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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, May 11, 2020

#FREESPEECH in the News May 11, 2020

Bliss Davis, Content and Programming Coordinator, The City Club of Cleveland

#FREESPEECH in the News May 11, 2020

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.) Facebook names 20 people to its 'Supreme Court' for content moderation

Facebook on Wednesday appointed 20 people from around the world to serve on what will effectively be the social media network’s “Supreme Court” for speech, issuing rulings on what kind of posts will be allowed and what should be taken down.

The list includes nine law professors, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Yemen, journalists, free speech advocates and a writer from the libertarian Cato Institute.

The oversight board is more than two years in the making, its creation prompted by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said in 2018 that he wanted to create “some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court,” for users to get a final judgment call on what is acceptable speech and relieve the company's executives of having to decide.

2.) Robocalls law faces first amendment conflicts

The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear argument as to whether automatic phone calls for government debt collection should be exempt from an anti-robocall law. Businesses are hopeful the court will invalidate the law’s exemption for the debt calls—and then strike down the entire anti-robocall statue as unconstitutional.

There’s a “good chance” justices will find the debt exemption unconstitutional, said Christine Reilly, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP. The question is whether they’ll take the “nuclear option” and strike down the entire statute, she said.

How the court rules on the exemption may have broad consequences for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a 1991 law that bans companies from making automated calls and texts without first getting customers’ permission. The law is loathed by businesses that risk expensive class-action lawsuits for sending unsolicited calls and texts.

3.) Divorcing couples have First Amendment right to disparage each other on social media, SJC rules

Divorcing couples have a First Amendment right to disparage each other on social media even if probate judges are worried the bitterness will impact the mental health of children caught between their warring parents, the state’s highest court has ruled.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court said free speech rights were wrongly curtailed by a non-disparagement order forbidding the husband or wife from posting about the divorce on Facebook and other social media sites until their child turned 14. At the time the order was issued, the child was a toddler, the SJC said.

“We conclude that the nondisparagement orders at issue here operate as an impermissible prior restraint on speech,” the SJC ruled. The judge “put careful thought into his orders in an effort to protect a child caught in the middle of a legal dispute who was unable to advocate for himself…[but since] there was no showing of an exceptional circumstance that would justify the imposition of a prior restraint, the nondisparagement orders issued here are unconstitutional.”

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