FALR’s ‘Distorting the Truth’ Symposium to Bring Together Foremost Scholars for Interdisciplinary Look at Fake News

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By: Lindsie Trego, Symposium Editor (Vol. 16)

Only 38 days separate us from FALR’s 2017 Symposium: “Distorting the Truth: ‘Fake News’ & Free Speech.” As co-symposium editor, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little more about what we at FALR have planned for the symposium.

Fake news is a ubiquitous topic in today’s political and cultural environment. A quick Google search for the term reveals more than 8 million results. But what does “fake news” mean? What impact does it have on our culture? Does the law have a role to play?

When my co-editor John and I were thinking through how we wanted the symposium to fit into this conversation, we knew we wanted to focus on the law, but we also wanted to recognize the interdisciplinary nature of the topic, as it certainly hasn’t only dominated the legal news. Symposia often do the important work of bringing together foremost scholars to impact how the legal community thinks about an issue. But in the best case scenario, legal scholars, social scientists, and professionals converge to inform each other and impact how one another think about an issue.

Because fake news isn’t just a legal issue, “Distorting the Truth” will bring together eminent legal scholars such as Richard Hasen from UC Irvine and Helen Norton from University of Colorado; social scientists such as Deen Freelon from UNC and Emily Thorson from Syracuse; and practitioners such as Angie Holan from PolitiFact and Ashley Messenger from NPR.

The diversity of our panelists is sure to foster conversations that will examine the law while also considering broader contexts, better informing the symposium as a whole. We are so excited to see the lively debate that is sure to ensue!

Over the next few weeks, we will feature each of our speakers on Twitter and Facebook to give you a glimpse of what to expect from the symposium. Be sure to follow us to keep up, and check out the full list of speakers here.

You only have 30 days left to purchase in-person tickets for the symposium, which include lunch catered by the Carolina Club! And there are only 36 days left to purchase tickets for the live webcast of the symposium! Grab them while they’re here!

 

First Amendment Newsflash 9/4-9/17

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s new bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Court News

Michigan State University has been sued in federal court on First Amendment grounds for denying rental space for Richard Spencer to speak.

An Ohio man convicted of failing to tell his sexual partner that he is HIV-positive is arguing before the Ohio Supreme Court that the state law requiring HIV disclosure violates his First Amendment rights.

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker argued in federal court that some restrictions on judges’ speech violate the First Amendment.

Three Texas churches have sued FEMA for allegedly discriminating based on religion in its provision of disaster relief.

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First Amendment Newsflash 8/21-9/3

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s new bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Court News

San Francisco State University argued in federal court that it could not prevent certain acts of anti-semitism on campus without unconstitutionally curbing freedom of speech.

In a case relating to a police unit’s blanket ban on speaking to those outside of the department about police matters, the Ninth Circuit ruled that such bans violate the First Amendment.

A New Jersey municipal court judge found a woman not guilty on harassment charges brought against her for posting implications on Facebook that two individuals had killed a bear. In his ruling, the judge said that the First Amendment prohibits a guilty finding in harassment cases involving public, non-directed speech.

The Second Circuit ruled that a New York town ordinance that restricted day laborers from soliciting work on the streets is a content-based restriction in violation of the First Amendment.

The Third Circuit ruled that TSA agents cannot be sued for First Amendment retaliation, due to their important role in protecting national security.

Utah violated a theater’s First Amendment rights when it threatened the theater’s liquor license after the theater showed the R-rated Deadpool while serving alcohol.

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First Amendment Newsflash 8/7-8/20

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s new bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

 

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Court News

The ACLU filed suit on behalf of itself, right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, PETA, and Carefem, alleging that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority’s (WMATA) advertising guideline amendments are a violation of the First Amendment on its face and as applied to the plaintiffs, after the plaintiffs’ advertisements were rejected.

A webhosting company is refusing to comply with a Department of Justice search warrant attempting to force the company to provide information about visitors to a website used to help organize protests during President Trump’s inauguration.

A federal judge ordered the writer of the New York Times editorial on Sarah Palin to testify in a hearing concerning the dismissal of Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit.

The Sixth Circuit will resolve the issue of whether Trump’s statements during a Louisville campaign rally will be protected by First Amendment speech rights or whether the statements constitute incitement after three victims of attacks at the Louisville rally sued Trump and the assailants for damages.

A coalition of nearly two dozen states filed a brief supporting the city leaders in Bloomfield, New Mexico asking the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a lower court ruling requiring the city to remove a Ten Commandment display from outside City Hall.

The Eighth Circuit upheld a Nebraska law requiring picketers to remain at least 500 feet from funerals, after a protester sued arguing that the law was selectively enforced.

The ACLU filed suit against Maine governor for blocking critics on Facebook and deleting comments.

 

Other News and Commentary

White supremacists and Neo-Nazis clashed with counter protesters at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville Virginia, leading to the death of a counter protester and two police officers. While both sides blamed the other for the violence, the rally attendees and counter protesters also cited the lack of police intervention as the cause for the escalation of violence and loss of First Amendment protections.

After the deadly violence in Charlottesville, the ACLU is also under scrutiny for representing the white supremacists in the city’s attempt to revoke the permit to gather in a downtown Charlottesville park to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue. However, the ACLU stands behind the decision to represent the group in the broader effort to protect the First Amendment.

Michigan State, along with the University of  Florida, Louisiana State University, and Texas A&M, has denied white nationalist Richard Spencer’s request to speak at the university. The universities’ statements announcing the denial state that the universities support freedom of expression, but cite safety concerns and the university’s obligation to the safety and security of its students and the community.

 

That’s it for your First Amendment Newsflash August 7-20, 2017. See you again on September 3! In the meantime, don’t forget to secure your ticket to our annual symposium: Distorting the Truth: “Fake News” and Free Speech! 4.5 N.C. CLE credits available!

First Amendment Newsflash 7/24-8/6

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s new bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Court News

In the case of the woman who was convicted of manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide via text message, Michelle Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail.

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Cranston, Rhode Island’s panhandling ordinance in the First Amendment case challenging the law.

In one of many cases examining whether politicians may constitutionally block individuals from their social media accounts, a federal judge ruled that a local politician in Virginia violated the First Amendment when she blocked an individual from her Facebook page after he voiced criticism. In similar cases, the ACLU has sued the governors of Maryland and Kentucky.

The West Virginia ACLU filed an amicus brief in the case of coal giant Bob Murray suing comedian John Oliver for defamation. Among the brief’s arguments were subheadings such as, “Anyone Can Legally Say, ‘Eat Shit, Bob!’” Read Vanity Fair’s coverage here.

The Missouri Attorney General asked the court to dismiss Backpage.com’s First Amendment lawsuit against him.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking a Kenner, La. law that prevents city employees from working on city political campaigns.

Google has filed a motion for an injunction in U.S. federal court, seeking to block a Canadian Supreme Court ruling requiring Google to take down search results for pirated products.

The Third Circuit ruled that secular organizations that oppose birth control cannot opt out of providing insurance coverage for birth control.

The Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court ruling blocking a Mississippi religious accommodations law, saying that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the act. The district court had invalidated the law under the establishment clause.

 

White House News

Jeff Sessions announced that the DOJ will route more resources to pursuing and punishing leakers, raising concerns and reigniting the debate over the reporter’s privilege.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will be nominated as ambassador at large for religious freedom, a position within the State Department charged with promoting religious freedom globally.

 

Other News & Commentary

An Economist/YouGov poll found that 34% of Americans agree that courts should be able to fine media organizations for biased or inaccurate reporting.

A recent survey found that 95% of millennials believe religious freedom is important. In the same survey, millennials also listed the right to free speech as one of the top three most important rights.

 

That’s it for your First Amendment Newsflash July 24-Aug. 6, 2017. See you again on Aug. 20! In the meantime, don’t forget to secure your ticket to our annual symposium: Distorting the Truth: “Fake News” and Free Speech! 4.5 N.C. CLE credits available!

 

First Amendment Newsflash 7/10-23

Welcome to First Amendment Newsflash, the First Amendment Law Review’s bi-weekly roundup of the latest in free expression and religious freedom news and commentary. Check here every other Sunday for a new edition! Need First Amendment news in the meantime? Follow FALR on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

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Supreme Court News

A petition for writ of certiorari has been filed in Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, the case of the Washington State florist who refused to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding, citing religious freedom and free expression.

 

Other Court News

A federal judge has blocked Milwaukee’s permit requirements for augmented reality games while a First Amendment suit on the matter is pending.

The ACLU of Rhode Island has sued the City of Cranston, RI, over the town’s panhandling ordinance, which the ACLU says violates the First Amendment. Meanwhile, Columbus, OH has stopped enforcing its panhandling ordinances in order to avoid First Amendment violations.

In another panhandling case, the City of Slidell, LA has decided not to appeal a June district court ruling declaring its panhandling ordinance unconstitutional.

Facebook is arguing in federal court against a court order blocking the company from informing users when law enforcement execute search warrants to view their online information.

A federal district court struck down a California town’s sign ordinance, which allowed special provisions for new businesses and certain holidays, citing Town of Gilbert. Read The Washington Posts’ analysis here.

The Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, held that prayers before Rowan County, NC Board of Commissioners meetings were unconstitutionally coercive, reversing the ruling of the three-judge panel and upholding the district court’s opinion. Read WRAL’s analysis here.

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NC’s Campus Free Speech Act Disappoints Speakers by Furthering Status Quo

NCLegislature.jpgBy Lindsie Trego; Symposium Editor (Vol. 16)

The North Carolina legislature passed the Campus Free Speech Act last week, and the bill is now awaiting the governor’s approval. The Act is loosely based on a model bill made by the Goldwater Institute, a Libertarian think tank, and it follows similar bills passed by Colorado, Utah, Virginia, and Tennessee this year.

The trend of Campus Free Speech bills has captured lawmakers’ attention–especially the attention of Republicans– in the wake of sometimes violent campus protests such as those that occurred at Mizzou in 2016 and at Berkeley in February of this year, and also following what advocacy organizations have called a crisis of “disinvitations” of speakers. The Goldwater model bill seeks to address these concerns by (1) requiring campuses to implement policies that affirm the importance of free speech, including striking former speech-restrictive policies; (2) prohibiting disinvitation of speakers; (3) declaring outdoor areas of campus to be public forums, in which free speech enjoys the greatest protection; (4) creating a scheme of disciplinary sanctions for those who “interfere” with others’ free speech rights; (5) requiring free speech policies to be introduced to students at freshman orientation; and (6) establishing a committee to study threats to free speech on campus.

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