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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, April 15, 2019


Bliss Davis, Content Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland


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.) Mahanoy Area School District appeals ruling on cheerleader’s free speech rights

Mahanoy Area School District on Friday appealed a federal judge’s ruling overturning the attempt to discipline a cheerleader for her out-of-school computer postings.

Filed with the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the school district seeks a reversal of a lower federal court’s ruling that it violated a student’s free speech rights when it removed her from the cheerleading squad as punishment for a Snapchat post containing profanity that she made on the weekend, off campus and on her own smartphone.

In a 21-page memorandum, Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled on March 21 that the posts of the student, identified in court documents only as B.L., are protected by the First Amendment, since they occurred off campus and did not disrupt the educational process.

2.) Justices Won’t Hear ‘**** the Police’ Rap Lyrics, Free Speech Case

Rap lyrics and the First Amendment won’t be in the spotlight at the U.S. Supreme Court next term.

The justices denied review in a rap artist’s appeal of convictions for terroristic threats and witness intimidation based on one of his songs that allegedly threatened to kill police.

Jamal Knox performs under the stage name “Mayhem Mal.” He wanted the justices to settle “once and for all” whether, to establish that a statement is a true threat unprotected by the First Amendment, the government must show that a “reasonable person” would regard the statement as a sincere threat of violence, or whether it is enough to show only the speaker’s subjective intent to threaten.

“The constitutional question here implicates the validity of countless convictions under myriad federal and state threat statutes,” his petition said. “Allowing the government to convict and incarcerate people for speech that is not objectively threatening is contrary to this Court’s precedents and basic First Amendment principles.”

3.) Free speech row as US TV channel forces removal of tweets

A US TV channel has forced Twitter to remove tweets linking to a news story about pirated content – including tweets from free speech campaigners complaining that the social network was removing other people’s tweets.

Starz, the network that airs American Gods, The 100 and Knightfall in the US, sent the takedown requests after the copyright and privacy news site TorrentFreak reported on a leak of promotional copies of those TV shows and others. TorrentFreak’s story did not contain any links to the pirated material, although it did include four screenshots of the content in order to report the alleged source of the leak.

But when TorrentFreak tweeted a link to the news story, Starz sent Twitter a legal demand to remove the tweet, alleging it infringed the company’s copyright because it linked to a website depicting “images of unreleased episodes … and information about their illegal availability”.

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