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OpenMarket: Free Speech

  • Taxpayers to Subsidize “Ministry of Truthiness”

    August 27, 2014 10:18 AM

    The Washington Free Beacon reports:

    The federal government is spending nearly $1 million to create an online database that will track “misinformation” and hate speech on Twitter. The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online. The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.” The university has received $919,917 so far for the project. . . .

    “Truthy,” which gets its name from Stephen Colbert, will catalog how information is spread on Twitter, including political campaigns.

    This seems like a waste of taxpayer money on many levels, and it is conceivable that government officials who are interesting in harassing their critics could make use of this information to violate their free-speech rights (the way the IRS violated the First Amendment by targeting Tea Party and other groups for costly and burdensome investigations, and demanding lots of irrelevant information from those groups that had nothing to do with whether they actually were eligible for 501(c)(4) status).

    It’s not the government’s role to rule to declare ideas “false or misleading.” Under the First Amendment, there’s “no such thing as a false idea,” according to the Supreme Court’s decision in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974).

  • Federal Official Says Campus Speech Should Be Restricted to Protect Young People’s Brains

    July 31, 2014 6:54 PM

    U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Michael Yaki says that speech on college campuses should be restricted to protect young people’s developing brains. This is yet another depressing example of Progressives turning against free speech. Yaki is a former senior advisor and district director for House Minority Leader (and former Speaker) Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).  (During the Obama administration, the Education and Justice Departments have also sought to restrict students’ free speech and due process rights on college campuses and in the public schools).

    Yaki argues that “how the juvenile or adolescent or young adult brain processes information is vastly different from the way that we adults do” and “young people, not just K through 12 but also between the ages of 16 to 20, 21 is where the brain is still in a stage of development.” 

  • Federal Official Says Campus Speech Should Be Restricted to Protect Young People’s Brains

    July 31, 2014 6:54 PM

    U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Michael Yaki says that speech on college campuses should be restricted to protect young people’s developing brains. This is yet another depressing example of Progressives turning against free speech. Yaki is a former senior advisor and district director for House Minority Leader (and former Speaker) Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).  (During the Obama administration, the Education and Justice Departments have also sought to restrict students’ free speech and due process rights on college campuses and in the public schools).

    Yaki argues that “how the juvenile or adolescent or young adult brain processes information is vastly different from the way that we adults do” and “young people, not just K through 12 but also between the ages of 16 to 20, 21 is where the brain is still in a stage of development.” 

  • Your Tax Dollars at Work: Justice Department Investigates Anti-Obama Parade Float

    July 15, 2014 5:00 PM

    The Justice Department has responded to an anti-Obama float in a parade by treating it as a “discrimination dispute” necessitating federal intervention. One more example of your tax dollars being wasted:

    The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating a float that appeared at the annual Fourth of July parade in the small town of Norfolk, Neb. because the float featured a blue flatbed truck carrying a zombie-looking mannequin in overalls on the door of an outhouse labeled “OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY.”

    The Justice Department sent a member of its Community Relations Service team to Norfolk (pronounced “Norfork” by many locals), reports the Omaha World-Herald.

    The Community Relations Service team investigates disputes concerning discrimination.

    To a lawyer like me, the Justice Department’s notion of “discrimination” seems strange. The float’s creator denies any racial animus, and says it is meant as a criticism of the Obama administration over the Veteran’s Administration scandal:

    The man behind the controversial float, Dale Remmich, has explained that the overalls-clad mannequin in front of the outhouse represented himself — not President Barack Obama. The point he was trying to make concerned his frustration with Obama’s mismanagement of the Veterans Affairs Department.

  • New York Court Voids Cyberbullying Law, Thus Casting Doubt on Proposed Workplace Bullying Law

    July 3, 2014 1:57 PM

    A law firm notes, “Since 2003, twenty-one states have introduced legislation to combat private workplace bullying but none have been passed into law.” However, a bullying bill known as the so-called “Healthy Workplace Bill” (S. 3863) recently passed the New York Senate Labor Committee.

    A recent ruling by the New York Court of Appeals provides additional fodder for critics of overly-broad bullying legislation, such as bills that restrict supervisors’ criticism of employees or hold employers liable for hurtful or offensive remarks by a worker’s peers.

    On July 1, New York’s highest court struck down Albany County’s cyberbullying law, finding it unconstitutionally overbroad even as to minors, in its 5-to-2 ruling in People v. Marquan M. As UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh notes, the ordinance criminalized “disseminating … personal … information” about any person, if it’s done “with the intent to … annoy …, abuse, [or] taunt” and “with no legitimate private, personal, or public purpose.”

  • IRS May Step Up Its Attack on Free Speech of Non-Profits

    June 23, 2014 3:59 PM

    Earlier, we wrote about how proposed IRS regulations would gag 501(c)(4) groups—and potentially 501(c)(3) groups like think tanks as well—by redefining non-partisan, non-election-related criticism of government officials, and advice to the president, as “candidate-related political activity.” CEI, along with over 140,000 other people and institutions, filed comments against the proposed regulations, with CEI explaining how the proposed rules violated the First Amendment and twisted the meaning of the Internal Revenue Code statute dealing with 501(c)(4) groups. In response to this outpouring of public protest, the IRS temporarily relented, withdrawing the proposed rule until after the 2014 election.

    But the reprieve is only temporary. Recently, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen indicated that new, probably even worse, rules will be proposed in early 2015, that will not just redefine political activity (a concept the IRS has proven it cannot be trusted to do fairly, given its ridiculous attempt to redefine non-partisan, non-election-related criticism of government wrongdoing as “candidate-related political activity,” and its documented history of subjecting Tea Party and limited-government groups to ), but also set new limits on 501(c)(4) groups’ so-called “political” activity as well.

    The IRS lacks credibility in this area, recently claiming that it “lost” key emails exchanged with IRS managers, such as Lois Lerner, who subjected to Tea Party and limited-government groups to burdensome, irrelevant, and intrusive queries after they applied for 501(c)(4) status (like asking them for every single thing their members had posted on sites like Facebook, and asking them irrelevant, pointlessly-harassing questions about the content of their prayers, and what books they were reading, questions unrelated to whether they were legally entitled to 501(c)(4) status.)

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