Some localities intent on regulating room sharing don’t seem fully aware that “federal law — specifically CDA 230 — prevents any laws that look to hold internet platforms liable for the actions of their users.” While that law does not prevent cities from aiming regulations at their own residents, it means they might not have the authority to assign liability to platforms such as AirBnB for residents’ failure to comply. [Mike Masnick, TechDirt; G.S. Hans, CDT]
GlassDoor is a Yelp-like forum on the topic of what it’s like to work at employers, and a much-used tool for those checking on the job market. Now California law firm Layfield & Barrett and its attorney Philip Layfield have filed a suit seeking to unmask John Does who posted a dozen disobliging comments, and Layfield’s comments at Above the Law are drawing further attention to the controversy. [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
No, Sen. Thune (R-S.D.), a U.S. lawmaker shouldn’t be firing off a letter to Facebook insisting that it account for the alleged political slant of its judgment in selecting content. As for supposed victims of the practice, writes Amy Alkon, “if your news comes from the tiny trending bits on the sidebar of Facebook, you’re about as informed politically as my desk lamp, and I ask that you not vote.”
- New college freshmen show scant knowledge about or commitment to free speech. How’d that happen? [Howard Gillman and Erwin Chemerinsky, L.A. Times via Josh Blackman] New Gallup survey of students on campus speech [Knight Foundation and report] Greg Lukianoff (FIRE) interviewed [Fault Lines]
- Senior Ohio State administrator coolly advises protesters that not retreating from their “occupied space” will involve getting arrested and expelled [Eric Owens, Daily Caller]
- Mizzou’s chief diversity officer asked university administration to assist protesters with logistics. And it did. [Jillian Kay Melchior, Heat Street]
- No, the regents of a public university should not be saying that “anti-Zionism” has “no place at the University of California.” [Eugene Volokh]
- “In Her Own Words: Laura Kipnis’ ‘Title IX Inquisition’ at Northwestern” [FIRE interview, earlier] Title IX complainant at U.Va.: that mural must go [Charlotte Allen, IWF]
- National Coalition Against Censorship, AAUP, FIRE, and Student Press Law Center voice opposition to calls to ban anonymous speech apps such as Yik Yak on campus [NCAC, College Fix, earlier]
Sponsored by Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), H.R. 2304, the Speak Free Act would introduce a federal procedural remedy against certain lawsuits that discourage speech. “The Act would allow a person who is SLAPPed to file a special motion to dismiss such lawsuits and collect legal fees from the person or entity that filed the initial SLAPP.” A letter from supportive groups cites the importance of not chilling reviews and feedback in the online economy. 28 states have enacted anti-SLAPP legislation in widely varying forms; “SLAPP” is originally an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” [Ronald Bailey, Reason; TechFreedom podcast with Evan Swarztrauber and Moriah Mensah]
When a self-promoter trolls the online outrage machine, freedom of travel and assembly wind up as collateral damage [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason on the “Roosh” furor and resulting shut-him-down efforts; Daily Mail] The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey speaks to Southern Poverty Law Center official Heidi Beirich who seems to find it regrettable that “a guy with a blog” should get so much free publicity, seeming to forget who gave him so much of it.
“Fearing a civil liberties backlash and ‘bad public relations’ for the Obama administration, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson refused in early 2014 to end a secret U.S. policy that prohibited immigration officials from reviewing the social media messages of all foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas, a former senior department official said.” According to former acting DHS undersecretary John Cohen, political “optics” inhibited U.S. officials from the fully legal course of checking the social media posts of visa applicants. The process came under scrutiny after the granting of a fiance visa to Tashfeen Malik, a resident of high-terror-risk Pakistan who had extensively discussed jihad and martyrdom online. [ABC News; but see below updates/corrections, which correct significant errors in the early reporting]
It’s important to keep straight that our Constitution restricts what the U.S. government can do to U.S. persons, but imposes little if any constraint on what it can ask of those seeking to enter.
P.S. Alex Nowrasteh talks with several immigration lawyers who say they know of instances in which social media postings by persons under U.S. immigration scrutiny got vetted. More: James Taranto (quoting New York Times’s statement that “immigration officials do not routinely review social media as part of their background checks,” with “pilot programs” to do so in place since the fall of last year).
Update: contradicting widespread reports in the press, FBI Director James Comey now describes the couple as having expressed jihadist sentiment in private but not in public messages on social media [Washington Post] And the New York Times now apologizes for early, erroneous reporting based on anonymous sources which misled much of the press and commentariat into believing Malik’s extremist sentiments were in plain sight.
A firm representing Lucasfilm/Disney sent takedown notices to force removal from social media of photos of a newly issued Star Wars figurine that an unnamed fan had walked into a Wal-Mart and purchased in the usual manner. [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
Invoking Title IX, that law of so many uses, some identity advocates are demanding that colleges curtail student access to the chat service Yik Yak, popular for anonymous chatter on campus. While the press routinely portrays Yik Yak as a sump of digital hostility, Virginia Postrel found something quite different when she went on. “On a routine basis, the app grownups love to demonize is much friendlier than the Twitter and Facebook feeds I read daily. For reasons built into its structure, Yik Yak offers fewer rewards for mean, grouchy, tribal, and polarizing posts and more for those that are supportive, funny, inquisitive, and community-building.” Its anonymity “creates a place of support and solidarity amid academic and social struggles” [Bloomberg View, earlier here and here; related, New York Times]
- Uh-oh: “40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities” [Pew Research, Cathy Young on Twitter (“OK, NOW can we stop the ‘naww, political correctness isn’t a threat to free speech, it’s just about courtesy’ spin?”)]
- Breezy but informative guide to why Schneiderman & Co. might hope to find, amid the general rule that the First Amendment protects business speech about public policy, an exception/ loophole for business speech about public policy when it affects securities [Matt Levine, Bloomberg View; earlier on climate speech investigations here, etc.]
- “Lawsplainer: How The Sixth Circuit Stood Up To Hecklers (And Cops)” [Popehat on Michigan case of Bible Believers v. Wayne County, Dearborn protesters threatened with arrest for “disorderly conduct” arising from prospect of violence against them]
- Discrimination law: “Can Office Depot be forced to print flyers that it disapproves of?” [Eugene Volokh; compare Hands On Originals case in Kentucky]
- Scary: UK’s Muslim Council calls for controls on UK press coverage of Islamic issues [Ben Flanagan, Al-Arabiya] Prominent Labour MP says he would have “no problem” with reintroducing blasphemy laws [National Secular Society]
- Cook County sheriff sent letterhead takedown demands to Backpage.com over sex ads, but Supreme Court has looked askance at informal you’d-better-not-publish-this pressure by government [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
- Portland, Ore. police department “encourages the reporting to law enforcement” of “offensive language used on social media” even when not illegal. It does? [Charles Cooke]