First Amendment Watch offers two approaches to help students understand the principles governing freedom of expression.


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Apply Principles To Current Conflicts

This site provides the opportunity for your students to apply the legal concepts they learn in important media law cases to the many conflicts playing out in the news every day. The old cases become more relevant to students when they can consider the Pentagon Papers case, for example, in the light of controversies such as the restraining order issued against the release of computer codes enabling the “printing” of plastic guns at home. Below are some suggestions for using First Amendment Watch in your classroom.
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Libel 

From New York Times v. Sullivan, go to our page that discusses the current libel suit waged by Sandy Hook parents against Alex Jones and InfoWars.

 

Prior Restraints

After discussing Near v. Minnesota and New York Times v. United States, go to our coverage of the restraining order that blocked the release of computer codes enabling people to use 3-D printers to make guns at home. (Also see our page that delves into the Pentagon Papers case with videos of Daniel Ellsberg and Katharine Graham, links to the Nixon takes, and much more.)

 

Invasion of Privacy

After introducing invasion of privacy by the press, consider the lawsuit against Gawker that resulted in its bankruptcy. A basic explanation of privacy law is here.

 

Content Neutral Government Regulations

After explaining that the government may not regulate the content of speech, go to our page on President Trump and other public officials barring Twitter followers who criticize them.

 

Government vs. Private Regulation of Speech

Students can see how government vs. private regulation of speech plays out by considering our page on the NFL taking-a-knee controversy.

 

Defense of a Free Press

With the press under attack, discuss James Madison’s magisterial defense of a free press and its place in a democratic society.
 

Newsgathering

When discussing the problems of journalists gathering information from public officials, ask students to consider the potential First Amendment violations when the White House and other official sources exclude journalists they don’t like from attending news conferences. Study the claims made in CNN’s lawsuit against the Trump Administration for revoking Jim Acosta’s press pass.

 

Leaks of Classified Documents

With leaks the focus of investigations by the Justice Department, consider the seizure of emails and phone records of Ali Watkins, a reporter for The New York Times.

Teacher Guides

Our teacher guides can serve as a full lesson plan offering learning objectives, discussion questions, links to primary sources and more that can be integrated into a media law, journalism, or history class curriculum.

 

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The following teacher guides are available free with registration.