1st Amendment News

Washington Redskins cite First Amendment in quest to retain trademark

The professional football team, the Washington Redskins, is suing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office saying that when the agency cancelled the team’s “Redskins” trademark, they violated the team’s free speech rights. Mark Joseph Stern, Slate, February 25, 2015, writes that even though the name is racist, under current rules, withdrawing approval for it constitutes […]

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Net neutrality rules hailed as boon to free and open Internet

The Federal Communications Commission voted to make Internet service a public utility subject to government regulation in what many claim is a victory for free expression and equal access. In a 3-2 vote, the FCC prevented the establishment of exclusive premium services: fast lanes for powerful companies and slow lanes for the public at large. […]

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Victory for public’s right to know in CA Supreme Court decision

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that the Department of Public Health must release, in full, public records relating to violations against patients at state-run facilities for people with developmental disabilities. “It’s a complete victory for patients, families and the public, who are now going to get key information about serious violations of law and […]

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U.S. slips in press freedom rankings

The United States slipped from number 20 to 49 in press freedom rankings according to Reporters Without Borders. The U.S. is now ranked with countries like Niger, Malta and Romania. The reporters group cites the Obama administration’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers as a serious threat to the free flow of information and a main contributor […]

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Debate begins on proposed FAA commercial drone guidelines

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed new guidelines for commercial drone use that allow smaller drones to operate routinely. The guidelines would mandate that drones be flown within sight of operators; do not drop items; do not threaten people or property or other aircraft; do not exceed speeds of 100 mph or fly over 500 feet. […]

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Free speech: California decides not to appeal block of Internet sex offender registration

California State Attorney General Kamala Harris said she will not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal court decision to block a state proposition requiring sex offenders to disclose their Internet identities to police. A federal judge had found that the law violated the free speech rights of the offenders no longer on probation […]

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Twitter reports huge increase in government requests for user data

Government requests for Twitter user account information increased 40 percent since last summer. The Russian, Turkish and U.S. governments led, but Twitter did not honor any requests from Russia or Turkey. Twitter has also recorded a 84 percent increase in demands from governments to remove content. (Twitter, February 9, 2015, by Jeremy Kessel) Twitter reported […]

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Free speech: California federal judge loosens Yahoo gag order

A federal district judge ruled that U.S. security and law enforcement agencies could not indefinitely prevent Yahoo from releasing  the details of a grand jury subpoena in pursuit of subscriber account information. The judge said the gag deprived Yahoo of its free speech rights and could not be justified given the need for transparency. “In […]

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Poll shows investigative journalists think feds spy on them

About two thirds of investigative journalists polled by the Pew Research Center in December think the federal government is spying on them. Half of the journalists in the survey say to evade the government they have changed the way they store information. (The Hill, February 5, 2015, by Jesse Byrnes) In light of the Obama […]

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California open meeting roundup: After Brown Act miscue, shift in Kern County leadership

In a dramatic turnabout after a Brown Act violation, the new chair of the Kern County Board of Supervisors stepped down in favor of a colleague angering two of his fellow supervisors. But a long-time observer of the  board cited the act as a victory for democracy as it allowed public comment and a shift […]

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