NEWSFLASH! 5/27-6/10

We’re nearing the first day of summer! Here is some First Amendment news to begin the new season!

As was noted in an earlier Newsflash!, a family bakery in Oberlin, Ohio brought a libel lawsuit against Oberlin College earlier this year. An altercation between one of the bakery’s white employees and a black patron resulted in protests of the bakery by students and community members. Oberlin College officials stated that the altercation was fueled by racism which then prompted the bakery to file suit. Last week the suit concluded with a jury finding for the bakery in awarding it $11 million in compensatory damages to be paid by the college and one of its administrators.

YouTube has enacted a new policy to eliminate hateful speech and extremist content from its site. The policy received immediate pushback, especially from several conservative commentators who have had their videos removed, prompting questions of what standard is to be used in deeming content extremist. It has equally raised larger questions, however, of how the site actually monitors its content and, ultimately, how it decides whether to remove it.

As students celebrated Israeli independence earlier this spring at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, one student protested by holding a swastika sign with the word “Gas” written on it. Several quickly criticized the university’s response as inadequate, again adding to the ongoing conversation of how free speech principles should be viewed on university campuses. The University of Wisconsin joins hundreds of other universities continually “searching for ways to balance First Amendment rights with the right of students and faculty to feel secure.”

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that yelling expletives at law enforcement officers is protected by the First Amendment and does not constitute grounds for arrest. The defendant in the case reportedly yelled “f— you” at a state trooper who, shortly thereafter, arrested the defendant for disorderly conduct. The appellate court viewed the arrest as retaliatory for exercising free speech rights.

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