Trump threatens reporter with prison time

Yes, you read that right. The President of the United States threatened a Time magazine photographer with prison for apparently taking a picture of a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. During an interview in the Oval Office on Monday, Trump said, “Here’s a letter, OK, now I’m going to show you this letter. So this was written by Kim Jong-un. It was delivered to me yesterday. By hand.” After being asked a later question about imprisoned aides, Trump responded, “Well, you can go to prison instead…if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you confidentially.”

GOP says the real problem is anti-conservative bias

Yesterday, executives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter came to Capitol Hill to testify about election security. But instead of asking questions about how the companies were tackling disinfo campaigns or preventing foreign governments from purchasing political ads on their platforms ahead of the 2020 election, Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee complained about the “shadow-banning” (i.e., quietly blocking or restricting) of conservative accounts. Really?

White House launches tool for snowflakes

The White House launched a tool on Wednesday that will allow any U.S. citizen to submit a complaint if they think they were unfairly censored on social media platforms. The tool asks users to click which platform they’ve experienced bias on (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or Other), and to link to the suspected post and post a screenshot of the rule violation notification. Skeptics pointed out that the unsophisticated form could be easily gamed by anyone who wanted to troll the administration.

US won’t join international agreement against online extremism

The U.S. says it supports an international effort spearheaded by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron to find ways to stop social media from spreading hate — but won’t take part in it. Signing onto the effort are the UK, Japan, Australia, Italy, India, Germany, and Spain, along with tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube. The White House suggested it has concerns about First Amendment violations.

Trump meets Jack Twitter

It’s not Tim Apple…it’s Jack Twitter! Actually Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, who met with Donald Trump at the White House today, just hours after Trump accused the social media company of “discriminatory” behavior toward conservative users. After the meeting, Trump tweeted, “Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!”

The case against Assange explained

How far does freedom of the press go? Not as far as hacking. Some press freedom advocates have expressed concern that prosecuting Julian Assange represents a violation of freedom of the press. But he’s not being charged with publishing secrets but for conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, to illegally hack a government computer to obtain national security information.

Tweeps vs. Trump

The DOJ and a group of Twitter users faced off in a Manhattan court Tuesday in an appeal of a case over whether President Trump’s blocking of accounts violates the First Amendment. The DOJ argued that although Trump sends tweets in his official capacity, he blocks users as a personal matter. While conceding that Trump had launched the account before he took office, an attorney for an organization blocked by Trump said he “began using it as president as an extension of his office.”

David H. Gans: Will SCOTUS stand up for democracy?

“The reason why state partisan gerrymanders offend the First Amendment is pretty basic, drawing on deeply rooted First Amendment principles that have been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court time and again. First, the First Amendment protects the right of individuals to associate with the political party of their choice. This reflects that the First Amendment helps to safeguard our democracy. Second, efforts by the government to subordinate persons on account of their political affiliation — such as by diluting their votes — violate the First Amendment’s core guarantee. That’s viewpoint discrimination, pure and simple.”

Trump signs ‘free speech’ EO

As conservative groups and activists claim conservative voices are being silenced on college campuses, Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday to pressure schools to permit free speech and expression on college campuses. Trump has threatened to pull federal funding if they don’t. The First Amendment already prohibits the government from quashing free speech, so it’s not clear what the EO will accomplish specifically.

Barr asserts state secrets privilege

Citing national security concerns, Attorney General William Barr has asserted the state secrets privilege in a lawsuit brought by Twitter over its bid to publish a more complete account of government surveillance requests. In the four-year-old case, Twitter contends its First Amendment rights are being violated by the government’s refusal to allow the firm to publish more detailed statistics on National Security Letters and surveillance orders the firm receives under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

DeVos tweaks education policy

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Education Sec. Betsy DeVos said her agency will no longer enforce a federal provision that prohibits religious organizations from giving private schools federally funded services. The decision is in response to a 2017 Supreme Court verdict that found that Missouri unconstitutionally denied a church-run preschool publicly-funded tire scraps for its playground. House Democrats are reviewing the policy.

Trump’s CNN meddling may be impeachable

Donald Trump’s alleged interference in the AT&T-Time Warner merger may constitute an abuse of power. “If proven, such an attempt to use presidential authority to seek retribution for the exercise of First Amendment rights would unquestionably be grounds for impeachment,” tweeted Trump critic George Conway, a conservative attorney who is married to Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. At the very least, the Trump’s interest in the merger is yet another investigatory target for House Democrats.

Thomas wants SCOTUS to reconsider libel ruling

Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the 1964 First Amendment ruling that makes it difficult for public officials to prevail in libel suits. Donald Trump has publicly complained that libel laws make it too hard for public officials to win libel suits. “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said on the campaign trail.

Dean Obeidallah: Trump’s SNL tweet is un-American

“My hope is that members of the media who interview Republican members of Congress in the next few days ask them point blank whether they would support Trump’s “retribution” and potential investigations into how SNL and other comedy shows create their shows. It is important Republicans make it explicitly clear that Trump’s war on freedom of expression is wrong.”

David French: First Amendment betrayed in AL execution

“I have no sympathy for Domineque Ray. The man was convicted of raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl, an act so heinous that the death penalty is appropriate and just. But Ray, no matter his crimes, still enjoyed the protections of the United States Constitution. Yet last night the state of Alabama and the Supreme Court failed to respect those protections at the most crucial of moments — they denied him access to an imam at the moment of his death. He could receive solace in the execution chamber from a Christian cleric, but his imam had to watch behind glass.”

Freedom of religion wins in Texas

In a landslide vote, members of the Tarrant County Republican Party overwhelmingly rejected the call to remove its vice-chair, Shahid Shafi, because of his Muslim faith. “As an immigrant to this great country, I am honored and privileged to receive the support of my fellow Republicans. We need to learn to trust each other so we can create a more perfect union every day,” Shafi responded.