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Category Archives: Free Speech
Free speech protects the civil rights movements of the past, present, and future – Washington Examiner
Posted: October 24, 2019 at 10:44 am
The freedom to speak messages some people dont want to hear is essential to civil rights. In fact, without the protections of the First Amendment, there probably wouldnt have been a civil rights movement.
Fifty-six years ago this spring, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sat in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama. His crime? Parading without a permit. How was he supposed to get a permit?
Permits came at the discretion of a city commission headed by the infamous segregationist Bull Connor. The law said that, if in Connors judgment, the public welfare, peace, safety, health, decency, good order, morals or convenience require that [the permit] be refused, he could refuse it. Its not hard to imagine whether it inconvenienced or offended Bull Connors morals or decency to grant King and his allies a permit to march for equality.
Speech permits were only one of the tools used to try to quell the civil rights movement, but their legacy endures even today, as people working to express ideas and promote social change find their efforts obstructed or shut down completely by government officials.
At Kellogg Community College in 2016, Michele Gregoire and a few of her friends were handing out copies of the Constitution and asking passing students if they like freedom and liberty. Police arrested the group, charged them with trespassing, and booked them in jail.
Their crime? Engaging in expression without a permit. The colleges speech policy allowed it to shut down any expression that it disapproved of, and required pre-approval for expressive activities. The meaning of expressive was not clearly defined.
If that makes your head spin, think about, as a student, trying to figure out what you are allowed or not allowed to say, and where you are and arent allowed to say it. Then imagine spending time in jail for passing out a copy of the Constitution, including the First Amendment the only permit, ironically, that anyone should need to engage in expression in a public place.
Many universities dont require a permit to engage in expression they just flat out prohibit it unless it is limited to an ironically named free speech area on campus.
This was the case at Georgia Gwinnett College in suburban Atlanta, where Chike Uzuegbunam was told he could only tell others about his Christian faith on 0.002% of the campus, and only with prior permission. A similar case unfolded at Southern Illinois University, where expression was limited to a speech zone that comprised only 0.001% of the campus.
Often, the speech police do not enforce these restrictions equally. Students at Grand Valley State University in Michigan attempted to hold an informal event celebrating free speech by having students write on a free speech ball in a large open area on campus. They were threatened with arrest if they didnt move to a small zone that excluded 99.7% of the campus. Yet, on that same campus, a large crowd of students was allowed to hold signs and march throughout the campus as they protested the election of Donald Trump. The university only agreed to change its policies after our organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, represented the students in a federal lawsuit challenging the speech zones.
Even worse are policies (speech codes) that allow government officials, like Bull Connor, to determine if the content of someones expression is too offensive, or would, in the words of the law that put King in jail, hurt the public convenience.
For example, Iowa State University maintained such a broad policy prohibiting harassment that it said, First Amendment protected speech activities may actually constitute harassment depending on the circumstances, including whether other students believe the speech is not legitimate, not necessary, or lacks a constructive purpose.
No doubt Bull Connor thought that Kings expression was not legitimate, necessary, or constructive.
No fellow student or government official should have the power to censor speech for those reasons. Thankfully, the point of the First Amendment is to protect speech that some in society, including those in power, may not like. Indeed, as the Supreme Court held years ago: Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.
Undoubtedly, some people will use this freedom to spout ideas which are wrong or even reprehensible. But this same freedom preserves the ability of the marketplace of ideas to test those values without the government putting its thumb on the scale, or dissenters in jail.
Over half a century later, as we celebrate Free Speech Week this week, we should learn from the painful lessons of pioneers of freedom like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We should shun the censorship of restrictive permits, zones, codes, and their ilk, and stand together for the freedom to speak ideas new and old, civil or uncivil. We should not fear the expression of ideas we disagree with.
After all, Sunlight is the best of disinfectants (as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it), and truth should never fear the challenge of falsehood.
Caleb Dalton is a legal counsel at the Center for Academic Freedom of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Posted: at 10:44 am
Lets talk about Facebook.
Are you sick of hearing people talk about Facebook? Well, too bad. Mark Zuckerberg says if you dont let us talk about Facebook, youre dampening our voice. And,as we all know, sharing our voice empowers the powerless and pushes society to be better over time, according to Zuckerberg.At a recent PR wet dream at Georgetown University, the CEO of Facebook gave a speech entitled Standing for Voice and Free Expression as a part of the universitys new Democracy in the Digital Age series of lectures.Despite the events overambitious name, student speech during the event was heavily regulated, and student questions were pre-selected. Because they were submitted before the event, the questions could not have possibly pertained to the topics Zuckerberg covered. This was probably exciting for him, as his speech was an irredeemable hodgepodge of buzzwords and platitudes.
Zuckerberg mentioned voice over 30 times throughout his speech, seemingly as a substitute for freedom of speechlike when he said, some people believe giving more people a voice is driving division rather than bringing us together, or political ads are an important part of voice. But theyre not the same thing. Freedom of speech refers to the right of the people to speak without fear of government restriction. Voice, as defined by Dictionary.com, is the sound or sounds uttered through the mouth of living creatures, especially of human beings in speaking, shouting, singing, etc.
So, not the same.
Yet Zuckerberg uses voice in an effort to apply free speech to his private company. He knows theyre not the same thing, but he also knows that if he equates them enough times in a 35-minute window, people will forget that he is able to regulate the content on Facebook.
Unfortunately for Zuckerberg, the public has not forgotten. On Sept. 24, Facebook announced it would not be fact-checking political ads, a move Zuckerberg defended in his Georgetown speech. As a private institution, Facebook is not technically responsible for regulating the content on their site. However, many people believe they are morally responsible. After all, based on Facebooks estimations, over a third of the worlds population uses the site.
But to allow false political advertisements to circulate on the site misleads the public, and that is not a voice issue at that point. By framing this as a free speech, or voice issue, Zuckerberg believes that he can avoid that moral responsibility by focusing on what he believes to be his moral responsibility to give more people a voice to be heard.Zuckerberg isnt the first person to twist the concept of free speech to fit his agenda. Every third Twitter thread is just some white dude using the n-word and then defending it with a cry of free speech! But as problematic as the views of these Twitter trolls are, Zuckerbergs is worse: As the CEO of a massive social media company, his loose equation of free speech = voice is what enables these people to twist the definition of free speech to fit their agenda.
Discourse will find its place, whether Zuckerberg regulates Facebook or not. Facebook is not, at heart, a political forum sure, there have been political controversies surrounding it, and there are plenty of political posts on the site but the purpose of Facebook is not to be a beacon of political truths. For Zuckerberg to paint Facebook as some kind of special forum for public thought is disingenuous, and hes only doing it so he doesnt have to take a closer look at his company and reevaluate his business model. Were living in an era where public discourse is extremely important, but arbitrarily turning something into a free speech issue debases what free speech actually means.
Oh, and, just like how free speech doesnt let you yell fire in a movie theater, sharing your voice on Facebook shouldnt let you use the n-word in a knitting interest group.
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Staff Editorial: Mark Zuckerberg has never googled the definition of free speech - The Retriever
Journalists want free speech for them, censorship for the rest of us – The Australian Financial Review
Posted: at 10:44 am
The coalition's justification for these special privileges for the media is that freedom of the press is essential to a well-functioning democracy. That's true, of course, but it is subject to an important qualification. "Freedom of the press" is actually the freedom to print and publish - for anyone, not just the press.
In a democracy, governments, media companies, and journalists' trade unions don't have, and should never have, the right to decide who is or isn't "a journalist" and who qualifies as "the press", so they can get special rights. To do so would be to create an "official media", so effectively license and censor the media - yet, bizarrely, this is what the coalition seems to want.
Double standards: the media picks and chooses when it does and doesn't support freedom of expression in Australia. Supplied.
In 2012, when the Labor government-appointed Finkelstein inquiry into media regulation recommended a de facto scheme for licensing the press, much of the media welcomed such an initiative.
At the moment, the Right to Know Coalition can too easily be portrayed as wanting to run a protection racket for the established media companies against interloping bloggers sitting in their pyjamas at their dining room table, publishing political commentary on the internet at 2am.
No doubt some supporters of the coalition are acting from the purest of motives. But it's very easy to sense a degree of hypocrisy from at least some of those who are lending their name to the campaign, as in the case of Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young. Yet it was the Greens who went to the last federal election with a policy to censor commentators whose opinions they disagreed with. Admittedly the coalition can't be held responsible for winning the support of the Greens, but the it would be taken a lot more seriously if it disassociated itself from people who believe in "freedom of the press we agree with".
The campaign of the Right to Know Coalition has also uncovered the double standards of some in the Canberra press gallery.
In 2014 the efforts of the Liberal government to reform section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (which makes insults based on someone's race unlawful) were dismissed by many journalists as merely a part of the "culture wars", and the idea of freedom of speech was portrayed as irrelevant to most Australians.
Now, five years later, those same journalists are proclaiming freedom of the press as a basic principle of democracy.
An unfair cynic would say that this reveals that too many in the media start caring about freedom only when it affects them. And when their complaints can be used as a stick to beat a conservative government.
Posted: at 10:44 am
Transformation NOT Reformation. From regenerative farming to revolutionary inclusion, these voices from the Forest Convergence tell it like it is, draw connections between our struggles and unapologetically demand real and direct action. Wherever you are, that is your frontline. Know that you have an army on your side. And we must continue to fight. And build.
Act Out!covers the news corporate media won't touch. Stories from the front lines of our movements to fight andbuild a better world.Act Out!is the brainchild of activist/writer/singerEleanor Goldfield.Focused on creative and grassroots activism, this weekly show gives updates on activism around the country, focusing on artists and creatives, grassroots actions and how people anywhere can get involved, from tweets to marching in the streets. Watchevery Saturday onFree Speech TVor on-demand right here.
12PM - 1PM ET
10:30PM -11:30PM ET
#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 and online at freespeech.org
Act Out Eleanor Goldfield Environment Forest Convergence Free Speech TV regenerative farming
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Grassroots From the Treetops Grassroots From the Treetops - Free Speech TV
Posted: October 20, 2019 at 10:14 pm
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunchs roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If youd like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.
1. Zuckerberg on Chinese censorship: Is that the internet we want?
The Facebook CEO spoke yesterday at Georgetown University, sharing his thoughts on speech and how we might address the challenges that more voice and the internet introduce, and the major threats to free expression around the world.
Among his arguments: China is exporting its social values, political ads are an important part of free expression and the definition of dangerous speech must be kept in check.
2. Atlassian acquires Code Barrel, makers of Automation for Jira
Sydney-based Code Barrel was founded by two of the first engineers who built Jira at Atlassian, Nick Menere and Andreas Knecht. With this acquisition, they are returning to Atlassian after four years in startup land.
3. Swarm gets green light from FCC for its 150-satellite constellation
Swarm Technologies aims to connect smart devices around the world with a low-bandwidth but ever-present network provided by satellites and it just got approval from the FCC to do so. Apparently the agency is no longer worried that Swarms sandwich-sized satellites are too small to be tracked.
4. Nintendo Switch hits another sales milestone
Nintendos North American Switch unit sales have already surpassed the lifetime worldwide unit sales of the Wii U. The company announced Thursday that they had sold 15 million units of the popular handheld console in North America.
5. HBO Max scores all 21 Studio Ghibli films
WarnerMedia has been on a shopping spree for its HBO Max service. It bought the rights to Friends and The Big Bang Theory, and now its using its outsized checkbook to bring beloved Japanese animation group Studio Ghiblis films onto the web exclusively on its platform for U.S. subscribers.
6. Volvo creates a dedicated business for autonomous industrial and commercial transport
The vehicle-maker has already been active in putting autonomous technology to work in various industries, with self-driving projects at quarries and mines, and in the busy port located at Gothenburg, Sweden.
7. How Unity built the worlds most popular game engine
Unitys growth is a case study of Clayton Christensens theory of disruptive innovation. While other game engines targeted the big AAA game makers at the top of the console and PC markets, Unity went after independent developers with a less robust product that was better suited to their needs and budget. (Extra Crunch membership required.)
Posted: at 10:14 pm
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies during a hearing on Capitol Hill. Last week, a Los Angeles jury found not guilty the student activists arrested for heckling Mnuchin during a 2018 talk he gave at UCLA. (AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster)
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In February 2018, Tala Deloria and several other young people at the University of CaliforniaLos Angeles protested against Steve Mnuchin, Trumps very wealthy, more-or-less-openly corrupt Treasury secretary, who was due to speak on campus about the US economy.Ad Policy
Deloria, 24, and her fellow activists hadnt planned on going inside the auditoriumthey wanted to protest Mnuchin outside the event space with other activists. But there were seats available, and at the last minute, Deloria and a few others from the local chapter of Refuse Fascism (part of the Revolutionary Communist Party) decided to go in.
She sat in her seat quietly at first, but she couldnt take hearing Mnuchin talk anymore without being challenged. So Deloria began yelling at Mnuchin about the Trump administrations cutting of social programs and detaining of immigrants. UCLAs police force quickly moved in, picked Deloria up under her arms and legs, and dragged her away. Several others began shouting in her stead. They were arrested too, and brought to a holding room for several hours. UCLA banned the protesters from campus for seven days.
Deloria was surprised by the arrest, but thought it was all over after she was releaseduntil six months later, when Los Angeles prosecutors filed a host of charges against her and her fellow protesters, including trespassing, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace. Im pretty furious, Deloria said recently in an interview. Not only because of what happened to me, but because this is part of bludgeoning the right to protest and the right to speak out.
Last week, a Los Angeles jury found all defendants not guilty. But the fact that UCLA arrested the demonstrators and cooperated with prosecutors who pressed charges against them for peacefully disrupting an event may foretell a grim future for campus politics. Theres no official tally, but this appears to be one of the first instances in which protesters on a college campus were charged for nonviolent, nonthreatening behavior that involved no property destruction or violence but only a simple heated exchange of words. Im angry because the university is at the helm of this, Deloria said. Its gonna affect me, but its also gonna put a chill on speech across the US.
Jerry Kang, UCLAs vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion, said that by arresting the protesters, the university was following its lengthy speech and protest policy document, which guarantees a right to speak and protest, but draws the line at disrupting a speaker.
We want serious critique and conversation, but we want persuasion and not coercion, Kang said in a recent interview. We make very clear that we understand and celebrate protest, we understand the need for people to state their case, its just when the protest becomes so disruptive that its essentially an act of force that silences the speaker from reaching a willing audience, that we cant permit that to happen.Current Issue
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Kang said that the school was not involved in recommending that charges be filed, but that he trusts the system that has the court decide what the appropriate punishment should be. There has to be accountability for your actions, he went on. Civil disobedience has a very rich and important tradition in our country. It helps break down laws that are truly unjust, and I want to recognize that we should celebrate civil disobedience, but civil disobedience has always had consequences.
Refuse Fascism members and their supporters, however, point out that UCLA did not simply remove the protesters from the Mnuchin event. It arrested them, cooperated with prosecutors, and granted Mnuchins request to suppress video of the event. The university also delayed the release of documents related to the event, and only after a year of cajoling from free speech groups and a lawsuit from the free speech advocacy group FIRE did UCLA acquiesce to the public records request.
Theyre saying, Look, folks, this is actually a case of free speech, because the free speech rights of Steve Mnuchin were violated, Deloria said. Theyre weaponizing the First Amendment in order to suppress speech.
Dan Kapelovitz, a lawyer for several of the UCLA protesters, said that the charges filed were extraordinarily rare. Usually, in actual disturbing-the-peace cases, like an annoying neighbor playing loud music, they dont file charges, he said. I think the police have it out for this group. Kapelovitz added that the police used excessive force in their arrest, refused to stop interrogating the protesters when they asked for a lawyer, and did not read them their Miranda rights.
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Though the charges against the protesters were ultimately fruitless, UCLAs tough stance against the demonstrators is part of a worrying trend on college campuses: In the name of free speech, colleges and universities, and the governments that fund them, have instituted anti-protest laws that call for the arrest and even expulsion of protesters if they disrupt a speaker.
Over the past three years, the conservative Goldwater Institute has been working to pass variations of model legislation that would prevent schools from disinviting speakers, require the establishment of disciplinary policies for disruptions, and require universities to pay court and legal fees for anyone who is disrupted on campus. The Goldwater Institute has close ties to ALEC, the think tank notorious for pushing through dozens of business-friendly, far-right bills at the local, state, and federal level.
At least 17 states have now passed legislation modeled on the Goldwater Institute bill. And perhaps more troubling is the fact that many colleges and universities are either remaining silent on the new policies or actively instituting them without being asked to by their state governments.
In Wisconsin, for example, where the bill stalled in the state Senate, the University of Wisconsin board of regents nonetheless approved its own Goldwateresque policies that mandate that students who disrupt speakers twice be suspended and those who disrupt three times be expelled. The US House and Senate have also introduced similar bills, which would apply to all public universities and colleges.
The model legislationits a disingenuous use of the term free speech, Risa Lieberwitz, general counsel at the American Association of University Professors, said. Theres a very distinct, very conservative agenda. The problem with the laws, Lieberwitz explained, is that they skew the determination of whose right to express themselves matters: The mission of the university is a public mission, and part of that mission is to protect free speech and the right of students and faculty to engage in vigorous and heated debate. That might be very loud, and some might view it as disruptive, but just because of that, doesnt mean the student should be silenced.
In other words, the laws protect mostly conservative speakers invited to campus without considering the rights of those who protest the speakers.
The laws amount to a conservative-backed bait-and-switchusing the universalist language of the First Amendment to push a one-sided agenda, and limit backlash to that agenda. Its becoming a tried-and-true tactic for the far right. In March, President Trump signed an executive order called Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities that encouraged his administration to cut off funding for any institute of higher learning that doesnt create a safe space for campus speakers. Only a few months later, the administration ordered the University of North Carolina and Duke University to change the content of their courses on Middle East studies to include more positive teachings on Judaism and Christianity, or else risk losing funding from the federal government.
Over the past several years, the nonprofit UnKoch My Campus has collected thousands of pages of documents that show the true intent of these laws and policies prohibiting dissent: they are not meant to increase free speech, but are instead part of a larger strategy to turn higher education into a conservative thought and policy factory. The Koch family now funds programs, professorships, and student groups at over 300 colleges and universities, and many of the free speech organizations, that push for restrictive protest policies.
It remains to be seen how many colleges and universities go along with this conservative agenda. So far, there has been little resistance from administrations over the laws. Given that fact, and also that ostensibly liberal institutions like UCLA have begun to punish student protesters, its likely that restrictive speech codes that lead to disciplinary actions, expulsions, and arrests will become more common across the United States.
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The whole free speech movement is tied to billionaires efforts to teach theories that favor their conservative views and their economic model, Jasmine Banks, the executive director of UnKoch My Campus, said. They want to make sure that theres no dissent to their ideas.
Editors note: This article has been corrected to show that prosecutors, not UCLA, pressed charges against the students, and that the FIRE lawsuit was over various public records but not the video of the event itself.
Posted: at 10:14 pm
Your help is needed, but first, you should know: Yesterday we learned that the SCOTUS justices had, for the third time this month, chosen to postpone for another two weeks a decision on granting (or denying) review in National Review v. Mann. What does this mean?
The vast majority of cert petitions are rejected by the high court immediately, at the time when they are first scheduled to be considered. The fact that our petition has not been declined, that it persists, that it remains ripe for consideration, means, in the calculus of any seasoned high-court observer, that there is clearly some interest in the case among the justices.
Define some. We cant. How about making odds: Does the delay (it looks like the Court will next formally consider the matter in the first week of November) mean that the case will be taken up? Not necessarily. But then, is there reason to see all this as measured good news? Its fair to say: Yes.
Heck: The cert petition could have been denied immediately, as most are. So it is indeed good news that we are still in the fight a fight not of our choosing, but one we intend to engage in with every ounce of institutional energy, every iota of institutional resources. After all, there is an unalienable right being messed with.
Whether SCOTUS takes up the case, or if it proceeds on its current track a jury trial before the very liberal District of Columbia court system the facts remain:
Well over a million dollars have been spent in National Reviews defense since Michael Mann initiated this assault on the First Amendment in 2012 (we wonder: What cabal of liberal moneybags is paying his big tab?). Our insurance pays for much of our defense, but NR has had to pay boatloads of money for costs not covered by the insurer. That burden could be an institutional back-breaker, but as yet it hasnt been, because so many generous people, good people, patriotic Americans folks who abhor the thought that their own right to free speech is being monkeyed with (and is it ever!) have stepped up (nearly 1,300 and counting since we launched this effort last week) to provide NR with real and meaningful financial aid.
Have you helped us out in this matter? If you have, thanks very much (feel free to help some more). The strife persists. Have you yet to help? You are under no obligation to do so, but remember: This fight is not our fight . . . it is OUR fight. NR does not own the First Amendment its yours too. And so should be the fight to protect it.
Help us fight this fight by contributing to our 2019 Fall Webathon. No amount is too small (or big!). If you prefer to fight by check, make yours out to the order of National Review and mail it to National Review, ATTN: 2019 Fall Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036. Please know we look forward to having you alongside us at the barricade, where we can employ our free-speech right to assure you of our deep appreciation, and the thrill of your camaraderie.
P.S.: Your generous contribution supports the journalism, commentary, and opinion writing published in National Review magazine and on National Review Online. If you prefer to send a check, please mail it to National Review, ATTN: Fall 2019 Webathon, 19 West 44th Street, Suite 1701, New York, NY 10036.
Please note that contributions to National Review, Inc., while vitally important, are not tax deductible. If you would like to support the NR mission with a tax-deductible contribution, we recommend National Review Institute, the charitable organization founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1991. National Review Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), journalistic think tank, established to advance the conservative principles William F. Buckley Jr. championed, and complement the mission of National Review magazine, including by supporting and promoting NRs best talent. Donations to NRI are explicitly used at NRIs discretion to support NRIs programs. To learn more, please visit http://www.nrinstitute.org.
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Where Our Free-Speech Fight Stands - National Review
The government is becoming too intrusive in regulating free speech on campuses (opinion) – Inside Higher Ed
Posted: at 10:14 pm
The federal government has shown a growing interest in campus speech, taking steps to manage administrative and curricular aspects of the work campuses do. Those mounting efforts to regulate speech at colleges and universities are a threat to academic freedom, and it is time for higher education to push back.
The U.S. Department of Justice, for example, filed a statement of interest last year, backing a lawsuit against the use of bias response team by the University of Michigan. The department agreed with the plaintiffs, Speech First, that the universitys rules probably inhibited free speech.
A federal appeals court also ruled last month that by operating a bias response team, the university might be undermining open expression. In a 2-to-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined that the powers of the bias response team -- an increasingly common tool used by colleges and universities to address concerns about prejudiced and harassing speech -- objectively chill speech.
In my work on campus free speech, I have raised concerned about bias response teams. Such teams are basically administrative committees that can respond to concerns about bias through voluntary discussions with the parties involved -- and referrals to others if they determine that the conduct in question was against the law or university policy. Administrators can use them to chill speech in ways that are unjustified, and thus create an environment on their campus thats not conducive to open inquiry and effective teaching. That can happen if students and professors constantly have to worry that they might be penalized for their words or ideas.
But the court overreaches in its conclusions, given that no evidence suggests that these voluntary processes are, in fact, chilling speech. The price to speech seems to be low or nonexistent, whereas the gain to the conversation on campuses can be significant, in that more students and faculty members will feel confident in participating and have a way to raise concerns when bias and prejudice limit such participation.
Even more concerning is the Justice Departments interest in the case. Colleges and universities must have the flexibility to deal with matters of conduct without the government looking over their shoulders.
To learn well, students must be exposed to a diverse array of perspectives, and they must do so over time and within a context that supports the expression of dissenting views. The protection of open expression is key to the work that colleges and universities do. So is the protection of a real opportunity for each member of the learning community to try out their views out loud, to consider different perspectives and to share and receive criticism.
Bias response teams can help in the maintenance of a constructive learning environment, depending on how they function. If they are open to students in raising concerns and are built to encourage and mediate a dialogue about those concerns rather than serve as a punitive mechanism, they can contribute to an open atmosphere of research and teaching. The needs of different campuses will be different in this regard, and we will surely make mistakes in the process of establishing them where we choose to do so. But, ultimately, they can serve an important purpose.
Meanwhile, in a similar vein as the Justice Departments filing, the U.S. Department of Education recently accused the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies of an alleged lack of balance in its programming, suggesting that it is treating Islam favorably compared to religious minority groups in the Middle East. The Education Department asserted that the conferences and activities the consortium hosts have failed to promote U.S. national security and economic stability -- key goals of TitleIV, which helps fund the program.
TitleIV programs are good contexts for learning about diverse perspectives, languages and cultures. The governments attempt to regulate the content so that it fits with an ideological vision represents a breach of the needed barrier between regulators and experts. That barrier has been breached before, of course, notably by legislators in Wisconsin and in other states that have looked into syllabi and criticized professors for the contents of their classes. (The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents last week also continued its regrettable and possibly unconstitutional march toward limiting student protest in the name of protecting free speech.)
Such regulatory intrusions by different arms of the federal government, along with recent legislation in various states that curtail student protests and forbid the expression of specific political views, should raise alarms in the higher education sector. Under the guise of protecting speech and defending viewpoint diversity, the government is promoting a political ideology -- an effort that people of all political stripes who are committed to academic freedom should reject. Colleges and universities are institutions where research and teaching take place, both of which, in different ways, are based on shared norms and practices that should not be subject to extensive regulatory tinkering.
Along with the Department of Justice renewal of the investigation against Rutgers University for discrimination against Jewish students, a pattern emerges: one that undermines the autonomy and authority of institutions of higher learning and replaces them with a bureaucratic effort to promote specific views.
Free speech, a necessary condition for learning and expanding knowledge, is hampered when politicians police colleges and universities. Of course, higher education institutions sometimes get things wrong -- including in the structure or language of policies related to bias response teams, or with specific programming or syllabus decisions. But even then, legislative limitations and threats to cut funding unless ideological obedience is ensured are the wrong way to go.
Posted: at 10:14 pm
The speech wars are resuming on campus with the new semester. But in the opinion columns, conference panels, and state houses debating the state of free expression on campus, they never abated.
The positions are well staked out. Activists point to the videos of invited speakers shouted down by students who object to what they will say. Skeptics retort that free speech is no more imperiled on college campuses than elsewhere. But this seemingly unending debate misses the point.
Free expression on campus matters not because there is a unique speech crisis on campus, but because universities are uniquely positioned to address broader societal crises. The question isnt whether universities have a problem but how theyre uniquely positioned to solve ours.
There are over 5,000 colleges in the United States, and they arent all the same. But together, they are a critical part of the solution for our growing tribalism and intolerance of other points of view.
More than two-thirds of Americans attend college, and more than 1 in 3 will receive a bachelors degree. As a result, college graduates will disproportionately hold positions of influence in our government and culture. These campuses are where the next generation of teachers, judges, cultural influencers, and community leaders are educated. And college is also the first significant opportunity for many students to experience truly diverse ideas and find ways to resolve differences.
Universities are unique in their mission, their impact and in the centrality of free expression to that end. As a sign prominently displayed over an academic building at my alma mater, the University of Virginia, proclaims: For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it. Even assuming we know the truth from an error, allowing error to challenge truth helps to guarantee that the ideas we hold true are not accepted as mere dogma. Truth has nothing to fear. It can only be sharpened by conflict.
So civil liberty advocates are not wrong when they raise concerns about the roughly 90% of universities with speech zones, speech codes, and other formal written policies that, however well-meaning their intent, violate the First Amendment. Not only do these policies require taxpayer expense to defend when enforced, but they signal to students that the state can tell you when and where you can speak and what you can say. If 91% of municipalities suddenly enacted written policies unconstitutionally limiting free expression, it seems doubtful there would be much debate about whether this constitutes a crisis in need of resolving.
But skeptics are also correct to note that the focus on a crisis of campus free speech obscures the fact that university students may be no more supportive of censorship than the general population. Almost 30% of adults say that the First Amendment goes too far in its protections, 25% would give the president power to shutter news media engaged in bad behavior, and 50% of adults say that universities should disinvite speakers who will offend some part of a campus population.
So is the crisis really limited to the campus? Hardly.
The necessity of promoting free expression, and eliminating unconstitutional barriers to it on campus, need not be premised on a demonstrated campus crisis. This framing lowers expectations for what our universities should be, grading free speech on campus on a curve with the rest of our society. Yet, free expression is critical to the achievement of the universitys own mission and universities are not just part of our national culture, they graduate the leaders who shape it.
By eliminating speech zones, speech codes, and similar restrictive policies, universities demonstrate that other students and their ideas are not a threat to be managed but an opportunity for growth to be embraced. Supporting debate and other programs that allow students to engage with and even empathize with others with different views is a critical step in ending the tribalism infecting our society.
These ideas are not new, especially to free-speech advocates. But they should pursue these goals not with the aim of simply protecting the rights of combatants in a speech war, but because they enable universities and their graduates better leaders for our future.
Its time we stop focusing on universities as the problem and start treating them as the needed solution.
Casey Mattox is a senior fellow of free speech and toleration at the Charles Koch Institute.
Posted: at 10:14 pm
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Political speech is now something that can be wagered on, at least when it comes to The League of Legends World Championship. One wagering firm is taking bets on if political statements will be made at the upcoming championships in Berlin.
This weekends The League of Legends World Championship could be the next battlefront for the democratic movement in Hong Kong. Last week, Ng Wai Chung, who is known by his gaming handle of Blitzchung,had been banned and stripped of his earnings after an interview on the Asia-Pacific Grandmasters broadcast of Hearthstone. In the interview, Blitzchung made a pro-democratic statement and was summarily stripped of his winnings, and was banned because ofhis statement by the game's owner, which is partially owned by Tencent, a Chinese media company..
Now, political speech inspired by Blitzchung is open to bets. SportsBetting.ag is offering three wagering lines on the topic for this weekends championship:
The case at the center of the betting odds continues to draw more attention to the protests in Hong Kong.
Blitzchung wore a gas mask while conducting the interview,a nod to the protesters in Hong Kong. At the end of the interview shouted "Liberate Hong Kong! The revolution of our times!"
This was deemed by Activision Blizzard to be against the games code of conduct, the games owner and operator. Blitzchung was stripped of his winnings and banned for the statement. Days later, Activision Blizzard caved to pressure and re-instated the winnings while cutting the suspension to six months.
Blitzchung responded to his commuted punishment by posting his appreciation on social media channels, but he has left the question of his future participation in the esports community open.
"Honestly, I have no idea on that yet," Blitzchung wrote about if he will compete again. "Since my next tournament is very likely to be the grandmaster tournament of next season, it's probably at least a few months from now on. I will take this time to relax myself to decide if I am staying in competitive hearthstone scene or not."
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Betting on free speech at the The League of Legends World Championship - Fox Business