First Five Newsletter: November 21, 2019

First Five
Limits to free speech, Trump’s attacking tweets, artificial intelligence-powered software and more.

First Five Column

Lata Nott talks about how the First Amendment may protect our right to speak freely, but it does have limits. Read her examples of speech that intentionally incites others to commit immediate acts of violence, which aren’t protected by the First Amendment. Read the column. A plain text version is available for publishers here.

News

President Trump’s tweets attacking former U.S. Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch during her testimony at the impeachment inquiry last week sparked concerns that he was engaging in witness intimidation. The president responded by asserting that he was engaging in freedom of speech. Commentators have questioned the effectiveness of that legal argument, given that many courts have rejected First Amendment challenges to witness tampering laws. 

Technology

A vice president at Facebook said that the company can’t legally take down political ads, but soon afterwards, Facebook walked back those comments. While the company hasn’t been clear about why it won’t take down false political ads, as Vox writes, “At least one of the reasons why Facebook is so reticent to more carefully regulate political content on its platform is that its platform is so big that it would struggle to effectively do so.” 

Law

A federal appeals court panel ruled that an Arkansas inmate can proceed with a lawsuit challenging a three-page limit on letters at the Arkansas Department of Corrections. The inmate alleges that the mail restriction violates the First Amendment. 

Scholarship

“E Pluribus Unum” explores one of the overlooked features of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of 1964 – its bipartisan nature. The paper argues that the perception of the movement as inherently leftist ignores the fact that it involved a broad collation of activists with widely differing political views. 

Commentary

Writing for Wired, Tom Simonite warns that artificial intelligence-powered software is getting better and could soon be weaponized for online disinformation. 


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