Weekly News Digest, No. 29

Crowd standing in a public square

Happy summer and welcome to the twenty-ninth installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog!

Campus Speech 

Campus Reform released an article about the University of Louisiana – Lafayette’s updated free speech policy. The public university did so after the school’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty advocated for change. The university noted it was not their responsibility “to ‘shield’ people from ‘ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.’”

Pomona College also recently installed a new speech code that “appears to represent a move from the college in favor of free speech on campus.” The Dean of Students released a statement saying “free speech is critical to Pomona’s mission as an educational institution…the norm is that speech and other forms of expression are protected.” 

International Speech 

Jonathan Turley with The Hill writes about how the French government is “attempting to unilaterally scrub out the internet of hateful thoughts.” The government is working to pass a law that would only allow 24 hours for social media platforms to remove hate speech with a fine of $1.4 million per violation. The proposed law is similar to the new German law.

National Speech 

NPR Reporter Nora Eckert writes about Tennessee’s governor Bill Lee and his declaration of July 13th as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. The governor faced backlash as he seemingly ignored Forresst’s “history of suppression and violence toward blacks.” While the declaration is not new (and is Tennessee law), it faces new backlash amid controversy regarding Confederate statues. 

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Weekly News Digest, No. 28

Crowd standing in a public square

School Speech

Associate Editor of Fox News Caleb Parke writes about a movement at the University of Texas at Austin that is threatening to dox incoming conservative students if they join conservative groups like Turning Point USA and Young Conservatives of Texas. Students leading the movement have compiled reports with conservative students’ phone numbers, addresses, and emails. 

Reporter Brian Pascus authored an article about the $44 million verdict against Oberlin College in Ohio. A local business, Gibson’s Bakery, alleged that they “were libelously accused of racism.” The student senate passed a resolution that noted that Gibson’s Bakery “had a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment.” Carmen Twillie Ambar, president of the college, said the “decision is really about whether a college should be held liable for the speech of students.”

Ethan Berman writes about how Williams College, located in Massachusetts, has rejected the Chicago Principles, created by the University of Chicago, “aimed at preserving free speech and expression on campus.” Berman writes that “It’s a disappointment for not only Williams College faculty…but their allies across the country.” 

Online Speech

The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that President Trump cannot block Twitter users. The practice was ruled discriminatory. The judges noted that “the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”


Weekly News Digest, No. 28

Crowd standing in a public square

Happy summer and welcome to the twenty-seventh installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.

Campus Speech 

Richard Adams, education editor, writes about the UK policy that aims to prevent the recruitment of terrorism. According to Corey Stoughton, director of Liberty, the UK’s Prevent Strategy is the “biggest threat to free speech at universities rather than media caricatures of ‘snowflake’ students.” She argues that the tactics used on campuses have a “chilling effect on black and Muslim students.” 

Civil Discourse and Technology 

Lisa Schlein writes an article for the Voice of America about a recent report by U.N. Investigator David Kaye. The report explains that the private surveillance industry is “undermining freedom of expression and putting the lives of many individuals at risk.” Kaye instead suggests that goverments should use the technology to protect citizens.

A German court fined Facebook €2 million for a lack of transparency about the company’s efforts to reduce online hate speech. Under a new German law that went into effect in 2018, social media platforms have only 24 hours to remove posts that violate law if they are flagged by users. Sites that are unable to adhere to the regulation face up to 50 million in fees. 

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm write about Twitter’s new update that labels tweets from politicians that the company would have otherwise removed for breaking site rules. The new update will also apply to officials with more than 100,000 followers as well as to candidates for office. 

Investigative Journalist A.C. Thompson authors an article about a three-year old Facebook group that is meant for current and former Border Patrol agents. Thompson uncovers that within the group, “agents joked about the deaths of migrants” and also posted “sexist memes” about Latina Congresswomen. The group has about 9,500 members. 

Weekly News Digest, No. 27

Crowd standing in a public square

Happy summer and welcome to the twenty-seventh installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.

Campus Speech and Discourse

Scott Jaschik, editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed, authors an article about Pride month at the University of Central Arkansas. The university library had a sign that quoted Lady Gaga: “Being gay is like glitter. It never goes away.” Staff posted a photo of the sign with a message of support for the campus’ LGBT+ community. However, President Houston Davis ordered that the sign be removed because “it was not OK for the university sign to be used to make a personal statement or advocate for a personal viewpoint.” 

Grace Elletson authored an article about Kyle Kashuv, Parkland survivor and former Turning Point USA and NRA activist. Kashuv’s recent offer of admission to Harvard University was rescinded after racist comments he made online surfaced. Kashuv told his story on Twitter in hopes of proving Harvard’s action unfair.  He said his language was “callous and inflammatory,” but he did not formally apologize. 

The Anti-Defamation League reported that white supremacists “have increased college campus recruiting efforts with more propaganda distributions for the third straight year.” During the Spring 2019 semester, there were “161 incidents on 122 different campuses across 33 states and the District of Columbia.” 

Religious Refusals 

The Public Religion Research Institution released a report about religious refusals to serve LGBT+ people. About 30% of Americans believe small business owners should have the right to refuse service while about 67% believe they should not. However, support for such refusals as increased across all demographics since 2014. 

Adam Liptak, reporter for the New York Times, writes about how the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal from bakery owners in Oregon who were fined for refusing service to a gay couple. The case began in 2012 when the bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for the lesbian couple, arguing that it “would violate their religious principles.” 

Social Media

Reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins writes that Dean Obeidallah, a Muslim-American radio host, was awarded $4.1 million in damages after Obeidallah sued founder of The Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, for falsely accusing him of terrorism. Obeidallah found that the website tricked readers “into believing he took responsibility for the Manchester attack” via Twitter in May 2017.

Kalev Leetaru, Forbes contributor, writes about what social media might look like if “profanity, exasperation and most other emotional language” are banned from online platforms. Leetaru wonders if doing so might make social media less toxic. 





Weekly News Digest, No. 26

Crowd standing in a public square

Happy summer and welcome to the twenty-sixth installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.

Campus Free Speech

Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, authors an opinion about Trump’s claim that his executive order regarding free speech was “needed to defend ‘American values that have been under siege…” Bollinger noted  that universities are “more hospital venues for open debate than the nation” as “78 percent of college students reported they favor an open learning environment that includes offensive views.” However, “only 66 percent of adults [favor] uninhibited discourse.”  

Knight Foundation released a study surveying college student attitudes on free speech, diversity, and inclusion. The study finds that “a majority of college students also support broad speech protections.” However, “there are deep divisions among college students by race, political affiliation, gender, and sexual orientation that point to broad and enduring rifts within campus communities on these issues.”

Washington Post Reporter Fredrick Kunkle writes that a student at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee came under fire when he held a sign with a swastika and the word ‘Gas’ on it as students were celebrating Israel’s independence. Kunkle interviews Joel Berkowitz, director of the school’s Jewish Studies program, who said the school’s statement defended “the student’s right to free speech [and] failed to condemn strongly enough the hateful message.” 

National Discourse

Writing for USA Today, Ledyard King examines how the 2016 presidential election has polarized the country’s most personal relationships: friendships, marriages, and everything in between. In January 2019, “87% of Republicans approved of Trump’s performance during 2018 versus only 8% of Democrats…That 79-percentage-point difference is the largest Gallup has measured in any presidential year to date.” King then interviews a number of civil discourse groups that aim to bridge the political gap between Americans. 

Journalist Nadine Epstein coins the term ‘Sick Civil Discourse Syndrome’ and suggests methods to become more civil and tolerant online. Epstein encourages internet users to “Never use language that is impolite or pejorative” and to refrain from engaging reactively. She also explains how to find and use truthful sources to support claims and arguments. Finally, she warns users about manipulators and algorithms that aim to impact the biases of readers and consequently prevent thoughtfulness and civil discourse. 

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