Tag Archives | Events

True Threats and Free Speech

The extent to which the First Amendment protects threatening messages on Facebook and elsewhere will be the subject of a panel discussion at the UNC School of Law at noon on Monday, Jan. 26.

Co-sponsored by the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, the discussion will focus on Elonis v. United States, a case recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. You can read more about the event here.

One of the panelists will be UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication Ph.D. student Brooks Fuller, who recently had an article about threatening Internet messages and the First Amendment published in the Hastings Communication & Entertainment Law Journal. The citation is: P. Brooks Fuller, Evaluating Intent in True Threats Cases: The Importance of Context in Analyzing Threatening Internet Messages, 37 Hastings Comm. & Ent. L. J. 37 (2015).

From the abstract:

Following the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on the true threats doctrine, Virginia v. Black (2003), significant conflict emerged among the federal circuit courts. The primary issue became whether the First Amendment, as interpreted by the Court in Virginia v. Black, requires a subjective intent standard to be read into all statutes that criminalize true threats, or whether the First Amendment only requires such a statute to require the prosecution to demonstrate that a reasonable person would consider the message to be a true threat. Speakers’ use of social networking websites and Internet forums for the purposes of posting violent and intimidating communications raises significant questions regarding the posture of the true threats doctrine and its application to modern modes of communication. In June 2014, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Elonis v. United States, a true threats case involving posts on Facebook. The defendant, who posted violent messages in the form of rap lyrics and other pop culture references, argued that the trial courts misread Virginia v. Black and violated his First Amendment rights when it failed to instruct the jury to consider his subjective intent in addition to the objective standard. This paper utilizes legal research methods to examine federal courts’ treatment of Internet threats and highlights aspects of Internet speech that are particularly problematic for the true threats doctrine.


UNC’s Constitution Day, Featuring David Medine

ConstitutionDayOver the past few years, the UNC School of Law has served as host of UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus-wide Constitution Day celebration. This year the speaker will be David Medine, chairman of the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, who will speak on the topic of “Providing for the Common Defense without Compromising Privacy and Civil Liberties.”   The talk will take place on September 17, 2014 at noon in the law school’s rotunda.

David Medine has served as chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board since May 2013. Previously he was an attorney fellow for the Security and Exchange Commission and a special counsel at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. From 2002 to 2012, he was a partner in the law firm WilmerHale, where his practice focused on privacy and data security, having previously served as a Senior Advisor to the White House National Economic Council from 2000 to 2001. From 1992 to 2000, Mr. Medine was associate director for financial practices at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) where, in addition to enforcing financial privacy laws, he took the lead on Internet privacy, chaired a federal advisory committee on privacy issues, and was part of the team that negotiated a privacy safe harbor agreement with the European Union. Before joining the FTC, he taught at the Indiana University (Bloomington) School of Law and the George Washington University School of Law.

The event is open to the public.  More info is available here.


Call for Papers – First Amendment Networks: Issues in Net Neutrality

FALROn October 24, 2014, we will be partnering with the First Amendment Law Review to help host their annual symposium, which will be focused on network neutrality and the First Amendment.  We’ll post more information about the symposium in the next few weeks, but if you are a scholar who writes in this area, you may be interested in submitting a paper to the First Amendment Law Review (note: the deadline is October 13).  Here is their call for papers:

The First Amendment Law Review at the University of North Carolina School of Law is delighted to announce a Call for Papers for its Symposium Edition, First Amendment Networks: Issues in Net Neutrality.

The Symposium Edition seeks papers covering the breadth of topics at the intersection of the First Amendment and the current state of network neutrality regulation. The Symposium Edition, in conjunction with the fall symposium at the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus, hopes to bring a variety of perspectives from multiple disciplines to bear on the First Amendment freedoms implicated in the net neutrality debate. The Symposium Edition seeks papers primarily with a legal focus, but is interested in outstanding papers also from economics, business, and government which can provide insights into this important discussion. Submissions should be delivered via email to falr@unc.edu by October 13 to be considered for publication.


The First Amendment Law Review (FALR) is a student-edited legal journal that seeks to promote and protect the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment through publishing scholarly writings on, and promoting discussion of, issues related to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

FALR publishes professional and student articles for the benefit of scholars and practitioners. Professional contributions are composed of scholarly articles, symposium papers, and novel, interesting essays on a variety of issues touching the First Amendment. Student contributions are composed of scholarly examinations of discrete First Amendment topics and recent developments in First Amendment law.

As the only legal journal in the country dedicated to the First Amendment, FALR seeks to provide as broad and inclusive a forum as possible for the discussion of First Amendment issues. To that end, FALR does not apply any strict page or footnote requirements to professional papers, but considers each submission on a case-by-case basis. Substantial weight will be given to those submissions that present a subject in traditional legal journal format: introduction, background, legal analysis, legal argument, and conclusion. While strong preference is given to professional pieces, the editorial board will consider student-written articles.

All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format, 12-point font, preferably Times New Roman. The text itself should be double-spaced; footnotes should be single-spaced. FALR uses The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. All submissions should comply with The Bluebook. For more information on the journal, please visit http://www.law.unc.edu/journals/falr/


The Democratic Surround: New Media Technologies as Tools of Personal and Social Liberation

glimpses-1On March 27th, Fred Turner, associate professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, will visit the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy to talk about his new book, The Democratic Surround.

At the broadest level, in The Democratic Surround and the previously published From Counterculture to Cyberculture Fred Turner’s project is to explain how we have come to see new media technologies as tools of personal and social liberation – not tools of social control.  Indeed, the World War II generation feared that one-way media was creating authoritarian personalities and giving rise to brainwashed fascists. Meanwhile, members of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the 1960s adorned themselves with computer punch cards and signs that read “I am a UC student. Please do not fold, bend, mutilate, or spindle me” to protest technocratic society.

The process of culturally revaluing media technologies spanned the 1930s through the 1990s, the period that marked the development of our current technological imaginary (see, for instance, Robin Mansell’s Imagining the Internet.) The Democratic Surround offers a prequel of sorts to From Counterculture to Cyberculture, showing that our own multimedia stylings have a deeper history than the counterculturalists of the 1960s. Turner shows that the countercultural vision of media as, in McLuhan’s terms, “extensions of man,” and tools that can be enlisted in democratic projects of new world making has startling roots in the 1930s and 1940s.  It was a time when the public, leaders, and many scholars feared that mass media propaganda produced mass men, totalitarian societies, and rendered the psyche impervious to reason.  In this world, an enterprising set of artists, intellectuals, and social and political elites turned to media as a potential tool – not of social control, but of democratic liberation.  Together they created multi-media environments suffused with image, music, and architecture. Turner calls these environments “democratic surrounds.”  These individuals believed that surrounds had the power to create democratic personalities – rational and autonomous individuals with firm commitments to racial and religious diversity and democratic solidarity. This new democratic personalities would do battle with authoritarian personalities; to fight fascism required creating new democratic citizens through media.  If propaganda created one-way communication channels that left no room for free thought and fashioned free individuals into automatons, the democratic surround’s immersive media environments fostered democratic citizens who were free to navigate their own way through media.

It was this idea of the surround that Turner tells us migrated from the Second World War to the art worlds of the Cold War.  Intellectuals, artists, and policy makers continued to see the democratic personality as something that needed to be created and nurtured through media, now in the struggle against communism.  At sites such as North Carolina’s Black Mountain College – where John Cage performed the first happening – and the Museum of Modern Art, artists worked out the cultural genres of multi-media surrounds.  By the 1950s, these multi-mediated projects of democratic personality building would make their way to the staging of the 1958 World’s Fair and 1959 American National Exhibition – where Khrushchev and Nixon had their famous “kitchen debate.”

As Turner argues, while the democratic surround was initially aimed at fighting totalitarianism, by the 1950s it quickly bled into a modeling of equally political and consumer choices. It was a particularly influential branch of the counterculture that drew on the media forms and ideas of surrounds during the 1960s. Turner tells this history in From Counterculture to Cyberculture, which traces the emergence of many of the cultural styles, modes of thought, political stances, and collaborative cultures that surround us today from the 1960s on through to the new economy of the 1990s. The “New Communalists” left politics in the streets in the late 1960s and early 1970s and went back to the land carrying commercial technologies and cold war tools to create decidedly new world communes, geodesic domes dotting the landscape.  The Whole Earth Catalog connected these back-to-the-landers, and later it was the early computer network system Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL) that by the 1980s early adopters in Silicon Valley believed was creating new forms of community, connection, and, shared consciousness.

The WELL did so in a rapidly changing world, one that was marked by the precariousness of labor in the high tech industry of the Valley.  Turner argues that the New Communalist imagination of the computer, and networked media more broadly, as tools of personal and social liberation helped information workers see their labor as liberating and in terms of building new societies. And yet, this cultural scaffolding helped these workers elide all the ways that mediated sociality supported freelance networking for piecework in the Valley. By the early 1990s, a host of media objects such as Wired magazine and the sweeping manifesto A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace distilled the New Communalist vision and extended it into the emerging new economy, creating a cultural framework for the new right’s libertarianism to be wedded to computer cultures. In the 1990s it was the riot of color and font that was Wired, in our own moment it is the colorful countercultural stylings of Google. The feeling of radically new peer-to-peer collaboration present on the WELL is not far from social movements such as Occupy Wall Street that are animated by connective action, consensus-seeking, and non-hierarchical forms. Techno-libertarianism animated back-to-the-landers and underpins many remix, peer, and DIY cultures, as well as social media startups, today.

Through it all, the democratic surround persists as a powerful vision and media form, one that animated many projects to reinvent social and political forms. As Turner tells us, the surround is both a new media genre and a model of organizing societies and working out the relationship of individuals to collectives.  Turner’s book offers a rich vision of our past that sheds new light on our own contemporary media projects, from the forms of organizing and connective action that have powered numerous contemporary projects of collective liberation, to the ways that networked media are entwined with the intractability of institutions and bureaucracies. Turner’s account of the surround in the 1950s is also markedly resonant with our own time – not just for the ways that the counterculture took up the themes of personality, psychological liberation, and new community building that infused early internet imaginaries and continues to do so today, but also how commercialism sits uneasily beside these liberating ideals.


C-SPAN, UNC-TV to televise inaugural Hargrove Colloquium

C-SPAN and UNC-TV will televise today’s inaugural Wade H. Hargrove Communications Law and Policy Colloquium, hosted by the Center for Media Law and Policy. Hearst TV CEO David Barrett and ABC News President Ben Sherwood will discuss the future of TV news and the challenges and opportunities media companies face in this age of digital convergence.

The colloquium begins at 5:30 p.m. in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on UNC’s campus and is free and open to the public. For more information, see the event page and a full description of the event and speakers by the Center’s co-director, David Ardia.