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POLITICO describes how the #releasethememo campaign was fueled by “computational propaganda,’’ including Russian bots that gamed social media in a disinformation campaign largely successful in confusing and distracting the public. Media law experts weigh in on what is misunderstood about the First Amendment and its free press protections. Several Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles players immediately say they will continue their protest by skipping the traditional White House visit if invited. -Dru Menaker, Chief Operating Officer

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


How Twitter Bots and Trump Fans Made #ReleaseTheMemo Go Viral
#releasethememo provided an organizational framework for a comprehensive conspiracy theory meant to minimize concerns about Russian interference in American politics. Information and psychological operations being conducted on social media are not just about information, but about changing behavior.

What some reporters get wrong about the First Amendment
A recent survey showed that 37 percent Americans couldn’t name one of the First Amendment’s five freedoms. Journalists are not immune to misunderstanding it either, despite their self-evident interests in the functionality and well-being of a free press (and their long and important efforts to protect speech and press freedoms).

Several Eagles Players Already Planning To Skip White House Visit
Members of last year’s winning team, the New England Patriots, also skipped the visit to protest Trump’s policies. Since then, relations between the president and players have only worsened. Recently, Trump has urged the league to fire or suspend players who kneeled during the anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

‘Flipping the bird’ at police: Crime or free speech?
The middle finger is now the center of a federal lawsuit Mark May filed against Indiana State Police Master Trooper Matt Ames. According to the complaint, after seeing May’s gesture, Ames went after the driver, ticketing for “provocation.” But May’s middle finger is his constitutional right, his attorneys from the ACLU argue.


Kenya’s About-Face: Fear for Democracy as Dissent Is Muzzled
The most widely watched television stations in Kenya are shuttered, and the government has defied a court order to return them to the air. Though Kenya’s Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press, President Kenyatta and his administration have long had a rocky relationship with the media.

Journalists are fleeing for their lives in Mexico. There are few havens
Last year, reporters and photographers turned up dead in Mexico at a rate of about one per month, making it the most dangerous country in the world for journalists after war-torn Syria. Less known are more than two dozen journalists who have given up their work, their homes, and their families to save their lives.

London’s Royal Court theatre in row over shelving of Tibet play
The Royal Court theatre has been accused of censorship by award-winning Indian playwright, Abhishek Majumdar, who claims that its production of a major new play about contemporary Tibet was put on ice because of fears of a negative Chinese reaction.

BBC journalist ordered to leave Indonesia’s Papua over tweets
Papua is one of Indonesia’s poorest areas and President Joko Widodo has pledged to speed up its development and ease media restrictions in the area. But while efforts have been made to address some human rights concerns, activists say foreign journalists continue to be blocked or face obstacles when trying to report.

Tunisian Media Protest Pressure by Police to Whitewash News
Journalists held a sit-in to protest what they say is growing pressure to film, photograph, and write only what puts security officers and the government in a good light. The president of Tunisia’s journalists’ union, Neji Bghouri, expressed concern that freedom of the press, “the principle gain of the revolution,” is being threatened.

Chinese anti-censorship activist Zhen Jianghua denied access to lawyer
Zhen was taken from his home in September of last year on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” Allowing him to meet with his lawyer may “hamper investigation or leak state secrets,” authorities said. A long-time activist, Zhen has previously been detained for short periods due to his activism.

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