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Category Archives: Free Speech

A win for free speech and other commentary – New York Post

Posted: January 25, 2020 at 2:10 pm

From the right: A Win for Free Speech

In 2019, writes John Hinderaker at Power Line, Michigans Democratic attorney general launched a campaign of surveillance and potential criminal prosecution against groups targeted by the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center one of Americas pre-eminent hate groups. But the American Freedom Law Center, one of the organizations the SPLC smeared, fought back and sued. Now, federal Judge Paul Maloney has denied Michigans motion to dismiss the case. That allows it to proceed to discovery, where any communications between the Michigan officials and the SPLC will come to light which should frighten both the prosecutors and the group. Kudos to the American Freedom Law Center, cheers Hinderaker, for taking the fight to the far Left.

Eye on 2020: A Contested Convention Is Possible

At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver runs the numbers to gauge whether Democrats will have a candidate by convention time. Dont assume there will be a contested convention just because things look a little chaotic, he warns, but dont dismiss the possibility out of hand just because there hasnt been one recently. He puts the odds of no Democrat winning a majority of pledged delegates at 15%, roughly as likely as the Tennessee Titans beating the Baltimore Ravens earlier this month. And, he warns, the odds will increase if the party still has three or four candidates in serious contention after Super Tuesday, March 3. Bottom line: A brokered convention is not a likely occurrence, exactly. But its not unlikely, either.

Impeachment watch: A Challenge To Stay Awake

The Senate impeachment trial of a sitting president, just the third such event in US history, has turned out to be a soporific rather than stimulant, snarks Daniel J. Flynn at The American Spectator. So boring is it that Sen. Richard Burr handed out fidget spinners to help his colleagues stay alert. The chaplain prayed to prevent fatigue, but a New York Times sketch artist caught Sen. Jim Risch asleep. Its no better for those watching at home. For all Democrats hopes to conjure up a case for the presidents removal, a strong desire cannot alone will fantasy into reality. And if their political theater fails to entertain, and the audience knows the ending before the beginning, the public expectedly starts hurling rotten eggs or nodding off.

Labor beat: Govt Unions Face Sharp Shrinkage

The continuing plunge in government-union membership now at 7.1 million, the lowest level in 20 years is an ominous sign for the movement, reports City Journals Steven Malanga. From 2009 to 2018, New York alone lost 1230,000 public-sector union members. This years nationwide drop of 100,000 came even though states and municipalities have started hiring again. One reason: the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case, which lets government workers avoid joining unions and paying union fees. Another: Public-pension costs have been crowding out other spending, which has slowed hiring. Now union leaders face the prospect of the inevitable next economic downturn, which will likely set off new waves of membership losses. Under any circumstances, the future does not look bright for government unions.

Foreign desk: A Chance for a Mideast NATO

No modern American president has ever been able to put a sustainable Middle East collective security framework in place, James Jay Carafano notes at Fox News, but Trump just might be the first. The president hasnt figured out how to marry his instincts to eschew endless wars, regime change and nation-building and to make allies carry their share of the load with a long-term framework for safeguarding Americas interests in the Middle East. Early in his presidency he did propose a NATO-like Middle East Strategic Alliance to deal with Iran and transnational Islamist terrorism, but progress was sidelined. If Trump wants a credible common security framework, it will take American leadership to make it happen. And there may never be a better time than now to go for it.

Compiled by The Post Editorial Board

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Writers, Academics, and Free Speech Advocates Call on Babson to Reinstate Professor – PEN America

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Asheen Phansey was dismissed following a satirical Facebook post; PEN America-organized letter calls on Boston-area college to reverse course

(New York, NY) More than 155 writers, academics, and free speech advocates have signed a letter from PEN America urging Babson College to immediately reinstate Asheen Phansey. Babson officials suspended and then terminated Phansey over two weeks ago for a satirical Facebook post. The letter says Phansey, who was an adjunct professor and administrator at Babson, was fired over protected speech, and that the incident is deeply disturbing.

Against a national backdrop in which punishments for speech are chilling open discourse, this draconian outcome risks compounding the constrictions on our public discourse, the letter reads. As an institution of higher learning, Babson should be on the side of defending free thought rather than punishing it. Those signing the letter include Judith Butler, Joyce Carol Oates, J. M. Coetzee, Teju Cole, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Haidt, Steven Pinker, Molly Ringwald, Howard Rodman, Salman Rushdie, Andrew Solomon, Geoffrey R. Stone, and Nadine Strossen, among others.

The letter says Babsons decision defied reason, as Phanseys post was clearly a satirical commentary on foreign policy, with no hint of harassment, incitement to imminent violence, or any other unprotected category of speech. His post came as a reaction to President Trumps threat to bomb cultural heritage sites in Iran. Phanseys satirical post suggested Iran should make a list of 52 cultural sites in the U.S. to bomb, offering the Kardashian home and the Mall of America in Minnesota as humorous examples.

Signatories to the PEN America letter also include the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the American Federation of Teachers, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Over 80 faculty respondents hailing from 50 institutions nationwide have supported the effort.

This is a straightforward case. Babson officials made the wrong decision, said Jonathan Friedman, PEN Americas campus free speech project director. Thats why such a diverse coalition has come together from across the political spectrum and across disciplines to speak out against this injustice. Babson officials should know that their misguided reaction has not gone unnoticed.

But Babson can also make this right right now by revisiting their decision, said Friedman. While Babson is a private university, their public commitments to academic freedom and free speech, including extramural speech, should make this case very clear cut. We cannot hope to defend against the graver threats to free expression on U.S. campuses if professors can be fired for making a joke on Facebook.

We call on Babson to immediately reverse course and reinstate Phansey to his positions at the college, the PEN America letter says. Any other outcome risks permanently tarnishing the reputation of Babson and jeopardizing the climate for speech on campuses across the country.

PEN America has previously discussed the importance of free expression, academic freedom and open inquiry on college campuses and has identified key principles in its Campus Free Speech Guide.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications,[emailprotected], +1 202 309 8892

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Iowa State’s anti-free-speech policies threaten Democrats and Republicans alike ahead of caucuses – Washington Examiner

Posted: at 2:10 pm

Students at Iowa State University are effectively being muzzled by campus administrators, barred from using their campus email to advertise political events and barred from chalking campus sidewalks with political messages.

Imagine being a politically active college student in a state with an early primary or caucus and being unable to engage or mobilize peers to attend candidate town halls and rallies. Its a crushing thing and a missed learning opportunity for students, candidates, and undecided Iowa voters.

This blatant affront to free speech aside, Democrats and Republicans alike, both students and the campaigns they support, are at a disadvantage heading into caucus night if the university continues to enforce chilling speech policies that prohibit students from engaging in political advocacy.

Student groups have for years hosted political candidates ahead of the Iowa caucuses. And, if anything, Democrats have more to lose due to Iowa State's policy this year because the Democratic caucus is competitive, whereas the Republican caucus is not. Either way, though, this issue should infuriate and galvanize people on all parts of the political spectrum.

In addition to the policies directly restricting political advocacy, Iowa State administrators created a Campus Climate Reporting System (think bias-response team) to monitor and stop speech deemed inappropriate. Students are now less likely to voice their opinions because they know the school might investigate them if they express a politically incorrect view.

College is supposed to be an environment where students can argue for what they believe in and engage in honest intellectual debate. It is not a thought prison to be policed by busybody administrators.

But at Iowa State, a combination of policies directly restricting constitutionally protected speech and systematic efforts to enforce these policies has created a particularly chilling effect on students, who are left to worry about what they can say permissibly.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. That Iowa State is silencing its student body isnt a Republican or a Democratic problem, its a problem all face, and it threatens the integrity of our political process.

Its for this reason that Speech First, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving campus free speech, recently filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Central Division, requesting injunctive relief on behalf of numerous Iowa State students active in club politics.

In other words, the organization is requesting the court to order Iowa State administrators to abandon their anti-free-speech policies ahead of the Iowa caucuses next month so that students missing out on important parts of the political process are free to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Iowa State University and its officials have created a series of rules and regulations designed to restrain, deter, suppress, and punish speech concerning political and social issues of public concern. And they do so despite Iowas role as the first in the nation to weigh in on presidential primary elections, reads the case.

At a time when our nation depends on the political advocacy of students across the political spectrum to help shed light on candidates political viewpoints, administrators at Iowa State are instead robbing students and the nation of the opportunity to get to know and advocate for the man or woman who will influence policy that will affect the public for years to come.

As Nicki Neily, president of Speech First, said, Many students learn about meet-and-greet events because events have traditionally been promoted through chalking and by banning these advertisements and emails, students are missing out on major civic participating opportunities.

Denying Iowa State students their constitutional right to free speech isnt the way to kick off a presidential election year. Nor is this the legacy administrators should want to bequeath to the next generation of university students.

The district court responsible for adjudicating this case should issue the injunctive relief and let Iowa State University students advertise political events to their hearts' content. The United States and her students will be better off because of it.

Teri Christoph is the host of the Smart Girl Politics podcast and is a fundraising consultant.

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Congressman Reed to Talk Free Speech at BU – wnbf.com

Posted: at 2:10 pm

A Congressman from the Western and Central Southern Tier is making a visit to Broome County to weigh in on the November protests and confrontations that riled Binghamton University and resulted in a couple of arrests.

23rdDistrict Republican Tom Reed is scheduled to meet today with the Binghamton University College Republicans and B.U. President Dr. Harvey Stenger to discuss the restriction of free speech on campus.

The former Mayor of Corning says he recently sent a letter to SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson and Dr. Stenger requesting more information about the incident that unplugged a speech by conservative economist Art Laffer and resulted in the detention of a couple students.

That confrontation followed a clash between students protesting two tables that had been set up on the campus, one promoting Laffers speech and the other supporting gun rights.

The events also sparked comments from President Donald Trump at a Republican student action rally last month. The President claimed radicals swinging clubs, bats "and everything" and wearing masks and red arm bands mobbed Laffers talk.

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K-State only Kansas university with ‘green light’ rating from free speech organization FIRE – K-State Collegian

Posted: at 2:10 pm

In 2017, Kansas State earned a green light rating on free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. It is still the only university in Kansas to receive this rating.

FIRE is a non-partisan nonprofit that defends the free speech of college students and faculty members, said Laura Beltz, senior program officer for policy reform at FIRE.

The organization works to defend constitutionally protected speech by the standards of the Supreme Court in ways such as policy reform, direct defense work and litigation.

To get the green light rating, it means that all of the policies that are on the books that regulate expression are not restricting speech that is constitutionally protected, Beltz said. The red light policies are ones that clearly and substantially restrict free speech. The yellow light policies are more ambiguous or narrow restrictions on free speech.

Michelle Geering, public information officer for the K-State Division of Communications and Marketing, said via email that K-States statement on free speech and expression is based on the University of Chicagos statement, which many other universities adopted.

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The purpose of the statement is to explain free speech and expression and highlight the importance in higher education, Geering said.

The ideas of different members of the University community will often and naturally conflict, and some individuals ideas will even conflict with the Universitys values and principles. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive, the K-State statement reads.

It also makes clear that there are restrictions.

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish, according to the statement. The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or unlawful discrimination or that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests. In addition, the University may reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University or endanger safety.

Geering said K-State interprets the First Amendment based on federal courts.

First Amendment rights are established in the U.S. Constitution and interpreted through long-standing case law by federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.

A presentation entitled What Can (and Cant) Universities Do about Hate Speech on Campus? made in November 2017 by the Office of General Counsel explains part of the reasoning behind the universitys ideas on free speech.

There is an understandable instinct to protect people from words that hurt, insult or offend them, the presentation states. So sometimes the first impulse is to suppress or censor those messages. But history has taught us that censorship is used mostly (almost always) to restrict and harm the most vulnerable, the most powerless and the most marginalized in our society.

Beltz said the policies at K-State right now do not restrict protected speech and follow the legal standards.

Were hoping that other schools in the state will follow suit and revise their policies so they can also get this green light rating, she said. Its great that K-State has revised all their policies and went above and beyond and adopted that statement on free speech.

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The prosecution of Glenn Greenwald and the global war on free speech – World Socialist Web Site

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The prosecution of Glenn Greenwald and the global war on free speech 23 January 2020

The criminal conspiracy charges levelled by the Brazilian government against Intercept Brasil publisher and renowned investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald is the latest in a series of state attacks internationally on the hard-won historical right to freedom of speech. The arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has opened the floodgates for a global war on independent and critical journalism and the imposition of sweeping censorship.

The allegations made in Brazil against Greenwald are essentially identical to the first charge issued in April 2019 by the US Department of Justice to file for the extradition of Assange from the United Kingdom to stand trial in the United States. Both men have been accused of assisting whistleblowers to access information that, once published, exposed criminality and corruption at the highest levels of the state apparatus.

In Greenwalds case, a prosecution is being prepared on the pretext that he conspired with people to hack messaging accounts and obtain information that proved top officials had used a corruption investigation to undermine the political opponents of fascistic demagogue Jair Bolsonaro. In the lead-up to the 2018 presidential election, which was won by Bolsanaro, former President Luiz Incio Lula da Silva was convicted of corruption and imprisoned and his Workers Party mired in scandal.

In the case of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder has been charged with conspiring with courageous American whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2009-2010 to access troves of classified documents that exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sordid intrigues carried out around the world to prop up pro-US regimes and assert American strategic and corporate interests. A further 17 counts of espionage were then added to the charge list, threatening him with a life sentence of 175 years if he is extradited and condemned by a show trial in the US.

Greenwald has not yet been arrested, but it is almost certain that US intelligence agencies are involved in the legal moves to prosecute him. He would have been on their hit list of priority media targets since he played a key role in 2013 in publishing the leaks made by National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. The Snowden leaks exposed the staggering degree to which the NSA spies on the communications of virtually every American citizen and much of the worlds population.

Julian Assange sought to protect himself from the revenge of the US state by gaining political asylum in 2012 in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London, until he was evicted and arrested last April. Just prior to Assanges eviction, Chelsea Manning was sent back to prison for refusing to appear before a grand jury and retract her categorical testimony during her trial that she acted alonewithout any assistance from Assange and WikiLeaksto access the information she leaked.

The imprisonment of Manning and arrest of Assange were quickly followed by the Macron government initiating moves to prosecute eight journalists over the exposure of Frances complicity in Saudi Arabias illegal war in Yemen. In June 2019, unprecedented police raids on journalists homes and media offices took place in Australia. Three journalists are threatened with prosecution over the publication of leaks exposing war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan and plans to legalise mass surveillance.

Glenn Greenwald had not visited the US since 2013 due to his legitimate concern that he would be arrested. With Bolsanaro now in power, the hands of the CIA, NSA and FBI can well and truly reach into Brazil, where Greenwald has residency rights through his partner.

The WSWS warned in 2010 that if Julian Assange was not defendedafter his detention in Britain over blatantly fabricated allegations that he had committed sexual offences in Swedenit would open the way for a full-scale assault to terrorise and silence genuine journalism. Then Vice-President Joe Biden in Barack Obamas Democratic Party administration had labelled Assange a high-tech terrorist. The Labor government in Australia, where Assange holds citizenship, had denounced WikiLeaks publications as illegal activity.

Within a matter of months, however, the vast majority of the ex-left and ex-liberal political and media fraternity lined up with the US state and its allies against Assange. Publications such as the New York Times and the Guardian which had worked with WikiLeaks to publish the Manning leaks because they were going to be published anywaydevoted their resources to slandering Assange as a suspected rapist and self-serving narcissist, undeserving of any popular sympathy and support. The unions and fake-left organisations internationally actively opposed any campaign in his defence, refusing to discuss his case and boycotting all actions taken to demand his freedom.

The political reasons this turn against WikiLeaks took place must never be forgotten. It occurred in the wake of massive social upheavals, which were in part triggered by information contained in the Manning leaks, which brought down US-backed regimes. Foreign Policy magazine nervously asked in January 2011 if Tunisia was the first WikiLeaks Revolution. Just weeks later, the seemingly all-powerful dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by a mass movement of the Egyptian working class.

The establishment left parties, unions and media are tied by a thousand threads to the financial and corporate oligarchy and benefit from the ruthless exploitation of the vast majority of the worlds population. The way in which the truth had motivated ordinary people to rise up in open rebellion against entrenched elites was viewed in these circles with horror. A mass upheaval demanding an end to social inequality and political injustice in the United States, for example, would threaten the wealth and power of the capitalist class and privileged upper-middle class, of which they are part and which they serve.

The instinctive response of the establishment organisations and media was to join with the state apparatus in seeking to prevent or censor future exposures. As New York Times editor Bill Keller bluntly wrote in November 2010 in response to WikiLeaks: When we find ourselves in possession of government secrets, we think long and hard about whether to disclose them Freedom of the press includes freedom not to publish, and that is a freedom we exercise with some regularity. [Emphasis added].

The hatred of the ex-liberal publications for Assange reached visceral levels in 2016 when WikiLeaks published leaked emails that shed further light on the militarist, big business and authoritarian agenda of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Partytheir preference in the US presidential election. The Times and the Guardian spearheaded the campaign to promote the lie that Assange had conspired with Russian intelligence to hack the emails, and to smear him as a tool of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

In July 2019, a US court dismissed the allegations that WikiLeaks had worked with Russian agencies as entirely divorced from the facts and defended WikiLeaks' right to publish the leaks as plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.

The Times and Guardian, however, have never retracted their false accusations and slanders. To this day, the Times and the Democratic Party machine publicly advocate that Assange be criminally prosecuted over their incessant claims that Russian interference cost Clinton the 2016 election. In April 2019, the Times published comments that described the first conspiracy charge against Assange as an indisputable crime.

Given its record, the New York Times plumbed the depths of hypocrisy in its editorial on January 22 on the charging of Glenn Greenwald. It asserted that Greenwalds publication of leaks in Brazil did what a free press is supposed to do: they revealed a painful truth about those in power. The editorial concluded: Attacking the bearers of that message is a serious disservice and a dangerous threat to the rule of law.

The reality is that the Times, along with numerous ex-left and ex-liberal organisations and publications, has proven through its complicity in the persecution of Assange and WikiLeaks that its class allegiances lie with the corporate oligarchy and the capitalist state.

A genuine defence of persecuted journalists and whistleblowers will be taken forward only by the working class, whose right to know the truth they have courageously served.

Julian Assange is imprisoned in Britain and his extradition trial begins on February 24 in London. Chelsea Manning is in a cell in the United States, Edward Snowden is in forced exile in Russia and now Glenn Greenwald is under threat in Brazil. All those who defend the fundamental democratic rights at stake in their cases have the responsibility to fight for the greatest possible independent mobilisation of workers and young people to demand their immediate and unconditional freedom.

James Cogan

2019 has been a year of mass social upheaval. We need you to help the WSWS and ICFI make 2020 the year of international socialist revival. We must expand our work and our influence in the international working class. If you agree, donate today. Thank you.

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International Court of Justice Orders Burmese Authorities to Protect Rohingya Muslims from Genocide – Free Speech TV

Posted: at 2:10 pm

In a major ruling, the U.N. International Court of Justice at The Hague has ordered Burma to take all measures within its power to protect Rohingya Muslims from genocide.

The court issued the ruling Thursday, calling the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Burma, also known as Myanmar, extremely vulnerable to military violence.

The court ordered Burma to report regularly to the tribunal about its progress.

The ruling is a sharp rebuke of Burmas de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who last month asked the court to drop the genocide case against Burma.

Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent over a decade fighting against the Burmese military that she is now defending.

For more on the ICJ ruling, Democracy Now! speaks with Reed Brody, counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch. This is the most important court in the world intervening in one of the worst mass atrocity situations of our time while the atrocities are still happening, says Brody. It doesnt really get more significant than that.

Democracy Now! produces a daily, global, independent news hour hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzlez.

Our reporting includes breaking daily news headlines and in-depth interviews with people on the front lines of the worlds most pressing issues.

On DN!, youll hear a diversity of voices speaking for themselves, providing a unique and sometimes provocative perspective on global events.

Missed an episode? Check out DN on FSTV VOD anytime or visit the show page for the latest clips.

#FreeSpeechTV is one of the last standing national, independent news networks committed to advancing progressive social change.

As the alternative to television networks owned by billionaires, governments, and corporations, our network amplifies underrepresented voices and those working on the front lines of social, economic and environmental justice.

#FSTV is available on Dish, DirectTV, AppleTV, Roku, Sling and online at freespeech.org.

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How Fox News Influences and Covers the Impeachment Trial – Free Speech TV

Posted: at 2:10 pm

Sonali Kolhatkar speaks with Julie Millican, Vice President of Media Matters for America.

As the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump continues this week there has been wall-to-wall media coverage of the historical event given that it is only the third time in the nations entire history that US Senators are being asked to consider removing a President from office. But one media outlet stands out in its coverage and that is, of course, the Presidents favorite: Fox News.

Fox News, which has a symbiotic relationship with the current White House, has not only mocked the case for impeachment as harshly as possible and claimed the Presidents innocence, but has also seen its own talking points reflected back by the President legal defense team.

Rising Up with Sonali is a radio and television show that brings progressive news coverage rooted in gender and racial justice to a wide audience.

Rising Up With Sonali was built on the foundation of Sonali Kolhatkar's earlier show, Uprising, which became the longest-running drive-time radio show on KPFK in Los Angeles hosted by a woman. RUS airs on Free Speech TV every weekday.

Missed an episode? Check out Rising Up on FSTV VOD anytime or visit the show page for the latest clips.

#FreeSpeechTV is one of the last standing national, independent news networks committed to advancing progressive social change.

As the alternative to television networks owned by billionaires, governments, and corporations, our network amplifies underrepresented voices and those working on the front lines of social, economic and environmental justice.

#FSTV is available on Dish, DirectTV, AppleTV, Roku, Sling and online at freespeech.org.

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Facebook ‘on the side of free expression’ as EU steps up disinformation fight – EURACTIV

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Social media giant Facebook has warned against curtailing freedom of expression as the EU considers measures to clamp down on disinformation campaigns across online platforms.

In the online world, the scope of what we deem to be acceptable speech has narrowed over recent years, leading to potential erosions in freedom of expression, said Nick Clegg, Facebooks Facebooks VP for Global Affairs, at Romes LUISS Guido Carli University on Tuesday (21 January).

Even though other social media companies, such as Twitter, have committed to ban political advertising online, Facebook has repeatedly resisted pressure to take action against political advertising across its platforms.

In the end you need to be careful once you have curtailed free speech because once you have curtailed it you cant turn it back, he said, adding that Facebooks position is to err on the side of free expression where that fine line has to be crossed.

Despite Facebooks commitment to ensuring that free speech is allowed to continue across its platforms, Clegg renewed previous calls for regulation across four areas of its operation: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.

EU fight against disinformation

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission revealed that the EUs Democracy Action Plan, set to be released later this year, will establish measures in the fight against disinformation while also attempting to ensure free and fair elections, as well as addressing media sustainability.

A project team on media pluralism and media freedom as part of the Commissioners Group on European Democracy has been established to work on issues related to sustainability in the industry, Vra Jourov, the Commissions Vice-President for Values and Transparency, said yesterday. Members of the group include Jourov and Executive Vice-President Vestager, as well as commissioners Breton, Gabriel, Reynders, and Vrhelyi. The first meeting of the collective has been planned for early February.

Throughout last year, and particularly in the run up to the May 2019 elections, the European Commission had attempted to do its part to quell the spread of fake news with the introduction of a code of practice against disinformation.

Thecode was a voluntary framework aiming to stamp out the spread of fake news online. Signatories to the set of measures included Facebook, Google and Twitter.

In October, as part of the release of the first annual self-assessments reports of the code, the European Commission highlighted substantial concerns regarding access to data for independent scrutiny of tech platforms efforts against disinformation.

In a statement, the Commission said tech platforms have not been permitting sufficient access to their data to meet the needs of independent scrutiny and there is an urgent need for platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Google to establish better relationships with researchers and fact-checkers looking to probe the work platforms conduct in order to stifle disinformation.

More broadly, at the start of this year, Facebook announced plans to stamp out political manipulation online ahead of the November 2020 US Presidential election, allowing users to turn-off certain ad-targeting tools.

The decision comes after serious concerns related to Russian interference in the 2016 election and the misuse of user data as part of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

[Edited by Frdric Simon]

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The answer to speech we don’t like is more speech – observer-me.com

Posted: at 2:10 pm

Principles are pretty easy to have. It doesn't take much effort to say that you believe in things like free expression, multiculturalism, religious tolerance, a limited government, social justice or fiscal austerity.

Principles are pretty easy to have. It doesnt take much effort to say that you believe in things like free expression, multiculturalism, religious tolerance, a limited government, social justice or fiscal austerity.

The problem, though, is that living out those principles is made quite difficult by our flawed, tribal, primate minds.

An evolutionary holdover of 200,000 years of human development we yearn for small, close-knit groups of us, that are distinct and better to the barbarians that are them.

This is why cliques form in high school. This is why many people join Greek organizations in college. Its why we join message boards for our favorite sports teams, and participate in social media. And yes, this is why people join political parties.

Man is a social creature, but he does not have a universal love of all his brothers. He craves a tribe.

So, when a persons supposed principles come into conflict with their tribal allegiances, the caveman DNA emerges and demands loyalty to the tribe, above that of the principle.

And so, as we have seen lately, supposed advocates of free speech are quite happy to attempt to shut up people they dont like. People that arent in their tribe.

For much of American history, there were brave groups of people that understood how important it was to place principle over tribe. There were those who were willing to set aside those tribal loyalties, in favor of the larger ideal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, rather famously defended the free speech rights of members of the Ku Klux Klan in the landmark Supreme Court case of Brandenburg v. Ohio.

The American Founders understood this. He that would make his own liberty secure, Thomas Paine once wrote, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

Last week, here in Maine, we saw just how far we have fallen from Paines ideal, and the ACLUs example.

Michelle Malkin was invited to Maine to speak by the local chapter of the College Republicans at the University of Maine. She is a controversial speaker herself and has drawn fire from the left and the right for refusing to disavow America First nationalist Nick Fuentes for some of his more disgusting opinions. This was the reason cited for their faculty adviser, Amy Fried, withdrawing from the group, which decertified them with the university.

Then a maelstrom happened, whereby the group was forced to move the event not once, not twice, but three times, before finally settling at their fourth venue. The university says they did not pressure the venues to close the event, and after speaking with some of the venues in question myself, I actually believe that.

It was made clear to the venues that holding the event would be detrimental to their operations, and so they decided to cancel the events.

Look, Malkin has never really been my cup of tea, and I find Fuentes to be troubling and dangerous. But if you really have that much of a problem with either, the solution to speech you find so reprehensible should never be to shut it down. That only inspires resentment, and makes people more curious about what could be so scary about a speech, and aids in the message being spread.

The solution to speech is more speech. Have a protest, but do not threaten businesses for allowing people to speak. Make a speech of your own. Use social media and make a better case for why they are wrong.

In the end, any attempt to shut someone up merely makes their voice that much bigger, and yours smaller. So ditch the tribe, and fight for a principle we should all believe in for once, no matter how uncomfortable that makes us.

Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

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The answer to speech we don't like is more speech - observer-me.com

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