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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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Tuesday, September 03, 2019

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: September 3, 2019

Bliss Davis, Content Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH IN THE NEWS: September 3, 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.) The El Paso Shooting Revived the Free Speech Debate

The massacre of 22 people in El Paso, an attack announced in a hate-filled manifesto about an immigrant “invasion,” has revived debate about the limits of free speech, protected by the First Amendment in the United States.

But in Europe, where history has proved that domestic threats can be as devastating to democracy as those from abroad, freedom of speech, while a constitutional right, comes with certain caveats. Restricted in scope and linked to specific threats, these limitations are based on the premise that protecting certain ideals, such as the public good or human dignity, can justify curbing what individuals are allowed to say.

Free speech is constitutionally enshrined in both Germany and France, as it is in the United States. But there is an important difference.

“The big nuance between the First Amendment and the European texts is that the European texts allow for possible limitations” on speech, said Emmanuel Pierrat, a French lawyer who specializes in publishing and free speech issues.

2.) Campus free speech bill takes step forward in Michigan Legislature

Legislation regulating free speech policies on Michigan’s university and college campuses moved forward this week.

House Bill 4436 directs college and university administrators to develop free expression policies that allow students and faculty to discuss anything. It would also require that campuses be open to any speaker invited by students or faculty members.

The legislation is in response to past events where liberal student groups disrupted speeches by far-right speakers.

3.) Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent same message free speech advocates gave Donald Trump

New York congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t, at first blush, seem to have much in common with US president Donald Trump. In fact, the two politicians—who trade barbs regularly on Twitter—seem like total opposites.

But both are extremely active on social media, and now AOC is dealing with similar complaints as those recently faced by the commander-in-chief—and raising the same defenses.

Yesterday, free-speech experts at Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute sent a letter to the congresswoman asking that she stop blocking certain Twitter followers for constitutional reasons. The same organization sent the president a similar letter in 2017, arguing that when a politician blocks followers from a Twitter account used to communicate government information, they violate the First Amendment rights of those targeted because social media is being used as a “public forum” in that context.

When Trump declined to unblock followers, the Knight Institute sued the president, winning its case last month.

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