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The Fight Over Free Speech Online – The New Yorker

Generally speaking, anyone can say anything online. But, lately, things have started to get complicated. Last week, after neo-Nazis and white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, the neo-Nazi blog the Daily Stormer disappeared from the Internet. GoDaddy, the registrar of the sites domain, had discontinued its service. The Daily Stormer switched its domain to Google, which promptly shut it down as well. The site is now back up, on the dark Web, with its publisher pleading victimhood on social media. (I am being unpersoned.) What happened to the Daily Stormer wasnt a violation of the First Amendmentprivate companies are allowed to stifle speechbut it enraged people on the right, many of whom were already deeply skeptical of the puppet masters in Silicon Valley. Before any of this happened, a pro-Trump activist named Jack Posobiec was organizing a multicity March on Google, calling the company an anti-free-speech monopoly. (Last week, Posobiec announced that the march had been postponed, citing threats from the alt-left.)

Jack Conte is not an alt-right activisthes a bald, bearded musician from San Franciscobut he, too, once resented the titans of Silicon Valley. A few years ago, Conte was trying to make a living on YouTube. His music videosfunk covers of pop songs, homemade robots playing percussion padsoften went viral. I made a video that took many, many hours and cost me thousands of dollars, Conte said. My fans loved it. It got more than a million views. And I made a hundred and fifty bucks from it. I realized, Clearly, there is a problem with how stuff on the Internetwhat we now call content, what used to be called artgets monetized. Conte co-founded his own tech company, Patreon, a Web site that allows artists and activists to get paid directly by fans and supporters. A creator posts a description of what she intends to makea comic strip, a podcastand patrons sign up to fund it, each chipping in a few dollars a month. Patreon takes a five-per-cent cut. The company now has about eighty employees and a hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar valuationbig enough that many Web denizens consider Conte a new kind of puppet master.

Last month, Lauren Southern, a right-wing activist and pundit who was earning a few thousand dollars a month on Patreon, received an e-mail from the companys Trust and Safety team. Here at Patreon we believe in freedom of speech, it read. When ideas cross into action, though, we sometimes must take a closer look. Southern, a videogenic Canadian in her early twenties, whose book was blurbed by Ann Coulter, was known for videos like White Privilege Is a Dangerous Myth. Her Patreon page now reads This page has been removed.

Southern had participated in an anti-immigration action in the Mediterranean Sea, in which a motorboat tried to prevent a ship from bringing refugees to Europe. In an apologetic YouTube video, Conte insisted that Southern had been banned not for her politics but for her risky behavior. I didnt expect to convince everyone, and thats O.K., he said.

Predictably, Southerns fans were not pleased. Youre an idiot and a beta cuck, one commented. Some called for lawsuits. Others linked to a copycat site called Hatreon. (Motto: A platform for creators, absent thought policing.) Southern set up her own site, patreonsucks.com. Big liberal silicon valley companies want me to become a friendly little vlogger that spouts all the right lines, she wrote. I wont let that happen. She made a YouTube video directing followers to her new site, adding, As for Patreon, you guys can suck my balls.

Then came Charlottesville. Jason Kessler, the organizer of the Unite the Right rally, had a Patreon page (three backers, generating thirty-three dollars a month). It was swiftly removed for violating Patreons rule against affiliations with known hate groups. Meanwhile, another Patreon user, the progressive activist Logan Smith, began sharing photos of the torch-wielding mob on his Twitter handle @YesYoureRacist. He urged people to help him identify the participants: Ill make them famous. Online vigilantes complied, and several marchers lost their jobs. A few people were incorrectly identified, causing nonparticipants to receive death threats. Doxingpublishing someones private information onlineis against Patreons rules. Smith claims that his activism wasnt doxing. If these people are so proud of their beliefs, then they shouldnt have a problem with their communities knowing their names, he said last week.

Patreon disagreed, and Smiths page was removed. It doesnt matter who the victim is, Conte said. It could be a convicted murderer. If someone is releasing private information that an individual doesnt want to be made public, then thats doxing. And we dont allow it. (One person tweeted at Patreon, He is identifying nazis and you are stopping him at the request of nazis .) Conte went on, Weve been getting it from all sidesof course. I get it. Taking away someones income is a hugely onerous thing, and we dont take it lightly. He sighed. Weve dealt with a huge range of stuff in the past few years, a wider variety than I ever would have imagined. But the fact that were talking about swastika flags right now? It just makes me sad.

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The Fight Over Free Speech Online – The New Yorker

Why Even Nazis Deserve Free Speech – POLITICO Magazine

The events in Charlottesville last weekend have provoked understandable fear and outrage. Potential sites for future alt-right rallies are on edge. Texas A&M University, the University of Florida and Michigan State University have all decided to cancel or deny prospective events by white nationalist Richard Spencer. All cited safety concerns. All raise serious First Amendment issues.

Even though weve been called free speech absolutistssometimes, but not always, as a complimentwe will not pretend that Spencers speaking cancellations make for a slam-dunk First Amendment lawsuit. Yes, hateful, bigoted and racist speech is fundamentally protected under the First Amendment, as it should be. However, if were honest about the law, we have to recognize that Spencer faces toughthough not insurmountablelegal challenges.

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First, he is not a student at any of the aforementioned universities and was not invited to the campuses by students or faculty. He was seeking space on campus that is available to the general public to rent out. In at least some cases, courts have found that public colleges have a somewhat freer hand to regulate the speech of non-students on campus who are not invited by students or faculty.

Second, although a general, unsubstantiated fear of violence is not enough to justify cancelling an approved speaking event, recent violence in Charlottesville and the fact that one of the organizers of the Texas A&M rally used the promotional tagline TODAY CHARLOTTESVILLE TOMORROW TEXAS A&M make security concerns more concrete, at least in the short term. The more concrete the security concerns are, the easier it is to justify the cancellation or denials.

Third, as David Frum, Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern point out, judges might decide cases differently when protesters are liable to show up brandishing guns, as happened in Charlottesville. Bad facts make bad law, so the saying goes. The general legal standard now is that if a public college opens itself up to outside speakers, it cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination. Most cases of prior restraint censorship will fail in court under this standard. But in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy in Charlottesville, judges may look differently at these facts.

And that should trouble us: If a court decides in favor of the prior restraints, it could set a precedent that would do considerable harm to the free speech rights of speakers, students and faculty far beyond Spencer.

But what happens in a court of law is one thing. What happens in the court of public opinion is perhaps more important. As the famous jurist Learned Hand once said, Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.

And, unfortunately, there is evidence that freedom of speech needs a pacemaker.

If your social media newsfeed doesnt provide ample anecdotal evidence that free speech is suffering a public relations crisis, look to the polling: A recent Knight Foundation study found that fewer than 50 percent of high school students think that people should be free to say things that are offensive to others.

The New York Times opinion page, for its part, has run three columns since April questioning the value of free speech for all, the most recent imploring the ACLU to rethink free speechthe same ACLU that at the height of Nazism, Communism and Jim Crow in 1940 released a leaflet entitled, Why we defend civil liberty even for Nazis, Fascists and Communists. The ACLU of Virginia carried on this honorable tradition of viewpoint-neutral free speech defense in the days before the Charlottesville protests. However, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the ACLU will no longer defend hate groups seeking to march with firearms.

And how is the birthplace of the 1960s free speech movement faring? In the wake of the riots that shut down alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos speech at the University of California, Berkeley on February 1, multiple students and alumni wrote that the violence and destruction of the Antifa protests were a form of self-defense against the violence of Yiannopoulos speech. Watching videos of the protest, it is fortunate nobody was killed.

Whats to account for this shift? One of our theories is that this generation of students comprises the children of students who went to college during the first great age of campus speech codes that spanned from the late 1980s through the early 90s. This is when colleges and universities first began writing over-broad and vague policies to regulate allegedly racist and sexist speech. Although that movement failed in the court of law, these codes have stubbornly persisted, and the view that freedom of speech is the last refuge of the three Bsthe bully, the bigot and the robber baronfound a home in classrooms.

When we speak on college campuses, our explanations of the critical role the First Amendment played in ensuring the success of the civil rights movement, the womens rights movement and the gay rights movement are often met with blank stares. At a speech at Brown University, in fact, a student laughed when Greg pointed out that Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was a steadfast defender of freedom of speechas if it were impossible for a black icon of the civil rights movement to be a free-speech champion.

However, we dont fault students for holding these opinions. The idea of free speech is an eternally radical and counterintuitive one that requires constant education about its principles. Censorship has been the rule for most of human history. True freedom of speech is a relatively recent phenomenon. It perhaps reached its high point in the United States in the second half of the 20th century.

Most Americans claim that they venerate free speech in principle. So do most world leaders. Even censorial dictators like Turkeys Recep Tayyip Erdogan sometimes feign support for it. Despite this, its common for people to have their exceptions in practice: their I believe in free speech, but responses. But even the free speech, but responses seem to be falling out of favor. In the last few yearsand especially after Charlottesvillewe have observed increasing squeamishness about free speech, and not just in practice; also in principle.

So how do we respond to the calls for censorship after Charlottesville?

For most of our careers, the charge what if the Nazis came to town? has been posed as a hypothetical retort to free speech defenses. (Godwins law extends to free speech debates, too.) But the hypothetical is no longer a hypothetical: In Charlottesville, neo-Nazis carried swastikas through the streets and revived the Hitler salute.

If you were to listen to scholars like Richard Delgado, the response should be to pass laws, to put people in jail, to do whatever it takes to stop the Nazi contagion from spreading. Its a popular argument in Europe and in legal scholarship, but not in American courts.

There are a few problems with this response that free speech advocates have long recognized. For one, it doesnt necessarily work; since the passage of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism laws in Europe, rates of anti-Semitism remain higher than in the U.S., where no such laws exist. In fact, the Anti-Defamation League found that rates of anti-Semitism have gone down in America since it first began measuring anti-Semitic attitudes in 1964.

Whats more, in the 1920s and 30s, Nazis did go to jail for anti-Semitic expression, and when they were released, they were celebrated as martyrs. When Bavarian authorities banned speeches by Hitler in 1925, for example, the Nazis exploited it. As former ACLU Executive Director Aryeh Neier explains in his book Defending My Enemy, the Nazi party protested the ban by distributing a picture of Hitler gagged with the caption, One alone of 2,000 million people of the world is forbidden to speak in Germany. The ban backfired and became a publicity coup. It was soon lifted.

We cannot forget, too, that laws have to be enforced by people. In the 1920s and early 30s, such laws would have placed the power to censor in the hands of a population that voted in large numbers for Nazis. And after 1933, such laws would have placed that power to censor in the hands of Hitler himself. Consider how such power might be used by the politician you most distrust. Consider how it is currently being used by Vladimir Putin in Russia.

What does history suggest as the best course of action to win the benefits of an open society while stemming the tide of authoritarians of any stripe? It tells us to have a high tolerance for differing opinions, and no tolerance for political violence. What distinguishes liberal societies from illiberal ones is that liberal societies use words, not violence or censorship to settle disputes. As Neier, a Holocaust survivor, concluded in his book, The lesson of Germany in the 1920s is that a free society cannot be established and maintained if it will not act vigorously and forcefully to punish political violence.

But we should not be so myopic about the value of freedom of speech. It is not just a practical, peaceful alternative to violence. It does much more than that: It helps us understand many crucial, mundane and sometimes troubling truths. Simply put, it helps us understand what people actually thinknot even if it is troubling, but especially when it is troubling.

As Edward Luce points out in his excellent new short book The Retreat of Western Liberalism, there are real consequences to ignoring or wishing away the views that are held by real people, even if elites believe that those views are nasty or wrongheaded. Gay marriage champion and author Jonathan Rauch reminds us that in the same way that breaking a thermometer doesnt change the temperature, censoring ideas doesnt make them go awayit only makes us ignorant of their existence.

So what do we do about white supremacists? Draw a strong distinction between expression and violence: punish violence, but protect even speakers we find odious. Let them reveal themselves.

As Harvey Silverglate, a co-founder of our organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, says, its important to know who the Nazis are in the room.

Why?

Because we need to know not to turn our backs to them.

Greg Lukianoff, an attorney, is president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Nico Perrino is director of communications for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and host of So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast.

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Why Even Nazis Deserve Free Speech – POLITICO Magazine

So, just how guaranteed is your freedom of speech online? | New … – New York Post

Following the violence in Charlottesville, Internet businesses have been disassociating themselves from far-right political groups. PayPal decided to prohibit users from accepting donations to promote hate, violence and intolerance; 34 organizations were affected by the ban. Earlier, both GoDaddy and Google refused to host The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site. Spotify announced that it would remove any streaming music that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like. Dating site OkCupid deleted the profile of a white supremacist who was featured in a Vice TV segment about the Charlottesville, Va., rally, barring him for life.

Most Americans wont worry much about neo-Nazis losing access to the public forum we call the Internet. Their ideas are repugnant, and we did fight a war against their kind not that long ago. End of story?

Not really. Experts, such as Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, say that for technical reasons a small number of tech companies may soon largely determine what can and cannot be online. Some argue that Silicon Valley is abusing its monopoly power over the Internet to suppress free speech. These critics would have Congress regulate the companies as a natural monopoly in order to restore basic rights.

Is there truly such a monopoly over the Internet? After reading that Facebook employees were suppressing conservative articles, Andrew Torba created Gab, a social-networking service open to voices from the right. Gab isnt as popular as Facebook, but its existence does show that the dominant companies do not have a stranglehold on speech.

In any case, these decisions to deny service do not violate the freedom of speech. The First Amendment applies only to government actions. The man posting at @realdonaldtrump, arguably acting as a private citizen exempt from the First Amendment, may block comments critical of his posts. If the same man posts at @WhiteHouse, he is a government official and may not abridge the freedom of speech by blocking critics. PayPal and Google are private corporations, not the government. Moreover, in our nation businesses usually have no obligation to serve others if they do not wish to do so. That too is part of the free market.

Still, Americans in general and conservatives in particular have reason to suspect the tech companies might not be neutral toward content on the Internet. The James Damore case in which a Google engineer circulated a memo suggesting the tech giant hired and promoted based on gender and race indicates the leaders and employees of Google have strong leftwing political views. Indeed, Silicon Valley is known to lean to the left. Its not implausible to imagine that censorship of certain views might ensue.

What then can be done to protect free speech without the courts?

If [internet companies] use their power to exclude in an arbitrary and political way, the nation will be worse off and the companies may suffer and not just at the bottom line.

Markets will do part of the job. These companies are unlikely to deny service to mainstream political voices. After all, a person evicted from a service is no longer a paying customer, and their eviction might convince others to depart. Driving diversity critics out of Google would forego considerable revenue. Many people, not just extremists, have reasonable doubts about aspects of diversity policies.

Fear of the government will also constrain Internet censorship. Critics want to make Internet companies into public utilities because alt-right extremists have been denied service. Imagine what would happen if more legitimate voices were evicted from Google and the federal government responded by forcing the companies to behave better.

No one should want that. Law professor Danielle Citron has suggested several ways Internet companies can protect speech online.

First, affirm a commitment to American norms about free speech. The Internet giants operate globally, subjecting them to European regulations that offer less protection for free speech than does the United States. Europeans punish speech offensive to groups or religions (so-called hate speech) that we protect. American law draws the liberty line for speech at incitement to violence.

The companies mentioned promoting hate and violence as justification for evicting the alt-right. They seem to be following European norms. So far as the companies have discretion, they should affirm their support for the more liberal American norms. They should clearly define speech that will lead to being banned from a platform. That definition should focus on a close connection between problematic speech and violence and not on ambiguous terms like hate speech.

Second, companies should enact private due process for their regulation of speech. Clear definitions of the rules are essential in avoiding arbitrary and personal decisions about banning speech. The process of applying such rules should also be public. That could mean a formal public statement by the company of the rationale for banning some users of their social networks. It might also mean being public about how a company goes about identifying and prohibiting problematic speech. Such transparency about rules and methods will be open to public comment and inevitably criticism. It may also build trust among critics who fear arbitrary and politicized attacks on political speech.

Third, Internet companies should appoint an ombudsman to inform and report on their regulation of speech. They would act as a voice for free speech inside a company, a voice that should be dedicated to American norms on speech.

Internet companies are not the government. They can exclude speech from their domains without violating the First Amendment. But if they use their power to exclude in an arbitrary and political way, the nation will be worse off and the companies may suffer and not just at the bottom line.

John Samples is vice president and publisher at the Cato Institute.

Originally posted here:

So, just how guaranteed is your freedom of speech online? | New … – New York Post

The Fight Over Free Speech Online – The New Yorker

Generally speaking, anyone can say anything online. But, lately, things have started to get complicated. Last week, after neo-Nazis and white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, the neo-Nazi blog the Daily Stormer disappeared from the Internet. GoDaddy, the registrar of the sites domain, had discontinued its service. The Daily Stormer switched its domain to Google, which promptly shut it down as well. The site is now back up, on the dark Web, with its publisher pleading victimhood on social media. (I am being unpersoned.) What happened to the Daily Stormer wasnt a violation of the First Amendmentprivate companies are allowed to stifle speechbut it enraged people on the right, many of whom were already deeply skeptical of the puppet masters in Silicon Valley. Before any of this happened, a pro-Trump activist named Jack Posobiec was organizing a multicity March on Google, calling the company an anti-free-speech monopoly. (Last week, Posobiec announced that the march had been postponed, citing threats from the alt-left.)

Jack Conte is not an alt-right activisthes a bald, bearded musician from San Franciscobut he, too, once resented the titans of Silicon Valley. A few years ago, Conte was trying to make a living on YouTube. His music videosfunk covers of pop songs, homemade robots playing percussion padsoften went viral. I made a video that took many, many hours and cost me thousands of dollars, Conte said. My fans loved it. It got more than a million views. And I made a hundred and fifty bucks from it. I realized, Clearly, there is a problem with how stuff on the Internetwhat we now call content, what used to be called artgets monetized. Conte co-founded his own tech company, Patreon, a Web site that allows artists and activists to get paid directly by fans and supporters. A creator posts a description of what she intends to makea comic strip, a podcastand patrons sign up to fund it, each chipping in a few dollars a month. Patreon takes a five-per-cent cut. The company now has about eighty employees and a hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar valuationbig enough that many Web denizens consider Conte a new kind of puppet master.

Last month, Lauren Southern, a right-wing activist and pundit who was earning a few thousand dollars a month on Patreon, received an e-mail from the companys Trust and Safety team. Here at Patreon we believe in freedom of speech, it read. When ideas cross into action, though, we sometimes must take a closer look. Southern, a videogenic Canadian in her early twenties, whose book was blurbed by Ann Coulter, was known for videos like White Privilege Is a Dangerous Myth. Her Patreon page now reads This page has been removed.

Southern had participated in an anti-immigration action in the Mediterranean Sea, in which a motorboat tried to prevent a ship from bringing refugees to Europe. In an apologetic YouTube video, Conte insisted that Southern had been banned not for her politics but for her risky behavior. I didnt expect to convince everyone, and thats O.K., he said.

Predictably, Southerns fans were not pleased. Youre an idiot and a beta cuck, one commented. Some called for lawsuits. Others linked to a copycat site called Hatreon. (Motto: A platform for creators, absent thought policing.) Southern set up her own site, patreonsucks.com. Big liberal silicon valley companies want me to become a friendly little vlogger that spouts all the right lines, she wrote. I wont let that happen. She made a YouTube video directing followers to her new site, adding, As for Patreon, you guys can suck my balls.

Then came Charlottesville. Jason Kessler, the organizer of the Unite the Right rally, had a Patreon page (three backers, generating thirty-three dollars a month). It was swiftly removed for violating Patreons rule against affiliations with known hate groups. Meanwhile, another Patreon user, the progressive activist Logan Smith, began sharing photos of the torch-wielding mob on his Twitter handle @YesYoureRacist. He urged people to help him identify the participants: Ill make them famous. Online vigilantes complied, and several marchers lost their jobs. A few people were incorrectly identified, causing nonparticipants to receive death threats. Doxingpublishing someones private information onlineis against Patreons rules. Smith claims that his activism wasnt doxing. If these people are so proud of their beliefs, then they shouldnt have a problem with their communities knowing their names, he said last week.

Patreon disagreed, and Smiths page was removed. It doesnt matter who the victim is, Conte said. It could be a convicted murderer. If someone is releasing private information that an individual doesnt want to be made public, then thats doxing. And we dont allow it. (One person tweeted at Patreon, He is identifying nazis and you are stopping him at the request of nazis .) Conte went on, Weve been getting it from all sidesof course. I get it. Taking away someones income is a hugely onerous thing, and we dont take it lightly. He sighed. Weve dealt with a huge range of stuff in the past few years, a wider variety than I ever would have imagined. But the fact that were talking about swastika flags right now? It just makes me sad.

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The Fight Over Free Speech Online – The New Yorker

What Does Free Speech Mean? | United States Courts

Main content

Among other cherished values, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech. The following are examples of speech, both direct (words) and symbolic (actions), that the Court has decided are either entitled to First Amendment protections, or not.

The First Amendment states, in relevant part, that:

Congress shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech.

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What Does Free Speech Mean? | United States Courts

Hate speech v free speech: Where is the line? Part 1 – Aljazeera.com

On Tuesday, August 22 at 19:30 GMT:

Are there limits to free speech? Recent events across the United States, including afar-right march at which one anti-racism campaigner was killed and more than a dozen people injuredin Charlottesville, Virginia, have left many asking that question. Free speech is said to be one of the foundations of American democracy, and one of its most venerated values. The First Amendment of the Constitution reads:Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.Its because of this law that Nazi signs and symbols were displayed freely in Charlottesville as the far-right groups marched through a university campus, shouting racial slurs. But does this purist defence of free speech actually legitimise racist views and allow hate groups to grow and spread their ideology?Many say it does, and that hate speech should not be protected under free speech laws.Some countries in Europe have taken this position, online and on the streets. Well look at the growing debate over hate and free speech in the United States. Should a line between the two be drawn, and if it is, will the court of public opinion value everyone’s freedom equally? Join the conversation.

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The A.C.L.U. needs to rethink free speech- The New York Times Why even Nazis deserve free speech Politico What Europe can teach America about free speech The Atlantic

What do you think? Record a video comment or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Hate speech v free speech: Where is the line? Part 1 – Aljazeera.com

Will Britain’s crackdown on internet trolls undermine freedom of speech? – RT

Published time: 21 Aug, 2017 12:35 Edited time: 21 Aug, 2017 13:13

New measures designed to crack down on hate crime could have a chilling effect on freedom of speech, warn civil liberties campaigners.

Fresh guidelines issued on Monday by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would see online abuse treated with the same robust and proactive approach used to address offline offending.

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However, in this attempt to protect users from abuse, the CPS risks undermining the fundamental right to freedom of expression, according to Open Rights Group Legal Director Myles Jackman.

Some offenses employ highly subjective terms like grossly offensive and obscene which could have a severe chilling effect on the more unpalatable but legitimate areas of free speech, if interpreted strictly, Jackman said.

The new measures, aimed at protecting people from online trolling, come as part of a bid to crack down on the corrosive effect of hate crime on British society.

Regional police forces reported a rise in hate crimes of up to 100 percent in the months following the EU referendum last year.

According to figures released by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the rate increased fivefold in the capital following four terrorist attacks in the UK that killed more than 30 killed and injured many more.

The updated CPS documents state: Hate crime can be perpetrated online or offline, or there can be a pattern of behavior that includes both.

The internet and social media in particular have provided new platforms for offending behavior.

CPS Director Alison Saunders said tackling hate crime has become a priority for prosecutors because of the major impact it has on peoples lives.

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These documents take account of the current breadth and context of offending to provide prosecutors with the best possible chance of achieving justice for victims, Saunders said.

They also let victims and witnesses know what they should expect from us.

She hopes the new guidelines will encourage people to report hate crimes, with the knowledge theyll be taken seriously and given the support they need.

Britains Jewish and Muslim communities say a lot of offenses involve the internet.

Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of campaign group Tell MAMA, which monitors Islamophobic abuse, praised the new focus on social media.

Those who think that street-based hate crimes should have precedent over online ones, should realize there is no competition in getting access to justice, he said, according to the Independent.

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Will Britain’s crackdown on internet trolls undermine freedom of speech? – RT

A KKK chief just threatened to ‘burn’ all immigrants freedom of speech has gone too far – The Independent

To me, youre a N**ger. Thats it… and were gonna burn you out. These were the words of Ku Klux Klan member Christopher Barker to Afro-Colombian journalist Ilia Caldern. He threatened to burn her alive and called her a mongrel during an interview with the Latino TV media outlet Univision, which was aired last night.

What is most shocking about this incident is that Barker has not been arrested or punished for such words and threats. Like many who have incited hate before him, he is enjoying the benefits of the right to freedom of speech.

Barkers threat was not simply an opinion though it was a direct threat to a persons life. This is what freedom of speech looks like as the US Supreme Court keeps protecting racists and bigots like Barker. The first amendment of the US Constitution is allowing men like Barker to express themselves with violence and hatred without any repercussions. It is time for lawmakers to act and modify some of the laws that are protecting the wrong side of the country.

KKK leader calls immigrant journalist a n***er during interview

There are 917 hate groups active in the United States according to the Southern poverty law centre, an organisation seeking justice for victims of hate and bigoted acts. These groups are spreading their messages of hate using online platforms, holding rallies, burning swastikas in their backyards and holding the Confederacy flag on the streets. This is real.

Although these groups have been in the news this week, their presence is nothing new. Back in November last year after Trump won the election, Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, said to a room full of supporters Hail Trump, hail our people! They responded with cheers and the Nazi salute.

Richard Spencer was also one of the organisers of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalists and neo-Nazis chanted Jews will not replace us. Blood and soil.

Under US law, it is completely acceptable for people to use this kind of language and hold demonstrations that put others in fear and danger.

The US government claims to protect peoples freedom, but by allowing hate speech and white nationalist rallies, they are promoting one groups freedom of speech at the expense of many other groups freedom to live in safety. A freedom which, although a right under UN law, is not found anywhere in the US constitution.

In fact, the reason these hate demonstrations keep happening is because of the Constitution. Part of the first amendment states that Congress shall make no law… abridging freedom of speech. What this means is that there should not be any kind of force curtailing the ability of men and women to express themselves, verbally or symbolically, even if what they are saying is hateful.

There are a few exceptions in which the first amendment does not protect some forms of speech. This includes exceptions for fighting words, obscenity, extortion, perjury, false advertising and true threat, but there is nothing targeting hate speech specifically.

But does saying to someone Were gonna burn (your people) out not count as a true threat?

The problem with Constitutional limitations is the lack of clarity among these forms of expression. The US Supreme Court has had trouble identifying what kind of hate speech could be considered as fighting words and therefore be punishable under law.

Back in 2010, the US Supreme Court concluded that it was completely lawful for activist Fred Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church to throw homophobic insults to the family of marine Matthew Snyder during his funeral. Snyder died during the Iraq war.

The United States Courts explained that The Supreme Court’s holding [Phelps] turned largely on its determination that the church was speaking on “matters of public concern” as opposed to “matters of purely private significance. The First Amendment offers special protection to speeches on public issues as they should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”

This is why politicians need to change some of the language and be more specific in order to condemn hate speech in this country. It is not enough for elected officials to condemn the actions of these extremist groups. It is necessary and crucial to change the law and bring justice through our courts as well.

Countries like France and Austria hold laws that punish hate speech and public insults that are based on race, religion and ethnicity.

Meanwhile, groups like the KKK, the so called Alt-right, white supremacists and neo-Nazis will continue to do whatever it takes to protect their right to freedom of speech enabling them to spread hate across the country.

In his farewell address, Barack Obama once pointed to the importance of making laws that protect the commonwealth of every person in this country: We need to uphold laws against discrimination in the criminal justice system. That is what our constitution and our highest ideals require.

And that is exactly what President Trump should be advocating for. Instead of blaming many sides for the violence infecting this country, Trump needs to condemn these white supremacist groups and work with lawmakers to update the laws of this country. There needs to be laws that do not welcome this kind of hate and violence, or many people will continue to live in fear.

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A KKK chief just threatened to ‘burn’ all immigrants freedom of speech has gone too far – The Independent

Is hate speech protected by American law? Quartz – Quartz

The denial of first amendment rightsled to the political violence that we saw yesterday. That was how Jason Kessler, who organized last weekends far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, explained the actions of an extremist who rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one of them. Like many on the far right, Kessler was claiming that displays of hate needed to be protected as free speechor else.

The US constitutions first amendment protects free speech much more strongly than in most democraciesa German-style law against holocaust denial would never stand in the US, for exampleand Americans support the right to say offensive things more strongly than other nations, a Pew survey found last year. But for a long time, free speech was a core concern of the left in America, not the right.

When the National Review [a leading conservative magazine] was first published in the 1950s, the vast majority of articles addressing free speech and the first amendment were critical of free expression and its proponents, says Wayne Batchis, a professor at the University of Delaware and author of The Rights First Amendment: The Politics of Free Speech & the Return of Conservative Libertarianism. Today, review of its contents reveals the precise opposite.

What prompted the shift, Batchis says, was the rise of a concept that quickly became a favorite target of the right: political correctness. As Moira Weigel wrote in The Guardian last year, the concept rose to fame in the late 1980s. After existing in leftist circles as a humorous label for excessive liberal orthodoxy, it was co-opted by the right and framed as a form of limitation of free speech.

In 1990, New York Times reporter Richard Bernstein (paywall) used political correctness to refer to what he perceived as a growing intolerance on university campuses for views that diverged from mainstream liberalism. In a span of only a few months, stories about political correctness (some even deeming it a form of fascism) became commonplace in columns and on magazine covers. Before the 1990s, Weigel reports, the term was hardly ever used in the media; in 1992, it was used 6,000 times.

The idea became a centerpiece of right-wing theory, eventually leading to the popularity of the Tea Party and the election of a president, Donald Trump, who made the shunning of political correctness a political trademark.

But fighting political correctness wasnt the only thing that encouraged conservatives to embrace free speech. Money was also an incentive. Over the past decade the party has increasingly opposed any form of campaign-finance regulation, arguing that political donations are a form of free speech. Its reward came in the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United, which allowed companies and trade unions to give unlimited donations to political causes. Liberals commonly oppose this view on the grounds, Batchis says, that spending money should not be treated as a form of speech.

In the event, both Republicans and Democrats have benefited from that ruling. Indeed, in last years election, Hillary Clinton raised $218 million from super PACS, the fundraising organizations that sprang up in the wake of Citizens Unitednearly three times as much as Donald Trump. During the primaries, though, the candidates for the Republican nomination collectively raised close to $400 million (paywall) from super PACs.

Conservatives have supported freedom of speech more consistently than liberals, even when its speech that goes against their views, according to Batchis. My research does suggest that even on hot-button issues like patriotism and traditional morality, many on the right have moved in a more speech-protective direction, he says. By contrast, progressives have been more likely to advocate constraints, particularly on speech that was seen as harmful to racial minorities and women, he says.

Still, there are exceptions to this rule on both sides. Many liberals still hold to the ACLU-style civil libertarian tradition even in the face of hate speech, says Batchis, while moralistic conservatives have advocated limitations on free speech such a ban on flag burning.

In the wake of Charlottesville, the California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union declared that the First Amendment does not protect people who incite or engage in violence. If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in protected free speech. And indeed, direct threats arent protected (pdf, pp. 3-4) by the first amendment. But to count as a threat, speech has to incite imminent lawless action, in the words of a 1969 Supreme Court ruling; merely advocating violence is allowed. That is why neo-Nazis are allowed to march, and to cast themselves as free-speech champions.

Read more:

Is hate speech protected by American law? Quartz – Quartz

Hate on the Web: Does banning neo-Nazi websites raise free-speech issues for the rest of us? – Los Angeles Times

Many Internet users cheered when the Daily Stormer, a website openly devoted to white supremacy and neo-Nazism, was sent packing by its Web domain host, GoDaddy, following last weekends racist violence in Charlottesville, Va.

GoDaddys action, which turned the Daily Stormer into a site without a host, seemed like a beacon of effective response to an era of rising hate speech online years of vicious attacks that had driven many women, blacks, LGBTQ individuals and others off such popular platforms as Twitter and Facebook, and seemed only to have intensified with the rise of Donald Trump.

But a counter-narrative already has emerged: Is this response really a good thing?

Dailystormer.coms forced march in search of an Internet home began Sunday, when GoDaddy gave the site 24 hours to find another domain host service. GoDaddy provided the link between its Internet protocol address, which is a series of numbers, and its URL, which is what users typed into their browsers to reach it.

The Daily Stormer fetched up the next day at Googles hosting service, which promptly sent it packing. Later the site appeared to be using a Russian hosting service, but by late in the week it seemed to be inaccessible anywhere on the Web.

Meanwhile, other online services said they would look askance at any potential clients associated white supremacist or neo-Nazi activities. After Charlottesville, PayPal issued a statement emphasizing that its Acceptable Use Policy bars accepting payments or donations for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance, including organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups. As my colleague Tracey Lien reported, Apple shut off Apple Pay services to several websites selling Nazi or white supremacist products.

Cloudflare, which speeds up and protects websites from hackers, terminated the Daily Stormers account after initially resisting calls to do so. As its co-founder and Chief Executive Matthew Prince explained in a blog post, Cloudflare took that action not because of the content per se, but because he was irritated that the Daily Stormer was bragging that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.

These actions turn an uncomfortable spotlight on the power that Internet gatekeepers have to deny services to websites they dislike.

Theres no question that GoDaddy, Google, and the other services have the legal right to refuse to do business with anyone they wish. Their actions dont implicate the 1st Amendments guarantee of freedom of speech, since the amendment applies only to government agencies.

This part of the Charlottesville story makes people think about who controls speech on the Internet, says Daphne Keller of Stanford Law Schools Center for Internet and Society. We dont have 1st Amendment rights to stop private companies from shutting down our speech, and most of the Internet is run by private companies. Most of us want some intermediaries to play that role when we go on Twitter, we dont want to be barraged with obscenities and on Facebook we dont want to see racism. But its kind of scary that all these other companies can also be shutting down speech willy-nilly, and thats certainly their right under the law.

By almost any standard, the Daily Stormer is an easy target for total eradication from the Web. Brimming with unapologetically bigoted and anti-Semitic content, the site is named after Der Sturmer, a Nazi propaganda newspaper that promoted violence against Jews during the Third Reich. Its proprietor, Julius Streicher, was convicted of crimes against humanity at Nuremberg and hanged. Wherever one chooses to draw the line separating appropriate discourse from hate speech, the Daily Stormer lies outside the boundaries of civilization. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading hate-group tracker, has endowed it with the label of the top hate site in America.

Nor is it hard to argue that the website crosses the line from mere speech to incitement. Thats the rationale cited by GoDaddy, which says it generally does not take action on complaints that would constitute censorship of content, except where a site crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in violence against any person. Dailystormer.com, the firm says, crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence.

Other Internet services came to the same conclusion. Charlottesville is a flashpoint, says Brittan Heller, the Anti-Defamation Leagues director of technology and society and its liaison to Silicon Valley. The reason that companies feel they can take action now, where they were uncertain earlier, is that with this event the connection between hate speech and real-world violence is quite obvious.

Companies may have been reluctant to play Internet police in the past in part because vetting every website or utterance online could be a superhuman task. Distinguishing hate speech from political commentary can be daunting, Heller says, because much of it consists of dog whistles audible to a sites followers but not outsiders. She mentions memes such as Pepe the Frog, an originally innocent cartoon character that was adopted by neo-Nazi groups despite the objections of its creator, and the triple parentheses that white supremacists and Neo-Nazis placed around the Twitter handles of users to identify them as ostensibly Jewish. That symbol eventually got co-opted as a symbol of solidarity among Jewish and progressive Twitter users.

As hate speech has proliferated on the Internet, especially over the last year, companies have been seeking out more tools to fight it. We have now crossed the Rubicon, Heller told me. They feel they must do something because their users and the public are demanding it.

But what if Internet gatekeepers begin to shun any potentially controversial speech to avoid disturbing some users or groups? The standard 1st Amendment mantra is that we dont need to worry about popular content, says Eric Goldman, a cyberlaw expert at Santa Clara University law school. Its the unpopular content we need to fight for. Almost anything in public discourse will be controversial to somebody: If we decide we can suppress content because of its unpopularity, then no content is safe, he says.

Some experts argue that the risk that any but the most noxious sources will entirely lose access to the Internet is vanishingly small, thanks to the sheer multiplicity of service providers. What makes this not terribly troubling, says Eugene Volokh of UCLA law school and a prominent blogger on 1st Amendment issues, is that there are a lot of domain registrars and hosting services out there, and its pretty easy to switch.

Thats a virtue, but it may eventually prove cold comfort. Consolidation among Internet services is proceeding apace, with little interference from regulators. Todays multiplicity may morph into a small number of dominant providers and a few inefficient little ones.

In his post defending his shutdown of the Daily Stormer, Cloudflares Prince listed 14 categories of Internet service providers that could be choke points limiting someones access to the Internet or closing it off entirely, for reasons of their own. They include publishing platforms such as Facebook and WordPress, infrastructure providers such as Amazon Web Services, domain registrars such as GoDaddy, and search engines such as Google.

Any of the above could regulate content online, Prince observed. The question is: which of them should?

No one has come up with a surefire way to distinguish all hate speech from more innocuous expression online and act against it without being too heavy. In 2014, Hellers department at the ADL worked with the tech community to develop a roster of best practices for responding to cyberhate on their platforms. They included terms of service with clear definitions of hateful content, user-friendly mechanisms and procedures for reporting it, and consistent enforcement and sanctions.

But she acknowledges that many have fallen short in execution. You need both strong and transparent terms of service and effective and transparent mechanisms for enforcement, she says. Sometimes theres a gap between having the ambition for a responsible response and having the bandwidth to enforce it. Up to now, moreover, companies have relied on their users to report hate online rather than proactively looking for it.

The response by GoDaddy, Google, Cloudflare and other companies suggests that Charlottesville may have changed that, at least in the near term and for gross violations. When people are using their platforms to plan violence, incite violence, and celebrate violence, thats different, Heller says. Thats the Rubicon.

Keep up to date with Michael Hiltzik. Follow @hiltzikm on Twitter, see his Facebook page, or email michael.hiltzik@latimes.com.

Return to Michael Hiltzik’s blog.

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Hate on the Web: Does banning neo-Nazi websites raise free-speech issues for the rest of us? – Los Angeles Times

Letters: A clarion call for free speech – Press-Enterprise

In Dont weaken presss check on government [Opinion, Aug. 9], the Press-Enterprise sounds a clarion call for all who support freedom of the press as a constitutional check on government to push back against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threat to make it easier to subpoena reporters.

Freedom of the press can trace its roots to the 1735 trial of newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger. Zengers New-York Weekly Journal published articles critical of New York Colonys Royal Gov. William S. Cosby, accusing him of tyranny, abusing peoples rights and removing a judge who ruled against him in a lawsuit. Under British law, criticism of the government even if true was illegal. Despite the fact that Zengers statements were true, he was arrested for seditious libel.

At trial, Zengers attorney, Andrew Hamilton, attacked the British law arguing that people had the right to speak the truth. The jury agreed and Zenger was found innocent. Zengers case provided the foundation for our right to freedom of speech and its expression in many forms.

The freedom to criticize the government has a glorious tradition in this nation.

And it compels each citizen to stand vigilant in defense of our constitutional right to exercise that freedom. Those calling for government censorship of the media, those who threaten reporters/journalists with subpoenas and possible arrest, and those who would withhold the truth about government activities from the people are reminiscent of behaviors found in totalitarian regimes rather than democratic republics.

When asked to share his view on the importance of freedom of the press, Zenger remarked, No nation ancient or modern ever lost the liberty of freely speaking, writing, or publishing their sentiments but forthwith lost their liberty in general and became slaves.

Robert Eilek, Temecula

High tolls will create congestion

Re: As Inland toll lanes boom, why are new freeway lanes rarely free? [News, Aug. 15]: Martin Wachs on the toll lanes: It can always reduce congestion because you can raise the price higher and higher until some people choose not to use it.

In other words, you can increase congestion in the free lanes until the price people are willing to pay for the toll lanes impacts your income stream.

Greg Bice, Corona

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Letters: A clarion call for free speech – Press-Enterprise

‘Swedish police should prioritize crimes against freedom of speech’ – The Local Sweden

Sweden’s Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The Local speaks to Sweden’s Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke about the government’s plan to crack down on threats and hate against politicians, journalists and artists.

This interview is part of our Sweden in Focus article series. Read the main feature here:

The government has presented ‘Defence of the Free Word’, an action plan to combat threats and hate against journalists, elected representatives and artists. Could you explain the background?

Threats against journalists, elected representatives and artists have been highlighted in a series of studies, and also through reports from victims. Apart from the fact that the government has commissioned and financed surveys to ensure that the measures we invest in contribute to positive change, we have also learned from studies and intense roundtable discussions with everyone from editors-in-chief and journalists to artists and organizers because another thing that has been noted is that when a museum for example invites an artist to put together an exhibition they have received more and more threats in recent years linked both to the artist but also to the theme. There have been concerning signs and discussions about museums and organizers risking self-censorship because of security costs.

We have been talking about this and I have also travelled around the country to meet many of the various groups being targeted. That’s the background why we adopted this action plan against hate and threats.

Recommended interview:

Swedish artist Lars Vilks has been threatened on multiple occasions. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Many others have reported being threatened in their line of work in the past 12 months:one in five librarians, four out of ten police officers, and so on. Why does the action plan focus on these professions in particular?

Journalists, artists and elected representatives work on the basis of those freedoms and opportunities that free speech offers. So when they are threatened, free speech is also threatened. That’s the simple explanation, because there are other groups in society who are also exposed to a lot of threats, everything from social workers to environmental health inspectors in restaurants and so on, but this is for professionals working with free speech.

What does it mean for society if these voices are silenced?

It is extremely serious. The consequences of a journalist either being completely silenced or choosing not to investigate a tip because of threats directed at the journalist or their family is terrible, because that means that something risks not being investigated, that we as citizens lose the chance to gain knowledge and form an opinion. And parallel to this there is a development that more and more choose to form their perceptions of reality based on information that is not journalism, that is, does not follow those principles and guidelines that journalism does. Unfortunately it is also the case that many people believe that what you read on for example Facebook is journalism, and that is not always the case. It may very well be, it could be linked to journalistic articles where there is a publisher responsible for the articles, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

Many of those we’ve spoken to say that threats are not the only problem, but also hateful comments in e-mails and elsewhere online that may not necessarily be illegal in the eyes of the law. How do you tackle this?

That is also a big problem, and the action plan we’ve now got in place is by no means a cure-all. It is part of systematic work by the government, but in society as a whole we need very many different actors using our respective platforms to create a better climate for conversations, because just as you say, the tone of conversations and that hostile tone that is all too often used on social media is not always criminal as such, but can still contribute to people choosing not to participate.

That is also something we’re highlighting in the action plan, where some of the measures are targeted at support for, say, a blogger that’s also a group that’s extremely exposed to hate and threats or people in general who express opinions or thoughts and the more threats and the more hostilities they face, the narrower and smaller the space for public conversation becomes. And we all lose out when the climate is not inviting and generous even when we do not at all agree with people’s opinions it still benefits all of us in the end when they are given the space to express those opinions.

Recommended reading:

Alice Bah Kuhnke, right, taking part in a march for diversity in Visby, July 2017. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Surely people must be allowed to express negative opinions too, so where do you draw the line between limiting hate speech and protecting free speech?

Democracy is not a simple matter. Fortunately, we live in a state where the rule of law applies, and the line is drawn when the rule of law is threatened and when the justice system decides what is legal and what is not legal. But until you reach that external line our freedoms come with a great deal of responsibility.

Unfortunately those forces that do not want or do not protect our freedoms also use our freedoms. They take advantage of the fundamental rights we have for generating discussions and affecting the development of society, and they are advanced in how they use those freedoms to silence and limit other people’s freedoms. That’s incredibly saddening and provocative, and at the same time I remain convinced,convinced, that I want to fight to preserve and consolidate our freedoms and that that is also the best tool to fight those who want to limit them.

Politicians and journalists are not always innocent, and there have been cases in Sweden and elsewhere where individuals from both professions have been criticized for spreading hate, or indirectly spreading hate by posting something online that is then backed by trolls who stir things up even more. Do we also need to think more about how we express ourselves?

Yes. I as a politician very much have to raise my own awareness and pay attention to what tone I use in discussions with other politicians and other politicians’ opinions and political proposals. We should not throw stones in glass houses, and that is kind of what I was hinting at when I said that we need to be many different actors doing a lot to create a better environment for conversation and opinion formation, but also to build a better society because that is based on us having information that we can then break down and wrestle with.

Some of those targeted claim that the justice system is not doing enough. Why was this action plan put forward by yourself and the culture ministry rather than the interior ministry, which is responsible for the police and the justice system?

This is put forward by the government, and the police are part of the action plan, because as you say this is something that has been highlighted. All various actors describe the frustration of not feeling and not knowing that those reports to the police (are taken seriously). It should be said they are few, there is likely a large number of incidents that go unrecorded because many of the victims have normalized the hate and the threats, but they have clearly explained how it quite simply has not felt meaningful to go to the police.

So that’s why the Swedish police should now prioritize crimes against opinion-formation and freedom of speech and with the action plan we will now ask the police to report back how they’re working, how they’re prioritizing and show the government that they are doing this. And not least we are emphasizing the importance that local police forces prioritize relationship-building but also security work for local newspaper offices.

There has been talk in many parts of the world about threats against journalists from leaders themselves. Even in the US, President Donald Trump was accused of advocating violence against journalists when tweeting an edited video where he was beating a person whose head had been replaced with CNN’s logo. How did you react to that?

It is extremely distressing that we politicians who are trusted with governing our states spread or grow mistrust of journalists and journalism which is the fourth estate and whose main task is to investigate us. It makes me appalled and deeply saddened, but also inspires me to continue the work we’re doing in Sweden. The day we do not have investigative journalism, the day we do not have journalists investigating people like myself, then then well, that’s the downfall of our society.

This article is part of ourSweden in Focusseries, an in-depth look at what makes this country tick. Read more from the serieshere.

Edited for length and clarity.

Here is the original post:

‘Swedish police should prioritize crimes against freedom of speech’ – The Local Sweden

Boston Free Speech Rally Permit Approved – CBS Boston / WBZ

BOSTON (CBS) The city of Boston has approved a permit for a controversialFree Speech Rally scheduled to take place on Boston Common Saturday.

After a meeting with Boston Police and city officials Wednesday morning, event organizer and Boston Free Speech Coalition spokesman John Medlar told WBZ-TV the city gave them the green light for the event to take place.

READ: Permit For Boston Free Speech Coalition Rally

According to Medlar, the two parties agreed in the meeting that the rally will be barricaded by police.

The police are going to be there in full force, Medlar told WBZ-TVs Beth Germano. Theyre going to have physical barriers around the Parkman Bandstand separating the rallygoers from counter-protesters to make sure that everyone stays safe. Theyre going to be escorting people in and escorting people out. If things get out of hand, they will evacuate people.

Boston Free Speech Coalition spokesperson John Medlar. (WBZ-TV)

Medlar said no weapons will be permitted, and anyone can be searched.

They will not be allowing people to bring weapons of any kind, anything that could be used as a weapon, so blunt instruments like flagpoles, he said. They will be allowing people to bring flags, just not attached to any pole or stick.

At a prayer service outside City Hall Wednesday afternoon, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addressed the tension surrounding the rally.

In our city, weve been dealing with anticipation of whats going to happen on Saturday, Walsh said. I ask everyone who comes to Boston Common on Saturday, you can have your free speech all day long, but lets not speak about hate. Lets not speak about bigotry, racism.

He stood with faith leaders from around the city and asked protesters and rally-goers to refrain from hateful or violent behavior.

We are a better people than what were seeing on TV, Walsh said. And Im asking people, when you come into Boston, respect this city, because we respect your right to come in and speak. If were gonna respect your right to come in, we expect you to respect our city, our people, the people that live here. Dont pass hate, dont pass judgement on people, and thats what were asking for.

Earlier Wednesday, Medlar told WBZ NewsRadio 1030s Carl Stevens that people have the wrong impression about the eventand that he and his group absolutely disavow white supremacy.

Contrary to a lot of the rumors out there, the purpose of the rally is to denounce the kind of political violence that we have seen, a sort of rising tide throughout the country, Medlar said. And particularly most recently in Charlottesville.

A post on the Boston Free Speech Facebook pageTuesday night disavowed last weekendswhite nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which led to the death of a woman protesting white supremacy and left 19 others injured.

This Free Speech Movement is dedicated to peaceful rallies and are in no way affiliated with the Charlottesville rally on 8/12/17, the post read. While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry.

Medlar said most of those involved are local volunteers and activists who want to de-escalate what they see as a rising tide of political violence across the country.

We want to get people talking and listening to each other again, to exchange words rather than to exchange fists on the streets, Medlar said.

Medlar said his group opposes groups like the KKK and Neo-Nazis because they use free speech and the First Amendment as a shield while rejecting the same rights for the people they disagree with. He said some of those groups were among those inaccurately equating the Boston Free Speech Coalition with the events in Charlottesville.

In all the confusion out there, there do seem to be legitimate white supremacist groups on social media that are attempting to hijack the rally, Medlar said. It is very troublesome to us.

He said his group carefully vetted speakers, and said the list included people with varied backgroundsincluding supporters of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein as well as more right-leaning figures.

Though the Boston Free Speech Coalition is not affiliated with the organizers of the Unite The Right rally in Virginia, they did invite at least one of the speakers from that rally in Charlottesville. Listed on a flyer for the event was a speaker going by the name Augustus Invictus who, according to the Orlando Sentinel, had prominent billing in Charlottesville.

Poster for the August 19, Free Speech Rally. (Photo credit: WBZ-TV)

Medlar described Invictus as a fringe figure and a very out-there person but said that regardless of the other stuff, hes ultimately a libertarian.

There was actually a mistake made, Medlar said. In all the confusion that happened, one of our other organizers told Augustus that he was being disinvited.

He said that mistake created a breach in trust that led to other speakers dropping out.

On Tuesday, speaker Brandon Navomtold WBZ-TV he was dropping out because hes been receiving death threatsand thinks the rally should be cancelled.

The environment has just become so hostile and so toxic that I am completely concerned for the city of Boston, Navom said.

Medlar said the group considered cancelling the rally after Charlottesville, but decided against it.

If anything, the events in Charlottesvillewhich did take us very much by surprise, we were shocked and horrified by the things that went down thereif anything, that only makes the kind of thing that were trying to do all the more necessary, Medlar said.

He added that even if they told people not to go, hes sure theyd show up anyway.

Last weekends violence in Virginia prompted Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to issue tough statementsa week ahead of the Boston rally thathate groups would not be welcome in the city.

Boston does not welcome you here. Boston does not want you here. Boston rejects your message, said Walsh. We reject racism, we reject white supremacy, we reject anti-Semitism, we reject the KKK, we reject neo-Nazis, we reject domestic terrorism, and reject hatred. We will do every single thing in our power to keep hate out of our city.

Medlar said my objective is to coordinate with police and with city officials to make sure that logistics are entirely in place and everything is kept orderly, everything is kept safe, and at the end of the day, everyone is able to go home with no trouble.

Medlar in part echoed the spirit of President Donald Trumps recent comments, saying that groups on the left as well as the right were responsible for political violence.

We absolutely denounce violent extremists on both sides of the aisle, like the Antifa movement on the left, and Identity Europa and Vanguard on the right, he said.

RELATED:Trump Again Blames Both Sides For Charlottesville Violence

In Roxbury Tuesday night, members of the NAACP and the local faith community planned a peace rally to coincide with the Boston Free Speech Rally Saturday.

White supremacists who are okay with being public now feel emboldened and protected by the person in the White House, said the Boston NAACPs Segun Idowu.

Meanwhile, a group that calls itself Fight Supremacy says they will be organizing a counter-rally Saturday.

In a post on their Facebook page, Fight Supremacy organizers wrote, On Saturday, August 19th, White Nationalists are converging on Boston Common to reinforce their white supremacist ideology and attempt to intimidate queer and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, POC) communities.

That group has not received a permit yet.

Monica Cannon, founder of a group called Violence In Boston that is among the sponsors of the Fight Supremacy event, told WBZ-TV why the counter-protest was being organized.

Mainly, to stand up and show that Boston is not the city, that you cant come here with those views, but also to highlight the fact that a lot of those people arent visiting Boston, she said. They actually live here, and although Boston tries to come across as progressive and liberal, theres a great deal of racism here.

But Medlar disagrees with Fight Supremacys characterization of his event.

Im afraid that they are very much misinformed, and we regret that, said Medlar. Were campaigning for people like them to rally as well. We have no problem with them exercising their freedom of assembly, we just wish they would do it for the right reasons, rather than mistaking us for something were not.

No matter whether or not city officials give the Boston Free Speech Coalition a permit, Cannon says her group will show up Saturday.

Whether they have their rally or they dont have their rally, were going to be there, because we need to send a message, she said.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030s Carl Stevens reports

See the article here:

Boston Free Speech Rally Permit Approved – CBS Boston / WBZ

Free Speech and Assembly in Hong Kong – New York Times

Photo Joshua Wong during an October 2014 protest outside the offices of Hong Kongs chief executive. Credit Tyrone Siu/Reuters

To the Editor:

Re Three Young Voices Versus a Superpower (editorial, Aug. 15):

The three students were convicted because their disorderly and intimidating behavior broke the law during a protest. They were found guilty based on evidence presented in a fair and open trial.

Under Hong Kongs common law legal system, like others around the world, both the prosecution and the convicted can seek an appeal of sentence. The court will consider the case independently, fairly and openly. There is simply no basis to imply that political motive or the students political views are the reason for the appeal.

Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are protected in Hong Kongs Basic Law, our constitutional document, and underpinned by the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Hong Kongs judicial independence is ranked eighth globally by the World Economic Forum (the United States is 29th).

Your eagerness to label the alleged kidnapping case of Howard Lam, a member of Hong Kongs Democratic Party, as a brazen crackdown is also wide of the mark. Independent journalists have published evidence that contradicts his allegations. Mr. Lam has since been arrested on suspicion of misleading the police by false information.

CLEMENT LEUNG, WASHINGTON

The writer is Hong Kongs commissioner to the United States.

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Free Speech and Assembly in Hong Kong – New York Times

Strange bedfellows: The ACLU, free speech and Neo-Nazis – ABC News

The violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, have turned a spotlight on the freedom of speech one of the first rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, and one of the messiest.

In Charlottesville, white nationalists and other extremist groups including neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan rallied but only after a federal judge ruled they had the right to gather at Emancipation Park and protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Their rights were defended by the American Civil Liberties Union, despised by many conservatives as a liberal bastion. The ACLU deplored the “voices of white supremacy,” and condemned the violence that killed a 32-year-old woman and injured dozens of others. But the ACLU made no apologies for its defense of speech that many find distasteful or even dangerous.

“The First Amendment is a critical part of our democracy and it protects vile, hateful, and ignorant speech,” the organization said.

So what are the boundaries of free speech? And how is it playing out in this politically charged landscape?

FREE SPEECH RIGHTS

“Even groups that have hateful messages still have a right under the First Amendment to express those positions, whether it’s in rallies or protests or gatherings or writing,” says Roy Gutterman, a First Amendment expert at Syracuse University.

But free speech does have boundaries. “You have no right to incite violence, you have no right to defame someone or disseminate child pornography,” he says. “There are limits and some of the limits are easier to define than others. Even the concept of inciting a riot can get into some subjective and nebulous standards.”

The limits of free speech were recognized in a 1919 Supreme Court decision in which the justices said the First Amendment could be restricted if the words represented a “clear and present danger.” In that ruling, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

The ACLU has a long history of defending free speech rights, at times on behalf of bigoted groups with offensive messages. In one of its most controversial cases, the ACLU in the late 1970s argued that a neo-Nazi group should be allowed to march in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, which was home to thousands of Holocaust survivors. The demonstrators planned to wear Nazi uniforms with swastika armbands. Attorneys for Skokie argued that would be traumatic for many residents. The neo-Nazis ultimately won the legal battle as a free speech argument, but didn’t follow through with the march. Instead, they held a rally in a federal plaza in downtown Chicago.

In a recent case the ACLU said it was defending right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos in a free speech lawsuit even though it disagrees with his positions, saying he has fostered “anti-Muslim views and disdain for women” and has compared Black Lives Matter activists to the Klan.

“We understand the pain caused by Mr. Yiannopoulos’ views,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project wrote last week. “We also understand the importance of the principles we seek to defend. The constitutional principle here, of course, is that government can’t censor our speech just because it doesn’t like what we say.”

TOLERANCE ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

The debate over political expression and free speech has roiled college campuses in recent years, most notably at the University of California-Berkeley. An appearance by Yiannopoulos last winter was canceled after demonstrators dressed in black, broke windows, hurled rocks at police and set fires on the campus. A speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter at Berkeley was later canceled because of safety concerns. And in Middlebury College, a small liberal arts campus in Vermont, scores of students shouted down political scientist Charles Murray, the author of “The Bell Curve,” a controversial book that deals with race and intelligence.

Syracuse’s Gutterman says what’s happening now is a dramatic shift from the era between the 1940s and 1960s when people on college campuses who were being punished, censored and kicked out of school were on the political left. “Fast forward to today,” he says. “It’s people on the right or the far right who feel they’re not getting a chance to articulate their viewpoint.”

“‘I think college campuses are a pretty precarious place for the free exchange of information,” he says. “Berkeley is the birthplace of the Free Speech movement in the ’60s. There’s a huge irony there. College campuses have become kind of soft places because of speech codes, codes of conduct and things like that that tend to over-insulate people.”

But Fanta Aw, interim vice president of campus life at American University in Washington, D.C., told the Senate Judiciary Committee in June: “As an institution, we draw the line when expression has the potential to incite violence and/or is a direct threat to members of our community.”

THE VIEW FROM ABROAD

Many other democracies do not share America’s broad protections of speech.

After World War II, several European countries enacted laws that were designed to curb religious and racial hatred. The punishment can range from fines to prison. In 2006, British historian David Irving was sentenced to prison in Austria for denying the Holocaust and gas chambers at Auschwitz. In 2011, a French court found the flamboyant fashion designer John Galliano guilty of making anti-Semitic comments at a Paris bistro.

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Strange bedfellows: The ACLU, free speech and Neo-Nazis – ABC News

Free speech and White Supremacy at Texas A & M (and elsewhere) – Washington Post

At the height ofthe deadly racist mayhem last Saturday in Charlottesville, a so-called white nationalist named Preston Wiginton announced that he would hold a White Lives Matter rally on September 11 on the grounds of Texas A & M, a public university in College Station. The rally would feature Richard Spencer, a well-known white nationalist whose speech at an auditorium at the university in December sparked outrage and near violence on campus. The headline of Wigintons press release blared in all caps, TODAY CHARLOTTESVILLE, TOMORROW TEXAS A&M.

An opposing group immediately announced a counter-protest to be called BTHO Hate, borrowing from a campus sports-program acronym meaning beat the hell out of.

On Monday night, Texas A & M announced it was canceling Wiggintons rally, and issued the following statement:

After consultation with law enforcement and considerable study, Texas A&M is cancelling the event scheduled by Preston Wiginton at Rudder Plaza on campus on September 11 because of concerns about the safety of its students, faculty, staff, and the public.

Texas A&M changed its policy after Decembers protests so that no outside individual or group could reserve campus facilities without the sponsorship of a university-sanctioned group. None of the 1200-plus campus organizations invited Preston Wiginton nor did they agree to sponsor his events in December 2016 or on September 11 of this year.

With no university facilities afforded him, he chose instead to plan his event outdoors for September 11 at Rudder Plaza, in the middle of campus, during a school day, with a notification to the media under the headline Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M.

Linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus. Additionally, the daylong event would provide disruption to our class schedules and to student, faculty and staff movement (both bus system and pedestrian).

Texas A&Ms support of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech cannot be questioned. On December 6, 2016 the university and law enforcement allowed the same speaker the opportunity to share his views, taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure a peaceful event. However, in this case, circumstances and information relating to the event have changed and the risks of threat to life and safety compel us to cancel the event.

Finally, the thoughts and prayers of Aggies here on campus and around the world are with those individuals affected by the tragedy in Charlottesville.

Texas A & M is a public university subject to the demands of the First Amendment. It cannot ban speech on campus simply because the content of that speech is objectionable to many or all. Even hate speech like that of White Supremacists is fully constitutionally protected. Courts long ago held that Nazis bearing swastikas must be allowed to march down the streets of a neighborhood populated by Holocaust survivors. Furthermore,Texas A & M permitsRudder Plaza to be used as a free-speech zone, whether or not the speakers are sponsored by a student group.

University lawyers know this, so officials have not announced a total ban on racist hate speech on campus. They are cancelling this particular event. And they are offering purported content-neutral justifications for the cancellation. Are they on solid First Amendment ground?

The first and potentially most compelling justification for the cancellation is a public safety concern. Given violent clashes in other places where political extremists have rallied, and especially the demonstration four days ago at the University of Virginia, its easy to sympathize with the university. Moreover, September 11 is an especially sensitive day on the American calendarwhich is no doubt the reason it was chosen for the rally. Protecting public safety is certainly a legitimate and indeed powerful concern of public officials. Speakers may not threaten violence or incite others to violence. Any actual acts of violence by speakers or counter-protesters could be punished.

The problem for Texas A & M is that, judging by the public record, we have no indication so far that organizers have made what courts would likely consider threats of violence. Its true that Wiginton linked his event to Charlottesville. But avague publicity reference to Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A &M is not enough to qualify as an unprotected true threat.

Theres also no evidence that organizers directly encouragedincitedothers to commit acts of violence. To constitute unprotected incitement, the speech must clearly advocate actual lawlessness (not merely hint at it) and be likely to immediately cause such lawlessness (not merely increase its likelihood). Under this test, the Supreme Court reversed the criminal conviction of a Klan leader who told armed membersat a cross-burning rally that there might have to be some revengeance [sic] taken against niggers and Jews.

Undoubtedly,many people feel provoked to violence when they see swastikas or Confederate flags or hear slogans that evoke genocide like Jews will not replace us. Thus, the planned counter-protest in response to Wiginton employed the language of force (beat the hell out of hate). But provocation is not incitement.The university cannot bar controversial speech simply because listeners might be deeply offended or might themselves react violently when they hear the speech. Federal courts are wary of allowing such a hecklers veto of controversial speechespecially based on an undifferentiated fear that violence might possibly ensue. Shutting down or prohibiting speech is the last resort, not the first.

Minimizing and containing the threat of violence at the rally is a matter for negotiation between the speakers and the university, with a judge resolving outstanding differences. But safety concerns are unlikely to prevent the speech altogether.

The second justification for the cancellation is that the event would disturb the normal activities of the campus during a school day, including possible disruption to class schedules, and would impede the safe and free movement of pedestrians and vehicles through campus. These are legitimate content-neutral concerns of the government, but there is a fact question about whether a protest or event could be orchestrated in a way that would minimize disruption and allow adequate traffic flow. These are matters that could be negotiated by lawyers for the university and the speakers, with differences adjudicated by a judge. Again, these concerns wont justify wholly forbidding the speech.

The universitys cancellation is an opening bid in a negotiation with lawyers for the speakers. It may be that a different date or time or specific place on campus for the event can be arranged to address safety and other concerns. Certainly the university can take steps to protect the peace, like increasing police presence and erecting barriers between opposing groups. But I doubt the University will succeed in simply prohibiting this event on campus.

Texas A & M is not a one-off. The newly emboldened and brazen white racist movement is seeking similar publicity around the country. The constitutional issues raised by the universitys purported cancellation of a White Supremacy rally will recur. The First Amendment is not an alt-right slogan. We cant let it be distorted by our fear of bigots. And we cant let it be a tool for them alone.

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Free speech and White Supremacy at Texas A & M (and elsewhere) – Washington Post

Free speech comes at a price – Spectrum News

Free speech isn’t an absolute and it doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want whenever you want.

“First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech. The protection is mainly from the government, and it doesn’t protect against the consequences of the freedom of speech,” saidJohn Elmore, a legal analyst.

Because of the First Amendment protections, it’s rare that a government will deny a permit to assemble, even if it is for a recognized hate group, like the White Nationalists who organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. Plus, those groups can sue if their assembly permit is denied. But the government can restrict a protest to a certain place and time.

“The court has always had the ruling that if the government restricts speech based on the content of that speech, they have a very high standard. And it is very reluctant to allow that restriction,” saidPeter Yacobucci, Ph.D., a SUNY Buffalo State political science associate professor.

The exceptions to freedom of speech include incitement, defamation, fraud, obscenity and lies, just to name a few. And there’s a fine line between freedom to spew hate speech and inciting violence.

“For hate speech, as long as nobody is acting on it, it’s still protected. If people are acting on it, we can say this person was engaging in incitement and incitement, we have laws against,” saidClairissa Breen, Ph.D., a SUNY Buffalo State criminal justice professor.

Yacobucci added, “If a common person understood it that they were being directed to that violence, then the speech can be restricted, but that’s a pretty high standard. To just say, ‘I want to kill that person,’ that’s not a enough to be a threat. There has to be something substantial behind it.”

Elmore said, “No matter how untasteful the language is, that’s protected speech.”

But freedom of speech and assembly rights can be revoked if things turn violent. Plus, freedom of speech doesn’t protect you from potential consequences.

“A private employer may be embarrassed by extreme political views of a person that is publicized, somebody that publicizes their Nazi views, their KKK views, extreme racist views. The government says you can say those things, but a private employer has the right to discharge an employee because that would affect their business,” said Elmore.

But for government employees, it’s more of a gray area. If the hate speech is something that could affect the way they do their job, like a police officer, they would be at risk for getting fired.

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Free speech comes at a price – Spectrum News

Today in actual free speech violations: DOJ issues warrant for info on protesters – A.V. Club

Although your less-than-friendly neighborhood alt-righter might want to pervert it into a license to say any bigoted thing they want, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America simply ensures the peoples right to express themselves without fear of government reprisal. So while KekiBro69 or whomever might think that people telling him hes a piece of shit for parroting Nazi slogans have violated his free speech, the fact of the matter is that, as long as the government doesnt get involved, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. Twitter can kick him off its service, Google can deny his domain registration, a private university can decline to book him as a speaker, or a private company can fire him for violating their code of ethics, assuming said employer isnt violating contract law or the Civil Rights Act in the process.

So were clear on that? Yes? Okay, good. Because heres an example of the federal government actually attempting to interfere not only with the peoples right to free expression, but their right to peaceful assembly, as well as the Fourth Amendments ban on unlawful search and seizure. As reported by New York Magazine, this week web hosting service DreamHost revealed that it had received a search warrant from the Department of Justice requesting IP addresses and other potentially identifying metadata on visitors to DisruptJ20.org, which was used to organize protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump. The requested data includes information on dates and times the site was accessed, in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people, according to DreamHost. The request, which applies to anyone who visited the site this past Januaryright when planning for the protest was at its heightwould affect more than 1.3 million people. What the DOJ wants with this information is unclear, but whatever it is, it probably isnt to mail protesters $20 bills.

DreamHost refused the request, and is scheduled to appear in court in Washington, D.C. this coming Friday, August 18. Thats according to the pro-online privacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, which calls the DOJs search warrant an unconstitutional action of staggering overbreadth. In the face of such a shameless attempt to violate a bedrock American right, were sure all our free-speech loving friends with whom we spend so much quality time in Facebook comment threads and Twitter mentions will rally together to defend this value that they clearlyand loudlyhold so dear. Right?

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Today in actual free speech violations: DOJ issues warrant for info on protesters – A.V. Club

Neo-Nazis have the right to free speech. They don’t have the right to deny it to the rest of us – Quartz

In the US, freedom of speech is a sacred right. But the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend was not about people exercising that right. What I saw at the University of Virginia, where I am a professor, was an organized campaign to terrorize American citizens and suppress the rights of others.

First of all, white supremacists at Unite the Right mobilized against a town that had democratically decided to move the statues of Confederate rebels to less-prominent locations. There is no Constitutional amendment dictating the types of statues a municipality must display in its town square. At one time, this city chose to erect a statue of General Robert E. Lee, which was legal and their prerogative. At another time in history, we chose to move the statues to another part of the city. This is also within the rights of Charlottesville and its residents.

Second of all, the clear intent of the Unite the Right rally was to incite violence. Its participants mobilized knowing that they were in breach of their permit for 400 people in the small square of Emancipation Park in the center of town. The city, in the interest of public safety, asked them to move to a larger park, where they could exercise their first amendment right to speak their mind. They sued the city to keep the protest in the center of town. There was no way that number of people in such a small space would end peacefully, especially after the alt-right told their people to bring shields and weapons. They came with assault rifles and bullet-proof jackets, ready for battle.

Third, at a peaceful prayer meeting I attended Friday night, where citizens from every faith, denomination, race and sexual orientation, were gathering together to pray, support each other and reaffirm the American values of liberty and justice for allthe white supremacists came with torches. Screaming that they will not be replaced, sieg heil and end immigration, they barred peaceful parishioners from leaving the church where they congregated.

Fourth, mobilizing early in the morning on Saturday, long before their noon-sanctioned assembly time, they started walking the streets toward the central square with guns, AR-15s and shields. Before the demonstration could even get underway, they started punching counter protestors in the face. Violence escalated and Virginia declared a state of emergency. Fearful that the torch-bearing neo-Nazis would come back to campus, the University of Virginia was forced to cancel an entire day of peaceful, civil dialogue programming organized to promote a peaceable democracy.

And then a white supremacist drove full speed into a crowd of peaceful anti-racist counter demonstrators, murdering one citizen and wounding 19 more.

Every American has a right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. The alt-right white nationalists want to deny Americans that right. Carrying firearms to rallies, blocking peaceful counterprotestors from leaving the place where they are gathered, and driving full-speed into a crowd are all distinct choices aimed at inciting fear and making Americans stay silent, afraid to leave their homes. Now white supremacists are trolling counterprotestors online and posting the home addresses of witnesses. These people are not calmly expressing their beliefs about fiscal conservativism or small government. They believe that their fellow Americans are lesser citizens, and they are trying to take our rights away. The white supremacists must be held accountable.

Learn how to write for Quartz Ideas. We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com.

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Neo-Nazis have the right to free speech. They don’t have the right to deny it to the rest of us – Quartz

In Defense of Lance Armstrong and His Freedom of Speech – Outside Magazine

No matter your opinion on his personal character, Lance Armstrong is the baddest-ass bike racer of all time. There are maybe five other people alive today who know the ins and outs of road-bike stage racing better than he does. Which is why there were so many fans of Lancesindependent podcast, called Stages, in which he weighed in as an insider-turned-permanent-outcast on the strategy, grit, idiocy, mayhem, beauty, drama, and athleticism that is the Tour de France.

At least five million fans downloaded the Stages podcasts that Lance dictated from home. Thats a massive audience for U.S.cycling in the post-Lance-racingworld. Like it or not, Lance was once again singlehandedly making cycling cool again in America.

Intrigued, the organizers of the Colorado Classic, Americas newest stage race, whichkicked off August 10, partnered with Lance to issue podcasts from a custom Airstream at the races. The organizersformer ski shop guys from Colorado with a huge love of cyclingtold the Denver Post that they were blown away at the potential audience they could reach with Lances help. Naturally, Lance would get paid for his work.

Thats when, after fielding calls and emails from Lances many detractors, the United States Anti-Doping Agency informed race officials that, Under the World Anti-Doping Agency Code, an ineligible individual [Lance] may not have an official role in relation to a sanctioned event such as the Colorado Classic. In other words, if Lance so much as workedat a bake sale at theevent, they’d shut itdown faster than you can say erythropoietin brownies. Without UCI, WADA, and USADA backing, there is no high-level professional bike race. Understandably, the race organizers quickly broke their ties with Lance.(Lance has decided to still cover the Coloradorace via Stageshe’s just not getting any money for it. The first dispatch went live Thursday.)

USADA, in its attempt toplacea gag order on LanceArmstrong,trampledon the spirit of the First Amendment. And inthe process, it did everything in itspower to quash cycling in the U.S., a sport that needs every bit of help it can get.

That last bit is the bigger issue:Why wouldthe UCI engage in such flagrant self-immolation at a time when bikes sales are down worldwide, independent bike shops in America are struggling, and interest in bike racing in the U.S. is as thin as a Team Sky muscle calendar?Baseball has loads of stars, so even if its morally wrong to banish Pete Rose, it can afford to do so, economically. As much as many of us would like to deny itmyself includedcycling in the U.S. only has Lance. Hes the sports only household name. He brought the cycling boom in the late 1990s and sustained it through the aughts. And now he might just be able to staunch the bloodletting. Let him.

Maybe Lance Armstrong upsets your sensibilities and you dont want to hear him commenting on the rebirth of clean cycling. Its understandable. He did wicked things to good people and the black mark he left on the sport is indelible. But, as an American, he has a right to both earn a living and speak his mind. Hes also charismatic, and if given a chance,just might win over his detractors and help make cycling relevant to a wider audience than weekend racers.

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In Defense of Lance Armstrong and His Freedom of Speech – Outside Magazine


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