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Freedom of Speech

Did Columbia University Violate The First Amendment?

Defending Rights & Dissent, a non-profit advocacy group, in their recent letter to Columbia President Minouche Shafik (which has lots of good information) stated: Although Columbia University is a private institution not governed by the First Amendment, the role of state actors — in this case members of Congress — in instigating the action would raise serious First Amendment concerns. This might seem odd to people. Many people think that private groups can disregard the First Amendment, which only limits government action. However, Defending Rights & Dissent is perfectly correct in noting this case may be different.

McCarthyist Attack On Gaza Protests Threatens Free Thought For All

With the encouragement of the state, universities from coast to coast are taking draconian steps to silence debate about US-backed violence in the Middle East. The Columbia University community looked on in shock as cops in riot gear arrested at least 100 pro-Palestine protesters who had set up an encampment in the center of campus (New York Post, 4/18/24). The university’s president, Nemat Shafik, had just the day before testified before a Republican-dominated congressional committee ostensibly concerned with campus “antisemitism”—a label that has come to be misapplied to any criticism of Israel, though the critics so smeared are often themselves Jewish.

The ‘Disinformation Industry’ Lands In Court

What kind of a week was last week in the theater of war wherein battles rage over illegal censorship, illegal attacks on freedom of speech, illegal government infringements on our constitutional rights, and, amid it all, the complicity of our most powerful media in these illegalities? For a brief while it looked as though it was a very fine week. On July 4, an excellent day for this, a district court in Louisiana ruled that the White House and a long list of other federal agencies are barred from all contacts with social media companies if the intent is to intimidate or otherwise coerce Twitter, Google, Facebook, and other such platforms into deleting, suppressing, or in any way obscuring content protected as free speech, to paraphrase a key passage in the ruling.

US Court Victory Against Online Censorship

A judge in Louisiana has barred the F.B.I. and other government agencies from asking social media companies to suppress free speech, reports Joe Lauria. A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday issued a temporary injunction against a number of government agencies preventing them from talking to social media firms for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.” Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled that the agencies couldn’t identify specific social media posts to be taken down or ask for reports about the social media company’s efforts to do so.

Conflict As A Tension To Steer By

The unwritten rules in many groups are clear: Be nice, avoid conflict at all costs and, if a conflict arises, see it as a “personal problem” of one perhaps problematic individual. In sociocracy, we have the opportunity to see things differently. A conflict or individual’s strong feelings can point out something the rest of us aren’t seeing, which could be important to the organization as a whole. Perhaps an activity of the group is conflicting with the group’s values or aims. Perhaps a policy is not clear, and the lack of clarity is creating a conflict. Listening to this tension and identifying the underlying needs can lead to a more effective organization that functions better. We can actually use the tension inherent in conflict as a way to steer governance.

FBI Cointelpro Is Back And Worse Than Ever

Elon Musk has opened the floodgates to expose the FBI’s latest war on Americans’ freedom of speech.  The FBI massively intervened to pressure Twitter to suppress accounts and tweets from individuals the FBI disapproved, including parody accounts.  The FBI and other federal agencies also browbeat Facebook, Instagram, and many other tech companies. Thus far, most of the American media has ignored or downplayed the story, known as the Twitter Files. Since many of the individuals who the FBI got squelched were pro-Trump, the violation of their rights is a non-issue – or a cause for quiet celebration.  At this point, it is difficult to know whether the scant reaction to the Twitter Files is the result of political bias, collective amnesia, or simply a total ignorance of American history.

‘Free Speech’ Is Whatever The Rich Say It Is

It’s been a banner month for people who love invoking the “free speech” buzzword. Whether Elon Musk was promoting it as a catch-all abstract value to justify inviting transphobes and neo-nazis back to Twitter, or mainstream journalists were invoking the idea in response to a petulant billionaire banning his critics from the large social media company he just purchased for $44 billion, everyone these past few weeks has had some opinion on “free speech,” what it means, and who its supposed champion—or, more often than not, its most hypocritical defender—truly is. What the conversation has been largely lacking (other than a coherent definition of “free speech”) is a serious acknowledgment that free speech as a concept means very little if we don’t discuss how massive asymmetries in the distribution of power and the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a tiny few effectively determine who has the right to speak freely and who doesn’t.

Guarding Democracy From News

The past month has seen blows against freedom of speech for independent news outlets and, indeed, for all Americans. I’m not being hyperbolic here. There are real threats to our freedom of speech against which we ought to mobilize. First, the Biden administration named something called a “Disinformation Governance Board,” housed in the Department of Homeland Security, whose job will supposedly be to “standardize the treatment of disinformation by the agencies it oversees.”  That means that the government will be the final arbiter of what disinformation is. It will decide what we can and can’t read. At least that’s the plan. (It is now on hold after an angry backlash.)

2022’S First Major Nationwide Protests Were To ‘Kill The Bill’

Home secretary Priti Patel’s authoritarian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (the police bill) has caused uproar. Many see it as racist against Black people and the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community. It will also clamp down on our rights to protest, to roam, and to take strike action. Amnesty International said the bill: represents an enormous and unprecedented extension of policing powers 2021 was filled with protests over the bill. Some of these were marred by police violence. Courts have sent some protesters from Bristol to prison – possibly the shape of things to come. Since the Tories first unveiled the police bill, they’ve made several changes to it. It’s now even worse. So, on 15 January, people hit the streets once more to show their anger over the bill.

Court Refuses To Block Panel Talk On Palestine At UMass-Amherst

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Robert L. Ullmann on Thursday refused to issue an injunction requested by attorney Karen Hurvitz to prevent a panel discussion on Palestine from being convened at University of Massachusetts campus. Hurvitz argued the event could wound the college’s reputation, harm Jewish students and violate anti-discrimination policies. The program, titled, “Not Backing Down: Israel, Free Speech & the Battle for Palestinian Rights” will now go ahead as scheduled on Saturday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the UMass Fine Arts Center.

Dakota Access Pipeline Company Is Abusing The Judicial System To Silence Dissent

In a win for free speech, a federal court in North Dakota recently dismissed a baseless $900 million lawsuit brought by the Dakota Access Pipeline company against Greenpeace and a number of individual protesters. The company should have learned its lesson. Instead, it refiled the case in state court. These meritless cases are textbook examples of “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” or SLAPPs. This tactic is increasingly used by corporations to silence critics with expensive legal actions. Protesters and advocacy groups have the right to freely and vigorously criticize their opponents, even when their speech threatens to subvert corporate interests.

Academic Institutions Must Defend Free Speech

We, the undersigned, oppose the coordinated campaign to deny academics their free speech rights due to their defense of Palestinian rights and criticism of the policies and practices of the state of Israel. Temple University in Philadelphia, USA and the University of Sydney, Australia have been under great pressure to fire, respectively, Marc Lamont Hill and Tim Anderson, both senior academics at their institutions, for these reasons. Steven Salaita and Norman Finkelstein have already had their careers destroyed by such attacks. Hatem Bazian, Ahlam Muhtaseb, William Robinson, Rabab Abdulhadi and others have also been threatened.

National Park Service Proposes Severe Restrictions On Protests In Washington, DC

The National Park Service has proposed major changes in rules for protests in Washington, DC that would severely undermine constitutionally protected First Amendment rights. These restrictions would undermine hard one victories for Freedom of Speech and the Right of Assembly in Washington, DC. We need people to take action now to comment on these proposals. In an administrative proceeding like this the evidence in the case comes from the record of public comments. Therefore we need you to write comments that reflect on the importance of protest at the White House and in Washington, DC. Popular Resistance will be submitting comments that cover our history of organizing and participating in protests in the nation's capitol but your individual experiences will also be valuable.

Ten Weeks Incommunicado: Conspiracy Builds To Force Assange Out Of Ecuadorian Embassy

One day after Ecuadorian Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa declared that her government would continue blocking WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange from all communications and deny him any personal visitors, she was elected president of the United Nations General Assembly. Today marks 10 weeks since Ecuador’s government deprived Assange of his rights, which it is obliged to honour after granting him political asylum in its London embassy in 2012. The UN vote in support of Espinosa was a substantial 128, versus 62 for the only other nominee, Honduras’s UN ambassador Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, and two abstentions. The vote suggests that the United States did not energetically intrigue on behalf of Honduras.

John Pilger: Justice And Freedom For Julian Assange Mean Free Speech For Us All

This month, it will be six years since Julian was forced to take refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He had been warned; the US Department of Justice was likely to file an application with Britain’s Home Office for his extradition to the United States. The allegations against Julian and WikiLeaks in the US were subsequently declared secret by a US District Court judge, but it has since been confirmed that a grand jury in Virginia has concocted a number of possible ‘charges’ against the WikiLeaks founder. The most likely of these is ‘espionage’, which harks back to a long -defunct First World War law designed to punish conscientious objectors. Julian is not an American; neither has he ‘betrayed’ any state.
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