Articles Posted in Free Speech

In a reversal, Facebook is increasing its enforcement against hate speech.


Posted in: Free Speech

On Monday, August 17, 2020, Children's Health Defense filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook acted jointly or in concert with federal government agencies or actors to deny Children's Health Defense's First Amendment speech and Fifth Amendment property rights. At issue in the case is Facebook's use of fact-checking warning labels and Facebook's disabling of the fundraising feature on Children's Health Defense's Facebook page.


Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia has filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, seeking to bar her from ordering city residents to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The lawsuit comes days after Kemp issued an executive order prohibiting municipalities from mandating that residents utilize face masks. Kemp argues that Bottoms does not have the authority to modify or change his executive orders.


A Las Vegas resident has filed a lawsuit against the City of Sacramento, California regarding a section of the city code that requires people to stand when the national anthem is played. He alleges that he plans to attend at least one Sacramento Kings NBA game in the foreseeable future, but that it will be impossible for him to go if he must subject himself to criminal prosecution for exercising his freedom of speech by refusing to stand for the anthem at such an event.


Two plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati, alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments arising from the curfew the City recently imposed in light of ongoing protests against police violence and systemic racism. The plaintiffs state that they wanted to participate in the protests, but did not for fear of being subjected to arrest or injury due to police use of tear gas, pepper projectiles, rubber bullets, and other displays of force.


Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the organizers of a 2017 white power rally in Charlottesville, Virginia are seeking to invoke a Civil War-era statute in utilizing the defendants' online statements to prove that they engaged in an illegal conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence. Defendants insist that their actions are protected by the First Amendment, though the judge in this case has declined to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint on free speech grounds. The outcome of this case will likely be a strong indicator of whether and to what extent the statute at issue can be relied upon to curb online hate speech and its consequences.


The National Labor Relations Board ordered Google to remind employees that they have the right to talk about politics and other issues at work.


On Friday, August 30, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected lawyer Arnold Fleck's challenge to the State Bar Association of North Dakota's collection of mandatory bar association dues. Fleck v. Wetch, No. 16-4564 (8th Cir. 2019), was remanded to the Eighth Circuit from the United States Supreme Court in light of the Supreme Court's June 2018 ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, 585 U.S. ___ (2018), holding that public-sector unions may not collect mandatory fees from nonmember employees unless the employees waive their First Amendment rights.


On Friday, August 16, 2019, Judge Brian C. Wimes of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled that Mike Campbell was deprived of his constitutional right to free speech when Missouri Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch blocked Campbell from her Twitter page after Campbell retweeted a comment criticizing Reisch's political views. Judge Wimes granted Campbell's request for declaratory and injunctive relief against Reisch under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 


On Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that President Donald J. Trump engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment, by blocking certain users' access to his Twitter account based on those users' speech on Twitter. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued the President on behalf of seven Twitter users who were blocked from the President's Twitter account after said users tweeted replies to the President critical of his personality and policies. Judge Barrington D. Parker concluded "that the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees."