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Category Archives: Free Speech

F-words and T-shirts – SCOTUS weighs foul language trademarks

Reuters – (Editor’s note: contains language that some readers may find offensive, paragraphs 2, 13, 14, 16, 19, 22 and 23) “In the staid world of the U.S. Supreme Court, where decorum and etiquette are prized and silence is enforced by court police, the F-word could create quite a stir. Yet that expletive and others will be the focus on Monday when the nine justices hear arguments in a free-speech case brought by Los Angeles-based clothing designer Erik Brunetti. His streetwear brand “FUCT” – which sounds like, but is spelled differently than, a profanity – was denied a trademark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Brunetti has tried to calm concern about the potential for foul language during arguments in the ornate courtroom. In a written brief, his lawyer told the justices “the discussion will be purely clinical, analogous to when medical terms are discussed.”

At issue is a provision of U.S. trademark law that lets the trademark office deny requests for trademarks on “immoral” and “scandalous” words and symbols. Brunetti, 50, is challenging the law as an infringement of his right to freedom of expression, protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. In 2017, a Washington-based federal appeals court ruled in his favor. President Donald Trump’s administration has appealed that ruling to the conservative-majority Supreme Court. The provision at issue has been on the books for more than a century…”

CRS – Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Conteny

Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content. March 27, 2019 – “As the Supreme Court has recognized, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become important venues for users to exercise free speech rights protected under the First Amendment. Commentators and legislators, however, have questioned whether these social media platforms are living up… Continue Reading

Democracy in Retreat – Freedom in the World 2019

Freedom House – “Unpacking 13 years of Decline – Freedom in the World has recorded global declines in political rights and civil liberties for an alarming 13 consecutive years, from 2005 to 2018. The global average score has declined each year, and countries with net score declines have consistently outnumbered those with net improvements. Freedom… Continue Reading

Teaching Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers

“Developed by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression with partners from around the world, Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers offers academic and training resources on the laws, institutions and actors that have founded a global system of freedom of expression and information. The website is organized around nine Teaching and Training Modules. It includes a general introduction… Continue Reading

Court Strikes Down Iowa’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law That Blocked Undercover Investigations

NPR – “A federal judge in Iowa says it’s no longer a crime to go undercover at factory farms, slaughterhouses and any other ag-related operations. The 2012 law was a clear violation of the First Amendment, the judge said. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case, called the ruling “a… Continue Reading

An Interview with UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye

Digital Rights Monitor: “The latest 2018 Freedom House report presents a dismal picture of internet freedom. Out of 65 countries studied for the report, internet freedom deteriorated in 26 countries including United States of America. The study also noted that more than a dozen countries were putting in place restrictive measures in the name of… Continue Reading

Facebook’s New ‘Supreme Court’ Could Revolutionize Online Speech

Lawfare Blog: Facebook’s New ‘Supreme Court’ Could Revolutionize Online Speech – “The Supreme Court of Facebook is about to become a reality. When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first mentioned the idea of an independent oversight body to determine the boundaries of acceptable speech on the platform—”almost like a Supreme Court,” he said—in an April 2018 interview… Continue Reading

The Fresno Bee and the War on Local News

GQ: “Local newspapers like The Fresno Bee have long been an endangered institution in America, and that was before California Rep. Devin Nunes began waging a public campaign against his hometown paper. Zach Baron spent time with the reporters fighting to keep news alive in an age when the forces they cover are working equally… Continue Reading

International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles

Poynter: Commit to transparency — sign up for the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles. “The code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter is a series of commitments organizations abide by to promote excellence in fact-checking. We believe nonpartisan and transparent fact-checking can be a powerful instrument of accountability journalism…” “…The commitments… Continue Reading

Federal Workers Warned Against Talk of ‘Impeachment,’ ‘the Resistance’

Reason.com: “Employees of the federal government were warned this week that both praising and criticizing the Trump administration while on duty may be considered illegal. Federal workers are specifically barred from “advocating” for or against impeachment and from expressing support for the so-called “resistance” to President Donald Trump. Such expressions could be considered violations of… Continue Reading

Concern for global democracy

Oxford University Press Blog: “A new report by the Democracy Project finds that a majority of Americans view democracy in the United States as weak and getting weaker. Even worse, nearly half of Americans express concerns that the United States is in “real danger of becoming a nondemocratic, authoritarian country.” Reports such as this one… Continue Reading