Disruptions in Class

School is a place where students are free to express themselves, yet where is the line drawn when it comes to wearing hateful or controversial items? The public school’s dress code falls under the freedom of speech section of the First Amendment. Students are guaranteed the right to freely express themselves, unless the item of clothing is a distraction to other students or causes a disruption in class. Problems with clothing might arise with controversial topics such as political, social, cultural, etc. Higher enforcements may be involved if a school’s peaceful environment is interrupted.

One of the most famous cases where the United States Supreme Court became involved was the Tinker V Des Moines case. In this case, students expressed themselves by wearing a black armband to protest the war and were suspended. At first the US District Court ruled with the school, but then the case went to the United States Supreme Court, where they ruled in favor of the students. Each case may be different and it is important not to base each one off of the Tinker V Des Moines Case. Another occasion where a higher official was involved was in the case of Castorina es rel. Rewt v. Madison County School Board. Two high school students wore a shirt with the Confederate Flag on it to school, and were suspended for not following the dress code. The case ended up going to the federal district court and then to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges found the case to be very similar to Tinker V Des Moines, however in this instance they ruled that there was, “the appearance of a targeted ban”, and it was sent back down to the lower court. Although many times the case of Tinker V Des Moines is referred to as a classic example, it is important to realize that there may be uncertainty with each situation, therefore every incident must be handled differently.

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Apple vs. the FBI

There are many different opinions on privacy in social media. Some people believe that everything on social media should be private in the sense that what you put on a site open for posting, you should not be held liable for their actions. And then there are some people that think you should be held liable for what you put on social media sites. A recent case supports both sides of the issue, Apple vs. the FBI. In this case the FBI wanted to investigate an iPhone that was linked to a terrorist attack in San Bernardino this shooting occurred on December 2nd, 2015. The outcome of the attacks were 16 people dead, including the shooters. One of the shooters, Rizwan Farook, had an iPhone 5c and used it to store documents that could have been linked to a terrorist group. When the FBI requested the phone’s data, Apple denied their request because it would infringe on the right of privacy for other iPhones, “Do we compromise security now for the expediency of easy investigation or do we preserve everyone’s security at the possible risk that someone who has been secured is a bad guy?” Even if Apple tried to access your files, they couldn’t. Their security is so advanced, they cannot access the files on any apple device. “Today, even Apple doesn’t have the key to information stored only on your device, and couldn’t look at it even if compelled by law.” Apple’s argument is that if they hand over the evidence, they could compromise every iPhone in use.

Why would a company not comply with the investigation of a terrorist attack? It doesn’t make any sense. Sure Apple has to insure the privacy of every user of their product, but they should have tried to access the files of the shooter and hand it over. I don’t agree with the stance of Apple but I also understand completely. The First amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The shooters actions and words were in clear violation of present danger and imminent lawless actions under the restrictions of the first amendment.  The fourth amendment applies to this situation better because the fourth amendment is the assurement of your privacy as a whole, so if we were arguing the rights of others privacy were being infringed upon you could declare the FBI’s actions tyrannical because they were using their powers to access documents that are meant to be private.

 

Do You Speak through the Internet, or Does the Internet Speak for You?

Almost everyone has heard of net neutrality, but few truly understand the breadth of the issue. Simply, net neutrality prevents internet service providers (ISPs) from limiting access to certain websites or promoting their own content or sponsored content. In her article Court Backs Rules Treating Internet As Utility, Not LuxuryCecilia Kang explains that in June of 2016, the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the internet is a utility, which allowed the government to enact net neutrality.

Proponents of net neutrality believe that it protects the consumer by ensuring that he or she has access to all content on the internet. The court’s ruling of the internet as a utility makes the internet a tool for people to express their ideas not for the internet to project its own ideas. In this way, net neutrality protects the consumers’  First Amendment rights.

However, others argue that net neutrality violates the Internet Service Providers’ right to free speech. According to the ISPs, internet providers should be able to regulate speeds of websites in order to express their ideas. A group of broadband companies, including the small ISP Alamo, filed a lawsuit against the FCC to challenge net neutrality. The article How Net Neutrality Violates the First Amendment by Jon Brodkin explains the companies’ claims, “with prioritization, broadband providers convey a message by ‘favoring’ certain speech – that prioritized content is superior – because it is delivered faster”.

Some claim that the FCC does not have the power to restrict ISPs’ speech. However, one exception to the First Amendment is prior restraint, which states that only the US government has the right to prevent material from being published. Therefore, one can argue that it is unlawful for ISPs to block or to slow websites as that is a form of censorship, which is not protected under the First Amendment.

The debate surrounding net neutrality boils down to one essential issue: whose rights are more valid – the ISP’s or the consumers’?

Works Cited
Brodkin, Jon. “How Net Neutrality Violates the First Amendment (according to One ISP).” Ars Technica. WIRED Media Group, 06 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.
Furchtgott-Roth, Harold. “Net Neutrality Violates First Amendment.” Hudson Institute. Hudson Institute, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.
Kang, Cecilia. “Court Backs Rules Treating Internet As Utility, Not Luxury.” New York Times 15 June 2016: n. pag. Print.
Manne, Geoffrey A., and R. Ben Sperry. “How to Break the Internet.” Reason May 2015: 20-28. SIRS Issues Reasearcher. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

Can elections work as auctions?

The ethical and legal lines of campaign financing have been danced around for decades.  The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, amended in 1974, was a major turning point in ending the monetary free-for-all that was public and private donations to political campaigns.  By creating the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which imposed contribution and spending limits, the Act provided a basis for distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable giving.  Only two years later, in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the limitations on contributions to candidates for federal office while at the same time declaring a $1,000 limit on independent expenditures unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court revisited this issue many times, opening loopholes and creating more room for larger donations and Super PACs to take shape.  Recently, in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), wealthy businessman Shaun McCutcheon wanted to give a symbolic $1,776 to each of 28 Republican candidates for Congress in 2012.  Going back to Buckley v. Valeo, Watergate, and many other federal limitations established in this time, he could only donate to 16 of the 28 before the case was opened.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court struck down many caps and reopened the floodgates so that individuals were now allowed to donate as much as they pleased.  

In a government of the people, by the people, for the people, should financing caps be put in place or should an individual’s money be a critical tool of democracy?  Possibly the most crucial aspect of the First Amendment is the guaranteed freedom of speech, which protects the citizens right to express themselves any way they choose.  Money is a form of expression, most certainly in the United States.  Capitalism runs on freedom of expression of the customer, which furthers competition and eventually progress.  As put by Chief Justice John Roberts in explanation of the McCutcheon decision and how money plays a role in our elections, “There is no right more basic in our democracy, than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”  He also commented that the First Amendment freedom-of-speech guarantee includes the right to endorse political candidates, and that to “restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others” would be unconstitutional.  McCutcheon v. FEC was the closest decision that the Supreme Court could make, and the other side also leaves plenty to think about.  The four Supreme Court Justices voting for the FEC explained that campaign contribution limits have the sole purpose of cutting down quid pro quo corruption, where candidates receive cash from donors in an exchange for an under the rug “I’ll do this for you in office.”

Taken from the context within it was written, campaign donations should not have a cap.  So long as they come from actual people, supporting your personal prefered campaign ideology should come with no limit.

 

Hate Speech covered by the First Amendment?

When considering the topic of Hate Speech one must look to the Supreme Court.  They have dealt with issues of Hate Speech both directly and indirectly. From Miller v. California where Obscenity was defined based on the community standards.   To the Beauharnais v. Illinois,  where Joseph Beauharnais expressed his views on the, “harassment and invasion of white people” his leaflets were deemed libel, this is one of the limits of the First Amendment.  Hate Speech has even been examined with a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio.  The court said that Ohio’s criminal syndicalism law violated the right to free speech.  These court cases asked the question is there a difference between Hate Speech and Free Speech, and should crimes be prosecuted/punished differently?  In other words should the motivation of a crime be examined to  determine the punishment.

Hate Speech itself is not covered directly under the First Amendment.  Free speech is the right for someone to express themselves.  However, there are still limits that must be considered like Slander/ Libel, Clear and present danger, fighting words, and obscenity.  The First Amendment is no longer protecting you.  Hate Speech is indirectly protected under the First Amendment, until it crosses one of the limits.  The first Amendment gives of great freedom, but Hate Speech a price.

 

Work Cited:

“R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1991/90-7675. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Miller v. California.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-73. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Beauharnais v. Illinois.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/343us250. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

“Brandenburg v. Ohio.” Oyez, https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/492. Accessed 19 Feb. 2017.

Freedom of Speech: Crash Course Government and Politics #25. By Raoul Meyer. Prod. Stan Muller. Perf. Craig Benzine. YouTube. N.p., 31 July 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2017

Are Free Speech And Hate Speech The Same?

Just this past October at a football game between the University of Wisconsin and Nebraska, a fan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was spotted with a costume of the 44th president, Barack Obama, with a noose tied around its neck. Though the school wasn’t pleased and had the fan remove certain offensive parts from the costume, they stated it “was an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech.”. So this brings up the question, are hate speech and actions protected under the boundaries of the first amendment? The short answer is yes, but how far can it go? The first amendment states that speech that will incite violence is not protected under the Constitution. Sometimes hate speech won’t fall under this category, even though it may offend people or you may not agree with it. In an article that talks about the debate between hate speech and free speech it brings up the idea that hate acts but not speech may be regulated under the law. In an example from the article, a Minnesota boy burned a cross in an African American families lawn and charges were brought up on him by the family. He was prosecuted under a law in Minnesota that made it illegal to burn a symbol of a certain race or religion likely to incite resentment. This case later reached the Supreme Court, where the law was later determined unconstitutional and hindered the boy’s first amendment rights. The law focused on the meaning of the message and not his actions which is why it was found unconstitutional. He was, however, held criminally responsible for damaging property. There was another incident that happened on the campus of the University of Oregon. One of the professors at the university invited some students to a costume party. She was found wearing what a costume some found offensive though it was not her intention to be offensive. The school’s policy on this type of issue was that if something was found to cause enough of an uproar at the university it may result in suspension from the university for students and staff. The real dilemma of this story is if the university is in the right, pertaining to the first amendment, with its rules. The answer is the university is it’s own institution and can make it’s own rules even though some may push the boundary of the Constitution. The debate between hate and free speech had raged since the beginning of the United States, and it shows no sign of stopping. I believe, though I may not agree with it, that hate speech is constitutional and is protected by the first amendment. But we need to be watchful, to stop it when it crosses the boundaries  of the first amendment.   

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” ~Benjamin Franklin, writing as Silence Dogood