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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Monday, July 09, 2018

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: JULY 9, 2018

Bliss Davis, Content Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: JULY 9, 2018

As the Citadel of Free Speech here in Cleveland, we work to protect and promote the basis of our democracy by sharing related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century. Here's what's making the news – and what you should know about – in the past week.


1.) Charge dropped in Stamford free speech case

“Speaking of the decision to drop the charge, Joseph Sastre said, ‘It is delayed. It should have happened a lot sooner like the last time we were here because it is plain to see there was no evidence. There was no law violated and I don’t think the Stamford State’s Attorney should have thrown his hat into the ring here by telling the chief of police to arrest Michael.’”

A lawsuit may be next for a man who had breach of peace charges filed against him over a sign protesting the Stamford Police Department in Connecticut.

Michael Picard, 29, was arrested on April 26 for carrying a sign which including profanity. He was protesting the arrest of a friend for warning drivers about a distracted driver checkpoint.

2.) How Facebook Checks Facts and Polices Hate Speech

“What is your confidence level? In the 2016 election, there were bad guys putting out this information, there were good guys trying to stop this information, good algorithms, and the bad guys won, right. What is your confidence level that in the 2018 election you’ve gotten good enough at this that you can prevent someone from hijacking an election?”

In light in of the state of free speech on social media platforms, namely Facebook, the company has shared some of the strides it has taken to be sure the site isn’t overran again in the first.

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, thousands of pages, groups and accounts have been removed from Facebook. In addition, fake “likes” have been removed to, which, despite not including words, have a dramatic impact of Facebook’s algorithm. If a post that violates policy gains just a couple hundred likes, it gets pushed to the forefront of the platform.

Facebook stresses that though its new and improved methods for finding content that violates policy, it relies heavily on content that has been reported.

3.) Uganda levies unpopular social media tax, criticized by Amnesty

“Ugandans expressed their anger in local media, with some saying the tax curtailed their right to access information while others argued it amounted to double taxation because data used to access social media is already taxed.”

The Ugandan government has imposed a social media tax that has governments around the glove and Amnesty International deeply concerned.

While Uganda says the tax was created to create a way to fund public projects, opponents say the government is using that explanation as an excuse for stifling free speech. Communications firms have already begun blocking social media sites. Only those paying a subscription to the sites will be granted access.

The tax comes as President Yoweri Museveni has been unable to curb government corruption. Opponents believe the tax will only fund even more corruption by elected officials.

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