Speech

Catherine Ross on Student Walkouts: “What is at stake in teaching young people how to live liberty—particularly how to exercise their expressive rights—is nothing less than the future of our democracy.”

Catherine Ross on Student Walkouts: “What is at stake in teaching young people how to live liberty—particularly how to exercise their expressive rights—is nothing less than the future of our democracy.”

Our guest writer and constitutional law scholar, Catherine Ross, speaks out about the student protests rocking the nation from the March 14 walkouts to the March for our Our Lives movement and looking ahead to the next planned protests on April 20th. Her book, Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights, excerpted on FAW looks at important free speech issues relevant to today’s movement.

March 29, 2018 Assembly, Below the Fold, Speech
Did White House Staff Sign Away Their First Amendment Rights?

Did White House Staff Sign Away Their First Amendment Rights?

The Washington Post reports that senior White House staffers in President Trump’s administration were asked to sign long-term nondisclosure agreements which would prevent them from revealing confidential information. These agreements extended beyond the normal confidentiality obligations around classified information or attorney-client privilege and included fines if they were broken. What exactly is the law that would govern NDAs? Heidi Kitrosser of the University of Minnesota told Reuters that “These NDAs strike me as clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment” because the First Amendment protects free speech from government restriction, and White House personnel are employed by the government not by President Trump. This is not absolute in all cases. In Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled public employees can be fired or otherwise disciplined for speech connected to their jobs. Several scholars suggested that President Trump does not need NDAs at all – he can just fire employees who have divulged confidential information.

March 21, 2018 Secrecy, Speech
Mural Photo by Robert Morris, included in ACLU's complaint

A Provocative Mural in Louisiana Stirs Artistic Expression Debate

  March 16, 2018: ACLU Files Lawsuit To Protect Controversial Mural When real estate developer Neal Morris commissioned local street artist Cashy D last November to create a wall mural using a quote from President’s Trump’s Access Hollywood taping, he did not expect the onslaught of letters from New Orleans officials claiming he could face jail time for commissioning the piece. Now the[Read More…]

States Debate How To Tackle Disinformation On Social Media Platforms

States Debate How To Tackle Disinformation On Social Media Platforms

March 2, 2018: States Are Not Waiting For Federal Government To Take on Facebook, Google, Twitter  Maryland, Washington State, New York, California and a growing number of other states are introducing bills to take on fake ads and social media bots that have polluted the internet with false information. They hope to create momentum where the federal government has not.[Read More…]

March 5, 2018 Speech, Top Stories
United States Supreme Court Building

Knight First Amendment Institute: From the Heckler’s Veto to the Provocateur’s Privilege

Reprinted with Permission From Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University Emerging Threats series invites leading thinkers to identify and grapple with newly arising or intensifying structural threats to the system of free expression. “It is now widely believed,” Frederick Schauer observes in a new essay, “that restricting the speaker on account of the actual or predicted hostile and potentially violent reaction[Read More…]

March 2, 2018 Below the Fold, Offensive Speech, Speech
J3NE4D Ohio, USA. 19th Apr, 2017. Robert Murray, the 77-year-old founder and CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, talks in his office in St. Clairsville in Ohio, United States, 19 April 2017. The coal industry in the state has set its hopes on president Donald Trump and fracking. Photo: Andreas Hoenig/dpa/Alamy Live News

Defamation Suit By Coal Baron Against John Oliver Dismissed

Coal magnate Robert Murray has a long history of suing the media – at least nine organizations at last count. He targeted HBO’s John Oliver and The New York Times claiming that both misrepresented safety at his coal mines and attacked him personally. He even asked for an emergency “gag order” against rebroadcast of Oliver’s segment arguing it was hurting business and threatening employees. A federal judge ruled that Murray’s case against Oliver should proceed in state court. But after the case was remanded,HBO and Partially Important Productions submitted motions to dismiss which were granted. Murray intends to appeal.

February 25, 2018 Below the Fold, Libel, Privacy, Speech
Gene Policinski & Lata Nott Commentary: School Walkouts In the Wake of ‘Parkland’ – Protected By The First Amendment or Not?

Gene Policinski & Lata Nott Commentary: School Walkouts In the Wake of ‘Parkland’ – Protected By The First Amendment or Not?

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment experts, Gene Policinski and Lata Nott, originally published this commentary on the Newseum blog, and have given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint.   ____________________________________________________________________________ FAQ FOR STUDENT ACTIVISTS NEWSEUMED RESOURCES The national walkouts that students are currently organizing to call for new gun control legislation are commendable examples of “Generation Z” exercising its First[Read More…]

February 23, 2018 Assembly, Below the Fold, Speech
Colin Kaepernick warms up on the field.

Taking A Knee: Rally Outside of Superbowl Stadium

It started with Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback who played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. To protest what he saw as oppression of people of color, he refused to stand for the National Anthem before his NFL games. His symbolic expression of dissent spread to other players and continued into the 2017 season, exploding into fiery controversy when President Donald Trump urged the NFL and its owners to fire players who refused to honor the National Anthem. The practice of taking a knee even spread to high school football players. Does the First Amendment protect the players when they refuse to stand for the National Anthem? And how does taking a knee fit into America’s history of political protest? We provide historical perspective in From Liberty Tree to Taking a Knee: America’s Founding Era Sheds Light on the NFL Controversy.

February 1, 2018 Below the Fold, Speech, Symbolic Speech
John Stuart Mill

History Speaks: John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1869

John Stuart Mill (1807-1873) wrote what has become one of the most compelling defenses of freedom of speech. In his essay, On Liberty, Mill argues that government has no right to limit the freedom of thought. He reasons that even a dissenting opinion held by a single individual has great value to society because it may turn out to be[Read More…]

January 31, 2018 History Speaks, Speech
History Speaks: Brandeis Concurring With Holmes in Whitney v. California, 1927

History Speaks: Brandeis Concurring With Holmes in Whitney v. California, 1927

Justice Louis Brandeis articulated the American idea of freedom of speech many decades before the Supreme Court began expanding the rights of expression under the First Amendment. Some of his ideas have become critical justifications for safeguarding freedom of speech even under the most challenging conditions. He tied the values of freedom of expression to the beliefs and actions of[Read More…]

January 27, 2018 History Speaks, Speech