Platform cases uphold press precedent

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The Supreme Court’s decision in the social media content moderation cases reaffirms important First Amendment protections for the press. File:Panorama of United States Supreme Court Building at Dusk.jpg by Joe Ravi is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Platform cases uphold press precedent

With all eyes on the Supreme Court’s disturbing opinion on presidential immunity, you may have missed that the court also issued an important First Amendment decision this week about social media content moderation.

The court’s decision made clear that, just as the government can’t force a newspaper to print something its editors don’t want to print, the government can’t force online platforms to carry content they don’t want to carry.

The decision also reaffirmed an important press freedom precedent protecting the news media’s First Amendment right to make editorial judgments about what stories to publish. This precedent may become even more important if former President Donald Trump returns to office and continues his campaign to punish news outlets who criticize him.

Read more on our website about what the decision means for press freedom and the First Amendment, including hints in Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s opinion about how some justices may approach a legal challenge to the TikTok ban.

Prison social media bans silence important voices

Aaron M. Kinzer, a formerly incarcerated journalist, writes for our website this week about how social media bans in prison like those recently proposed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons harm reporters inside and outside prison gates.

Bans act as a “blockade” to any source of information that incarcerated journalists seeking to report on the outside world could use, Kinzer writes, and can also prevent incarcerated journalists’ reporting from reaching beyond prison walls. Incarcerated journalists, like every other journalist, “want the public to know the truth,” Kinzer says.

Read Kinzer’s article on our website.

DOJ insisted on criminalizing press freedom in Assange case

A new report in The Washington Post about the Julian Assange plea negotiations reveals that high-level Department of Justice officials were determined to pursue the prosecution even in the face of warnings from trial attorneys that it was doomed.

Top DOJ officials continued to pursue the case even when their own lawyers told them that U.K. attorneys representing the U.S. in its attempt to extradite Assange were on the brink of quitting and the entire team of DOJ attorneys prosecuting the case in Virginia “disengaged” from it.

The DOJ should be ashamed that it pursued the Assange case, at great risk to press freedom in the U.S. and around the world, especially when the dissent wasn’t just coming from outside organizations but from their own lawyers. The prosecution handed authoritarian regimes who want to go after journalists the perfect weapon to disingenuously claim that they are only doing what the U.S. does.

The Assange plea deal may have averted a worst-case scenario for press freedom, but it’s exposed the U.S.’s weakness on press freedom and endangered future journalists.

What we’re reading

Catherine Herridge: Protecting Sources Is a Hill Worth Dying On (The Free Press). Source confidentiality needs protection so that sources will come forward with information crucial for the public. That’s why we need Congress to pass the PRESS Act. Catherine Herridge is right: “Without the promise of confidentiality, a reporter’s investigative toolbox is empty.”

Police warned of ‘violent extremism’ from pro-Palestinian protesters before campus raid (The Appeal). The Appeal refused a Humboldt County attorney’s demand to destroy emails disclosed to it in response to a public records request that showed that law enforcement used “hyperbolic rhetoric” to disparage pro-Palestinian protesters. Good. The government can't claw back public records once it's disclosed them to the press.

She won a Pulitzer for exposing how the country's poorest state spent federal welfare money. Now she might go to jail (NBC News). Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant should be ashamed of himself for pursuing the confidential sources who helped reporters at Mississippi Today reveal widespread fraud in the state’s welfare program.

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Don’t let prosecutors define journalism

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Police must protect press covering RNC

As journalists arrive at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum to cover the 2024 Republican National Convention (RNC), we can expect the public to take to the streets to protest everything from Donald Trump’s nomination to the ongoing war in Gaza and the killing of Dvontaye Mitchell.

Assange freed, press freedom imperiled

Julian Assange has finally been freed after reaching a surprising deal with U.S. authorities to plead guilty to violating the Espionage Act. The plea deal avoids the worst outcome of a court precedent that could be used against journalists, but it still threatens press freedom.