First Five Newsletter: October 31, 2019

First Five
First Amendment poll, Facebook’s political ad policy, YouTube’s extremist content and more.

First Five Column

Richard T. Foltin talks about a proposed rule issued by the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP) of the U.S. Department of Labor. He writes in sum, OFCCP’s proposed rule’s harmful and unnecessary expansion of the existing religious exemption for employers endangers the religious freedom and civil rights of employees across the nation. Read the column. A plain text version is available for publishers here.

News

An online poll conducted by the Campaign for Free Speech indicates that 51 percent of the people in the U.S. believe the First Amendment “should be updated to reflect the cultural norms of today.”

Technology

Facebook’s new political ad policy, which exempts political ads from fact-checks but bans ads that intentionally try to suppress voter turnout, is already facing scrutiny over inconsistent enforcement and internal criticism from Facebook employees.

Law

The National Park Service announced that it’s backing down from its previously proposed plan to drastically limit protests near the White House and National Mall, bowing to pressure from members of the public who deemed the plan unconstitutional.

Scholarship

A study from Penn State University challenges the widespread theory that YouTube’s recommendation engine plays a central role in the growth of extremist content. It instead posits that YouTube’s unique features make it attractive to “alternative” content creators (such as alt-right figures) and their prospective audience members. For example, the ease of creating and posting a video on YouTube allows a “lone, fringe political commentator, who can produce enough video content to establish themselves as a major source of media for a fanbase of any size, without needing to acquire power or legitimacy by working their way up a corporate media ladder” to gain traction.

Commentary

Robby Soave’s new book “Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump,” explores the current state of free speech on college campuses, criticizing student activist culture for adopting illiberal attitudes.


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