The First Amendment right to record public officials such as the police performing their official duties in public is central to our democracy. Without the ability to document and disseminate such information, citizens would lack an indispensable tool for keeping the public informed, and for holding their leaders accountable.
On November 30th, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Van Buren vs. United States, a case that could have huge implications for data journalists and cybersecurity researchers. At the heart of the case is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal law that press advocates say is too broadly written and can be used to punish journalists for using common newsgathering techniques.
Howell did not go as far as to agree that journalists employed by the state are granted all of the same protections as private-sector journalists, but she did reject Pack’s argument that federal journalists have no First Amendment rights. Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press's Grayson Clary called the ruling a "victory."
On November 24th, Fox News settled a lawsuit brought by the parents of Seth Rich, a former Democratic Committee staffer who a Fox reporter falsely accused of leaking thousands of Democratic Party emails to Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.
On November 20th, the City of Delano, California agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by four high school students who alleged that Delano police officers violated their First Amendment right to record police.
Today’s students are growing up connected – tweeting, live streaming, posting on a seeming 24-7 cycle. The many controversies involving Facebook, Twitter, and other social media provide an excellent opportunity to teach First Amendment principles in a relatable way. President Donald Trump’s blocking of some critics from his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, is one such opportunity to engage students in the First Amendment.