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Supreme Court to Decide How the First Amendment Applies to Social Media – The New York Times

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The most important First Amendment cases of the internet era, to be heard by the Supreme Court on Monday, may turn on a single question: Do platforms like Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and X most closely resemble newspapers or shopping centers or phone companies?

The two cases arrive at the court garbed in politics, as they concern laws in Florida and Texas aimed at protecting conservative speech by forbidding leading social media sites from removing posts based on the views they express.

But the outsize question the cases present transcends ideology. It is whether tech platforms have free speech rights to make editorial judgments. Picking the apt analogy from the court’s precedents could decide the matter, but none of the available ones is a perfect fit.

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If the platforms are like newspapers, they may publish what they want without government interference. If they are like private shopping centers open to the public, they may be required to let visitors say what they like. And if they are like phone companies, they must transmit everyone’s speech.

“It is not at all obvious how our existing precedents, which predate the age of the internet, should apply to large social media companies,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in a 2022 dissent when one of the cases briefly reached the Supreme Court.

Supporters of the state laws say they foster free speech, giving the public access to all points of view. Opponents say the laws trample on the platforms’ own First Amendment rights and would turn them into cesspools of filth, hate and lies. One contrarian brief, from liberal professors, urged the justices to uphold the key provision of the Texas law despite the harm they said it would cause.

What is clear is that the court’s decision, expected by June, could transform the internet.

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of these cases for free speech online,” said Scott Wilkens, a lawyer with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of neither side in the two cases, saying each had staked out an extreme position.

The cases concern laws enacted in 2021 in Florida and Texas aimed at prohibiting major platforms from removing posts expressing conservative views. They differed in their details but were both animated by frustration on the right, notably the decisions of some platforms to bar President Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

In a statement issued when he signed the Florida bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said the law was meant to promote right-leaning viewpoints. “If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable,” he said.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, also a Republican, said much the same thing when he signed his state’s bill. “It is now law,” he said, “that conservative viewpoints in Texas cannot be banned on social media.”

The two trade groups that challenged the laws — NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association — said the platforms had the same First Amendment rights as conventional news outlets.

“Just as Florida may not tell The New York Times what opinion pieces to publish or Fox News what interviews to air,” the groups told the justices, “it may not tell Facebook and YouTube what content to disseminate. When it comes to disseminating speech, decisions about what messages to include and exclude are for private parties — not the government — to make.”

The states took the opposite position. The Texas law, Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general, wrote in a brief, “just enables voluntary communication on the world’s largest telecommunications platforms between speakers who want to speak and listeners who want to listen, treating the platforms like telegraph or telephone companies.”

The two laws met different fates in the lower courts.

In the Texas case, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court’s order blocking the state’s law.

“We reject the platforms’ attempt to extract a freewheeling censorship right from the Constitution’s free speech guarantee,” Judge Andrew S. Oldham wrote for the majority. “The platforms are not newspapers. Their censorship is not speech.”

In the Florida case, the 11th Circuit largely upheld a preliminary injunction blocking the state’s law.

“Social media platforms exercise editorial judgment that is inherently expressive,” Judge Kevin C. Newsom wrote for the panel. “When platforms choose to remove users or posts, deprioritize content in viewers’ feeds or search results, or sanction breaches of their community standards, they engage in First Amendment-protected activity.”

Forcing social media companies to transmit essentially all messages, their representatives told the justices, “would compel platforms to disseminate all sorts of objectionable viewpoints — such as Russia’s propaganda claiming that its invasion of Ukraine is justified, ISIS propaganda claiming that extremism is warranted, neo-Nazi or K.K.K. screeds denying or supporting the Holocaust, and encouraging children to engage in risky or unhealthy behavior like eating disorders.”

Supporting briefs mostly divided along the predictable lines. But there was one notable exception. To the surprise of many, some prominent liberal professors filed a brief urging the justices to uphold a key provision of the Texas law.

“There are serious, legitimate public policy concerns with the law at issue in this case,” wrote the professors, including Lawrence Lessig of Harvard, Tim Wu of Columbia and Zephyr Teachout of Fordham. “They could lead to many forms of amplified hateful speech and harmful content.”

But they added that “bad laws can make bad precedent” and urged the justices to reject the platforms’ plea to be treated as news outlets.

“To put a fine point on it: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok are not newspapers,” the professors wrote. “They are not space-limited publications dependent on editorial discretion in choosing what topics or issues to highlight. Rather, they are platforms for widespread public expression and discourse. They are their own beast, but they are far closer to a public shopping center or a railroad than to The Manchester Union Leader.”

In an interview, Professor Teachout linked the Texas case to the Citizens United decision, which struck down a campaign finance law regulating corporate spending on First Amendment grounds.

“This case threatens to be another expansion of corporate speech rights,” she said. “It may end up in fact being a Trojan horse, because the sponsors of the legislation are so distasteful. We should be really wary of expanding corporate speech rights just because we don’t like particular laws.”

Other professors, including Richard L. Hasen of the University of California, Los Angeles, warned the justices in a brief supporting the challengers that prohibiting the platforms from deleting political posts could have grave consequences.

“Florida’s and Texas’ social media laws, if allowed to stand,” the brief said, “would thwart the ability of platforms to moderate social media posts that risk undermining U.S. democracy and fomenting violence.”

The justices will consult two key precedents in trying to determine where to draw the constitutional line in the cases to be argued Monday, Moody v. NetChoice, No. 22-277, and NetChoice v. Paxton, No. 22-555.

One of them, Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins from 1980, concerned a sprawling private shopping center in Campbell, Calif., whose 21 acres included 65 shops, 10 restaurants and a movie theater. It was open to the public but did not permit, as Justice William H. Rehnquist put it in his opinion for the court, “any publicly expressive activity, including the circulation of petitions, that is not directly related to its commercial purposes.”

That policy was challenged by high school students who opposed a U.N. resolution against Zionism and were stopped from handing out pamphlets and seeking signatures for a petition.

Justice Rehnquist, who would be elevated to chief justice in 1986, wrote that state constitutional provisions requiring the shopping center to allow people to engage in expressive activities on its property did not violate the center’s First Amendment rights.

In the second case, Miami Herald v. Tornillo, the Supreme Court in 1974 struck down a Florida law that would have allowed politicians a “right to reply” to newspaper articles critical of them.

The case was brought by Pat L. Tornillo, who was unhappy about colorful editorials in The Miami Herald opposing his candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives. The newspaper said Mr. Tornillo, a labor union official, had engaged in “shakedown statesmanship.”

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, writing for a unanimous court in striking down the law, said the nation was in the middle of “vast changes.”

“In the past half century,” he wrote, “a communications revolution has seen the introduction of radio and television into our lives, the promise of a global community through the use of communications satellites and the specter of a ‘wired’ nation.”

But Chief Justice Burger concluded that “the vast accumulations of unreviewable power in the modern media empire” did not permit the government to usurp the role of editors in deciding what ought to be published.

“A responsible press is an undoubtedly desirable goal,” he wrote, “but press responsibility is not mandated by the Constitution, and like many other virtues it cannot be legislated.”

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Trump tries to boost support for Truth Social as DJT stock tanks – CNBC

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Donald Trump on Friday urged his followers to support his social media app Truth Social, as its parent company’s stock continues to sink lower.

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Trump in a post on that app said he believes Truth Social embodies the political “movement” behind his “Make America Great Again” presidential campaign slogan, adding that “it shows the Spirit and Love of our Country.”

“If people who believe in putting America First and want to Make America Great Again, support TRUTH,” Trump wrote.

“We will be your Voice like never before, and a Real Voice is what our Country needs, because we are in decline, and must bring America to Greatness,” he wrote.

It was not clear whether Trump was urging his supporters to use the app or buy shares in Trump Media, which started publicly trading on the Nasdaq last month.

The stock, which trades under the ticker DJT, shot up more than 50% in its March 26 debut but has tumbled lower in subsequent trading days.

Trump Media’s share price on Friday morning dipped below $30, a decline of more than $40 from its roaring start. It ended the trading day up 0.6%, but failed to offset an almost 20% decline on the week. Shares are down nearly 50% so far in April.

Trump is nevertheless poised to reap a financial windfall from the company. Despite the stock’s downward spiral and the company’s lack of revenue, Trump Media still boasted a market capitalization of more than $4.2 billion as of Friday.

Trump owns more than 57% of the company’s stock, though he is barred from selling his stake until a six-month lockout period expires.

Trump Media’s CEO, former Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, has argued that the company is “well positioned” because it has no debt and $200 million in cash on hand. Nunes, in a Fox News interview Monday, suggested that the company is considering adding video streaming capabilities to Truth Social and making it a hub for “canceled” channels and documentaries.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, defended Truth Social from its critics earlier in April.

Neither Trump’s posts nor Nunes’ claims have yet to halt the stock’s slide.

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Joe Lycett discloses four fake stories he planted in UK media

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The comedian Joe Lycett has disclosed the fake stories that he successfully planted in the British media over the past month included a man with a bruise in the shape of Prince Harry and a statue of H from Steps being erected in his home town of Cowbridge in Wales.

In the first episode of his new Channel 4 show, Lycett said four stories that were covered by newspapers and television news were fabricated.

Speaking on Late Night Lycett on Friday evening, he said the fake stories were: a five-a-side footballer from Birmingham having a bruise on his thigh that resembled Prince Harry’s face, research showing men from Birmingham have the longest penises in the UK, a mural of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz in Birmingham that was declared to be a Banksy, and a statue of H from Steps being erected in Cowbridge.

Ian H Watkins recorded a video for the programme confirming it was “fake news”.

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Last week Lycett, 35, claimed he was behind numerous fake news stories that have been reported across the mainstream media over the past month.

He confirmed multiple stories have been shared in the national news including the Mail, the Sun, BBC News, ITV News, Sky News and the Independent.

Lycett, from Birmingham, is known for his stunts and pranks. In 2020, he changed his name to Hugo Boss in protest at the German fashion brand sending cease-and-desist letters to some small businesses and charities who used “boss” in their names.

He also shredded £10,000 into a wood-chipper, which turned out to be fake, over David Beckham being a pundit for the Qatar men’s football World Cup in 2022.

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WAN-IFRA unveils the Digital Media Awards Americas 2024 winners.

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This year, new categories were added to the contest that addresses the latest needs of audiences and the industry: Best Fact-Checking Project, Best Innovative Digital Product, Best Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Newsroom and Best Use of AI in Revenue Strategy, without leaving behind the most beloved categories such as Best Digital Journalism Project, Best Newsletter and Best Podcast.

WAN-IFRA appreciates the efforts of all participating media and hopes to have them in the next edition of the Digital Media Americas Awards.

WINNERS

Best News Website

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LN X, a new lanacion.com, LA NACION, Argentina
The project focused on satisfying an increasingly demanding digital audience. LN X had a comprehensive renovation with the incorporation of a variable typography that reinforces the brand’s identity and takes it to a more elegant and precise place. In addition, the relaunch aims to improve the browsing experience and provide a better hierarchy and ordering of information.

Best Website (Local/Small)

What matters most in Brazil and Latin America, The Brazilian Report, Brazil
The Brazilian Report exemplifies a commitment to excellence in journalism and user experience. Through innovative design, intuitive navigation, and a diverse range of multimedia storytelling, the platform continues to deliver unparalleled value to its readers. With a focus on continuous improvement and adaptation, The Brazilian Report remains at the forefront of English-language media coverage on Brazilian affairs.

Best Data Visualization

How fentanyl replaced heroin and hooked America, Reuters, USA
Reuters obtained and analyzed ten year’s worth of data on drugs seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at ports of entry along the southern border. This animated explainer uses that data to show the devastating scale of the fentanyl trade across Mexico and the U.S.

Best Data Visualization (Local/Small)

Tree-Person, SUMAÚMA, Brazil
Tree-person is an interactive report that seeks to raise awareness of the effects of deforestation through the story of an Amazonian tree whose life was taken so that its body could be transformed into furniture. It is part of the More-than-humans project a vehicle based in the Brazilian Amazon –, which tells stories through the grammar of animation, in which animals, plants, fungi and other non-human beings are also actors and authors.  seres no humanos son también actores y autores.

Best in Audience Engagement

LA NACION closer (+ Cerca), LA NACION, Argentina
The project is based on a way to connect its community of subscribers with LA NACION’s most recognized journalists and other prominent individuals, through exclusively curated and tailor-made events.

Best in Audience Engagement (Local/Small)

Only the young, Vanguardia MX, Mexico
A special edition of the annual “Círculo de oro” supplement, in which they showcase people with extensive backgrounds who are making positive contributions to the community in a specific field. In 2023, they decided to take a risk by creating an edition focused solely on young people who were born in Saltillo or live there, whose talent and discipline have involved them in great projects, making them some of the best in their field with an impact beyond the apparent.

Best Use of Video

Why does Rosario bleed?, Clarín, Argentina
A documentary that seeks to make people both locally and internationally understand the phenomenon beyond the news of the dead in Rosario. And to understand the drug phenomenon, the judicial and political inaction and the huge network of police corruption.

Best Use of Video (Local/Small)

LGBT+60: Bodies that resist | Season 3, Projeto #Colabora, Brazil
A project based on a simple idea: listening to stories. “They are stories that not everyone is used to hearing, whether in the media or debates. They are LGBT+ elderly people, from different genders and social backgrounds, who tell about their experiences, often painful, but also about achievements and dreams”

Best Digital Subscription / Reader Revenue Strategy

UOL Prime, UOL, Brazil
Project with the objective of giving a differentiated treatment to the best stories researched by the newsroom: from the conception to the development of the guideline, from the best format to tell it to the best distribution strategy, using all of UOL’s channels.

Best Digital Subscription / Reader Revenue Strategy (Local/Small)

Exclusive courses for subscribers, La Voz del Interior, Argentina
The exclusive courses for subscribers is a launching of La Voz to diversify the value proposition of our content to our audience. They are webinars given by renowned professionals.

Best Newsletter

Reclaim Your Brain, The Guardian, USA
Reclaim Your Brain, a newsletter for anyone who wants to waste less time on their phone. Launched on January 1st to coincide with the readers’ new year’s resolutions, it quickly became The Guardian’s fastest-growing newsletter ever, with 90,000 subscribers in the first month.

Best Newsletter (Local/Small)

CI Morning Impact, Community Impact, USA
The CI Morning Impact is Community Impact’s daily newsletter, featuring hyperlocal content on government, education, transportation and development news in each edition.

Best Podcast

The Negotiators (Season 3), Foreign Policy and Doha Debates, USA
“The Negotiators” pulls back the curtain on the often-secretive work of high-stakes negotiations, putting listeners “in the room” where lives, human rights and national interests hang in the balance. Because many critical global negotiations are conducted behind closed doors.

Best Podcast (Local/Small)

Perra Nación (Wild Nation), Independent journalism, Mexico
A series that takes the podcast a step further, diving deep into the most intriguing and underexplored corners of everyday life in Mexico. It tackles uncomfortable stories with moral dilemmas and, at the same time, captivates our audience.

 Best Use of AI in the Newsroom

Genie: An AI tool to track the gender gap in Spanish, LA NACION, Argentina
Genie – an internal tool designed with AI / NLP to measure the level of gender representation in LA NACION’s news to encourage gender diversity in sources, mentions and authors, providing metrics on female, male and non-binary sources and quotes included in the original reports.

Best Use of AI in the Newsroom (Local/Small)

FátimaGPT, Aos Fatos, Brazil
The goal FatimaGPT was to extend the capabilities of Aos Fatos’ original chatbot, Fatima, by integrating advanced artificial intelligence technologies. The project reflects Aos Fatos’ approach to AI: to inform and educate readers about its risks and potential harms, while exploring how journalists can use technology responsibly and ethically to improve the public’s access to reliable information.

Best Use of AI in Revenue Strategy

CandidateaMe: Experimenting with AI and conversational experiences to drive audience interaction during the presidential election on TN, ARTEAR, Argentina
The project stood out for its ability to defuse a climate of high electoral tension in the signal’s programs and on the website. CandidateaMe provided the audience with an interactive and fun way to participate in the electoral process, offering a unique experience that allowed users to explore and learn more about the candidates and their proposals in a relaxed and entertaining way using Generative AI.

Best Fact-Checking Project

Checked, Agencia EFE, LATAM
“Checked” is the first podcast that fights against disinformation in all Spanish-speaking countries, especially in LATAM, through a format that mixes disclosure and entertainment. In 5 minutes a week, it addresses the most viral falsehoods of recent days and encourages listeners to send messages they consider suspicious to the EFE Verifica query service on WhatsApp.

Best Fact-Checking Project (Local/Small)

FátimaGPT, Aos Fatos, Brazil
The goal FatimaGPT was to extend the capabilities of Aos Fatos’ original chatbot, Fatima, by integrating advanced artificial intelligence technologies. The project reflects Aos Fatos’ approach to AI: to inform and educate readers about its risks and potential harms, while exploring how journalists can use technology responsibly and ethically to improve the public’s access to reliable information.

Best Innovative Digital Product

Gio Alemán, Medcom Digital, Panama
Medcom Digital created the first influencer 100% made with Artificial Intelligence with the objective of covering a space in the Panamanian market where there are only 8 A-B target influencers. Additionally, they wanted a project that would generate income and aimed at innovation.

Best Innovative Digital Product (Local/Small)

Rape: a crime unpunished, Mexicanos contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad, Mexico
After processing and analyzing more than 328,000 cases of sexual crimes, the informative angles and stories that accompanied the data were identified. The montage was designed with a transmedia narrative, which exposed the revelations accompanied by multimedia and data visualization elements.

Best Native Advertising Campaign

Titles, Olé, Argentina
The “Titles” communication campaign was published on all digital platforms. Users were invited to download their “Three-time World Champion” title in a very simple and fast way. The campaign included audiovisual pieces for social networks, banners, mailings to Olé’s user base, PNTs on Twitch and graphic ads.

Best Native Advertising Campaign (Local/Small)

Myths and truths about obesity and diabetes, Lupa, Brazil
The Brazilian affiliate of the Danish global healthcare company Novo Nordisk has hired Lupa to combat misinformation and fake news about obesity and diabetes, a segment in which the company has a strong presence, with medication therapies treatments for both conditions.

Best Journalism Project

China: The Superpower of Seafood, The Outlaw Ocean Project, USA
The project is the result of a four-year investigation conducted by an international team of reporters at sea and on land that revealed a broad pattern of severe human rights abuses tied to the global seafood industry. It was focused on China because it has by far the largest high-seas fishing fleet and processes much of the world’s catch.

Best Journalism Project (Local/Small)

Amazon Underworld, InfoAmazonia, La Liga Contra el Silencio and Armando.Info, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela (respectively)
Amazon Underworld is a cross-border collaborative media investigation run by InfoAmazonia (Brazil), La Liga Contra el Silencio (Colombia) and Armando.Info (Venezuela). The project used primary sources and official documents to create the first-ever interactive map, incorporating the presence of armed groups and illicit economies in the border regions of six Amazon countries


About

WAN-IFRA, the World Association of News Publishers, is the global organisation of the world’s press. Its mission is to protect the rights of journalists and publishers around the world to operate independent media. We provide our members with expertise and services to innovate and prosper in a digital world and perform their crucial role in society. It derives its authority from its global network of 3,000 news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, and its legitimacy from its 60 member publisher associations representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries. See more at wan-ifra.org.


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