First Amendment lets officials mute but not block Twitter critics

First Amendment lets officials mute but not block Twitter critics

Jenna Wims Hashway, professor of legal practice at the RWU School of Law: Public agencies and officials run afoul of First Amendment protections if they block Twitter followers for criticizing them. But those First Amendment arguments are moot if those government officials simply hit “mute.” That’s the upshot of a recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, who said that President Trump’s decision to block Twitter followers for their political views represented a violation of the First Amendment….

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Recognizing a champion of open government, First Amendment

Recognizing a champion of open government, First Amendment

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: Glamorous work it’s not. The work that she has done for decades has placed her at odds with some of the state’s most powerful public officials. The work has placed her on hard wooden benches in State House hearing rooms, waiting for hours to deliver testimony to leery legislators. And the work…

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Alex Jones might not find refuge in First Amendment

Alex Jones might not find refuge in First Amendment

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: The First Amendment protects a lot of outlandish, hateful speech. It protected the right of Westboro Baptist Church members to hold anti-gay protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers. And it protected the right of neo-Nazis to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie where many Holocaust survivors lived (they ended up…

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Infowars Goes to War with the First Amendment

Infowars Goes to War with the First Amendment

David A. Logan, professor of law and former dean of the RWU School of Law, who has studied and written extensively about First Amendment issues: The malicious spreading of rumors, masquerading as fact, well predates the Internet, but the ubiquity and speed of electronic communications, and the tendency of social media to provide amplification, has made the problem exponentially more dangerous to the “marketplace of ideas.” Perhaps there is no better example of that cancer on public discourse than Infowars,…

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Attacks on press pose danger to journalists, democracy

Attacks on press pose danger to journalists, democracy

June Speakman, RWU political science professor: On Aug. 5, Brian Stelter, anchor of CNN’s Reliable Sources, shared with viewers an audiotape of a call to a CSPAN political show in which the caller said that if he ran into Stelter and CNN correspondent Don Lemon, he would “shoot” them. Earlier in the week, MSNBC’s Katy Tur read an email from a viewer who wrote that he hoped that she “got raped and killed” and signed off as “MAGA” (“Make America Great…

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Putin is no friend of a free press

Putin is no friend of a free press

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: President Trump has heaped scorn on the leaders of long-time U.S. allies such as Canada – calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “very dishonest and weak.” And he has heaped praise on the leaders of long-time adversaries such as Russia – calling President Vladimir Putin “very, very strong” after a particularly obsequious performance…

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Janus v. AFSCME and “Weaponizing the First Amendment”

Janus v. AFSCME and “Weaponizing the First Amendment”

On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The majority held that the First Amendment prohibited the enforcement of ubiquitous provisions in collective bargaining agreements between public sector labor unions and government employers requiring all employees represented by the union to pay their share of the costs the union incurs when bargaining with the employer on their behalf. In doing so, the court reversed its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education….

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Seizing reporter’s phone, email records is an ‘ominous step’

Seizing reporter’s phone, email records is an ‘ominous step’

Edward Fitzpatrick, RWU director of media and public relations, a New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause Rhode Island board member, and a former Providence Journal columnist: YouGottaBeKiddingMe. I mean, perhaps it comes as no surprise that prosecutors in President Donald Trump’s Justice Department secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporters’ phone and email records as part of a leak investigation. But no one appreciates the danger of such a step more than James Risen, the…

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Discovering Trump

Discovering Trump

David A. Logan, professor of law and former dean of the RWU School of Law, who has studied and written extensively about First Amendment issues: Reporters, like litigators, spend much of their time talking with people and slogging through documents, trying to establish what happened. For lawyers, this tedious but essential work is called discovery. Right now, teams of lawyers across the country, representing both the government and private citizens, are doggedly “discovering” evidence to determine whether Donald Trump, as a businessman…

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Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling: No Constitutional Right to Discriminate (For Now)

Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling: No Constitutional Right to Discriminate (For Now)

Jared A. Goldstein, RWU law professor who teaches constitutional law and former U.S. Department of Justice attorney: By cutting a narrow slice of the wedding cake case, the U.S. Supreme Court has created little new law, meaning there remains no constitutional right to discriminate – at least for now. On June 4, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission – the case of a cake shop owner who refused to bake a…

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