Fighting For The First Amendment Is Going To Be A Priority: Help Us Do It

from the free-speech-under-attack dept

Throughout the campaign, we noted how Donald Trump’s views on the First Amendment and free speech were horrific. While some of his supporters insist that he’s wonderful for free speech because he’s not “politically correct,” in almost every way he’s positioned himself as an enemy of free speech and the First Amendment (even the whole “political correctness” thing is misleading, because if you mention certain other words, Trump supporters seem to get just as worked up as the “PC police”). He (along with Clinton) promised to censor the internet and brushed off the free speech concerns about doing so, calling people who bring up free speech in that context to be “foolish people.” And, then of course, there is the long list of threats to sue his opponents for their ads, news organizations for their articles and other critics as well. Those are all protected speech. It didn’t help matters that his very first post-election tweet complained about protesters exercising their First Amendment right to assemble and protest, and the press for supposedly “inciting” them to protest.

In the past few days things haven’t gotten much better. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway threatened Harry Reid with legal action for criticizing the President-elect. Sure, Reid’s statement was hyperbolic and a bit ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than stuff that Trump himself said on the campaign trail. You don’t go and threaten people for expressing their opinions — especially when its people from opposing parties. That’s what dictatorial strongmen do, not those in a country that has the First Amendment. And, of course, Trump continued to use Twitter to get into a weird spat with the NY Times insisting (incorrectly) that people were unsubscribing because of its coverage of him.

And then he insisted that the NY Times was lying in reporting on things he said about having more countries get nuclear weapons. Except he did say those things, and even the friendliest publication to Trump, Breitbart, reported on him saying it.

No, he’s not threatening legal action there, but selectively attacking and calling out certain publications — especially for their accurate reporting — is pretty ridiculous and again shows that Trump seems to have a serious inability to recognize that adversarial reporting on the government is kind of an important part of the freedom of the press.

And we haven’t even gotten to Trump’s promise to “open up libel law” to make sure that publications that reported negatively on him have “problems.” As we noted when he said this, while he can’t just “open up libel laws,” he can still create lots of problems for free speech and the First Amendment.

And that’s why people like Margaret Sullivan are arguing that this is our big First Amendment test. Some people have argued — including in our comments — that we should wait and see what Trump actually does. I think we should take him at his word. If he didn’t mean, then let’s see it by his actions. But in the meantime, it’s going to be important to guard our free speech rights carefully, because Trump and his campaign have so far showed almost no respect for them at all. As journalism professor Dan Gillmor said in a recent speech, journalists need to become activists for free speech.

At Techdirt, we’ve always considered ourselves exactly that: strong advocates for free speech and an open internet, and so much of what we talk about stems from that. And we plan to continue to do so, even though we’re quite small. I know I’ve seen lots of people suggest people subscribe to newspapers and some wonderful organizations like the ACLU and EFF — and we’re all for that too. But if you want Techdirt’s voice to keep speaking out on this as well, perhaps, think about supporting us as well.

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Comments on “Fighting For The First Amendment Is Going To Be A Priority: Help Us Do It”

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jupiterkansas (profile) says:

I think we should take him at his word. If he didn’t mean, then let’s see it by his actions.

Why? It’s obvious he doesn’t mean anything he says and his supporters know this. He only says things to get attention, and hey – free speech – he can say whatever he wants.

Let’s ignore his calls for attention and put our attention on his actions, because that’s all that really matters.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's going to be a long four years

I’m on board with you guys. A free press is the most fundamental component to keeping a free society. One could argue that the raw sewage spewing from social media drowned out the objective press and led to this result. Now we find every freedom other than gun ownership under threat.

Personally, I am very worried that anyone will be able to stop Trump from destroying the 1st amendment. A lot of people seem to think TrumpTV was a backup plan in case he lost. I’m thinking it’s more likely that he will try to create a state-run media outlet. Then we’re into pure dictator territory.

Good luck out there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's going to be a long four years

“A free press is the most fundamental component to keeping a free society.”

The Declaration of Independence called and said you were wrong. We have freedom of the press and there is very little outcry against NSL’s, Patriot Act, countless Court Gag orders, and a lot of calls for overturning the 1st by several people in so called ‘higher’ education systems. Well they are ‘high’ just in the drug induced sort of way!

“The People” will always be the most fundamental component to keeping a free society, freedom of the press is just the 1st tool to help with that. Just know that when it comes to liberty you are clearly in the minority. Most people want your liberty removed for their convenience, political ideology, religious ideology, or just because they are that clueless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's going to be a long four years

Make that thirteen years, give or take. Four years ago, Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 years for, basically, making translations. (And, BTW, prosecuted by the same attorney in charge of prosecuting Aaron Swartz.)

For Mr Mehanna, I guess the whole Trump thing must have started seven years ago (when he was arrested in 2009). Unclear to me whether he gets credit for time served prior to his sentencing.

People suddenly up in arms over Trump, they puzzle me. Like, what, it’s not fascism until John Podesta says it is? Julian Assange is confined to the Ecuadorean embassy for four years, but free speech isn’t threatened until Donald Trump is the one who threatens it? It isn’t race-baiting when the Clintons do it, ’cause they’re just so classy about it? It’s not xenophobic demogoguery unless it’s literally the Monopoly Man who incites it? Is it only xenophobic demogoguery when it’s not ever-so-tactfully directed at a nuclear power?

We’re just now finishing up eight more years of Bush-Cheney American Exceptionalist Daddy-knows-bestness, the Cosby-show variant, with an extra helping of insipid, baseless Red-baiting. Are the next four are going to be any different? I’ll believe it when I see it.


Good luck guys. And I mean that sincerely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Free speech is awesome, as long as you agree with it

I know these are private companies and it would be awesome if they could actually identify fake news. But once they start filtering, they will go to far. Soon, any news site they don’t like will be “fake” news.

But then again, Fox News is the only right-leaning news network so there is a reason it is the most popular. Once the social media giants ban conservative news, a new site will pop-up. Long live the free market!

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m usually the adversary on this site. Right leaning, pro-2nd amendment, live in the south, not fond of liberals ideals or socialism. NOT a racist or bigot, but I CAN see why the lefties would think that. And although I respect the hell out of Helmet, PaulT, Mason, Wendy and the like, I really enjoy poking them as hard as I can with my virtual stick. I like to do so Anonymously, and would like to keep it that way. Is there a way I can contribute Anonymously?


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where can lawyers help?

I believe both EFF and ACLU can use voluntary legal help to try ie. legislation in courts. EFF is mostly for technology-related topics but internationalistic and relatively bipartisan. ACLU is a lot broader and use more legal hands but they are nationally centered on US issues and quite a bit more partisan.

roebling (profile) says:

Is this a joke?

Is the writer being witty? Throughout the campaign, Globalist-funded corporate media alternated between taking Trump’s remarks out of context and misrepresenting them and outright lying. The best selling book of this year’s presidential campaign season was a compilation of the corporate press’s Trump-slandering lies of omission juxtaposed with the truth.
Today the best of that genre (NYT) has publicly acknowledging their misdeeds and they’ve vowed to return to their journalistic roots. And today, of all days, alt-tech’s NYT, “Techdirt”, publishes this crap?
It’s sad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is this a joke?

Just because much of the reporting done by many news outlets against Trump have been false or out of context doesn’t mean all reporting about him is false.

There are multiple legal dockets worth Trump’s name on it as the plantiff where he seeks to suppress the speech of the defendant. Sometimes the courts have found the reasons legitimate, but more often than not the courts have found Trump’s speech-suppressing lawsuits to be without merit.

To even go to court and defend oneself costs money. It is not unreasonable for TechDirt to want enough money to have the ability to defend themselves in court should that day ever come.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s a proxy argument popularised by some Internet subcultures and reputation management firms. It tries to reframe the argument as one of business rights to turn a subjective position “I dislike that speech and it should be censored” to an objective one “(Company) has the legal right to censor speech.”

It’s manipulative debate tactics designed to shut down debate. It’s aggressively used by Microsoft to shut down complaints about Windows 10 and its surveillance practices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Considering he hasn't actually done anything yet,

perhaps it would be wise to take a step back, and consider whether jumping on the whiner wagon at this very moment is such a good idea.

Do I expect him to do some evil shit? Yep.

But it is worth noting, that in terms of CITIZEN speech, the mafia-esque approaches to controlling the national dialog, executed by the unholy trinity and major journalistic outlets, is also corrosive to the political dialog.

It is pretty funny to watch them flipping out, bashing the guy because their knobs might not get the polish and wax it did from previous administrations.

Personally I think the best thing he could do is move the press corp out onto the back lawn. Yep, it is cold and rainy. Americans work in those conditions. No reason the press corp should get a roof on the taxpayer dime. Maybe even put a screener out on Pennsylvania Ave. and shuttle up a citizen or two a day to the front of the press corps, to ask their own questions.

His constituency would LOVE that. And frankly far left labor would love it too.

This bandwagon is about chickenshit main-media black mail. IMHO TD would be doing itself a favor, by letting the douche-ocracy handle this one, all by their lonesome.

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