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Category Archives: First Amendment
Posted: August 25, 2017 at 3:46 am
In this day in age, if an employee has something to say, they should be able to say it, right? Not exactly. One Google employee recently learned the hard way when he was fired after writing and circulating a memo where he criticized the companys diversity efforts.
When the memo went public on August 5th, women and under-represented groups in tech criticized it andGoogle denounced it. But, after Google fired the engineer claiming hed violated the companys code of conduct, things changed. Some people appalled that someone could lose his job for expressing dissent, while some took to Twitter discussing the topic of free speech.
However, the First Amendment only protects the publics right to free speech from government censorship, and not corporate censorship. One of the reasons that a private employer can censor speech is because the First Amendment does not cover private entities as it is limited only to government federal, state and local.
Veronica Nannis, a partner with Joseph Greenwald & Laake focusing on qui tam litigation and whistleblower rights, sat down with IPWatchdog to discuss the question controversial topic of free speech in the workplace.
Private employers are typically allowed to censor speech that occurs on the job. The First Amendment does not cover them, she explained. They are also allowed to censor speech or activity that discriminates against, creates a hostile work environment or harasses another employee. In that regard, and as with all our rights, our right to free speech generally ends where another persons rights begin.
An employees off-the-clock, private, political or religious activities are protected by both federal and state discrimination laws, but once political speech enters the work place, a private employer may legally discipline or fire an employee for such proselytizing in many cases, per Nannis. The gray areas in between are times when you need to seek consultation with an employment attorney in your state.
As it related to the Google incident, it was first reported that a memo authored by a Google employee, titledGoogles Ideological Echo Chamber, was being circulated among Google employees. Later that day, the memo was obtained by the media and made public. The memos author was identified in the press as a senior employee named James Damore. In the memo, Damore criticized the efforts of tech companies, Google included, to employ programs and hiring practices concentrating on diversity. Specifically, Damore was critical of tech company initiatives which had the goal of recruiting and employing female engineers.
The crux of Damores critique was that the reason for the low number of women in the tech industry was not something that could be countered by policies promoting diversity through recruitment, education, or anti-discrimination measures, explained Nannis. Rather the reason there are so few women in the tech field is due to biological differences, including higher agreeableness and more neuroticism, that leave women less well-equipped to perform the work that tech jobs demand.
The media coverage sparked debate, some outrage, and a focus on Googles culture, among other things. After days of the media firestorm, Google had terminated Damores employment. Googles CEO, Sundar Pichai, stated, in an email published by the Washington Post, that although Google strongly supported the rights of its employees to express themselves and debate issues like those discussed in Damores memo, To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct. Pichai reiterated that point by stating that portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. For his part, Damore stated, as reported in the Financial Times, that he is currently exploring all possible legal remedies. Damore also stated that prior to his employment being terminated, he had filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and that its illegal to retaliate against a NLRB charge.
According to Nannis, while whistleblowers are protected under various state and federal laws and retaliation laws can protect employees who file complaints or grievances, Google explained that the company could not have retaliated against Damore, because it was unaware of his NLRB complaint until news of the same was reported in the media after his dismissal.
Anti-retaliation laws generally require the employer to have known about the complaint and to have fired the employee, at least in part, due to it, she said.
So, how can employees protect themselves from incidents like Googles in the future?
Know your rights, be sensitive to others rights and know your employers rights too. Many states, including Maryland where I practice and California where Google is located, are at-will employment states, she explained. An at-will state means that, absent a contract, certain union protection, legal prohibition or public policy, an employer can demote or fire an employee for any reason,or no reason at all. If you live in an at-will state, your private employer does not need a reason to fire you. So, while an employee can speak at will, a private employer can fire at will as well.
In addition, Nannis advises to look to see if there are any state laws protecting private employer censorship of speech for non-work related activities. California is one of a handful of states, including Colorado, New York and North Dakota, where there are laws protecting limited out-of-work speech.
She added, If the Google employee had given an off-the-clock speech about his political views as may relate to IT and he had not mentioned Google by name, he would have had a stronger defense under California law, and Google might have had a harder time firing him for out-of-work activities. However, without the protection of one of these exceptions, an employee in an at-will state risks firing when he or she speaks out in a way that displeases their private employer.
Amanda G. Ciccatelli is a Freelance Journalist for IPWatchdog, where she covers intellectual property. She earned a B.A. in Communications and Journalism from Central Connecticut State University in 2010. Amanda is also currently the Lead Strategist of Content Marketing, Social Media & Digital Products at Informa, a leading global business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and events business. She also works as a Freelance Journalist for Inside Counsel. Amanda was formerly a Web Editor at Technology Marketing Corporation. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.
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Are Corporate Employees Protected by the First Amendment? - IPWatchdog.com
Posted: at 3:46 am
The NAACP's interim president Derrick Johnson has officially requested a formal meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss NFL players and their ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.
According to a letter sent to the league by the NAACP, the meeting will specifically focus on Kaepernick's perceived "blackballing" by the league in light of his protests last season. It also questions the silencing of NFL players' platforms, citing Tommie Smith and John Carlos's black power salute at the 1968 Olympics, among other examples.
Kaepernick's lack of a job has raised many eyebrows throughout the offseason, particularly with the quarterbacks being signed ahead of him. Johnson penned a concern regarding Kaepernick's First Amendment rights and also strongly insinuated that his protest was the sole cause of him not being signed. An excerpt of the letter reads:
Last season, Mr. Kaepernick chose to exercise his First Amendment rights by protesting the inequitable treatment of people of color in America. By quietly taking a knee during the national anthem, he was able to shine a light on the many injustices, particularly, the disproportionate occurrences of police misconduct toward communities of color. As outlined in your office's public statement, this act of dissent is well within the National Football League's stated bylaws. Yet, as the NFL season quickly approaches, Mr. Kaepernick has spent an unprecedented amount of time as a free agent, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that this is no sheer coincidence.
"No player should be victimized and discriminated against because of his exercise of free speech -- to do so is in violation of his rights under the Constitution and the NFL's own regulations.
Obviously, invoking the Constitution is a powerful tool, and it raises questions about what's covered by free speech. The NAACP also stressed the important of free speech in the Civil Rights Movement, along with the importance that it's upheld moving forward.
The exercise of free speech has proven to be a vital tool in in bringing to the public's attention often ignored issues of social justice, particularly in the African-American community. The powerful act of utilizing one's platform to address issues of discrimination and inequality has long been employed by many of the world's greatest athletes.
Some teams may be a starting quarterback injury away from signing Kaepernick, but the Baltimore Ravens disproved that theory when rumors swirled after Joe Flacco's back injury. They ultimately chose to sign Thaddeus Lewis to spell Flacco. There have been protests in front of the NFL headquarters regarding Kaepernick, including one on Wednesday.
Since losing the starting job in San Francisco, Kaepernick has faced tremendous scrutiny. Other athletes have joined in on his protest, and depending on how the next few weeks go, these protests may start to pick up steam if Kaepernick remains unsigned -- whether it's fair or not.
Posted: at 3:46 am
August 24 at 6:24 PM
Regarding the Aug. 23 Metro article Crisis vaults McAuliffe into spotlight:
It is outrageous for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to assert that the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia bears some responsibility for the violence in Charlottesville. The citys decision to revoke the permit for Jason Kessler to hold a rally in Emancipation Park was a prior restraint on free speech. The Supreme Court said prior restraint is the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.
Prior restraint can be justified only if government places reasonable limitations on the time, place and manner of the speech. It was the citys burden to show that revoking the permit for Emancipation Park and granting a permit for McIntire Park met these standards. The federal court said the city failed to do so.
The ACLU finds Mr. Kesslers views loathsome. To suggest that Mr. Kesslers speech was not entitled to First Amendment protection would eviscerate the First Amendment. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. reaffirmed: The idea that the government may restrict speech expressing ideas that offend ... strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate.
David A. Drachsler, Alexandria
The writer is a member of the Litigation Screening Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
Posted: at 3:46 am
Recently in Charlottesville, Va., the 'Southern strategy' veil was lifted again. White supremacy born out of hatred, bigotry and profound ignorance resulted in chaos, violence and death again!
Fundamentalists like the Huckabee crowd, Robertson's, Falwell's, Bannon's and maybe some of you will offer the usual rationalizations, moral equivalencies and justifications. The fundamentalist right have hijacked the First Amendment to preach their filth of hate and bigotry.
The most dominant flag at this sickening display in Charlottesville was the Confederate flag. The Star Spangled Banner, our beautiful symbol, is flown around the world as a beacon of freedom, hope and decency; something not one of these terrorists would understand, including President Trump. No matter what Trump says he cannot explain away being intellectually and morally destitute.
Please proceed, Special Counsel Bob Mueller. You sir, are a Vietnam combat decorated Marine. You have had your skin in the game, fighting for flag and country. Leave no stone unturned and no one left behind. Justice and decency must prevail!
Jenson lives in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
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Letter: The right has hijacked the First Amendment to preach hate ... - INFORUM
Posted: at 3:46 am
Posted August 23, 2017, 4:00 pm CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A federal appeals court recently ruled against a North Dakota lawyer who alleged the mandatory state bar violated his First Amendment rights.
Arnold Fleck had claimed the bar should have given him the chance to affirmatively consent before using his money on activities that werent relevant to the practice of law. The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in an Aug. 17 opinion (PDF).
The Goldwater Institute, which represented Fleck, said in a press release it plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. The Associated Press has a story.
Fleck had objected because a portion of his mandatory dues went to a PAC that opposed a 2014 ballot initiative known as Measure 6, which would establish a presumption that each parent is entitled to equal parental rights. The measure was rejected by voters.
The state bar dues notice, which was revised as a result of Flecks lawsuit, says bar members can deduct a certain amount from their dues in a Keller deduction for activities that arent germane to law practice. The reference is to the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court case Keller v. State Bar of California.
Keller held that mandatory bars can use members required dues to fund activities germane to regulating the legal profession and improving the quality of legal services, but not to fund nongermane activities that a member opposes.
Fleck had argued the bar should have required him to opt in to use of his dues for nongermane activities, rather than requiring him to opt out. The 8th Circuit said the procedure satisfies Supreme Court precedent.
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Lawyer who objected to mandatory bar's PAC contribution loses First Amendment appeal - ABA Journal
Posted: at 3:46 am
The LA Times published an editorial Wednesday titled Dont restrict free speech. Restrict the right to carry guns at potentially explosive public events. The argument is that free speech is too important to restrict but, for safetys sake, police should be willing to tell people no guns allowed at outdoor rallies. And as the Times points out, its not just right-wing gun owners bringing weapons to these rallies.
Virginia is a preemption state that also allows open carry, and the nation saw the results at Charlottesville, where paramilitary militias men heavily armed with military-style weapons and in some cases battle gear appeared as part of the Unite the Right rally. But far-left groups, including the so-calledRedneck Revolt, a liberal pro-gun group, have alsoparaded aroundwith their firearms at various demonstrations.
That last link is a reference to armed members of Redneck Revolt who showed up in Phoenix last night, but the same group was also present in Charlottesville. The groups own report on the situation says they had 20 members on the street, most carrying rifles:
Today, with hundreds more white supremacists expected to converge on Charlottesville, our Redneck Revolt branches worked together with local organizers to create and secure a staging area at Justice Park, within a short distance of the planned Unite the Right rally location, Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park). Approximately 20 Redneck Revolt members created a securityperimeter around the park, most of them open-carrying tactical rifles.
Im not sure why the Times failed to point out that there were armed, left-wing militia members in Charlottesville except perhaps that it tends to support what Trump said about there being violence (or the potential for it) on many sides. In any case, the Times suggests this is too dangerous to allow it to continue:
This is a problem that the nation must resolve. A group of self-organized, trained and heavily armed men (and these groups are predominantly male) is a paramilitary organization, and giving it megaphones and parade banners doesnt magically transform it into something peaceful. Adding open carry to a contentious event can put public safety at risk, and thepresence of visible firearmscreates unique problems for the police
Its not the right to speech and assembly that should be restricted; its the right to carry guns in certain potentially explosive situations. Gun advocates like to argue they have the right to bear arms as a bulwark against tyrannical government, but government has a responsibility here as well: to keep people safe.
I suspect the editorial writers for the LA Times are not gun owners and, maybe, dont know any gun owners. But its worth noting that despite having two ostensibly opposing groups of armed people in Charlottesville, no shots were fired. It wasnt the gun owners who got violent, it was the kids with flagpoles and onenutwith a muscle car.
Im not a lawyer so maybe there is some sort of time and place exception that could be used by local police when doling out permits. But it seems to me that, ultimately, the state cant dole out one constitutional right to be exercisedat a time. We dont get to have the First Amendment only if we agree togive up the Second, at least I hope not.
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LA Times: Restrict the Second Amendment at First Amendment rallies - Hot Air
Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:37 pm
Two different cases raising similar issues about advocating suicide may shape US policy for years to come. In Massachusetts, Michelle Carter was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for urging her friend Conrad Roy not to abandon his plan to kill himself by inhaling carbon monoxide: Get back in that car! she texted, and he did. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has already ruled that prosecuting her for involuntary manslaughter was permissible, even though she was not on the scene. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was careful to insist that its holding did not criminalize assisting the suicide of a person with a terminal illness:
It is important to articulate what this case is not about. It is not about a person seeking to ameliorate the anguish of someone coping with a terminal illness and questioning the value of life. Nor is it about a person offering support, comfort and even assistance to a mature adult who, confronted with such circumstances, has decided to end his or her life.
And now the case of Final Exit v. Minnesota is before the Supreme Court, with Final Exit asking the Supreme Court to take the case and overturn its conviction for assisting the suicide of Doreen Dunn on First Amendment grounds. Notably, no individual was convicted in that case: the medical director was given use immunity to testify against the organization, which was found guilty of the crime, and was fined $30,000.
Final Exit was convicted under an interpretation of the assisted suicide law first outlined in a different case, Minnesota v. Melchert-Dinkel. In that case, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that advising or encouraging an individual to commit suicide was protected First Amendment activity, but assisting suicide, including enabling suicide by instructing a specific person how to do it, could be criminalized. Mr. Melchert-Dinkel struck a deal with prosecutors, and therefore never appealed his conviction.
Final Exit has asked the Supreme Court whether Minnesotas criminal prohibition of speech that enables a suicide violates the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to accept the case.
Both the Carter case and the Final Exit case involve the issue of the limits of criminalizing speech, and in both cases, the defendants foresaw and even intended that the people with whom they were communicating would die. There are several noteworthy distinctions between the two cases. In the first place, Conrad Roys competence to make the decision to die was (at least on the face of the court decisions) far more questionable than that of Ms. Dunn in Minnesota. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court put great emphasis on his vulnerability and fragility. Relatedly, and crucially, Conrad Roy was wavering, and Michelle Carter put her thumbindeed, her entire fiston the pro-suicide scale. First amendment purists might say this makes no difference, and indeed criminalizing her speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination, the worst kind of First Amendment violation. Criminal lawyers, on the other hand, might argue that Roys ambivalence provides support for the contention that Ms. Carter caused his suicide. Final Exit argues that they did not coerce or pressure Ms. Deen; they provided information and comfort and support, but not persuasion.
Whether suicide or assisted suicide, this issue is not only about speech, but also fundamentally about individual agency. Promoting the agency of competent individuals is good, even if they make decisions that we would not make. Overriding a persons will, whether by keeping him or her tethered to a life-support machine or haranguing him to get back in the car and die, is different from assisting him or her to implement a decision made thoughtfully and carefully.
Given Justice Gorsuchs interest in and familiarity with the assisted suicide, and his announcement of his perspective through books and articles, it will be interesting to see whether the Court accepts the Final Exit case. Michelle Carters lawyers have promised to appeal on the issue of whether her texts and communications with Conrad Roy constituted protected speech, although the 2016 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision appears to have largely foreclosed that avenue of appeal. As more states legalize assisted suicide, this issue will continue to recur, and these early rulings have the potential to shape policy around the country.
Featured image credit: Lady Justice by jessica45. CC0 public domain via Pixabay.
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Is advocating suicide a crime under the First Amendment? - OUPblog (blog)
Posted: at 11:37 pm
First Amendment is a fundamental building block of our society
In a letter recently published in your paper, a writer indicates that she wont lose sleep if a Christian must bake a cake or a church is denied participation in a government grant program. I disagree. Both examples are taken from court cases focused on religious liberty and First Amendment freedoms in this country. In addition to affirming the free exercise of religion, the rights outlined in the First Amendment serve as fundamental building blocks of our society and a protection against government censorship and punishment. Combined with other ideals contained in our countrys founding documents, such as the truth that we are all created equal, the rights contained in the First Amendment provide protections for minority groups and demand that we reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred in all forms. In the current state of our country, I cant think of anything more important.
How far do the First Amendment’s protections go when it comes to hate speech? – The San Diego Union-Tribune
Posted: August 20, 2017 at 5:55 pm
As a journalist, I like to think I know a little something about the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Like most students in the United States, I studied the Bill of Rights in grade school and learned the First Amendments protections by rote: freedom of speech, religion, assembly, petition and the press. (That last one is now my bread and butter.)
In later years, I dove a little deeper by reading landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions in college like Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, in which the court found in 1969 that black armbands worn to protest the Vietnam War were protected symbolic speech.
That was the same year the court decided Brandenburg v. Ohio, and determined that government could not punish public speech, including that of KKK leader Clarence Brandenburg at a 1964 Klan rally, unless it is directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to spur such action.
Im no constitutional scholar, but I do know that protections exist even for hateful speech, the kind reported extensively in the aftermath of the white nationalist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., where ensuing violence claimed the life of 32-year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer.
Even though most Americans would agree that the racist rhetoric spewed by Neo-Nazis, the KKK and other hate groups is vile and unsettling, many of us would likely also agree that it, too, must be shielded by the First Amendment to avoid creating an environment ripe for censorship and censure.
There it is, folks, the slippery-slope argument. End of story.
Well, not quite.
Im getting sort of sick and tired of all the absolute-constitutional-rights talk. Theres nothing absolute about constitutional rights, said Justin Brooks, a professor at California Western School of Law in San Diego.
Brooks said as much in a post he shared on Facebook last week, along with a photo of tiki-torch bearing white nationalists gathered on the University of Virginia campus. He added, Hate speech should not be protected speech.
The post attracted many responses and prompted a robust debate among friends and colleagues. It also prompted a call from the Union-Tribune.
Brooks said he disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court, which has long held that there is no general exception for hate speech under the First Amendment, but has identified a few well-defined and narrowly limited exceptions that include obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement and true threats.
(The court) has drawn the line you have to be inciting violence in order for it to be restricted, Brooks said. What bothers me about this discussion is it doesnt recognize how hurtful some of that hate speech is. At a certain point, speech can actually cause harm to individuals.
He said he understands the fear many Americans and the courts feel about the prospect of regulating hate speech, because defining it is subjective. But he argued that it is possible to draw a narrow definition that regulates public displays of hate, based on race, gender, nationality, ethnicity and sexual preference.
There is no doubt that the hate speech promoted by the KKK and Nazis causes harm to the members of our community who are targeted, Brooks said. Therefore, it is appropriate to regulate that speech.
He didnt need social media to know his views on the subject are unpopular, particularly among others in legal community. (See: slippery slope.)
Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union represented Jason Kessler, organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in a lawsuit to keep the far-right groups permit to protest at a downtown park.
In response to criticism, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero wrote a statement explaining the nonprofits decision to represent white supremacist demonstrators in court. In it, he acknowledged that speech alone can have hurtful consequences, but argued that the airing of hateful speech allows people of good will to confront the implications of such speech and reject bigotry, discrimination and hate.
Preventing the government from controlling speech is absolutely necessary to the promotion of equality, he wrote.
Posted: at 5:55 pm
In the marketplace, traditionally understood, when a company produces a poor product or mistreats its customers, it faces market disciplinenew ones come in and steal market share. Thats the theory, at least.
Too bad its not true right now, at least not on the Internet.
Google and Apple, with a combined 98 percent market share in mobile-phone operating systems, have banned Gab, an upstart Twitter competitor with a free-speech policy quaintly modeled on the First Amendment itself, from their app stores. Google cited hate speech as its reason for exclusion; Gab doesnt censor. What few people yet understand is that Google and Apple have used their duopoly status to revoke the First Amendment on mobile phones. Because the Internet is now majority mobile, and a growing majority of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, the First Amendment is now effectively dead in the mobile sphere unless policymakers act to rein in the tech giants who serve as corporate gatekeepers to digital speech.
Twitter ran into controversy last year when it was accused of censoring conservative voices. Gab founders Andrew Torba, an alumnus of Silicon Valleys prestigious Y Combinator accelerator, and Ekrem Bykkaya saw a market opportunity for a competitor focused on free speechnot just for conservatives but for dissidents globally. Last August, they launched Gab, a Twitter-like app where, according to company spokesman Utsav Sanduja, Whatever is permissible under the First Amendment is what Gab allows onto its site.
Gab grew slowly but has now reached over 200,000 usersa substantial number, though tiny compared with Twitter. It generated modest revenue through a freemium model, wherein users could pay to upgrade to a Pro level. Gab pulled off a coup by raising $1 million through crowd-funded investment. The company says that it is planning an Initial Coin Offering with its own digital currency based on the Ethereum standard. In short, Gab is a real company, with legitimate founders, a business strategy, revenue, more than 200,000 users, and seven-figure funding.
Apple and Google dont agree. Gab built an app for Apples iOS operating system, but Apple wouldnt approve it. This means that iPhone and iPad users cant use the Gab app because users cant install applications on those devices unless Apple approves them. Gabs Android app was available through Googles app store until yesterday, when Google banned it, citing violations of its hate-speech policy. In order to be on the Play Store, social networking apps need to demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people, a Google statement read. This is a long-standing rule and clearly stated in our developer policies. While Android users can install unapproved apps, its a cumbersome process, and being kicked out of the app store reduces the apps reach.
No doubt, a number of far-right groups have found a home on Gab. I tried Gab myself when it first came out, finding it functionally an interesting mix of Twitter and Reddit, but with too many far-right users for my taste. So I dropped it. Gab also courted trouble with provocative moves like publicly announcing a job offer for James Damore after Google fired him and taunting Silicon Valley after its crowd-funding success. It also uses a green frog as its logo. Gab claims that this is not the controversial Pepe the Frog, identified with the alt-Right, but rather inspired by the plague of frogs from Exodus. Even if this is true, the logo choice seems like a deliberate provocation.
But its difficult to credit Gab as a white-supremacist site when its cofounder is a Turkish Kurd and Muslim. Bykkaya, who says Ive never supported Trump for a minute in my entire life, is concerned about speech repression in his part of the worldfor good reason, as Turkey is infamous for its violations of free speech and for locking up journalists. Gab spokesman Sanduja is a South Asian Hindu from Canada.
Gab points out that other major social-media platforms have hosted ISIS activity, and child-porn rings, facilitated drug dealing, and carried live streams of murder, torture, and other crimes. Yet all are still allowed by Google. Google itself actually hired Chris moot Poole, founder of the notorious website 4chan, known not just for offensive speech but also for the distribution of hard-core pornography. Police have made multiple child pornography arrests associated with 4chan. There remain multiple 4chan apps in Googles app store.
At a minimum, Apple and Googles decisions about offensive app behavior are arbitrary. This is a problem the market cant easily solvebecause there is effectively no market. Both the Apple and Google app stores are private markets owned by those companies, which act as their effective governments. You cannot easily start a new mobile business without their permission. If your app follows the First Amendment, theres a good chance that youll be rejected. Regardless of how one views Gab or any other application or group, two Silicon Valley companies should not be the governors of the mobile Internetwhich, in due course, may be indistinguishable from the Internet itself.
The mobile-Internet business is built on spectrum licenses granted by the federal government. Given the monopoly power that Apple and Google possess in the mobile sphere as corporate gatekeepers, First Amendment freedoms face serious challenges in the current environment. Perhaps it is time that spectrum licenses to mobile-phone companies be conditioned on their recipients providing freedoms for customers to use the apps of their choice.
Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor ofCity Journal.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
First Amendment in Peril? - City Journal