First Five Newsletter: September 5, 2019

First Five
Attempts to hinder First Amendment rights, Google’s big fine, social media’s misinformation origin and more.

First Five Column

Gene Policinski talks about recent conflicts and criticism around controversial speech and press credibility issues and the public’s solid commitment to protecting both free expression for us all and a free press’ role on our behalf as a “watchdog on government.” Read the column. A plain text version is available here.


A federal court judge restored Playboy magazine reporter Brian Karem’s press credentials after they were revoked by the White House last month following an argument Karem had with former Trump administration aide Sebastian Gorka. The judge stated Karem’s First Amendment rights outweigh the interest the White House has in “maintaining order.”


The Federal Trade Commission fined Google $170 million to settle allegations that YouTube violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which imposes certain restrictions on the collection and use of personal data associated with children 12 and under.


Two recent court decisions involved student groups challenging San Diego universities about the way student funds are disbursed — and winning on First Amendment grounds. The Ninth Circuit found that UC San Diego could not withdraw funding to student press organizations in response to a satirical student newspaper’s offensive article, while a federal district court found that California State University San Marcos had to modify its guidelines for allocating student funding to implement viewpoint-neutral regulations.


A new report from New York University urges social media companies to take down provably false information. While the report suggests foreign countries such as Russia, Iran and China could use social media to spread misinformation before the 2020 election, it notes that most misinformation actually originates in the United States.


David McCraw, attorney for The New York Times, discusses why his job involves filing so many requests for public records under the Freedom of Information Act. “[T]he leaders of agencies have every incentive to withhold documents,” writes McCraw. “If requesters always shrug and walk away at that point, it means we are leaving it to federal bureaucrats to decide just how secret our government is going to be. That was never part of the plan for democracy.”

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