Sunday, May 31, 2020

Portland Settles Free Speech Lawsuit With Preacher

Preacher‌ ‌Mark‌ ‌Mayberry‌ ‌was‌ ‌the‌ ‌sole‌ ‌plaintiff‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌lawsuit‌ ‌filed‌ ‌last‌ ‌October,‌ ‌which‌ ‌alleges‌ ‌he‌ ‌was‌ ‌unjustly‌ ‌kicked‌ ‌out‌ ‌of‌ ‌‌Tom‌ ‌McCall‌ ‌Waterfront‌ ‌Park‌ ‌for‌ ‌preaching‌ ‌anti-abortion‌ ‌rhetoric.‌ ‌ ‌

 ‌Hacke,‌ ‌an‌ ‌attorney‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌‌Pacific‌ ‌Justice‌ ‌Institute‌,‌ ‌which‌ ‌specializes‌ ‌in‌ ‌cases‌ ‌related‌ ‌to‌ ‌religious‌ ‌freedom,‌ ‌filed‌ ‌a‌ ‌suit‌ ‌challenging‌ ‌the‌ ‌orders‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌lone‌ ‌Portland‌ ‌park‌ ‌ranger.‌ ‌ ‌

According‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌complaint,‌ ‌Mayberry,‌ ‌a‌ ‌Christian‌ ‌evangelist‌ ‌and‌ ‌anti-abortion‌ ‌activist,‌ ‌was‌ ‌preaching‌ ‌at‌ ‌Portland’s‌ ‌Waterfront‌ ‌Park‌ ‌last‌ ‌June‌ ‌with‌ ‌an‌ ‌anti-abortion‌ ‌sign‌ ‌and‌ ‌passing‌ ‌out‌ ‌gospel‌ ‌tracts.‌ ‌The‌ ‌views‌ ‌expressed,‌ ‌according‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌filing,‌ ‌were‌ ‌“undoubtedly‌ ‌controversial‌ ‌to‌ ‌some,”‌ ‌but‌ ‌his‌ ‌conduct‌ ‌was‌ ‌“civil,‌ ‌peaceful,‌ ‌and‌ ‌by‌ ‌no‌ ‌means‌ ‌incendiary.”‌ ‌

An‌ ‌officer‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌city’s‌ ‌park‌ ‌bureau‌ ‌ordered‌ ‌Mayberry‌ ‌to‌ ‌leave.‌ ‌He‌ ‌refused.‌ ‌ ‌‌

The‌ ‌officer‌ ‌issued‌ ‌him‌ ‌a‌ ‌citation‌ ‌that‌ ‌dictated‌ ‌he‌ ‌couldn’t‌ ‌return‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌park‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌month, according to the filings.‌ ‌In‌ ‌the‌ ‌lawsuit,‌ ‌Mayberry‌ ‌alleged‌ ‌the‌ ‌action‌ ‌violated‌ ‌his‌ ‌freedom‌ ‌of‌ ‌speech‌ ‌and‌ ‌religion‌ ‌and‌ ‌sought‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌$307,000‌ ‌in‌ ‌damages.‌ ‌ ‌

During‌ ‌a‌ ‌vote‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌settlement‌ ‌agreement‌ ‌this‌ ‌Wednesday,‌ ‌Randy‌ ‌Stenquist,‌ ‌the‌ ‌city’s‌ ‌‌general‌ ‌and‌ ‌fleet‌ ‌liability‌ ‌manager,‌ ‌told‌ ‌the‌ ‌council‌ ‌the‌ ‌city‌ ‌believes‌ ‌Mayberry’s‌ ‌rights‌ ‌were‌ ‌violated,‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌previous‌ ‌injunction‌ ‌issued‌ ‌‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌9th‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌Circuit‌ ‌Court‌ ‌of‌ ‌Appeals‌ ‌specifically‌‌ ‌allowed‌ ‌evangelical‌ ‌Christian‌ ‌preachers‌ ‌to‌ ‌espouse‌ ‌their‌ ‌views‌ ‌at‌ ‌Waterfront‌ ‌Park‌.‌ ‌The‌ ‌council‌ ‌unanimously‌ ‌voted‌ ‌to‌ ‌pay‌ ‌the‌ ‌$50,000.‌ ‌ ‌


An attack on free speech in Finland

Finland continues to persecute parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen for publicly defending the biblical view of homosexuality. On March 2, police interrogated the Finnish MP about a booklet she wrote in 2004 detailing and defending the Lutheran church’s position on sexual ethics. It was titled “Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual relations challenge the Christian concept of humanity.” Räsänen, a physician and member of the Finnish Christian Democrats, had written the booklet to explain the Christian position.

Her interrogation lasted five and a half hours. “The booklet is not simply about the defense of marriage between a man and a woman,” she told the police, “but about how and on what basis we are eternally saved through belief in the Bible, the Word of God.” Räsänen's husband, Niilo, is a Lutheran pastor and doctor of theology.

Räsänen’s booklet was already investigated last autumn, at which time the police concluded that the contents were not criminal. Despite that, the Prosecutor General has reopened the case and directed the police to conduct another preliminary investigation of the booklet—along with fresh criminal investigations.


Thursday, May 28, 2020

YouTube Deletes Comments Critical of China’s Communist Party

YouTube has been deleting comments critical of China’s ruling party due to a software flaw, the company said on Tuesday in response to criticism of the practice.

Users of the online video giant, a division of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, flagged that certain comments posted below videos critical of the Chinese Communist Party were quickly deleted.

“This appears to be an error in our enforcement systems and we are investigating,” a YouTube spokesperson said in an email.

The spokesperson said the issue was not the result of a policy change. Some comments posted in Chinese language, such as “communist bandit” and “50-cent party,” a derogatory term for the ruling party, were deleted within seconds. YouTube’s automatic filters eliminate comments that violate company policies. The Verge reported the issue earlier Tuesday.

YouTube pulls comments that violate its Community Guidelines, such as spammy, hateful or harassing posts. Human moderators, who are often contractors, help with this. But during the Covid-19 lockdown, these workers have not been coming to the office, leaving YouTube relying more on automated systems to filter out the dross. The company warned in March there would be less content moderation and slower customer support.


Outrage After Leading Academic Association Awards Professor Who Engaged in Hate Speech Against ‘Zionist’ Students

Outrage over the weekend greeted the decision by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to give an award to a San Francisco State University professor who engaged in hate speech and violent rhetoric against “Zionists” and Jewish students who support Israel.

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, founding director of SFSU’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program, was given the 2020 Georgina M. Smith Award for “a person or persons who provided exceptional leadership in a given year in improving the status of academic women or in academic collective bargaining and through that work improved the profession in general.”

The AAUP said in a statement that it gave Abdulhadi the award because she “exemplifies courage, persistence, political foresight, and concern for human rights.”

The organization also praised Abdulhadi’s work to “advance the agenda for social change in Palestine.” Part of that agenda includes promoting ferocious hatred of Zionist and pro-Israel students.

In response to the announcement, famed UCLA professor and Turing Award winner Judea Pearl called for the IRS to investigate the AAUP’s tax exempt status.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

 Is effigy of Kentucky governor freedom of speech or crime? Legal expert weighs in

During a Patriot Day and 2nd Amendment rally, Governor Andy Beshear was hanged in effigy from a tree on Capitol grounds.

Multiple groups of protesters participated in rallies in Frankfort during the Memorial Day weekend.

Protesters claimed Governor Andy Beshear denied them their constitutional rights, some called on the governor to reopen the state and others said they want better conditions for those incarcerated in the state.

A moment captured during Sunday's Patriot Day and 2nd Amendment rally  has garnered national attention. An effigy of the governor was hanged from a tree on Capitol grounds and quickly went viral on social media.

Many in and outside of Kentucky called for those responsible to face charges.

Crime or free speech?

WHAS11's Kristin Goodwillie talked to a professor and legal expert with University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law to find out if a crime was committed by hanging an effigy of the governor or if the act is a freedom of speech?

"The government would have to show that it was intended as a threat. Not just that it was perceived as a threat by other people," professor Sam Marcosson says.

Marcosson says it would have to be either a threat situation or incitement situation to be considered a crime.


“Hate Speech” and the New Tyranny over the Mind

In America, a powerful movement intent on outlawing “hate speech” continues to expand in institutional power and moral vigor with each passing year.

Most Americans do not fully grasp what banning “hate speech” entails, or the political and intellectual stakes involved. Should “hate speech” be banned, America will no longer be a self-governing nation: Serious deliberation on the central political questions confronting the country would become impermissible.

But the debate over “hate speech” ultimately exposes our nation’s deepest and perhaps irreconcilable moral divide: Are we a republic in which presumptively rational citizens rule themselves politically and where the freedom of the mind is protected—or are we a confederation of oppressed groups whose fragile identities must be honored and sheltered from criticism?


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Sen. John Cornyn Unblocks Critics on Twitter — After Free Speech Group Hints That It May Sue

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has unblocked critics on his official Twitter account after a free-speech organization with a record of forcing the issue in court advised him that the practice leaves him open to a lawsuit.

Last week, the Knight First Amendment Institute fired off a letter to the Texas Republican asking him to unblock a constituent who posted a critical comment on his Twitter feed. Citing court rulings, the group pointed out that public officials are in violation of constitutional free-speech guarantees when they ban critics from their official social media accounts.

If the Knight Institute sounds familiar, that may be because the Columbia University-based group won a victory over President Donald Trump in federal court last year over whether he can legally block critics on Twitter.

Lo and behold, the same day Knight sent its letter to Cornyn, the organization tweeted that the constituent the senator had barred from his account — a former intern in his office, no less — had been unblocked.


Conservatives Ask Amazon to End SPLC’s Role as ‘Hate Group’ Sheriff

A conservative free-market group hopes to convince Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, not to rely on the Southern Poverty Law Center as a gatekeeper for its philanthropic giving.

The scandal-plagued SPLC, a left-wing advocacy organization, routinely labels mainstream center-right organizations as “hate groups” on a list that includes actual hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis.

“Amazon likes to inoculate themselves from criticism. That’s what our proposal is trying to do is pierce that inoculation,” Justin Danhof, director of the Free Enterprise Project at the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

At issue is the AmazonSmile program, in which online buyers may contribute a small percentage of purchase prices to the charity of their choice, whether it’s their church or a nonprofit such as the Red Cross. To the chagrin of conservatives, Amazon allows the Southern Poverty Law Center to decide whether the chosen charity is appropriate.

“Amazon can say, ‘We’re not deciding that the Family Research Council can’t be in the Smile program. Someone else does that. Go yell at them,’” Danhof said in the interview.

“We are piercing that veil with our resolution, making it clear with the tens of thousands who have signed the petition to the [Amazon] board of directors and investor relations: We are holding you accountable for the SPLC being the gatekeeper because you gave them the keys to the gate to keep,” added Danhof, also general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is leading a shareholder resolution on viewpoint discrimination to be voted on at the Amazon shareholder meeting next Wednesday.

“Amazon’s implementation of viewpoint-discriminatory policies in the Smile Program itself stems from a reliance on viewpoint-discriminatory, partisan, and discredited sources,” the shareholder resolution says, using a footnote on a news article about SPLC and adding:

The shareholders should be aware of the extent to which discrimination against social, political, or religious views by Amazon in its partnerships, content policies, and options for customer-selected charitable donations may jeopardize Amazon’s current market-dominance and may negatively affect important social dynamics beyond Amazon’s immediate business impact. …

AmazonSmile, the nonprofit charitable arm of Amazon, has relied on SPLC’s “hate group” list in dropping certain groups from eligibility for receiving donations, Danhof and other critics say.


Monday, May 25, 2020

'Cancel culture is sociopathic': Alison Roman's fans leap to her defense and slam the New York Times' decision to suspend her column after she bashed Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo

Alison Roman's suspension from the New York Times has sparked furious debate on social media, with fans rushing to her defense and accusing the Times of overreacting — and critics affirming that it was the right move.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the outlet told the Daily Beast that Roman's biweekly recipe column had been suspended and Roman was 'on temporary leave'.

The decision comes after Roman criticized Chrissy Teigen and Marie kondo in an interview with New York Consumer, which readers have said was rude at best and racist at worst — and those readers are equally divided over the Times' call to suspend Roman's column.

The suspension comes nearly two weeks after the publication of remarks from Roman, in which she she described Teigen's climb to the top of the food empire as 'crazy.'

'She had a successful cookbook. And then it was like: Boom, line at Target. Boom, now she has an Instagram page that has over a million followers where it's just, like, people running a content farm for her,' Roman said. 'That horrifies me and it's not something that I ever want to do. I don't aspire to that.'

Roman also criticized Kondo, saying she 'sold out immediately' by selling things online.

The backlash was swift, with social media users slamming Roman and Chrissy chiming in to express her disappointment.

Roman eventually apologized, but the Times has apparently decided that further action was needed.


Volkswagen apologises for 'racist' advert showing a giant white hand flicking a black person away from a VW Golf and in to a shop called 'Little Colonist'

The car giant Volkswagen has apologised for a 'tasteless' advert that appeared on social media following an online backlash that slammed its 'racist' undertones.

The ten-second advert posted on Instagram and Twitter shows a giant white hand pushing a black man away from a new, yellow Volkswagen Golf parked on the street.

The hand then flicks him to an open doorway and pushes him inside a French cafe.

Social media users noted that as slogan 'Der Neue Golf' - 'The New Golf' - fades into view, the jumbled letters appear to spell out the N-word in German.

Other eagle-eyed users spotted that the cafe's name is Petit Colon, which in French literally translates as the 'Little Colonist.'

Volkswagen apologised for the video and said 'we can understand the outrage and anger.'

'Without question: the video is inappropriate and tasteless', adding that 'we will clarify how something like this could happen, and there will be consequences.'


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Kamala Harris Just Cooked Up a New Way to Shut You Up About the Wuhan Virus

Senator Kamala Harris has introduced legislation that would equate the term “Chinese virus” with hate speech, and would call on government officials everywhere to denounce it.

Apparently, the use of the terms “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” and “Kung Flu” is “inaccurate rhetoric perpetuating anti-Asian stigma.”

There has been a reported rise in violent crimes against Asian Americans since the Chinese virus hit the U.S., but there have been few official crime statistics that would confirm that, only anecdotal evidence.

No doubt, there is anti-Chinese sentiment in the United States, but that’s nothing new. China angered American workers with their trade practices and trying to blame the United States for the coronavirus pandemic, with the Chinese government hinting that the virus was brought to China by the U.S. military.

But then, there’s that pesky First Amendment that always seems to get in the way of liberal virtue-signaling.

What part of “Congress shall make no law…” does Harris not understand? Yes, there is some rhetoric that’s “offensive” to Asians — even “hateful.” It’s very disturbing, but why put the government in charge of policing speech?

Besides, the Chinese government itself referred to the “Wuhan virus” until well into February.


UN Virtue Signals on PC Gender-Neutral Language

In a silly effort to promote the obviously false notion that gendered language is indicative of societal inequity, the United Nations recently released a social-media memo with the heading “What you say matters.” However, the admonishment is not about taking care regarding what one communicates; rather, the focus of the memo is on literal words. These UN busybodies have set themselves up as the “woke” word police.

Included in the memo is a list of common terms that should not be used if one does not know someone’s gender or if one is talking to or about a group. For example, instead of “mankind,” the UN recommends “humankind.” Don’t say “businessman,” but rather use “representative” (which doesn’t even come close to conveying the fundamental definitional root of the activity — “business”). And instead of “landlord,” one should say “owner.” Just imagine the confusion that would create. “Who called?” “Oh, it was just my owner.”

Witness the abject hypocrisy in the very memo itself, as the source of this nonsense is @UNWOMEN. Someone please explain how that is not gendered language.

As noted above, this push by the UN to police people’s language has everything to do with advancing a globalist political agenda, made even more ironic by the fact that the UN sees no problem with allowing nations with some of the worst human-rights records to sit on its Human Rights Council. As observed by U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, “That one of the world’s worst human-rights abusers would be granted a seat on a body that is supposed to defend human rights is utterly appalling. … [Its] an embarrassment to the United Nations and a tragedy for the people of Venezuela.” And yet we’re supposed to take its advice on the English language.

In the end, one wonders if this politically correct virtue signaling is designed to distract from the fact that the UN’s World Health Organization has so grossly failed in responding to the global China Virus pandemic.


Friday, May 22, 2020

Australians should say 'ya'll' instead of 'ladies and gentlemen' - according to politically correct new push for 'gender-neutral language'

Australians should be saying 'y'all' instead of 'ladies and gentlemen' or 'boys and girls', according to the United Nations, which has intensified its push for 'gender-neutral language'.

UN Women Australia, a national branch of the global organisation, tweeted part of a its new 'gender-neutral dictionary' on Monday.

The list urged people to replace common words such as 'landlord', 'husband/wife' and 'manpower' with 'owner', 'spouse' and 'workforce'.

A more comprehensive list on the website directed Australians to use Americanisms such as 'y'all' or 'folks' instead of 'ladies and gentlemen' or 'boys and girls'.

According to the guidelines on the website, the list was made to promote gender equality by abandoning gender-based pronouns, such as 'he' and 'she', and replace them with generic terms, such as 'they'.

New South Wales One Nation leader Mark Latham described the guidelines as 'ludicrous'. 'I'd tell them - y'all crazy,' he told The Daily Telegraph.

'My advice to them is that if they want to use "y'all" I'd strongly advice them to go and live in the United States, go to Alabama.'

Mr Latham said UN Women Australia - which strives to achieve gender equality around the world - should be closed down.

The Institute of Public Affairs' Dr Bella D'Abrera said the recommendations curtail free speech.

'The UN's ridiculous attempt to curtail free speech by dictating which words we can and cannot use is a fundamental attack on the very human rights it purports to defend,' she said.

She claimed the UN is more interested in 'social engineering' than maintaining international peace.

The tweet garnered thousands of responses slamming the organisation for the 'tone deaf' post.  'Stop trying to control people's language. It's creepy and unnecessary,' one woman wrote.

Another pointed out many languages other than English largely comprise gendered words.

'Are you going to rewrite all languages that incorporate grammatical gender? Or is that suppressing a culture,' they asked.

'The coronavirus is ripping through countries killing hundreds of thousands of people and this is what this tone deaf incompetent organization is focused on,' a third said.


De-Platforming in a Pandemicb>

For the past several years, some influential voices have decided that speech with which they disagree is a form of violence. This anti-free speech philosophy has long been pervasive on campuses, where students are urged to take comfort in university-sanctioned “safe spaces” and figures whose ideas aren’t politically fashionable are disinvited from speaking engagements if even a few vocal opponents loudly reject their views. Once a bastion of freedom of thought and expression, higher education now coddles its students instead of exposing them to new ideas, protecting their fragile worldviews instead of challenging them.

While we’ve become accustomed to this reality on college campuses, we’ve taken for granted how pervasive this mentality has become within the larger culture, especially in the technology sector. Over the past few years, social media companies have engaged in censorship in the form of restricting controversial accounts by curtailing their reach or removing them altogether.

In 2019, Facebook and Instagram banned controversial figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopolous, hoping to hinder their online presence and interrupt their revenue streams. The mainstream media applauded this decision, framing social media companies as vital information police, arguing they protected the public from exposure to conspiracy theories or getting conned into financially supporting them.

But, the application of so-called de-platforming standards has been fraught with problems. Even questioning statements from global warming activists can get you censored on social media, as my website, Legal Insurrection, discovered regarding our post pointing to evidence that Australia’s recent wildfires were caused by arsonists and bad land management practices. Facebook marked our story as “false information” based on a fact check that said we should have included climate change as a contributing factor, even though there is no evidence to support such a claim while 24 people were arrested for starting the fires that had engulfed the country.

Now, they’re also cracking down on free expression in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, conflicting reports about coronavirus – its origins, its severity, its transmission, its treatment – have left a lot of Americans with questions about the guidance provided by purportedly politically agnostic and science-based organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Public skepticism is apparently justified, as recent reports from Germany’s intelligence agency confirm the WHO participated in a broad-scale cover-up after China pressured the WHO to conceal the human-to-human transmission of COVID-19, costing the world an estimated four to six weeks in preparation and response to this deadly virus.

But, for social media companies, vocalizing distrust of organizations like the WHO or even expressing a view counter to that of its leaders warrants swift censorship. In April, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told CNN that her company would be de-platforming any user who posted content that went against WHO edicts. Disagreement with WHO was deemed “medically unsubstantiated” and promoting videos containing “authoritative information” from alternative but still authoritative medical sources was banned.

Meanwhile, Facebook spent the month of April labeling 50 million coronavirus-related posts as “misinformation,” while also taking down Facebook events organizing protests against state and local restrictions at the behest of government officials imposing unpopular lockdowns. Twitter has also “broadly banned” any speech that its monitors think could “help the virus spread.”

Yet so many of the experts acceptable to YouTube and Facebook and Twitter repeatedly have been wrong themselves. As Senator Rand Paul noted in questioning Dr. Anthony Fauci, coronavirus expert advice has resulted in “wrong prediction after wrong prediction after wrong prediction.”

But the unreliability of WHO and others hasn’t stopped the censorship. Facebook has launched a partnership with the WHO that steers “users who interact with coronavirus misinformation” directly to their website, despite the WHO having a long track record of substantial “coronavirus misinformation” of its own. This partnership also features a special new chatbot feature, a tool unique to the WHO, where users can find WHO-approved coronavirus content in efforts to “combat COVID-19 misinformation.”

Since their companies are private, social media platforms claim to enjoy discretion to police speech as they see fit. Meanwhile, the courts have ruled that for the most part they are not responsible for their content that users post. These conditions have allowed social media platforms to thrive, unconstrained by legal liability while enjoying broad latitude to suppress the speech of their users. And with mounting pressure from the media to silence speech they oppose, expect social media platforms to ramp up repression.

With no meaningful competition, companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will continue to effectively control the online dialogue in America. These social media giants have deputized their employees to determine which dissent, no matter how scientifically sound it may be, is acceptable.

A real backlash is growing against social media censorship. As these companies grow larger and amass more influence, it remains to been how long they can continue to suppress speech without significant political challenge. Dissent still is patriotic.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

IN: Ex-instructor claims Frankton school officials violated free speech rights
FRANKTON — A former Frankton Elementary School Title I reading instructor filed a federal lawsuit Friday claiming the school violated her right to free speech by firing her for criticizing a curriculum in a Feb. 10 Facebook post.

In the complaint, filed Friday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Jennifer McWilliams claims she spoke as a private citizen in her public criticisms of “The Leader in Me” curriculum, and that by firing her, the school had violated her First Amendment rights.

“The U.S. Constitution protects all of us, including public school teachers, from the government’s unlawful infringement on our free speech rights,” said James Bopp Jr., of Terre Haute-based The Bopp Law Firm, which represents McWilliams, said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. “As a citizen and as a parent, she had every right to criticize the curriculum in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper on her own time — here, she had every right to post the modern-day version of a ‘letter to the editor’ — a Facebook post — doing the same.”

However, Frankton-Lapel Superintendent Bobby Fields said he has no problems with staff expressing their concerns in public. He said McWilliams, who was an at-will employee and not a licensed teacher represented by the union, has made public comments about the district on social media and in Elwood’s Call-Leader newspaper without being fired or disciplined.

He said she was terminated Feb. 14 for circulating untruths about the school, the district and the program.

“As an at-will employee, we are not going to accept someone who is unhappy about people and lying,” he said. “You can say what you want, and we’re not going to fire you for that. But if you don’t tell the truth about us, you should be fired. We don’t need that kind of employees around.”

McWilliams did not return requests for comment.

However, McWilliams asserted in her complaint that she always participated in the required lessons and activities associated with The Leader in Me curriculum and never has had a negative job performance evaluation.


TX: To equate free speech with crime chilling

The government, it seems, has a hard time with free speech — and that includes San Antonio’s City Council.

In November 2011, for example, Simon Tam, the frontman for the Asian American band The Slants, applied to register his band name as a trademark. Despite Tam’s wish to “take ownership” of Asian stereotypes, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the claim, finding that it disparaged “persons of Asian descent.”

This ultimately ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court in Matel v. Tam. Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion held the denial violated the First Amendment: “Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express the thought that we hate.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy agreed in a forceful concurring opinion, stating “it is a fundamental principle of the First Amendment that the government may not punish or suppress speech based on disapproval of the ideas or perspectives the speech conveys” and “a law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all.”

The San Antonio City Council does not seem to have learned from the Patent and Trademark Office’s experience with the Supreme Court or thought through the First Amendment implications of one of its latest resolutions.

Earlier this month, the council adopted a resolution alleging that using “‘Chinese virus’ or ‘Kung Fu virus’ to describe COVID-19 only encourages hate crimes and incidents against Asians” and calling for “all persons” to report any “discriminatory or racist incidents to the proper authorities for investigation.” Presumably, the “proper authorities” would include the San Antonio Police Department and other law enforcement mentioned by name in the same resolution.

Though politically charged, the core philosophy behind the resolution is commendable. Racism should be condemned, and if racist “incidents” rise to the level of a crime, they should be investigated by law enforcement.

Notable, however, is the attempt to conflate offensive speech with crime — and to go even further, by calling on people to turn in their neighbors, friends and anyone else overheard using disfavored terms to governmental authorities.

Though this resolution does not technically criminalize such speech, its effect is clear: It equates some speech with “racist incidents” and instructs San Antonians to call the police if they hear those phrases. It’s difficult to imagine a resolution more chilling to free speech.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

YouTube Censors Noted Anti-Lockdown Epidemiologist

Welcome to the 2020 New World Order, when a social media platform like YouTube thinks it knows more about the coronavirus pandemic than an epidemiologist.

The New York Post:

Dr. Knut M. Wittkowski, former head of biostatistics, epidemiology and research design at Rockefeller University, says YouTube removed a video of him talking about the virus which had racked up more than 1.3 million views.

Wittkowski, 65, is a ferocious critic of the nation’s current steps to fight the coronavirus. He has derided social distancing, saying it only prolongs the virus’ existence and has attacked the current lockdown as mostly unnecessary.

Wittkowski, who holds two doctorates in computer science and medical biometry, believes the coronavirus should be allowed to achieve “herd immunity,” and that short of a vaccine the pandemic will only end after it has sufficiently spread through the population.

As with all of these “violations” on social media platforms, YouTube wouldn’t point to anything specific that Wittkowski did:

“They don’t tell you. They just say it violates our community standards. There’s no explanation for what those standards are or what standards it violated.”

In articles and interviews across the web, he has likened COVID-19 to a “bad flu.” That likely made him a target for YouTube, which said in April it would be “removing information that is problematic” about the pandemic.

“Anything that goes against [World Health Organization] recommendations would be a violation of our policy and so removal is another really important part of our policy,” CEO Susan Wojcicki told CNN.


Seattle cop slammed for protecting free speech during racist incident

A Seattle police officer faces a complaint after not punishing a man for engaging in protected speech. Now, the chief of police has apparently apologized to the purported victim.

The Seattle Police Department forwarded the issue for review to the activist-driven Office of Police Accountability. I think this incident stems, at least in part, from the department’s well-intentioned, but widely-mocked PSA against purported anti-Asian hate crimes — that aren’t actual crimes.

The incident reportedly began as a traffic argument, as Kert Lin was driving in the Home Depot parking lot in SoDo. There was a verbal altercation about being cut off. On Facebook, Lin says the man told him, “Chink open your eyes go back to China.”

Lin, a kindergarten teacher in Seattle, called 911 to report the incident. He said he was told by an officer who responded that “no crime was committed, that man was exercising his first amendment rights. No law broken, no report taken.”

A source tells me that the police report contradicts this claim by Lin. Initially, Lin did not reference the racial slur, bizarrely leaving it out of his complaint. Lin brought up the racial slur, I’m told, during a follow-up a short time later.

And a report was taken. Indeed, SPD notes the “bias incident in question was documented in a General Offense report and forwarded to the Bias Crimes Coordinator for further investigation.”

Regardless of the timing, as a matter of law, the statement allegedly made by the man is unquestionably protected speech. The officer is correct to say there was no law broken.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Facebook Puts Soros, Muslim Brotherhood, Activists in Charge of Censorship

Facebook controls as much as 80% of social media traffic. That means that it has the power to erase conversations, shift narratives, and control how people speak to one another.

With 190 million users in the United States, the social network monopoly has more control over what people see than all of the media giants combined do. And now Facebook is putting some very troubling political activists in charge of its Oversight Board who will decide how it censors.

“You can imagine some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court, that is made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world,” Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg had described the Board.

What does Facebook’s Supreme Court of Censorship look like when you zoom in?

Only a quarter of the Oversight Board originates from the United States. That means three quarters of the censorship court comes from countries with no First Amendment. While people from outside the United States may believe in certain kinds of free speech, political speech in this country will be determined by a majority Third World board of left-leaning political activists.

And even there the balance is curiously tilted.

3 members of the 20 member board are Muslim or come from Muslim countries. Only one board member is Hindu. Considering that there are approximately 1.1 billion Hindus and 1.8 billion Muslims, the Facebook Oversight Board favors Muslim countries at the expense of Hindus.

Considering the pressure by Islamists and their allies to censor India’s Hindu political movements and civil rights organizations combating Islamic violence, this is troubling.

The Oversight Board also has only one Asian member for around 1.8 billion people.

Of the 3 Muslim nationals, Kyle Shideler of the Center for Security Policy has noted that Tawakkol Karman was a top leader in a Muslim Brotherhood linked group with ties to Al Qaeda.

“The Brotherhood is a movement fighting for freedom," Karman wrote of the organization whose leaders have called for the murder of Jews and whose history includes Nazi collaboration.

“Because it is an integral part of this region, the Brotherhood is the one who will rule Riyadh and Abu Dhabi," she even predicted.

Facebook has added an Islamist who believes that a theocracy will rule the region, and put her in charge of determining content moderation policies for the entire planet. A member aligned with a violently bigoted organization will help Facebook police “hate speech”.

What will happen to ex-Muslims and secular activists in Muslim countries under this setup?

These numbers make it clear that the Board is not proportional by population, and despite its international makeup, reflects the political agendas of Facebook’s left-leaning leadership.


Hate speech: blasphemy for the 21st century

With most of us restless and under indefinite house arrest, it’s easy to feel like the state is swallowing everything up. But with our eyes set on this new threat to our liberty, something more insidious is underway in Scotland.

Threats to free speech are like the mythical hydra – you chop off one head and two seem to emerge in its place. This is exactly what is happening with the new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill, which has slipped into national discourse with undeserved anonymity.

On the surface, it might look like a positive development. The bill does away with Scotland’s outdated blasphemy law, which hasn’t led to a prosecution in more than 175 years. In 1843, bookseller Thomas Paterson was sentenced to 15 months for ‘exhibiting profane placards in his window, to the annoyance of the neighbourhood and the public’. The Scottish government is certainly right to ditch it – this archaic law is unusable, and unsavoury in a free society.

But what the bill replaces it with is worse, not least because it is certainly likely to result in prosecutions. Its proposed restrictions on ‘stirring up hatred’ could lead to people being jailed for seven years. This is essentially a blasphemy law for the 21st century, and it poses a grave and terrifying threat to freedom of speech.

‘Offences of stirring up hatred’ in the bill include behaving in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner, or sending material of this kind to another person. Whether you intend to stir up hatred is irrelevant. The categories of people it seeks to ‘protect’ cover race, age, disability, religion, social or cultural group, perceived religious affiliation, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics.

An offence could include any kind of behaviour – what you say, communicate, or how you act. Rather like poor Thomas Paterson, people would be criminalised for ‘displaying, publishing or distributing the material’ or ‘giving, sending, showing or playing the material to another person’. Simply ‘making the material available’ is enough.

Possessing ‘inflammatory material’ would also become an offence. Section 6 even allows for powers to be granted to the police to enter and search a property if they believe an offence was committed, to seize and detain material or any person if there are reasonable grounds it would provide evidence. Section 8 allows the court to order the forfeiture and disposal of any material relating to the offence.

It goes further still. The bill includes the explicit possibility of the director and performer of plays being prosecuted. You don’t have to be a radical libertarian to feel a chill run down your spine.

What is not made clear is what would count under this bill as abusive or insulting speech, and who gets to decide. The National Secular Society’s Chris Sloggett argues that the offence is too vague and accusations of this kind are ‘10 a penny’ on social media. Sloggett says the bill ‘sends a confusing message about the reach of criminal law. It isn’t a crime to hate, so why should it be a crime to encourage others to hate?’ The fact is, this hands far too much power to the state and is bound to go wrong.

The effect of this will be to make everyone feel unsafe – unsafe to think, to speak, to discuss, to share ideas. The Scottish minister behind the bill, Humza Yousaf, says ‘we all have a responsibility to challenge prejudice in order to ensure Scotland is the inclusive and respectful society we want it to be’. But what he is doing is giving law the job that manners and argument used to do.

Yousaf says that the ‘stirring up of hatred can contribute to a social atmosphere in which discrimination is accepted as normal’. But there are limits to what criminal law can safely aim to accomplish. In imagining a Scotland without hatred, he is inadvertently laying out something quite terrifying. The inevitable consequence of this legislation would be what Orwell called ‘crimestop’ – ‘the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of a dangerous thought’.

This is not a matter for the state. You can’t change hearts and minds with legislation, and respect enforced by the state is barely worth having. As Sloggett puts it, ‘disempowering ordinary people by restricting their freedom of expression is likely to antagonise, rather than create, social harmony’.

The bill’s reassurance (in Section 11) that freedom of expression would be protected in relation to religion is also unconvincing. It says that behaviour or material discussing or criticising religion, practices or beliefs, proselytising or urging people to stop practicing their religion, would be protected. But this compares poorly with Section 29J of the Public Order Act 1986, which more specifically protects discussion, criticism, expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult and abuse of religions, beliefs and practices.

We know from experience that journalists, comedians, artists, activists and ordinary people are at the mercy of such vague and elastic notions as ‘stirring up hatred’. Take criticism or ridicule of religion. In discussions about Islamophobia it is not uncommon for someone to be accused of anti-Muslim bigotry for merely criticising certain beliefs and practices.

To quote the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslim’s report on Islamophobia, ‘recourse to the notion of free speech and a supposed right to criticise Islam results in nothing more than another subtle form of anti-Muslim racism, whereby criticism humiliates, marginalises and stigmatises Muslims’. The same thing happens in the trans debate, where those who believe something as mundane as there only being two genders are accused of transphobia.

In short, the instinct behind this bill is ugly and misguided. In a free society, the state cannot be allowed to decide what we can say, think, read or share with each other. For all its supposed good intentions, this bill is taking us further down a dangerous road.


Monday, May 18, 2020

Hancock isn’t the only tone-policer

The two titans of late Victorian politics sat next to each other in a dining room filled with the cream of London society. One, William Gladstone, turned to the other, Benjamin Disraeli, and remarked: ‘I predict, sir, that you will die either by hanging or by some vile disease.’ Disraeli, I imagine smirking, fired back: ‘That all depends, sir, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.’

This (sadly apocryphal) exchange has proved so popular that it has been attributed to numerous pairings of political adversaries. But pause to imagine if such utterances were produced today. Disraeli’s Conservatives would be up in arms, accusing Gladstone of deliberately abusing his position to encourage violence against his opponent. Every nutjob who sent Disraeli an unpleasant letter in the coming months would be portrayed as a direct agent of Gladstone. And the Liberals would not take such an assault lying down, either. One can imagine how Disraeli’s comeback would be characterised as revealing his deep-set misogyny and criminally sex-negative mindset.

To see the truth of this, one only needs to look at the outcry over the exchange yesterday between the health secretary, Matt Hancock, and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, a Labour front-bencher and serving doctor. Dr Allin-Khan asked a perfectly reasonable, if emotive, question: did Hancock acknowledge that many health professionals felt the lack of testing for coronavirus had contributed to the death toll? Undoubtedly, many health professionals do feel that way. One may consider Dr Allin-Khan’s question to be political posturing, in spite of her commendable frontline service. One may even feel sympathy for Hancock, the strain on whom is growing more physically visible by the day. Nevertheless, Dr Allin-Khan was giving voice to a current of feeling within the country, and she ought to have been answered. Instead, Hancock prissily invited her to ‘take a leaf out of the shadow secretary of state’s book in terms of tone’. Twitter – and it is impossible to suppress a sigh while typing this – exploded.

The apoplexy was unbridled. Hancock was accused of ‘tone-policing’, a crime – I am reliably informed – that is often directed against women, and particularly women of colour. This tactic of the white-supremacist patriarchy is allegedly used to silence and dehumanise opponents by calling them angry or upset. Indeed, Nish Kumar, the quasi-comedian best known for his encounter with bread rolls some months back, questioned whether Hancock had in fact been referring to Dr Allin-Khan’s skin tone. This may have been a joke, but I’m increasingly unsure if even Kumar himself is certain of the blurry division between those and his unsought political commentary.

In giving Hancock the benefit of the doubt, I contend that his gripe was not with the tone of Dr Allin-Khan’s voice nor with her complexion. I have yet to see evidence of Hancock’s virulent racism, and Dr Allin-Khan’s tone of voice is so flat that it would border on the soporific were it not for the gravity of her subject matter. Instead, Hancock is indulging in a form of silencing that is actually extremely popular with those excoriating him in 240-character updates today – the tactic, that is, of implying that expressing political opinions emotively is somehow irresponsible. This tactic is in fact more often found on the left than the right. Who could forget when we were told that the prime minister referring to an attempt to scupper Brexit as a ‘Surrender Bill’ was an invitation to all us knuckle-dragging plebs to run out and firebomb the nearest Lib Dem cake sale?

The left’s hypocrisy on this front is staggering. David Lammy calling Brexiteers worse than Nazis? A legitimate political perspective! A few men shouting the same term at Anna Soubry? Impose martial law! How many times over the course of parliament’s Brexit battles did we hear the tragic murder of Jo Cox attributed to the rhetoric of prominent Leavers, thereby exculpating the evil degenerate who wielded the gun and the knife? And yet, how many in this country have heard of the attempted murder of several Republican congressman by a fanatical supporter of Bernie Sanders, who echoed the famous line that Trump et al were traitors? The silence of the left on the latter, and their trumpeting of the former, was striking.

So, please, Matt Hancock: next time you’re hit with a tough question, take a breath, pop another Pro-Plus, and don’t play the game. And everyone else: you might question your alleged belief in democracy if you hold your fellow citizens in such low esteem.


French Social Media Law Is Another Coronavirus Blow To Freedom Of Speech

As the coronavirus takes its 27,000th victim in France, the French parliament has passed a new law that forces social networks to remove certain hateful and illegal content within 24 hours. Signed into law yesterday, the "Lutte contre la haine sur internet" act requires digital platforms to remove discriminatory and sexually abusive comments within 24 hours of being flagged by users.

At the same time, networks have to remove content related to terrorism and child pornography within an hour of flagging. Failure to comply with the law will result in a fine of up to €1.25 million.

This will come as welcome news to victims of online hate speech. However, France’s social media law presents a very real danger to freedom of speech. What’s more, it seems as though the French government and the Assemblée Nationale has exploited fear over online coronavirus misinformation to pass it.

A very similar law was passed in Germany in 2018. Then, similar fears surrounding freedom of speech and censorship were aired, with critics claiming that the German law–dubbed the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG)–delegates too much responsibility for deciding what is legitimate free speech to tech companies.

As the Germany Director at Human Rights Watch, Wenzel Michalski, said at the time:

“It is vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid steep fines, leaving users with no judicial oversight or right to appeal.”

As with the German law, one of the flaws of the new French act is that there are no penalties if social media networks wrongly remove content that is later found not to be in violation of any laws or community guidelines. Take together with the threat of fines for not removing ‘hateful’ content, this will almost inevitably mean that legitimate freedom of expression will be curtailed.


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Associated Press Declares ‘Mistress’ A Sexist, Archaic Word

Last week, The Associated Press elicited mockery when it declared “mistress” to be a sexist, archaic term more deserving of dignified phrasing like “companion” or “lover.”

“We now say not to use the archaic and sexist term “mistress” for a woman in a long-term sexual relationship with, and financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. Instead, use an alternative like companion or lover on first reference. Provide details later,” the AP Stylebook tweeted.

The debate over the word “mistress” has been circulating in the halls of left-wing conversation circles in recent years. In an article for HuffPost last year, Emily Peck argued that the word needs to die a natural death:

It’s a loaded term, meant to suggest that a woman is subordinate to the man with whom she’s having a relationship. The word also implies that her behavior is immoral.

“It is clearly a red-flag word,” said Soraya Chemaly, the director of the Women’s Media Center. “It implies this woman is operating outside the parameters of what is socially acceptable. That she might be morally questionable because she’s breaking the rules.”

As noted by Fox News, the suggestion that “Mistress” should be treated in a more dignified fashion was roundly trolled online as people suggested words to use in its place, such as “homewrecker” or “adulterer.”

“I think an alternative like Homewrecker fits quite nicely,” tweeted Robby Starbuck.

“How about side piece, kept woman, concubine, shack job, goomah, homewrecker or Lisa Page for short?” tweeted Tony Bruno.


Gap pulls ‘camp shirt’ after comparisons to Auschwitz uniforms

The Gap has pulled a “camp shirt” that bore a striking resemblance to striped apparel worn at Nazi concentration camps – with the webpage now reading, “This was so wanted, it sold out.”

The pale blue- and white-striped cotton T-shirt was widely slammed on social media for resembling the uniforms worn at Auschwitz.

Gap appeared at first to have changed the name from “camp shirt” to “striped shirt” on some online store after the backlash.

On Friday, the shirt was no longer for sale on and the brand’s Canadian site – but the black-and-white “camp shirt” was still available Friday on its UK site.

A Gap rep told Fox News on Friday morning that the shirt was being pulled from its online shops.

“We are deeply sorry for this oversight,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “It was never our intention to design a shirt that could be interpreted or associated in this way, and thus inconsistent with the beliefs and values of our company. We immediately responded and are having the item removed from our site.”


Friday, May 15, 2020

Judge in Transgender Athlete Case Dictates Use of Politically Correct Language

A federal judge in a high-profile Title IX case has ordered lawyers representing three girls track stars to refer to two biological males who outraced them as “transgender females.”

The lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom who represent the three high school girls filed a motion Friday arguing that the judge should recuse himself because he has shown that he is unable to be impartial.

Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, and Chelsea Mitchell argue in the case that being forced to compete with biological males who identify as girls poses significant, unfair physiological advantages to them.

District Judge Robert Chatigny’s insistence that the three girls’ lawyers use specific language that all but endorses the other side in the case prejudges those who maintain that Title IX protections shouldn’t be extended to those who “identify” as girls or women.

During a hearing conducted via telephone April 16, Chatigny ordered lawyers for the three girls “not to refer to the intervenors as ‘males’ but instead as ‘transgender females.’”

The judge said that the lawyers would not “surrender any legitimate interest or position if you refer to them as transgender females” and that the order was “consistent with science, common practice, and perhaps human decency.”

The three girls, all excellent athletes, began to lose events after two biological males who identify as girls began to compete against them, as CIAC policy allows. Alliance Defending Freedom and the girls it represents claim the policy contradicts Title IX’s intended purpose, which was to create equal opportunities for girls and women in education and sports.


France passes bill forcing Web giants to delete hate speech

Social networks and other online content providers will have to remove paedophile and terrorism-related content from their platforms within the hour or face a fine of up to 4% of their global revenue under a French law voted in on Wednesday.

Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat will have 24 hours to remove other “manifestly illicit” content, according to the law, which sets up a specialised digital prosecutor at the courts and a government unit to observe hate speech online.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told parliament the law will help reduce online hate speech. "People will think twice before crossing the red line if they know that there is a high likelihood that they will be held to account," she said.

However, free-speech advocates have criticised the new law, saying it will curtail the democratic right to freedom of expression.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, an advocacy group with offices in Washington and Brussels, said it was concerned the French legislation "could lead to excessive takedowns of content as companies, especially startups, would err on the side of caution.”

La Quadrature du Net (LQDN), an online civil liberties defence group, said in a statement that the legislator should have instead targeted the Internet giants' business models. It said it was unrealistic to think content could be withdrawn within the hour and the law was unnecessary.

"If the site does not censure the content (for instance because the complaint was sent during the weekend or at night), then police can force Internet service providers to block the site everywhere in France," it said.

Twitter France public affairs chief Audrey Herblin-Stoop said the company would continue to work closely with the government to build a safer Internet and fight against illegal hate speech, while protecting an open internet, freedom of expression and fair competition.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Oxford: how censorship breeds ignorance

How can students challenge prejudice if they refuse to engage with it?

Not content with their university being largely closed due to coronavirus, and forced to continue their studies via Zoom, some students at Oxford have been doing their best to impoverish their own education further.

This is the news that, as the Oxford Student reported on Friday, Oxford’s student council passed a motion condemning ‘hateful material’ in mandatory teaching materials. The motion also seeks to extend hate-speech restrictions to include disabled people, working-class people and others, and calls on the students’ union to agitate for trigger warnings – flagging up content that may be offensive to certain groups – to be slapped on readings lists and exam materials.

As the Oxford Student article notes, the motion singles out a course on medical law and ethics, arguing that required readings advocating the ‘murder of disabled children after they have been born’ were ‘ableist content’. But as Professor Jonathan Herring, who teaches the course, rightly told the paper, ‘pretending that there are no ableist books or articles is not the way to combat and defeat ableism’.

This is a key point. Students today often dress up their calls for censorship as a battle with prejudice and bigotry, or an attempt to keep minority students safe. But demands to cleanse courses of ‘hateful material’ are effectively an attempt to pretend prejudice doesn’t exist, to refuse to work out how it works, and so to give up any responsibility for trying to defeat it.

Thankfully, the university has pushed back against all this, telling the Oxford Blue that ‘free speech is the lifeblood of a university’. ‘Not all theories deserve equal respect’, it adds. ‘Wherever possible, they should also be exposed to evidence, questioning and argument.’ Sadly, this seems to be a job that a certain set of self-infantilised students feel intellectually incapable of doing. Yet more proof that censorship can only breed ignorance, rather than tolerance.


A Supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood Was Named to the Facebook Content Oversight Board

A Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist from Yemen has been chosen to sit on the all-powerful Facebook Content Oversight Board, which regulates speech on the platform.

Tawakkol Karman has been picked as one of the 20 new members of the board despite her past statements praising the radical Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. But she has a different “viewpoint” that Facebook wants to include.

This oversight board will be nearly all-powerful.


The board will operate independentlyof Facebook to review some of the company’s most complex calls over whether to take down potentially harmful and often polarizing posts on Facebook and Instagram. It will also serve as a de facto Supreme Court when Facebook users protest the company’s removal decisions, capable of overruling even Zuckerberg on content matters.

Would you want a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer being able to vote on whether your content is “acceptable”?

Senator Josh Hawley is dubious.

“This is how powerful @Facebook is, how much speech it controls, how much of our time & attention it claims: it now has a special censorship committee to decide what speech can stay & what should go,” Hawley wrote. “Facebook basically making the case it should be broken up.”

The question isn’t whether some speech is “hateful, harmful and deceitful.” The question is who gets to define it. And I am extremely uncomfortable with a supporter of the radical, violent Muslim Brotherhood passing judgment on anything I would write.

Haters will be haters. Banning their content won’t mean they will disappear. The way to deal with hate speech is to publish it far and wide so that people can decide for themselves whether to agree with it or not.

Instead, Mark Zuckerberg has bowed to the anti-free speech crowd and Facebook will now make sure that no one gets offended by their content. They will tell us what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable speech. This is exactly what the founders who wrote the First Amendment feared the most and we are going to be forced to live their worst nightmares.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

We need to stop the spread of Big Tech censorship

It is time to draw a line. In the fight against Covid-19, people across the world have been required to suspend many hard-won freedoms – to give up travel, loved ones, places of worship, the pub. They have gone along with it because they understand that some temporary restrictions on liberty are sometimes needed in times of crisis (even though we must ensure they do not become permanent). But one thing we cannot give an inch on is freedom of speech, our right to speak and our right to hear others, which is under serious threat right now.

An unholy alliance of corporate tech giants, government and international agencies is working to narrow the range of acceptable debate about coronavirus. Since the beginning of this crisis, officialdom has talked up the threat posed to containing Covid by an ‘infodemic’ — the World Health Organisation’s cute phrase for the spread of misinformation online. Social-media firms have been put under renewed pressure to expand their already extensive policies on what is and isn’t acceptable content. And they’ve been all too happy to oblige.

Take Facebook, home to around 2.6 billion monthly active users. During this crisis it has moved the goalposts dramatically on what can be posted. At first, it said it would continue to remove ‘misinformation that could contribute to imminent physical harm’, while deploying its army of fact-checkers to flag certain posts, depress their distribution, and direct sharers of such material to ‘reliable’ information. Just a few weeks on and it is removing event posts for anti-lockdown protests in various US states, in tandem with state officials.

Last month it was revealed that Facebook had removed event pages for anti-lockdown protests in California, New Jersey and Nebraska. A spokesperson told Politico that Facebook ‘reached out to state officials to understand the scope of their orders’ and resolved to ‘remove the posts when gatherings do not follow the health parameters established by the government and are therefore unlawful’, such as when protests intend to flout social-distancing rules.

Facebook has stressed that state governments did not ask them to remove specific posts. But what seems to have happened is almost worse. Facebook moderators appear to be banning events posts on the basis of what they reckon the laws of a particular state constitute. As David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on free expression, told the Guardian: ‘If people show up to protest – and I think the vast majority of public-health officials think that’s really dangerous – it’s up to the government to clamp down on them. For Facebook to do it just seems suspect.’

What’s more, Kaye continued, this informal arrangement reached between Facebook and state governments will make it harder for citizens to challenge instances of censorship. If a state government were to issue a formal takedown notice to Facebook, asking it to remove a post for an illegal protest, then that government action would at least be subject to a challenge in court. But Facebook, a private company, is allowed to take down whatever it wants and is protected from legal liability.

This is, in effect, government outsourcing censorship to the private sector. Even if straightforward takedown requests aren’t being made, the increasingly cosy relationship between Big Tech, governments and intergovernmental organisations is leading to elite consensus effectively being enforced on social media. In a recent interview with CNN, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said her platform will remove ‘anything that is medically unsubstantiated’, as well as ‘anything that goes against WHO [World Health Organisation] recommendations’, essentially asserting this one UN agency as infallible and its critics as heretics.

As many have pointed out, this standard is almost impossible to enforce consistently – not least because the WHO has got a fair bit wrong over the course of this pandemic, and in previous crises. But it seems YouTube’s guidelines are now sufficiently broad that it can take down any dissident post that sparks outrage. It recently banned a viral video of two doctors, Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi, who run a group of urgent care centres in Bakersfield, California, discussing the data they have drawn from Covid testing, and arguing that California should lift its lockdown.

Experts and commentators have questioned the doctors’ claims and conclusions, and even their motivations (apparently one of them is a Trump supporter). But these two are not snarling conspiracy theorists. They are experienced medics giving their opinions on the data as they see it. But this apparently cannot be hosted on YouTube because, in the words of a spokesperson, it ‘disputes the efficacy of local health authority recommended guidance on social distancing’. It seems you cannot question the wisdom of the authorities at all.



By now, most people who’ve attended a wealthy college—or those who tuned into the Democratic presidential debates—have likely heard or seen the word “Latinx.” The anglicized Spanish term is the latest attempt of gender activists to impose their perverse ideology on the rest of the culture—and on Spanish speakers in particular.

What is so significant about adding the letter “x” to the word “Latino?” To activists, it solves a confounding problem: There is no “gender-neutral” way to refer to individuals in the Spanish language. Someone, for example, may be described as a “Latino” writer (if a man) or a “Latina” writer (if a woman), but there is no phrasing for those who don’t consider themselves male or female.

But in the early 2000s, activists came up with a solution: Replace the “o” in masculine words like “Latino” and the “a” in feminine words like “Latina” with a gender-neutral “x” to create the inclusive term “Latinx.”

For a while, “Latinx” remained a niche term secluded to small circles of academics and activists. But not for long. Around 2014, eager to appear “inclusive,” colleges and universities started to adopt the term.

As a result, institutions such as Harvard University, Yale University, New York University, and the University of Florida began to relabel. For example, “Hispanic heritage month” became “Latinx heritage month,” and  “Latino Studies” was changed to “Latinx studies.”

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is no exception to this trend. Although UNC-Chapel Hill administrators and faculty have used the term for the last few years, the label “Latinx” gained a new level of formal recognition in October when the university officially established the Carolina “Latinx” Center.

For over a decade, students and activists have been pressuring the university to create a center dedicated to Latino students. In 2009, a university task force established a “Carolina Latina/o Collaborative,” which was the first step in an effort to create a “full-fledged” center.

In 2016, UNC-Chapel Hill students conducted a protest demanding that a “Latinx” center be established on campus, arguing that the three seminar rooms and residence hall dedicated to “Latinx” students was not enough space.

That same year, the UNC Centers and Institutes Review Committee approved a proposal for the creation of a “UNC Carolina Latinx Center.” In turn, UNC Provost Jim Dean approved the recommendation and recommended that chancellor Carol Folt and the Board of Trustees give the center final approval.

The project was shelved for several years until finally, before her abrupt departure  in January 2019, Folt granted final approval for a “Latinx” center to be established on campus. The center officially opened on October 4, 2019 with UNC’s current chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, presiding over the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Of the sixteen UNC universities, Chapel Hill and the four following UNC institutions use the word “Latinx” in an official capacity:


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Bug experts dismiss worry about US “murder hornets” as hype

The Asian giant hornets found in Washington state that grabbed headlines this week aren’t big killers of humans, although it does happen on rare occasions. But the world's largest hornets do decapitate entire hives of honeybees, and that crucial food pollinator is already in big trouble.

Numerous bug experts told The Associated Press that what they call hornet “hype" reminds them of the 1970s public scare when Africanized honeybees, nicknamed “killer bees,” started moving north from South America. While these more aggressive bees did make it up to Texas and the Southwest, they didn’t live up to the horror-movie moniker. However, they also do kill people in rare situations.

This time it’s hornets with the homicidal nickname, which bug experts want to ditch.

“They are not ‘murder hornets.’ They are just hornets,” said Washington Agriculture Department entomologist Chris Looney, who is working on the state's search for these large hornets.

The facts are, experts said, two dead hornets were found in Washington last December, a lone Canadian live nest was found and wiped out last September and no live hornets have yet been seen this year.

Looney has a message for Americans: These hornets are not coming to get you. “The number of people who are stung and have to seek medical attention is incredibly small,” he said in an interview.

While its nickname exaggerates the human health threat, experts said this hornet is especially big — two inches long — so it does carry more and stronger toxin.

“It’s a really nasty sting for humans,” said University of Georgia bee expert Keith Delaplane. “It’s like the Africanized bee ... A dozen (stings) you are OK; 100 not so much.”


Free speech supporters decry New York’s selective social distancing enforcement

First Amendment advocates in New York City believe the NYPD and City Hall are going too far in taking punitive actions against protesters during the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest incident happened on Saturday afternoon at City Hall Park, where nine people were taken into custody after protesting the ongoing New York PAUSE program, which aims to curb the coronavirus spread through business closures and public gathering bans. That episode capped a week in which a number of rallies and other gatherings were either stopped or severely curtailed.

Civil rights advocates have also criticized the administration for their assembly crackdown that has resulted in 68% of black and brown people receiving summonses, with 25% Latino residents and 7% white residents being summonsed by police.

The May 9 rally at City Hall Park saw a phalanx of police officers quickly descended on the anti-lockdown demonstrators. The rally’s organizer claimed the protesters “were all socially distanced by six or more feet and wore masks.”

The episode happened after a similar May 1 protest was also broken up by cops. During that incident, the anti-lockdown protesters and a group of counter-demonstrators were ejected from the park. Cops did not issue any summonses then or make any arrests.

On May 3, during a protest organized by members of Reclaim Pride at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center on the East Side, about 50 officers descended on the group. The protest was directed largely against the hospital’s affiliation with Samaritan’s Purse, a group they say preaches “homophobia,” and conservative life-styles.

That group of about 10 people maintained social distancing in excess of six feet and one woman was given a summons standing more than 10 feet from anyone.

But even as these gatherings were broken up, at least five other rallies involving large numbers of essential workers went on. This included demonstrations by the New York State Nurses Association, a press conference by the Uniformed Firefighters Association and several press gaggles by the mayor in which police had a clear hands off approach.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Coronavirus: Amazon vice-president quits over virus firings

A vice-president at Amazon has quit "in dismay" at the internet giant's crackdown on workers who criticised it over coronavirus safety measures.

Tim Bray described the firing of protesters as "evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture".

Workers have criticised Amazon for not doing enough to protect warehouse staff against the virus.

Amazon declined to comment, but has previously defended its actions.

Mr Bray, who was a senior engineer at Amazon Web Services, set out in a blog why he had left the company where he had worked for five years.

Mr Bray said Amazon also fired office staff who had been organising another protest and had spoken out against the company on climate issues.

"At that point, I snapped," he wrote, adding that he raised his concerns internally first.

"That done, remaining an Amazon [vice-president] would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned," he wrote.


A progressive case for campus free speech

Campus speech controversies are nothing new, but in 2013, First Amendment advocates noticed a shift. Instead of provosts and deans cracking down, the students themselves were increasingly calling for censorship. An aversion to opposing views became medicalized, with undergrads reporting their peers for making them feel unsafe or triggering anxiety and stress disorders.

The prevailing sentiment, particularly at elite liberal arts colleges, holds that voicing conservative views on social issues like transgender rights and affirmative action is harmful to marginalized groups. Yet there’s a convincing progressive case to be made for free expression.

Liberal students who opposed the Vietnam War spearheaded the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, bucking a ban on campus political activism to hold protest rallies and sit-ins in the mid-1960s. Mario Savio, a grad student regarded as one of the movement’s key leaders, was an avowed socialist.

Comedian and liberal pundit Bill Maher blames President Donald Trump’s election on a national backlash against political correctness. While he skewers the president from his perch as host of HBO’s “Real Time,” he also calls out the left’s censorious impulses, correctly labeling the trend regressive rather than progressive.

For those who say free speech is merely a convenient excuse for far-right firebrands to target minorities with impunity, First Amendment lawyer Adam Goldstein offered a prescient warning.

“Here’s some wisdom for everyone who wants to impose speech restrictions to defend disadvantaged people: you will come to realize, in the fullness of time, that rules are enforced by the powerful,” Goldstein wrote on Twitter last year. “No matter how you rationalize it, you cannot benefit the oppressed by creating stronger tools of oppression. The safest thing you can do for marginalized populations is create a power structure with as little authority over them as possible.”

It’s both a moral miscalculation and a tactical error to cede free speech to conservatives. The right to think, write and speak without fear of punishment ought to be nonpartisan. The left must reclaim its legacy as a champion of expressive rights, evacuate the ideological safe spaces and rejoin the great American debate.


Sunday, May 10, 2020

About Those Swastikas and Nooses at the Michigan Lockdown Protest...

On Sunday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) condemned the anti-lockdown protesters at the State Capitol in Lansing as depicting “some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country.” She specifically mentioned that “there were swastikas and Confederate flags and nooses and people with assault rifles.” She repeated “the Confederate flags and nooses, the swastikas.” So, were there Confederate flags, swastikas, and nooses at the protests last Thursday? If there were, were they racist?

Whitmer is correct that these symbols emerged during the protest, but it is highly debatable whether any of them were racist.

Tom Bevan, founder and president of RealClearPolitics, shared one of the swastika posters at the rally. The swastika features on a poster reading “Heil Witmer,” comparing Gov. Whitmer to a Nazi.

This is gross and rather disgusting hyperbole, to be sure. Whitmer has attempted to override the Michigan legislature in order to extend her tyrannical lockdowns, but she is nothing like Adolf Hitler. Michiganders can — and arguably should — protest Whitmer’s abuses without resorting to this kind of ridiculous demonizing rhetoric.

Yet when Whitmer mentioned swastikas, she suggested that the protesters carrying the swastikas were racist — neo-Nazis. Instead, they were protesting the governor, comparing her to a Nazi.

Radio host Casey Hendrickson shared another picture of a swastika at the protest. Again, the protester was comparing Whitmer to Hitler, not advocating for Nazism.

As for nooses, they did make an appearance or two, but there was no reason to assume any racist intent behind them. The Detroit News‘s Craig Mauger shared an image of a sign reading, “Tyrants Get the Rope.”

America has a tragic history of lynchings — black men heinously murdered by white mobs, often organized by the Ku Klux Klan. For this reason, nooses can symbolize racism, but there is no reason to suggest that was the case here. Instead, it seems far more likely that this truck driver meant to send the same message as the sign above — “tyrants get the rope.”

This may constitute a threat against Whitmer, and such signs certainly are ugly, but they are not racist. Whitmer is white, after all.

As for Confederate flags, they seemed few and far between. Bevan said he could not find any, but State Senator Mallory McMorrow shared one photo on Twitter, showing a Confederate flag next to flags proclaiming the importance of freedom. She also shared one more swastika sign — which attempted to blend the swastika with a donkey to symbolize the Democratic Party, making the same insinuation that Democrats are Nazis.

While the Confederacy did secede from the Union in order to expand the institution of slavery into the territories, the Confederate flag today represents Southern pride and an attack against tyranny. As a proud graduate of Hillsdale College, a school in Michigan that sent its men off to fight for the Union, I would prefer that Southerners and Americans, in general, would swap out the Confederate flag for a flag more reminiscent of rebellion for a noble cause, like the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden Flag or the “Come and Take It” flag from the Battle of Gonzalez.

However, the Confederate flag is not necessarily a racist symbol.

However, Whitmer’s decision to frame a protest against her as “racist” is malicious and deceptive. These Michiganders are angry at their governor forcing businesses to close, mandating that gardening aisles in “essential” businesses be shut down, and decreeing that people cannot travel to another residence they own.


NZ footballers under fire for Jacinda Ardern tweet

Super Rugby franchise the Blues have received backlash from fans after what some labelled a "disrespectful" social media post referring to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as "Aunty Cindy".

The New Zealand government yesterday announced that professional sport will be able to return at COVID-19 alert level two, with NZ Rugby confirming that an all-Kiwi Super Rugby competition including the Blues will return in the near future, the NZ Herald reports.

Shortly after the news, the Blues shared a post across its social media channels celebrating the announcement.

"That feeling when Aunty Cindy says you can play footy again in level 2," read the post, which was attached to a picture of Blues players celebrating.

However, the use of the Prime Minister's maligned nickname sparked uproar from some fans who labelled the post "disrespectful".

“What a tone deaf trash tweet from the @BluesRugbyTeam," said one fan on Twitter. "Show some grace to the person that holds the position of Prime Minister."

The Blues’ tweet has since been deleted, while the post on Facebook was edited from "Aunty Cindy" to "Aunty Jacinda".


Friday, May 08, 2020

Journalists, politicians and judges to sit on Facebook's free speech panel

Just another gang of Leftists

Facebook has announced the members of its new oversight board, an international committee of judges, journalists and academics who will help steer the company’s policy on freedom of expression.

Among the 20 board members who have agreed to help set policy for the social network are Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the former prime minister of Denmark; the Nobel peace laureate Tawakkol Karman; and Alan Rusbridger, the former Guardian editor-in-chief.

The first four members of the board, who all hold the title of co-chair, were selected by Facebook directly. Thorning-Schmidt is one, and is joined by two US law professors, Jamal Greene and Michael McConnell, and Catalina Botero Marino, a former special rapporteur for freedom of expression at the Organization of American States.

Those four, in combination with Facebook, selected the next 16 members and will continue to appoint board members until the board hits its full complement of 40. At that point, Facebook says it will drop out of the process, leaving the board fully in charge of its own composition.

“Our roster includes three former judges, six former or current journalists, and other leaders with backgrounds from civil society, academia and public service,” said Thomas Hughes, the director of the oversight board. “They represent a diverse collection of backgrounds and beliefs, but all have a deep commitment to advancing human rights and freedom of expression.”

First proposed by Mark Zuckerberg in 2018, the oversight board is Facebook’s attempt to extricate itself from the uncomfortable position of ruling on free speech issues around the world. The board will arbitrate difficult decisions about content moderation, based both on appeals from users, and self-referrals from Facebook itself.

Facebook donated “irrevocable funding for an independent trust” to run the board, said Facebook’s director of governance and global affairs, Brent Harris, and has committed to “implement the board’s decisions unless doing so breaks the law”.


Oxford SU ‘Academic Hate Speech’ motion sparks free speech controversy

The Oxford University Student Union (SU) has condemned “hateful material in mandatory teaching”, after a motion on ‘Academic Hate Speech’ passed in Student Council last week. The motion has been widely reported on and has sparked debate about free speech in universities. The University of Oxford has responded with its free speech policy, used since 2016, which states that “free speech is the lifeblood of the university”. It has not responded to the specific recommendations of the motion.

The motion recommends expanding the University’s free speech policy so that hate speech on the grounds of gender identity, disability, and socio economic status is treated equally to groups protected by criminal law. It recommends trigger warnings on reading lists and guidance to faculties on what constitutes hate speech.

The motion passed, which means that some SU officers were mandated to issue a statement condemning “the use of hateful material in mandatory teaching”. This is now reflected in a statement on the SU website from the Vice-President (Access & Academic Affairs) and the Vice-President (Welfare & Equal Opportunities). It states: “We must fight to uphold academic freedom whilst protecting our students from abusive sentiment. There is a difference between debate and abuse and the two should not be confused.”

A new SU Policy is also created by the motion: ‘Protection of Transgender, Non-binary, Disabled, Working-class, and Women* Students from Hatred in University Contexts’. The new SU policy recommends that the University publish guidance on the mental health impacts of prejudicial articles, with trigger warnings on reading lists as “a bare minimum”.

It recommends that texts which, under the Council’s recommendation, would have trigger warnings, are not made compulsory to learn or be examined on. It states that the University’s free speech policy is “inapplicable” when the University requires students to listen, because attendance is taken and material is subject to examination.

The motion specifically highlights that the University’s free speech policy currently “uses the criminal law as a benchmark for academic free speech protection”. It states that the Public Order Act 1986 mentions criminalised hate speech as against race, religion, or sexual orientation, but does not specifically criminalise “ableist, misogynistic, classist or transphobic hate speech.”


Thursday, May 07, 2020

Should a British politician own a book by David Irving?

Why does Michael Gove own a book by the Holocaust denier David Irving? This was the question, posed by the Guardian columnist Owen Jones, that incited a day of rage on Twitter, directed at the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who had inadvertently revealed the presence of Irving’s The War Path in his library (pictured above) by broadcasting from self-isolation.

The Jones tweet reads as follows: “Why does Michael Gove and his wife own a copy of a book by David Irving, one of the most notorious Holocaust deniers on earth.”

Leaving aside the execrable grammar and punctuation — Jones is no Orwell, whatever his fans may think — what strikes one about this denunciation is the author’s deployment of guilt by association. Gove’s wife, Sarah Vine, is also a newspaper columnist. Like Caesar’s wife she must be above suspicion, but Ms Vine does not rate a name check. Just as Gove is presumed guilty by association with Irving, so “his wife” is guilty by association with her husband.

If Jones thought that he would get away with this, he was mistaken. While Michael Gove has so far chosen to ignore the Irving smear, Sarah Vine took up the cudgels against Jones. She tweeted more pictures of bookshelves, while defending intellectual freedom. This opened new fronts, inviting more hostility, notably from Ash Sarkar, voice of Novara Media and darling of the BBC. She claimed that the civil liberties of Muslim students had been curtailed by the Prevent programme, of which Gove has been a strong advocate.

In fact, no books have been banned from university libraries by Prevent, whatever the unholy alliance of Marxists and Islamists may claim. Others had noted that the Gove family library also includes The Bell Curve, thereby associating the minister with one of the hate figures on the academic Left, Charles Murray, and his controversial views on race and intelligence.

But voices were also raised in Gove’s support. Sir Richard Evans, who had been an expert witness at the Irving-Lipstadt libel case, asked: “Why shouldn’t Michael Gove have a copy of a work by David Irving on his bookshelf?” The historian, a lifelong man of the Left, tweeted that in preparation for the trial he had read “a whole heap of books by David Irving”. He had opposed a campaign to remove these volumes from university libraries, where he had consulted them. He had never owned any copies, but “it would not have seemed right to burn them,” he added pointedly.

Stephen Pollard, the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, was even bolder in his support for Gove. Having steeped himself in anti-Semitic literature during his successful campaign against Labour anti-Semites, he must, according to the logic of Owen Jones, have “a soft spot for it… because I’ve been reading it.” Pollard admitted to owning two books by Irving and one by Hitler himself plus — “and this is where it gets really bad” — the speeches of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. He even had a word of praise for the “excellent” Chavs by Owen Jones himself.

Pollard knows that Jones knows that in order to criticise anti-Semites it is a good idea to read them first. Gove, he observed, had done more for Holocaust education and the Jewish community than any politician except Gordon Brown. “It’s obvious why he would have read the work of a Holocaust denier.” As the JC editor whose scoop (the Chief Rabbi’s indictment of Corbyn) had a major impact on last year’s election campaign, Pollard was sceptical Jones’s purported concern about Holocaust denial at the heart of the Tory Government. Not only had the Chief Rabbi declared the then Labour leader “unfit for high office”, but one of his own MPs had called him a “racist anti-Semite”. “If Jones had his way, that same Jeremy Corbyn would be in Number Ten right now.”

What does this unedifying episode reveal? For Pollard, it shows that the hard Left’s “true ideology is hypocrisy”. For those who hate Gove anyway, his reading habits are simply more grist to their mill. Whatever one’s view of the matter, it cannot be a bad thing that at least some ministers are prepared to read and engage with views they demonstrably find abhorrent. We live in a society where free speech is, if not in danger, at least in question. On campus and beyond, self-censorship is common, tolerance less so. Michael Gove (and Sarah Vine) are to be commended, not condemned, for their intellectual curiosity; Owen Jones, not so much. He and his ilk are a menace. As the Roman satirist Juvenal might have said: who will guard the Guardianistas?