U.S. Supreme Court issues two consequential First Amendment decisions, one barring the government from refusing to trademark names on grounds that they may be considered offensive, and the other voiding a prohibition on sex offenders’ use of social media. White House press room bars reporters from using video or audio recording equipment in a briefing, wanting to avoid “gotcha” moments. Candidates in closely watched Georgia 6th Congressional runoff exclude outlets they deem unfriendly: Free Beacon for Ossoff and ThinkProgress for Handel. -Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director


DARE: Daily Alert on Rights and Expression

The most pressing threats and notable goings-on in free expression today


Justices Strike Down Law Banning Disparaging Trademarks
In a decision likely to bolster the Washington NFL franchise’s efforts to protect their trademarks, the Supreme Court ruled that the government may not refuse to register potentially offensive names. A law denying protection to disparaging trademarks, the court said, violated the First Amendment. The decision was unanimous, but the justices were divided on the reasoning. The decision, concerning The Slants, was viewed as a strong indication by a lawyer for the football team that it will win its fight to retain federal trademark protection.

The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that using social media is a constitutional right
Public space in the digital age has no shape and no physical place. But the U.S. Supreme Court is now sorting out what that means for free-speech rights. Yesterday, the justices unanimously held that states can’t broadly limit access to social media because cyberspace “is one of the most important places to exchange views.” In Packingham v. North Carolina, the justices were asked to review a North Carolina statute that bars sex offenders from accessing social media altogether and makes it a felony if they post on any platform.

The Supreme Court Offers a Warning on Free Speech
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two notable victories for free-speech advocates on Monday as it nears the end of its current term. The two First Amendment cases came to the Court from starkly different circumstances, but the justices emphasized a similar theme in both rulings: beware what the free-speech restrictions of today could be used to justify tomorrow. In the first case, Matal v. Tam, the Court sided with an Asian-American rock band in Oregon named The Slants in a dispute with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The plaintiff in the other free-speech case, Packingham v. North Carolina, was far less sympathetic.

In Trump’s Washington, public business increasingly handled behind closed doors
The federal government’s leaders are hiding from public scrutiny — and their penchant for secrecy represents a stark departure from the campaign promises of Trump and his fellow Republicans to usher in newfound transparency. On Capitol Hill, Democrats are furious with federal agencies and White House offices that have not answered their requests for information on a wide range of subjects — from the role of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to specific policy changes being considered by the EPA, the State Department, and other agencies.

Reporters Say Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel Banned Them From Campaign Events
Both candidates in the Georgia special congressional race got into disputes with members of the media on the eve of Tuesday’s election — though, thankfully, this time neither incident involved physical assault. First Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress said she’d been barred from Republican Karen Handel’s final event of the day after asking her about the GOP health-care bill. Then Brent Scher of the Washington Free Beacon, who questioned Democrat Jon Ossoff’s claims about how far he lives from the district, said he was not allowed into Ossof’s campaign event on Monday night.


Mexico accused of spying on journalists and activists using cellphone malware
The Mexican government has deployed sophisticated software to spy on journalists, activists and anti-graft groups as they worked to highlight some of the country’s most notorious cases of crime, corruption and abuse of authority. Targets received SMS messages with links, which appeared legitimate, but led to false sites and the installation of malware on their mobile phones, according to an investigation by the press freedom organization Article 19 and Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. The malware recorded keystrokes and compromised contact lists.

Finsbury Park mosque terror: Theresa May says attack justifies her plan to crackdown on internet use
Theresa May has said the Finsbury Park mosque attack, in which a white van ploughed into Muslim worshippers following prayers at the north London mosque, leaving one dead and 10 injured, justifies her plan to impose a raft of regulations on the internet. “This Government will act to stamp out extremist and hateful ideology, both across society and on the internet,” she said. It was the latest in a series of statements from Ms. May that suggest she believes recent attacks have strengthened the case for her widely-criticised plans to regulate the online world.

How An Entire Nation Became Russia’s Test Lab for Cyberwar
For decades the Cyber-Cassandras warned that hackers would soon make the leap beyond purely digital mayhem and start to cause real, physical damage to the world. In 2009, when the NSA’s Stuxnet malware silently accelerated a few hundred Iranian nuclear centrifuges until they destroyed themselves, it seemed to offer a preview of this new era. “This has a whiff of August 1945,” Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, said in a speech. “Somebody just used a new weapon, and this weapon will not be put back in the box.” Now, in Ukraine, the quintessential cyberwar scenario has come to life.

First Turkish journalists go on trial over alleged coup support
Ahmet and Mehmet Altan have been held without trial since September, and face possible life sentences, along with fellow journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government and acting on behalf of a terror organization. The accusations against them mirror those against dozens of journalists who oppose the government and who have been detained in the months since the attempted putsch in Turkey, which is now the world’s largest jailer of journalists.

Jailed for calling Ugandan president a ‘pair of buttocks’, activist vows to fight on
A Facebook post criticising Yoweri Museveni landed academic Stella Nyanzi in jail, but she vows to continue her fight against oppression and poverty in Uganda. “My language will grow sharper if the government continues to oppress us,” says Nyanzi, who was suspended from her job at Makerere University for “abusing” the first lady and education minister, Janet Museveni. “If you are going to stand with the powerless against the oppression [by] the powerful, someone will not like it. That person is usually the powerful.”

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