First Five Newsletter: August 8, 2019

First Five
Conspiracy theories’ harmful effects, amendment to limit campaign spending, dismissed lawsuit against Wikileaks and more.

First Five Column

Katharine Kosin and Kirsti Kenneth reflect on the renewed public discussion of potential consequences of conspiracy theories, the presence of places they live on the internet and ways to stop the spread of this damaging misinformation. Read the column. A plain text version is available here.

News

Recently, a group of Democratic senators, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), announced their plan to introduce an amendment to the Constitution. The Democracy for All Amendment would empower federal and state governments to impose limits upon fundraising and spending to support political campaigns, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010), which held that political spending is a form of expression protected under the First Amendment.

Technology

A federal judge dismissed the Democratic National Committee (DNC)’s lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s campaign and Wikileaks for releasing materials stolen from DNC computers by Russian hackers. The judge ruled that the First Amendment protects the defendants from being sued, because although they participated in distributing the materials, they were not involved in the criminal actions taken to obtain them.

Law

Recently, a group of Republicans in Michigan filed a lawsuit challenging the creation of an independent redistricting commission formed to combat gerrymandering that was approved by voters in 2018. The plaintiffs argue that the commission violates citizens’ First Amendment rights of political affiliation, as members of the commission cannot have been a nominee for political office or a registered partisan lobbyist.

Scholarship

According to recent data from Pew Research Center, current political polarization is not the result of increased division over policy, which has remained relatively constant over the past 30 years, but is actually due to intensified feelings of personal identification with one’s political party and animosity towards members of the opposite party.

Commentary

In an op-ed for The Atlantic, John Temple writes about his disappointment that despite journalists’ efforts to extensively cover the many mass shootings that have occurred since the Columbine shootings in 1999, gun violence has continued to become more rampant over the past two decades.


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