The Free Speech Peter Thiel Will Defend: “Faggot! Faggot! Hope You Die of AIDS!”

J.K. Trotter · 06/01/16 01:40PM

Peter Thiel, the libertarian Silicon Valley billionaire who has waged a secret, decade-long, multi-front legal battle against Gawker Media, has somewhat counterintuitively positioned himself as a guardian of free speech principles. But in response to Gawker’s critical coverage of the technology sector—coverage that Thiel has described as “terrible for the Valley”—he decided the company and the people who write for it deserved to be punished, with a campaign he has called “specific deterrence.”

Journalism Professor Will Go to War for Free Speech, as Long as It Doesn’t Mock Him

J.K. Trotter · 04/29/16 12:00PM

You may have heard about the latest dustup between Jeff Jarvis, a media futurist and journalism professor, and his satirical online alter-ego, @ProfJeffJarvis, who was created several years ago by a software developer named Rurik Bradbury to mock the jargon-laden prognostications for which Jarvis and his ilk are known. The two Jarvises have butted heads in the past, but the most recent incident—in which the real Jarvis, after airing legal threats on Twitter, successfully forced Esquire to delete a satirical essay carrying @ProfJeffJarvis’s byline—shows that, for all of his bluster about the power of free speech, Jeff Jarvis is a cringing hypocrite when it comes to the offensive but entirely legal speech of others.

State Senator Emails AP English Teacher to Offer His Thoughts on Beloved (Too Many Breasts)

Andy Cush · 04/06/16 10:50AM

When Toni Morrison’s Beloved was published, in 1987, Margaret Atwood, writing in the New York Times Book Review called it a “triumph.” She wrote of the novel, which has come to be considered one of the most important of the contemporary era, “[Morrison’s prose is] by turns rich, graceful, eccentric, rough, lyrical, sinuous, colloquial and very much to the point.” A few weeks ago, writing in an email to an AP English teacher who is one of his constituents, Virginia State Senator Richard Black called Beloved “moral sewage.”

South Carolina Republican Who Defended Confederate Flag Proposes Mandatory Criminal Background Checks for Journalists

J.K. Trotter · 01/19/16 03:58PM

You may remember State Rep. Mike Pitts of South Carolina from his defeated efforts to keep the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina State House last year. The intense media scrutiny of those efforts seem to have inspired a fairly cowardly response: According to the text of a bill he verbally introduced at the State House in Columbia today, Pitts wants to establish a government-run “responsible journalism registry” to screen, approve, and credential reporters and journalists in the Palmetto State—or else. The text of the bill’s summary reads (bolding ours):

UK Bans Tyler, the Creator For Several Years Over Old Lyrics

Jordan Sargent · 08/26/15 07:00PM

America has more or less made peace with Tyler, the Creator, the leader of the (now disbanded) shock-rap crew Odd Future. After a period of inciting controversy with violent lyrics and aggressive teenaged snottiness, Tyler has settled into life as a touring artist with a reliable fanbase. The United Kingdom, though, is apparently not quite as accepting.

N.J. Town Scandalized by High School Art Show About Police Brutality

Andy Cush · 05/19/15 04:05PM

An art show at Westfield High School in Westfield, N.J. asked students to create images that commented on one of three hot-button issues: “Modern Technology Advances,” “Gender Equality,” and “Law Enforcement - Police Brutality.” That last option got a few local parents really riled up.

Easy Rules for Free Speech on Campus

Hamilton Nolan · 09/15/14 12:43PM

Another week, another ultimately meaningless free speech controversy on an American college campus. Should Ayaan Hirsi Ali be allowed to speak at Yale? If only there were some simple way of settling these nonstop arguments.

Michelle Dean · 03/26/14 03:15PM

Rep. Jackie Speier has announced that she's going to introduce a bill criminalizing "revenge porn" into the House of Representatives next month. If and when she does, it will be the first effort to enact a federal law against revenge porn, or as others put it, "non-consensual pornography."

Teach People to Beat a Polygraph? Go to Jail.

Adrian Chen · 08/19/13 11:30AM

Polygraphs are notoriously unreliable, useful in practice mainly because the mere idea of a lie detector test can scare people into telling the truth. This is underscored by the wide variety and seeming effectiveness of anti-polygraph "countermeasures," which can help anyone pass regardless of truthfulness. Now Feds are going after instructors of polygraph-beating technologies, as part of a crackdown on "insider threats."