns over the curtailment of free speech from such laws as well as bans on support for boycotts of Israel. While courts have struck down the boycott laws, supporters are still trying to curtail speech under ill-defined hate speech models. Recently, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations called for an international ban on anti-Semitic speech.

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France Investigates Journalists For Exposing Alleged Lies About War In Yemen

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Now France is adding an attack on the free press that parallels its growing intolerance for free speech. A reporter from Radio France and the co-founders of Paris-based investigative news organization Disclose are under criminal investigation for their reporting on France’s role in the war in Yemen with the use of leaked secret documents. In the United States, such journalism could get you the Pulitzer. In France, it could get you prison.

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Poll: Almost Half Of College Students Do Not Believe First Amendment Protects Hate Speech

We have previously discussed how speech codes and regulations are changing the way students are viewing free speech. There is now a steady message for students from elementary school to college that speech must be regulated and that even people can be punished for not just hate speech but the ill-defined category of “microaggressive” speech. Past polls showed that one-third of students believed that violence is justified in dealing with some exercises of speech. Now a survey of college students found almost half do not believe that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment — a chilling indication of the collapsing support for traditional free speech values on our campuses.

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Brazil Prosecutes Comedian In Latest Attack On Free Speech

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in Europe (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Now Brazil is joining the anti-free speech movement with a ridiculous prosecution of a comedian named Danilo Gentili. Gentili is known for his caustic and sometimes offensive jokes. One joke about a congresswoman however proved too much for the government and he is now facing criminal charges for making a joke.

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Iraqi Police Forces Confront Crime Wave of Short & Ripped Jeans

The horror

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

It would seem that either Police Forces within the disputed territory of Kirkuk in Northern Iraq have otherwise vanquished all traditional urban crimes and have far too much time on their hands or a return to authoritarianism found a new attraction with withering memories of Saddam and Islamist attacks via ISIS.

Kurdish news reports police forces are arresting any miscreant and fashion terrorista openly wearing ripped or short length jeans. According to a police source, “the decision was sent to all the police stations to arrest anyone who wears short jeans and jeans with fashionable slits or rips in them.”

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“This Is Triggering”: UNC Student Attacks Pro-Life Students On Videotape

We have seen a litany of attacks on conservative and pro-life students on college campuses in the last couple of years. Even professors have joined in such attacks, including one who pleaded guilty to assault and was supported by other faculty members and even honored at other schools. The most recent example is an attack on a member of the pro-life group Created Equal at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The attack was caught on video (below) and student Jillian Ward, 19, was charged.

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Florida Man Arrested for Profane Bumper Sticker

Free speech cases often require defending obnoxious speech or people. Dillon Shane Webb, 23, appears to be both. Webb is one of those people who think that it is funny to say obscene things and does not care at all about how his speech is impacting children or others. For that reason, Webb thought it was really, really funny to have a window sticker reading “I eat ass.” When he was asked to take down or change the offensive sticker, he refused and was arrested for criminal obscenity. The problem is that obscenity often depends who defines what is obscene. For free speech advocates, it is a standard that invites subjectivity and ambiguity in an area that depends bright line rules. That does not mean however that we cannot and should not denounce Webb for his offensive and careless speech.

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Williams Student Body Refuses To Recognize Pro-Israeli Group

I recently was critical of students at Trinity College opposing the recognition of a club on Western Civilization named after Winston Churchill. Now, the same content-based bias is evident at Williams College where the student body has refused to recognize a pro-Israel group.

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Jeh Johnson Withdraws As USC Law Graduation Speaker After Protests

As many of you know, I have long lamented the rising intolerance shown at colleges and universities over free speech. Both faculty and students now regularly fight to prevent people from speaking rather than allow a diverse array of views and experiences on campuses. Fortunately, most law schools have sufficient free speech advocates to counter such moves. However, this week the University of Southern California Law School joined this ignoble list when the school pushed Jeh Johnson, the former Obama Secretary of Homeland Security, to withdraw as the commencement speaker. Johnson was a wonderful choice for the graduation and could share not just his incredible career but his powerful personal story with the law students. Instead, he was told by Dean Andrew Guzman that there were “concerns” about his appearance.

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Trinity Students Protest Western Civilization Club Named After Churchill

Students at Trinity College voted recently to block a club purportedly dedicated to the discussion of the values and works underlying Western Civilization. The 10-member club is named after Winston Churchill as “dedicated to the preservation, dissemination and extension of the Western moral and philosophical tradition.” The group met the underlying criteria of the school but was still blocked by the student government. It is another example of intolerance shown rivaling values by many students and faculty today. To her credit, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney overruled the vote of the student government. However, that decision was met with the same unhinged, intolerant protests that we have seen on too many colleges and universities.

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Israeli Ambassador Calls For The Criminalization of Antisemitic Speech

In the aftermath of another tragic shooting at another synagogue, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon has again called for the criminalization of antisemitic speech. I have previously written about such international efforts to criminalize speech, including a proposal supported by the Obama Administration. The implications of such laws for free speech are easy to dismiss amidst the sorrow of another attack. However, the free speech community must remain firm that free speech is not the cause of hate, it is solution to hate.

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