The state of Utah has enacted a censorial local law banning cinemas that sell alcohol from screening R rated movies. And indeed state officials tried to ban such a cinema from showing Deadpool.
This resulted in a challenge to the Utah ordinance on the grounds that censorship is unconstitutional. Utah officials are now trying to get that legal challenge quashed. They are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed over liquor and Deadpool
, claiming it is somehow not suppressing First Amendment-protected ideas or expression.
The Utah Attorney General's Office argues the law should remain in place because it reduces adverse secondary effects. It claims that:
Judicial opinions and alcohol experts confirm what is commonly known: that combining alcohol and sexual content is an 'explosive combination,' that can lead to sexual aggression and sexual violence, increased drinking, and reported and unreported crime.
The Statute's purpose and effect are to reduce these adverse secondary effects that result from combining alcohol and sexually explicit images.
The state argues that Brewvies' First Amendment free expression rights are only slightly inconvenienced by the law saying:
Plaintiff is free to show whatever sexually explicit R-rated films it chooses, so long as it does not serve alcohol at the same time, and individuals can see the same movies at other theaters. Plaintiff does not have a constitutional right to serve beer
while showing movies.
Book publisher Simon & Schuster has announced that it has pulled out of its contract to publish Dangerous
, a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, a notable figure form America's Alt-Right movement. The company said in a statement that:
After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have cancelled publication.
According to the New York Times, Yiannopoulos will seek another publisher. His agent is quoted as saying that 50,000 copies of Dangerous have been pre-sold.
Simon & Schuster had been put under pressure for its decision to publish Yiannopoulos. The Chicago Review of Books protested the signing by announcing that it would not review any Simon & Schuster books for the next year, and The Booksmith in San
Francisco declared that it would cut its purchases of Simon & Schuster titles by 50% and contribute the profits from the sale of the publisher's other books to the ACLU. One hundred and sixty Simon & Schuster children's authors and illustrators
protested in a letter to company CEO Carolyn Reidy about the book's acquisition.
The American Booksellers Association joined a statement by the National Coalition Against Censorship that opposed a boycott of Simon & Schuster. While acknowledging that boycotts are a form of speech that is protected by the First Amendment, the
statement warned that efforts to damage a publisher with economic sanctions could have a chilling effect, limiting its ability to publish controversial works. The statement was also signed by the Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, Comic
Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, Index on Censorship, and the National Council of Teachers of English.
A politically correct Californian law targeting age discrimination has failed to win the immediate approval of a judge. The law requires date of births or age
to be withheld from documents and publications used for job recruitment. One high profile consequence is that the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) would be banned from including age information in the profiles of stars and crew. This has led to the
challenge of the law on grounds of unconstitutional censorship.
This week's ruling does not look good for the Californian law as the judge decided that birthday prohibition shall not apply until the full legal challenge is decided. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled:
[I]t's difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment. The statute prevents IMDb from publishing factual information (information about the ages of people in the entertainment industry) on its website for public consumption. This
is a restriction of non-commercial speech on the basis of content.
To be sure, the government has identified a compelling goal -- preventing age discrimination in Hollywood. But the government has not shown how AB 1687 is 'necessary' to advance that goal. In fact, it's not clear how preventing one mere website from
publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all. And even if restricting publication on this one website could confer some marginal antidiscrimination benefit, there are likely more direct, more effective, and less
speech-restrictive ways of achieving the same end.
Chhabria held that -- because the law restricts IMDb's speech rights -- the site is suffering irreparable harm and enjoined the government from enforcing the law pending the resolution of this lawsuit.
A congressman ahs introduced a law bill demanding that visitors to America hand over URLs to their social network accounts.
Representatve Jim Banks says his proposed rules, titled the Visa Investigation and Social Media Act (VISA) of 2017, require visa applicants to provide their social media handles to immigration officials. Banks said:
We must have confidence that those entering our country do not intend us harm. Directing Homeland Security to review visa applicants' social media before granting them access to our country is common sense. Employers vet job candidates this way, and I
think it's time we do the same for visa applicants.
Right now, at the US border you can be asked to give up your usernames by border officers. You don't have to reveal your public profiles, of course. However, if you're a non-US citizen, border agents don't have to let you in, either. Your devices can be
seized and checked, and you can be put on a flight back, if you don't cooperate.
Banks' proposed law appears to end any uncertainty over whether or not non-citizens will have their online personas vetted: if the bill is passed, visa applicants will be required to disclose their online account names so they can be scrutinized for any
unwanted behavior. For travellers on visa-waiver programs, revealing your social media accounts is and will remain optional, but again, being allowed into the country is optional, too.
Banks did not say how his bill would prevent hopefuls from deleting or simply not listing any accounts that may be unfavorable.
The Register reports that the bill is unlikely to progress.
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told Congress this week that the Department of Homeland Security is exploring the
possibility of asking visa applicants not only for an accounting of what they do online, but for full access to their online accounts. In a hearing in the House of Representatives, Kelly said:
We want to say for instance, What sites do you visit? And give us your passwords. So that we can see what they do on the internet. And this might be a week, might be a month. They may wait some time for us to vet. If they don't want to give us
that information then they don't come. We may look at their204we want to get on their social media with passwords. What do you do? What do you say? If they don't want to cooperate, then they don't come in.
TechCrunch' s Devin Coldewey pointed out, asking people to surrender passwords would raise "obvious" privacy and security problems. But beyond privacy and security, the proposed probing of online accounts204including social media and
other communications platforms204would, if implemented, be a major threat to free expression.
Rapper Tiny Doo has filed a lawsuit against the city of San Diego and two police officers for what he claims was his unlawful arrest in July 2014 on gang conspiracy charges.
The charges were based on rap lyrics about shootings and gang activity featured on Tiny Doo's 2014 No Safety album. The rapper was imprisoned for seven months, but was released after a judge dismissed the charges.
Tiny Doo told ABC 10 News:
The prosecutor in my case admitted I wouldn't be charged if I sang love songs. As if creating art illustrating the impossible choices poverty presents my community and the magic of our survival isn't an act of love. My arrest and incarceration sent me a
clear sign that my government does not think I am worthy of First Amendment rights.
State senators and representatives in South Dakota unanimously passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 , declaring that pornography is a public health crisis leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.
In all, 50 legislators voted for the bill, with the sponsor Senator Jenna Netherton saying that South Dakota should join other states in trying to educate the public about the harms of porn and prevent children from watching it.
The resolution, which is virtually identical to the one passed in Utah last March, was written by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), and that pro-censorship group seems to be shopping similar bills to legislatures around the country --
including, most recently, Tennessee, where Senator Mae Beavers is doing the nasty.
And notably while pontificating about porn, the same South Dakota legislature is refusing to enact a ballot measure, passed by 60 percent of voters, instituting campaign finance, lobbying reforms, public financing for campaigns and creating the first
independent ethics commission in the state's history.
Sam Sedgman, a pro-censorship writer commented n the Guardian:
Self-proclaimed super-villain Yiannopoulos has made a living from saying and doing hateful things, and has successfully embroiled himself in numerous headline-grabbing controversies. Whether it's saying that gay rights have made us dumber ,
calling transgender people mentally ill , calling rape culture a fantasy , or being banned by Twitter for allegedly encouraging trolls to attack Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones with a tirade of racist and sexist abuse, you can usually find
him saying something pathologically awful.
So when a major publishing house pays $250,000 to print the work of an alt-right figurehead like him, it gives credence to these ideas, and makes them part of the mainstream. It endorses them. It empowers everyone who agrees with them to act on their
worst impulses, and spread hate speech.
Offsite Comment: English PEN backs Milo Yiannopoulos' 'right to offend'
However English PEN is a campaign group that believes in free speech without the buts. The group writes:
English PEN has said Milo Yiannopoulos' right to freedom of expression must be respected, amid the furore surrounding the far-right editor's lucrative book deal with Simon & Schuster US.
Offensive ideas should be debunked and discredited, not censored, said Robert Sharp, head of campaigns and communications for the free speech organisation. He added that demands for S&S US to cancel the deal were tantamount to censorship
The right of Mr Yiannopoulos to write and to offend is integral to the principle of freedom of expression, said Sharp. Likewise, Simon & Schuster US has the right to make an editorial judgment over whether to publish his book. Demanding
that the publisher cancels the book deal amounts to a call for censorship, and should be resisted.
This is a disaster. In late December, State Senator Doug Ericksen proposed a new law that would give authorities the ability to charge protesters with economic terrorism, and slap them with serious felony charges that could lead to jail time, just
for making their voices heard.
The outrageous bill, which has now had been formally introduced for consideration during the 2017 legislative session, would make any form of protest that causes an economic disruption a class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. It
wouldn't just apply to people who engage in illegal acts or vandalism, it could be used to prosecute any person or group who organizes a protest that authorities deem as disruptive. Broadly interpreted, this law could apply to time honored
traditions of nonviolent dissent like boycotts and civil disobedience.
We've already hit our initial goal of 50,000 signatures on the petition. But now that the bill has been introduced, we need to get even more people speaking out. If everyone reading this shares the video, we can easily get 100,000 signatures before we
deliver it to the Washington State lawmakers.
Charging protesters with terrorism clearly violates the First Amendment and is an attempt to silence legitimate dissent. Please sign the petition telling lawmakers to reject this dangerous legislation.
Here's the text of the petition:
Organizing and participating in protests is a basic Constitutional right guaranteed by the First Amendment. I urge all lawmakers to reject any legislation that criminalizes protesters or labels protests as a form of economic terrorism.
Utah's most prominent anti-porn lawmaker wants to give people the ability to sue pornographers in the hope that someone, somewhere
will be able to prove that watching their product causes emotional and psychological damage.
State Senator Todd Weiler received national attention for penning a 2016 resolution declaring a public health crisis caused by pornography. He not only wants to limit access to sexually explicit material to children and teens, but he believes
pornographers should be held liable for the impacts their products have on adults. He said:
Right now porn is available without any warnings and labeling, without any protections online. This would just open the valve for a cause of action. Let these attorneys go after these cases.
If the Legislature passes his proposal, he said, he expects courts to initially reject claims that pornography causes real harm: But I think, eventually, the tide will turn.
Weiler is pinning his hopes on some sort of ludicrous analogy with tobacco use, where court challenges broke through big business defence of their deadly trade. But of course there simply aren't millions of porn users dropping dead, and even anti porn
campaigners haven't really come up with many harms beyond instilling bad attitudes to women.