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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 05, 2021

#FREESPEECH in the News April 5, 2020

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

#FREESPEECH in the News April 5, 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.) Teen cheerleader's Snapchat brings Supreme Court clash over schools and free speech

When 14-year-old Brandi Levy didn't make the varsity cut as a freshman cheerleader for the Mahanoy Golden Bears, she sounded off on social media.

When she posted the vulgar message to her friends on a weekend in 2017, she never thought she'd hear about it again. But days later, the school accused her of breaching a code of conduct and suspended her from cheerleading for an entire year. Levy's Snapchat post and the punishment that followed are now at the center of a major U.S. Supreme Court case that tests the boundaries of school discipline and the rights of students to free speech.

"This is the first time that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to decide whether the rules that apply to kids when they're in school also apply to their speech when they are outside of school," said Sara Rose, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney defending Levy in the case.

2.) Facebook's 'supreme court' struggles to set global free speech rules

Roughly two months since a group of outside experts started ruling on what people could post on Facebook, cracks in the so-called Oversight Board are already starting to show.

So far, the independent body of human rights experts, free speech supporters and legal scholars that rules on what content Facebook must take down or put back up has reversed the social media giant’s decisions in four out of its first five cases. The biggest test is yet to come: deciding whether or not to reinstate former President Donald Trump’s account after it was blocked for inciting violence around the Capitol Hill riots in January. These initial decisions — the Trump announcement is expected by mid-April, at the earliest — highlight the unwieldy job that the Oversight Board has on its hands: to create a single set of free speech standards that apply to posts from around the world.

“The Board is applying international human rights law to Facebook as if it was a country. That’s impossible,” Evelyn Douek, an online free speech expert at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, said in an interview.

3.) Cesar Blanco cites Aug. 3 shooting while making amendment to social media free speech bill passed by Texas Senate

Senator Cesar J. Blanco’s offered an amendment to a bill to protect 1st amendment speech on social media, using the August 3 El Paso shooting as an example.

Senate Bill 12 was passed by the Texas Senate on Tuesday, Blanco’s amendment which was unanimously adopted by the Texas Senate makes it so hate speech can be removed or prohibited by social media companies. Posts that provoke criminal activity or make threats. When offering the amendment to Bill 12 Blanco used the Walmart shooters manifesto that was posted online shortly before the attack as an example.

Blanco issued this statment:

“On August 3rd, 2019, a shooter drove 10 hours to my district. He killed 23 people and injured dozens. Just minutes before his spree began, he posted a manifesto on social media—making it clear that his attack was racially motivated. It is clear that this shooter – along with others – drew inspiration from similar manifestos posting online by other terrorists.”

“My amendment will allow social media companies fight back against online radicalization which has led to a rise in domestic terrorism in recent years and slow the spread of hate content online.”

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