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Clay Calvert Comments on Free Speech and Social Media Posts

Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, is quoted in “Free Speech or Censorship? Social Media Litigation is a Hot Legal Battleground” published in the April 2019 ABA Journal.

Clay Calvert

The article raises concerns about the future of free speech, including attempts at censorship by government actors critical of comments on social media, the shifting standards of private platforms to censor online expression and the rise of hate and extremist speech in the digital world. Calvert shares his opinion on the case of Knight First Amendment Institute for Columbia University v. Trump involving Trump’s blocking of individuals who criticize him on Twitter.

“The case is a game-changer for both free speech and the right to petition the government,” said Calvert. “The district court’s ruling highlights not only the importance of online social media platforms’ forums for interacting with government officials, but also confirms that when government officials use nongovernment entities like Twitter to comment on policy and personnel matters, the First Amendment comes into play.”

The article also touches on hate speech as form of protected speech under the First Amendment. It is covered unless it crosses the line into true threats, incitement to imminent lawless action, or fighting words.

“Policing hate speech online should be left to private entities like Facebook and Twitter to better enforce their own terms of use and service. They need to do more,” he said. “Ideally from a pro-free speech perspective, social media companies—much like private universities—would aspire to comport with First Amendment principles, and at a minimum not discriminate against political speech based on viewpoint,” Calvert explains. “Realistically, however, these are for-profit businesses that privilege profits and their own financial gains above constitutional goals.”

Posted: April 1, 2019
Category: College News
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