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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, August 12, 2019

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: August 12, 2019

Bliss Davis, Content Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: August 12, 2019

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.) Google employees weighed free speech concerns before the 2016 elections, internal emails show

Google employees appear to have foreseen many of the company’s political challenges in the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidential election, according to an internal email discussion obtained by CNBC.

In September and October 2016, a chain of emails appeared on the Free Speech mailing list, and included messages from more than a dozen Google and YouTube employees, including former engineer and self-proclaimed conservative whistleblower Kevin Cernekee. The thread showed workers had concerns about free speech and content moderation tactics on social media sites — including its own — three years before these issues erupted into mainstream political discourse.

Government agencies and politicians from both sides of the aisle have increasingly scrutinized the company over free speech, political bias and extremist content. President Donald Trump and Republicans have attacked Google because they believe the company actively censored conservative search results and speech, most recently pointing to Cernekee’s complaints as an example.

2.) New York taxi regulator tries to put the brakes on free speech

Ridesharing startup Vugo, is among companies that install digital tablets in rideshare vehicles. These tablets offer entertainment content to riders, such as the ability to stream YouTube videos. And the technology displays advertisements that are based on the location of the vehicle and the ride destination.

However, New York City has decided to ban such devices because of the possibility that they may annoy commuters. This is problematic because the city’s policy blatantly violates the First Amendment.

Under the First Amendment, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) cannot prohibit rideshare operators from installing tablets to display truthful commercial advertisements. Commercial speech is protected by the Constitution, and restrictions on commercial speech must serve a substantial governmental interest and be no more extensive than necessary.

3.) Protecting Free Speech Or Hate Speech? Shootings Intensify A Cybersecurity Dilemma

The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have intensified a long-running debate about gun control — and a newer debate about internet control.

In Greater Boston's large cybersecurity industry, some executives are thinking hard about the decision one of their counterparts in California has made to cut service to a website where the alleged El Paso gunman posted racist comments shortly before the shooting.

There is no consensus on how to handle the competing interests of free speech and public safety.

"We're not content police, but I think we do have a responsibility to our employees and our customers and our shareholders and, as a company, we have a cultural responsibility," said Tom Leighton, chief executive of Cambridge-based Akamai Technologies.

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