First Amendment

New Proposal Could Singlehandedly Cripple Free Speech Online

New Proposal Could Singlehandedly Cripple Free Speech Online

By Lee Rowland, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project & Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 5:10pm
The Internet has evolved into a true marketplace for every idea – if you can think of it, you can find it on the web. That the online world has blossomed into this virtual town square teeming with diverse content is no accident. It is largely a creation of federal law – specifically, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1998. Section 230 is directly responsible for the free, messy, uncensored, and often brilliant culture of online speech. By prohibiting most state civil or criminal liability for something somebody else writes or posts, it created the single most important legal protection that exists for websites, bloggers, and other internet users. Under Section 230, a website can provide a platform for all speech without worrying that if one of its online users posts something stupid, critical, defamatory, or unlawful, the website itself can be held responsible.
The Biggest Reform in the New DOJ Media Guidelines

The Biggest Reform in the New DOJ Media Guidelines

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:24am

Some have been dismissive of the reforms in the new Justice Department guidelines governing investigations of members of the news media. But I'm not so pessimistic, at least with respect to the most significant change, which could have possibly prevented…

Far More than a Half-Measure on News Media Investigations

Far More than a Half-Measure on News Media Investigations

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 11:06am

Late last week, the attorney general released a report on new guidelines governing when and how the Justice Department can investigate members of the news media.

Prompted by the controversies over the excessively broad subpoena issued to the…

FCC Should Resist Calls to Enhance Broadcast Censorship

FCC Should Resist Calls to Enhance Broadcast Censorship

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:51pm

In response to a call for comments regarding the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) enforcement of its broadcast indecency policies, the ACLU submitted comments last month arguing that the FCC's regulations have devolved into vague, overbroad,…

UK Ideological Travel Ban Helps Hate

UK Ideological Travel Ban Helps Hate

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:42pm

So, this sounds like as good a time as ever to make a counterintuitive argument.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer—two notable critics of "creeping sharia" and the "Islamization" of America—were invited to speak at an English Defense League…

Police Harassment of Photographers Remains a Problem

Police Harassment of Photographers Remains a Problem

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:31pm

It’s been almost two years since we posted our ”Know Your Rights” Guide for Photographers, began calling attention to the problem of police harassment of photographers (including through this video), and began blogging about the issue. And several years before that, our affiliates around the country had already begun filing what have become numerous lawsuits on the issue.

It’s also been nearly two years since the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that the right to film police officers is protected by the First Amendment and that, moreover, that principle is so “fundamental and virtually self-evident” that it should have been known to the police even before the court’s ruling. That ruling was only the most prominent—courts around the country have been pretty much unanimous in finding such a right.

Yet the problem persists.

As Carlos Miller documents on his invaluable site Photography is Not a Crime, incidents of police harassment of photographers (and worse) continue to take place around the country on a daily or near-daily basis.

Why is it so hard for police officers to learn the law? We have seen settlements in some cities in which police department management has sent clear messages to their officers instructing them on the law, but in many cities, not enough has been done to train officers and/or enforce requirements that they abide by the Constitution.

As citizens prepare to gather this Fourth of July for rallies to restore the Fourth Amendment, let’s hope that this First Amendment right is respected as well.

A Victory for Free Speech from the Supreme Court

A Victory for Free Speech from the Supreme Court

By Lenora M. Lapidus, Women's Rights Project & Tara Norris, Women's Rights Project, ACLU at 11:56am

Yesterday, in an important First Amendment decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the government may not require federal grant recipients to endorse the government's policy positions. The decision in Agency for International Development v. Alliance…

Responding to The Washington Post's Walter Pincus on Leaks and Shield Laws

Responding to The Washington Post's Walter Pincus on Leaks and Shield Laws

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:11pm

Washington Post national security reporter Walter Pincus has recently written several columns criticizing the press and First Amendment advocates...

Should Facebook Censor Misogynistic Material?

Should Facebook Censor Misogynistic Material?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:57am

The New York Times ran an article yesterday about pressure that is mounting on Facebook to censor websites full of awful misogynistic material. The company said it was reviewing its processes for dealing with content under its hate speech policy.

As…

Standing Up for the Rights of Students to Free Expression

Standing Up for the Rights of Students to Free Expression

By Mary Beth Tinker at 11:39am

I have zero tolerance for schools that punish students for exercising their First Amendment rights. Students like Wesley Teague, who joked about his school's athletic department and Kyron Birdine, who was suspended for mocking standardized tests, did…

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