Category Archives: Freedom of the Press

Can Twitter or Facebook control fake news on their websites under the 1st amendment?

In the last year, we have never had such a problem with this thing called ‘Fake News’. Our president is one of the many people that are bothered by it in today’s society. But is there a way to control this nonsense that people read? Or are these “stories” protected under the 1st amendment? I’m here to tell you why these ‘Fake News’ stories can not be controlled under the 1st amendment.

Many social media outlets are trying to control the spread of fake news. According to Fortune.com, facebook has made updates in their system that shifts the balance of news you see towards sources that are determined to be trusted by the community.(1) one of Biggest Issues in the fake news debate is foreign involvement. Russia has been linked to influencing US elections and false or misleading stories according to CNN.(2) But by the time it’s out on the internet, the story can be shared all over. And with the 1st amendment and more specifically freedom of the press, the story or statements don’t need to be exactly true. The statement cannot be harmful to the person’s life or that would be slander and then not protected by the 1st amendment. There is a fine line that people have to walk on when reading these fake news sites or social media because you can’t trust everything you see.

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Should any book be banned from access in libraries just for the fact that the ideas behind them are controversial?

Within our society and as people with many different points of view often times we want our own thought to be understood by everyone else. Although, at times debate and discussion are less emphasized and more focused on the simple desire to force others to conform to the same ideas as our own. This can be seen in instances like schools where they are deciding if they should listen to the angry parents and ban Harry Potter, a notable book, for being related to wizardry and satanism. So, we have to wonder, should we ban any books that might have some controversy with how we want to raise our children?
Is silencing the voice of the writer and practically stripping them of their first amendment right? Nytimes raises one question to the issue. How do the students feel about books being banned? After All, the students are the ones that will be reading the books not the parents, so shouldn’t the students be able to decide what they want to read? For the most part, students answered the question like Erin, an 18 year old in highschool, did by stating “The world is huge, and diverse. Books, whether fiction or nonfiction, open a little part of that world to us. …I think the books helped me to grow up, to learn about the world”. On the other hand how are we to know if the kids are ready to read some books that might require a little bit more maturity or context. We can’t just throw 4th graders into a translated version of Mein Kampf. Thoughtco thnks the answer is just providing a supporting hand if the students need it, like the introduction to the use of the N word in older literature. PBS sees every book as a learning experience and any book that is banned for sensitive material is simply avoiding the problem. Learning new information along with the context in which it is delivered will help us grow as individuals and come to better ideas. Justice Louis D. Brandeis would agree with the fact of having no books banned as seen by a famous case of Whitney vs. California Justice where he stated
*377 “Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
In essence stating that free speech should be protected and if some things may not sound right, then we can talk to change it. In the end, books are meant for spreading ideas in a way that can sometimes be easier than speeches or other sources. Why not use them as tools for learning and enlightenment?

 

Works Cites:
“What To Teach Students About Censorship And Book Banning In America.” ThoughtCo. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Whitney v. California [1927] 274 U.S. 357 No. 3 (Supreme Court of United States)
Schulten, Katherine. “Are There Books That Should Be Banned From Your School Library?.” The Learning Network. N. p., 1285. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.
Strum, Lora, and Lora Strum. “Banning Books Like ’13 Reasons Why’ Makes It Harder For Teens To Open Up To Adults, Author Says.” PBS NewsHour. N. p., 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

How Far Can Satire Go Before Becoming Libel?

There are many sources of satire in media today that come in a variety of different forms, from articles to television.  Two very popular sources are, The Onion, and Saturday Night Live. Both of these sources poke fun at a wide variety of topics, and no one is safe from the humor that they bring about. However, how far are they able to go before their statements turn into libel? Satire falls under the topic of “Fair Use” and therefore allows copyrighted works to be parodied. An ex-CTO of The Onion explains,” The Onion’s office walls are filled with letters from companies expressing delight in being satirized, not because they love it but because they cannot fight comedy. You can only defeat comedy by being funnier.”(1)  SNL uses satire in the parodies that they make about companies, products, and people. Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Center states, that Parodies are allowed to use more original context because they need lots of the original work in order to make a parody.

Satire can never be taken to far; it is a problem when it isn’t taken far enough. If something like a business is being ridiculed and the statement goes above and beyond to point out their every fault in an attempt to get people to laugh, that is better than it being similar to an actual representation of the business. If people are starting to believe that the statement is an actual, realistic model of the company, then it becomes a problem because it is turning into a defamatory statement. If people are going to believe a somewhat ridiculous statement, they should take the source of the statement into account. If the statement is coming from a show like SNL or is in an article by the onion, these statements should not be taken seriously at all. Sources that do not have a history of satire could be taken for libel. However, SNL and The Onion have a long history of satire, and therefore should not be taken seriously. When it comes down to deciding, could it be mistaken for a real model, or where is the statement coming from, are the two biggest factors that set the boundary between satire and libel.

 

Does Banning Books Violate One’s First Amendment Right?

When it comes to banning books, many schools are continuing to ban more and more books. Though there may be fair reasoning to have some of these books banned, it can go against freedom of press, making banning books unjust, unless it is an obscenity. I believe some books that are banned are clearly meet the limit of being an obscenity, but sometimes they it really doesn’t meet the definition. Cornell law describes an obscenity laws as,prohibiting lewd, filthy, or disgusting words or pictures,” but they also mention, “Indecent materials or depictions, normally speech or artistic expressions, may be restricted in terms of time, place, and manner, but are still protected by the First Amendment.” Books like Harry Potter and Where’s Waldo really have no, just reason to be banned, especially when you tie it with definition. This violates the freedom of the press because you are prohibiting authors of their right to freedom of the press for no reason. But, I do believe there are certain cases where it is best to ban a book.

Only some books should be banned, only when they follow this definition of obscenity, and it isn’t appropriate for the age group reading it. Having read several books on the “Banned Book List” I know that some books on that list have no reason to be on there, but others are best to be deemed “okay” to have in schools base off of age, making it fair for them to be banned. When it comes to books such as The Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird, banning them or not should probably fluctuate based on age. Even though it isn’t discussed in the constitution or seen as a limit, there can be fair arguments for not wanting certain ages to read certain books. In the book The Color Purple, right away in the book there is a graphic rape described. As the rest of the book continues, there is a lot of important historical context and lessons that happen throughout, making it important for someone to read, but with the graphic rape in the beginning, and a few more scenes throughout, it’s best to put an age restriction on it because you don’t want someone reading it at a young age, making the definition of obscenity fluctuate based on age. Though I think To Kill a Mockingbird should not be banned, due to its high use of the “n word”, some disagree. In no way am I condoning the “n word”, but I believe it’s an important, and dark part of our history that shouldn’t be forgotten, but something we are taught, and we learn from. To Kill a Mockingbird does this in a way that describes life during that time, and someone can actually learn through a fictional story, vs. out of a textbook, what life was like. Having people in elementary and middle school read it, can be deemed worthy needing it to be banned because they don’t understand the time as well, but people in high school are almost adults, and need to learn about that part of history in a further context, and they should understand the context of that word, raising the argument that obscenities definition should fluctuate based on the age reading the book. When it comes to freedom of press, there are certain limits to it, and sometimes those limits vary, based on certain factors. Books are a learning tool for all who read them, and when it comes to banning them or not, books should not be banned unless it’s deemed an obscenity for the age group reading it, not because of personal reasons in order to follow The Constitution, the highest law of the land.

Sources

“Banned & Challenged Classics.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. N. p., 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2018

“Obscenity.” LII / Legal Information Institute. N. p., 2018. Web. 12 Feb. 2018.

 

How Do SLAPPs Limit the Freedom of Speech?

Many large companies do not follow all the rules if they can find a way to cut corners.When citizens are affected by these cheats, they sue the big business they believe caused the grievance. People often are SLAPPed which takes away people’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. SLAPPing, also known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, make suing large companies nearly impossible by creating a financial burden. The Public Participation Project explains that the United States Supreme Court has said that the right to petition the government is the very foundation of our democracy. The project is trying to help people understand how they can fight for their right of free speech. Part of their education process includes an interactive map of the states with the law and how effective it is, as well as a chart that explains all aspects of each states law.

A great number of anti-SLAPP defense attorneys believe that SLAPPing is a way to discourage people from expressing their first amendment right. The plaintiff assumes that the criticism is due to conspiracy or defamation. Professors George Pring and Penelope Canan give an example of a parents criticising the management of their children’s school. The school then SLAPPs the parents which buries them in financial debt they can never recover from. If there was a federal anti-SLAPP legislation, then people would be able to recuperate from the unnecessary financial burden of exercising their right to freedom of speech. When people find a flaw in the community, they will often speak out against the company responsible which in turn hurts this person. Big businesses should not be allowed to revoke people’s right to freedom of speech

Is Satire in the Media Actually Protected by the First Amendment?

I believe that satire and parodies used in the media are protected by the first amendment in the freedom of press clause as long as there is a disclaimer stating that what is being said is not accurate. A case in the 1980’s proves this because a minister went to court because of an advertisement that portrayed him having relations with his mother while they were intoxicated. Which this advertisement had a disclaimer saying that the ad was “a parody and not to be taken seriously”. When this was taken to court the court sided with the company that created the ad because “no reasonable person would believe the situation depicted in the ad to be true.” The court did, although, award compensation in damages for emotional distress. This is just one example of how parodies and satire both are protected.

Dakota Access Pipeline & First Amendment

Written in the Bill Of Rights under the 1st amendment is freedom of speech. Included in this freedom of speech is, the right to have freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceable assemblies. Reporters see this as their right to give news reports on what they call the truth, but the government sees it as rioting and as of late, has been putting these reporters in jail or giving out tickets for trespassing. The North Dakota Access Pipeline as of late has been a very hot and controversial issue in our nation. It was a very big topic regarding our debates and president elections back in 2016. With Trump in control, we are likely to see this pipeline passed and built. This has gotten people all across the country riled up. Many people have traveled nationwide to protest in the Dakotas. Saying that it is land we owe to the SIoux and it is unavailable to build on.  Others think it is better for our economy and will lead to more jobs. Being one of the biggest controversies in our country right now, we also have the debate whether or not it infringes on the rights of the first amendment.  Part of that first amendment is, freedom of the press, the right to be protected as press for your work. As long as that work is not ‘fake news’. News teams have been going on to private land and giving reports on the pipeline and their protests. Some of these reports have given certain reporters a ticket from the police or even a spot in jail. The reason behind this is that they are trespassing on someone else’s land. The question behind this all is are they giving these reports unwarranted as a ‘rioting-like protest’  response to Trump’s new order or simply just doing news coverage.

I am neutral on this discussion, though. I believe that the pipeline was a good decision passed by President Trump and it will benefit our nation in many ways. I do not think the protesting by citizens will do anything though and all it is is a waste of their time. From the standpoint of the press vs. the government, I see both sides. The press is, in a way, protesting by giving these stories as most often given from the negative side of the pipeline, leaving out the possibilities the pipeline has to offer. This is seen by the government a form of protesting, falling under the category of rioting, which results in a ticket or if necessary, jail. To avoid the problems for both sides of the argument, reporters can give news on public land and give news more neutralized. Staying off private land avoiding the ticket, and making all sides happy by delivering news that is equalized.