Tag Archives: Freedom of Speech

Search Engine Manipulation – or is it First Amendment Manipulation?

Is Google violating a company’s First Amendment rights when they block the company from search results if Google believes the company is engaging in search engine manipulation?

Google’s definitions of search engine optimization and search engine manipulation are similar and vague, but if it is true that search engine manipulation applies to spam with fraudulent intent, then Google is preventing criminal behavior (CAN-SPAM Act), not engaging in it. Google, its lawyers, and (ultimately) Judge Paul Magnuson argue that Google has the right to choose which results to display and in which order, just as an editor of a newspaper or magazine can choose which stories to publish and which ones to put on the front page. Some also argue that since Google is a private company, the question of First Amendment rights is irrelevant. Blocked companies aren’t being prosecuted or restricted by the government and therefore their rights are not being infringed upon.

However, if Google is, for some reason, unfairly using their search engine manipulation rules to prevent a company’s message from showing up in search results, then Google is infringing on that company’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech. Google doesn’t get to pick and choose who gets to spread messages without a legal reason. Although there are other search engines, Google is by far the most widely used. With how widespread the internet now is, many people rely almost exclusively on Google for access to information. If Google blocks that access, a company may lose its only viable way of expressing that information. Likewise, you could argue that Google is infringing your First Amendment rights by denying you access to accurate information.

As many directions as this can be argued, courts tend to side with Google in recent years.

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Does Limiting Religious Activity at School Limit Our Right To Free Speech?

Freedom of speech is arguably one of the most valued amendments for many Americans, as it separates us from many other countries in the way that we are able to speak our minds however we choose. However, there are many places where our freedom of speech is greatly restricted, a main place being our own public schools.

A Pennsylvania high school football team’s 40 year old tradition has been deemed illegal by the supreme court.  For over 40 years, Dunmore High School’s football team has spent a moment in prayer before each game. However an out-of-state organization has been weighing in and informing them that their tradition is illegal. The Freedom From Religion Foundation notified the school that public schools can not engage in religious activities such as prayer in school or at school sponsored events, such as football games.

Does limiting religious activities at schools limit our right to free speech? The supreme court states that, “Students have the right to pray individually, or in groups, or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive”. However school officials may not mandate or organize prayer, so hosting prayer at a school sponsored event is a constitutional violation. The players are therefore free to pray among themselves as long as they do not disturb others, but their coach is not allowed to partake. Because schools are not considered public forums, those who work for the school must be sure not to take sides on anything political or religious as to not sway the views of their students. The goal of this restriction of freedom of speech is not to limit students freedom or to repress them from participating in religious activities, it is to protect students from being persuaded by the views of their teachers, coaches and other school workers. Therefore public schools do not restrict the freedom of speech for those attending, but freedom of speech is restricted for those who are employed by the school.

 

Works Cited

NCAC Staff (July 10, 2013. ) The First Amendment In Schools : A Public Guide retrieved from http://ncac.org/resource/first-amendment-in-schools#firstamendpublicschools

ACLU Staff. Joint Statement of Current Law on Religion in the Public Schools https://www.aclu.org/other/joint-statement-current-law-religion-public-schools

FFRF Staff ( September 21, 2017 ) FFRF ensures religion-free Ala. football games https://ffrf.org/news/news-releases/item/30327-ffrf-ensures-religion-free-ala-football-games

 

Offensive Speech in Universities

When can universities censor students without violating free speech and the First Amendment?

Universities have always had a set of standards separate from the outside world. What might be acceptable on the streets could land a student in Dean of Students’ office. For example, flipping another driver off as he/she cuts you off does not have any repercussions and is actually seen quite often. On the other hand, a student giving their teacher the bird for not bumping their grade up will almost certainly result in consequences. Universities are allowed to do this without violating freedom of expression because they have a different set of community standards. Classrooms are a place for education and not much else, so something offensive that lies outside of this realm could be considered an obscenity. If it is preventing students from successfully learning, then the phrase or expression is obscene. The outside world does that not have this standard because it is solely devoted to learning. However, lately universities all around the country have been censoring a little too much.

A study done by Spiked Magazine released a ranking for schools in the UK highlighting which universities censored free speech the most. The report revealed that a majority of schools has “banned and actively censored” students’ free speech. In addition, Tom Slater, an editor for Spiked Magazine, revealed what some of the schools are banning. One school, he said, “Banned sombreros, and other such ‘racist’ attire”. Even groups centered around controversial debates such as abortion have been banned on campus, and students are upset. Many feel as though their freedom of speech has been violated by their universities. Although some opinions and words might be offensive, a lot of what universities censor can be used as an educational opportunity. One said that he is a “firm believer that the best way to challenge an idea is to discuss”. Universities are a place to learn not censor.

Although certain actions or words do need to be censored in the classroom, universities should not be censoring anything that seems mildly offensive. As long as it does not prevent students from learning successfully, it should not be banned. Just because something is offensive, does not mean it can not be discussed professionally and educationally. By toning down the amount of censorship, students might even be able to understand each other more effectively and create better environments within the school.

Works Cited:

“The suppression of free speech on university campuses is reaching epidemic levels; It’s easy to laugh at students who try to ban sombreros or applause, but new free speech rankings show how their censorious megalomania is getting out of hand.” Telegraph Online, 3 Feb. 2015. Student Resources in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A400023226/SUIC?u=mono131514&xid=48fd105e. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.

“‘Why I’m no longer looking forward to university’; Supression of free speech has transformed universities into a much less exciting prospect for sixth form students, writes Carl du Jeu.” Telegraph Online, 24 July 2015. Student Resources in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A423008194/SUIC?u=mono131514&xid=ee9f24f6. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.

 

Funeral Protests: Selected Federal Laws and Constitutional Issues

 

Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights that we as Americans have.  In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees free speech, though the United States, places limits on this freedom. In a series of landmark cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has helped to define what types of speech are—and aren’t—protected under U.S. law. According to The New York Times, CNN and USA Today the Westboro Baptist Church has been protesting military funerals for many years. The Church has gained national attention from the press because many of these views are considered to be very extreme and hate related. The Westboro Baptist Church is recognized as one of the most well known hate groups in the world. Its primary message is that God hates the United States and is punishing the country for its acceptance of homosexuality. The Church chooses to protest the funerals of fallen soldiers to make the point that in their opinion soldiers are dying as part of God’s punishment  for this country’s sins.

Do you think the 1st Amendment should protect the Westboro Baptist Church or should it be an exception and not allow the church to protest veterans funerals? I believe that the 1st amendment should protect the Westboro Baptist Church because if the court did rule against the church it would go against the first amendment directly. Since the protesters were protesting legally they can say whatever they want as long as it is within the law. That may seem harsh but, in reality the funeral attendees were never actually close enough to even see the protests, The father of  Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder said in a statement from CNN that, as he passed the protest he only saw the tops of the Westboro Baptist Church’s  signs. However, he was exposed to the signs and to the Church’s message when he saw the protest covered by the evening news; and later when he searched online to see what they had to say about his son. In conclusion I am with the law and the 1st Amendment that everything the Westboro Baptist Church had done is legal and is not punishable by the law. Although I do not agree with what the church did I think it was very disrespectful of the family and of America itself to protest at a funeral and say those horrible things.

 

Works Cited:

  • Funeral Protests: Selected Federal Laws and Constitutional IssuesKathleen Ann Ruane Legislative Attorney March 22, 2011Anon

Fas.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

 

  • Westboro Baptist Church

“Westboro Baptist Church.” Huffingtonpost.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

Huffpost has an entire section devoted to the westboro baptist church and is constantly updating it with recent news.

 

 

  • Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.com

 

“Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.Com.” TIME.com. N. p., 2011. Web. 14 Feb. 2018.

 

PRAYERS BEFORE FOOTBALL GAMES CROSSING THE LINE OR NOT?

Praying before sporting events is nothing new in our country, especially for football teams. Others and organizations, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, are saying that these coaches are breaking the law. The First Amendment allows everyone to freely exercise their religion and also allows everyone the right to freely express themselves. So the controversy is where the line is drawn, and to the extent that these freedoms go.

The line between what should and shouldn’t be allowed in freedom of religion and speech can sometimes be a confusing one. Teams and more specifically coaches, typically like to pray before games. Often asking for strength, courage, and that players remain healthy throughout the game. But coaches and schools are coming under fire for it, saying that they are violating the First Amendment for imposing their religion on students. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has not only gone after Dunmore High School, but another high school in Birmingham, Alabama, for praying before football games. They say that, “Public school events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students.” In their letter however, they fail to ask if any students have had any complaints about it, considering they are the ones who would be effected. Unless a student has told their coach, teacher, or school that they are offended by this prayer and asked that it be stopped, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing any harm. Sen. Lankford says, “Gratitude to God is certainly not a crime in America.” The only problem that could come from praying before a game would be if a student feels peer pressured to join in and not speak out against it. Although they always have the choice to not participate in the prayer as well.

The line for freedom of religion and speech for praying before games is definitely on the border. I don’t believe that it should be banned however, unless a student asks for it to be. Although since they have the option to not participate, I believe that others should be allowed to pray and practice their religion for the brief time before a football game.

Sources:

Wertheimer, Linda K. “Opinion | Why You Shouldn’t Defend a High School Coach Praying on His Football Field.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 Oct. 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/10/29/why-you-shouldnt-defend-a-high-school-coach-praying-on-his-football-field/?utm_term=.64aa0bb5a937.

“Alabama High School Told to Halt Prayers before Football Games.” Fox News, FOX News Network, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/10/26/alabama-high-school-told-to-halt-prayers-before-football-games.html.

 

Public Employees and Their Free Speech.

Topic: Free speech rights for public employees

Essential Question: What is classified as free speech for the public employee?

Free speech is something that people are constantly debating and will continue to debate for a long time. When it comes to public employees the Courts currently employ a three-part test to determine whether a government employee’s speech is protected by the First Amendment. The first part is government employees are only protected by the First Amendment when they are speaking as private citizens. If their speech is part of their official job duties, then they can be fired or disciplined for it. The second part is was their speech regarding a matter of public concern? If it is not then the first amendment will not protect them it is of public concern the first amendment may protect them there is still one more test. The final question is whether the government employer’s interest in efficiently fulfilling its public services is greater than the employee’s interest in speaking freely. There have been a few cases involving this system Garcetti v. Ceballos, Pickering v. Board of Education, Connick v. Myers. When it comes to free speech the line of what is protected by the first amendment and what is not is blurry at best. Public employees are in a unique situation and should be careful about what they say or post.

Tags: Media, Social, Freedom-of-speech

Works Cited:

“Free Speech Rights Of Government Employees.” Law2.umkc.edu. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

” Government Employees & First Amendment Overview | Newseum Institute.” Newseuminstitute.org. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

Savage, David. “Supreme Court Strengthens Free-Speech Rights Of Public Employees.” latimes.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.

Limited Money?

Should there be a limit or regulation on how much an individual can donate towards a political candidate? There are many reasons why or why not to go along with this because it is right on the border of being an issue with freedom of expression or not. I believe that money can be considered a form of free expression and that there should be a limit on how much one person can spend on one candidate. If there is no limit, the political candidates that have multiple connections to people of great wealth will definitely have a very high advantage and that is unfair to the candidates that don’t have those types of connections. It is simply unfair if one candidate has more wealthy people on their side where they can simply pull a million dollars out of their pocket and give them a huge advantage over the other candidate. Having a limit will definitely make the campaigns more fair for everyone because it will actually matter about how many people are with the candidate and not just how many wealthy people are with that candidate. Another thing it would help is the amount being spent on campaigns. It is at a very high rate right now and the limits would help keep the spending amounts lower. In conclusion, there should definitely be a limit to the amount an individual can donate towards a political candidate.

Speak Outs – Should there be a limit on campaign donations from individuals?

Speak Outs – Should there be a limit on campaign donations from individuals?. (2018). Annenberg Classroom. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.annenbergclassroom.org/speakout/should-there-be-a-limit-on-campaign-donations-from-individuals

Why Campaign Contribution Limits Matter | BillMoyers.com

Why Campaign Contribution Limits Matter | BillMoyers.com. (2013). BillMoyers.com. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://billmoyers.com/2013/09/19/why-campaign-contribution-limits-matter/