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Critics pan Warren plan on internet policing

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has a plan to curb false information on the internet, specifically cracking down on tech companies by imposing criminal penalties on them for spreading information that undermines the right to vote. She proposed breaking up companies like Amazon and Facebook. (CNBC, January 20, 2020, by Sunny Kim) Warren only proposed criminal penalties for false information about polling locations, but Robby Soave, Reason, February 3, 2020, cites her interview with Pen America

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Challenge mounted to removal of public database of doctor discipline and malpractice

Newspaper associations and public interest groups are protesting a move by the Obama administration to withhold a data bank created by Congress in 1986 to assist hospitals and state licensing boards to check doctor’s records for discipline and malpractice. The records had been useful in creating laws to protect the public as reported by Blythe Bernhard and Jeremy Kohler in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.”The Post-Dispatch used the public file last year in an investigation of

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Judge hears testimony in defamation lawsuit over claims Sandy Hook shooting a hoax

InfoWars Alex Jones is staking out a free speech defense in the defamation lawsuit brought by Sandy Hook parents to contest his statements that the incident was fake and some of the parents and children were actors. The parents are claiming the Jones’ false statements resulted in death threats. Jones contends that the parents are public figures so there is a higher bar for proving defamation. (KUT News, August 1, 2018, by Avery Miles) A

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Experts say Posterous and Tumblr may promote government transparency

Some praise the speed and ease of social media such as Posterous and Tumblr and suggest that government agencies could use them to attract more readers to important government studies. But one open government expert urges caution in that Posterous and Tumblr are closed, proprietary systems, and there is no substitute for the government publishing its primary source data in a timely way so the public can give regular feedback. -DB MediaShift Commentary December 14, 2009 By

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Department of Energy: Whistleblower seeks redress after firing over leaked photos

A Department of Energy photographer fired for leaking photos of Secretary Rick Perry hugging the head of a coal mining company filed a complaint with the department’s inspector general for reinstatement under federal regulations protecting whisteblowers. (The New York Times, January 17, 2018, by Ben Protess) Simon Edelman felt an obligation to bring to public notice the chummy relationship between Perry and coal mining executive, Robert E. Murray. At their meeting, Murray presented a memo

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Government imperils free press with Assange indictment on espionage charges

In indicting WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, the U.S. government has embarked on an unprecedented use of the espionage charge, never before brought against publishers of stolen secret documents. The government is expected to argue that Assange encouraged the leaks, damaged national security and is not truly a journalist. Assange’s defense team may refer to the Supreme Court ruling that publication of legally obtained information is protected even if the information was obtained by unlawful means and

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Government agency censors book on Mexican gun debacle

Claiming it will hurt morale in its agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is blocking the publication of a book by Special Agent John Dodson. The book describes the disastrous ATF plan that sold assault rifles to Mexicans which they would track to arrest drug traffickers. Instead the agency lost contact with the rifles which were then used in hundreds of murders in Mexico. (The Washington Times, October 6, 2013, by

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EPA head accused of ‘Soviet-style’ censorship on climate change

Amanda Marcotte of Salon, October 25, 2017, accuses the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt of installing Soviet-style government censorship to prevent scientists with the EPA to discuss recent findings about climate change and its dire effects. He recently banned scientists with EPA grants from advising the EPA. Former EPA head William D. Rukelshaus, The Washington Post, November 12, 2017, argues that the transparency he brought to the EPA was essential in establishing

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Stanford professor upends convention by suing academic critics for defamation

In a notable departure from the give and take of academic debate, Stanford professor Mark Jacobson is suing fellow climate scientist Clark Clack and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for defamation. Jacobson was upset that after PNAS, Proceedings of NAS, ran a article written by Clack and others critical of Jacobson’s research, NAS failed to comply with Jacobson’s editorial suggestion. (techdirt, November 8, 2017, by Mike Masnick) The lawsuit filed on September 29 asks

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Free speech: Blogger convicted of threatening judges with violence

A federal court jury found a blogger had overreached in urging his readers to kill three judges of a federal appeals court for upholding a Chicago handgun ban. -db Wired August 16, 2010 By David Kravets Three trials later, authorities have finally won a criminal conviction against Hal Turner, the New Jersey hate blogger charged with threatening to kill federal appeals court judges. Turner was convicted in federal court in Brooklyn on Friday of threatening

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California police transparency law starts to pay off

With the passage of a California law requiring the release of police misconduct records, recent public records requests reveal a number of instances in which police departments in the Bay Area failed to adequately inform the public. The Fremont Police Department reported 8 cases of police conduct in 2017 but details were never made public. In Burlingame, the police department fired an officer for offering to help a woman charged with a DUI if she

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Kansas City librarians challenge police in free speech incident

During a May lecture by Middle East expert Dennis Ross at the Kansas City Library, a security guard grabbed a man using a microphone during the question and answer segment. After a library employee asked that the man be allowed to leave peacefully, he was arrested along with the speaker. When the police said they would not drop charges against the two, the Kansas City Library accused the police of violating the First Amendment. (CounterPunch,

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High school cheerleader wins key Ruling on free speech rights for off-campus social media postings

A high school cheerleader who posted a photo of herself on Snapchat displaying the middle finger and using the f-word prevailed in 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The school disciplined her for violating the cheerleading squad’s “Respect Rule,” but the court ruled that her speech made off campus, on the weekend and without use of school computers was protected speech under the First Amendment and did not disrupt the school. (Courthouse News Service, June

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Federal Judicial Center releases guide on sealed courts

The Federal Judicial Center released a guide for federal judges deciding whether to seal court records and proceedings. The 22-page booklet includes a history of case law on secret proceedings and a list of First and Sixth Amendment issues. -db From The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, February 25, 2011, by Lyndsey Wajert. Full Story

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Britain’s reform for ‘libel tourism’ falls short of mark

Great Britain’s proposed law to reform their archaic libel law and limit what is known as “libel tourism” is inadequate and puts too much burden on those accused of libel, writes Rachel Ehrenfeld of the American Center for Democracy. -db From a commentary in The New York Times,  July 24, 2012, by Rachel Ehrenfeld. Full story    

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Federal appeals court says cheerleader must cheer for player accused of sexually assaulting her

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a cheerleader’s refusal to root for an athlete accused of sexual assaulting her is not protected speech, and the school district had “no duty to promote” the cheerleader’s message. -db Salon.com Commentary September 24, 2010 By Tracy Clark-Flory Cheerleading is often maligned as an illegitimate, unchallenging sport — but you just try to imagine having to shake your pom-poms for an athlete accused of sexually assaulting you.

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