Deborah Fisher is director of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at Middle Tennessee State University. She was a journalist for 25 years, many of those years as a senior editor. She has served as editor at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and senior editor for news at The Tennessean in Nashville. She also is executive director of a nonprofit, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

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Social Media

Though they are private businesses and not government entities, U.S. social media platforms have nonetheless been at the center of a number of free speech disputes.       Social media is a method of internet-based communication in which users create communities and share information, videos and personal messages with each other. Some of the […]

Gonzalez v. Google, Taamneh v. Twitter (9th Circuit) (2021)

In Gonzalez v. Google and Taamneh v. Twitter, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021 addressed the liability of social media platforms for allowing the terrorist group ISIS to post videos, communicate its messages and radicalize new recruits.       Families of people killed in ISIS attacks sought damages under a 2016 provision in the Anti-Terrorism […]

Disinformation Governance Board (2023)

Fighting foreign disinformation operations in America collided with fear of government control of information in the Department of Homeland Security's short-lived Disinformation Governance Board.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is a protest movement to call attention to police treatment of Black Americans. Response to protests have sometimes led to a chilling effect on First Amendment freedoms.

Freedom of Petition

The right to petition permits us to ask government to take action to address a need or concern. While it doesn’t guarantee a desired result, it does ensure a  level of participation in the democratic process.     At its most basic, “petitoning government for redress of grievances” involves a simple communication to government asking […]

Counterman v. Colorado (2023)

In Counterman v. Colorado, 600 U. S. ____ (2023), the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the conviction of a man found guilty of stalking a female musician, ruling that the First Amendment’s protection of free speech requires that prosecutors show that he was aware of the threatening nature of his communications.     The ruling provided […]

Gonzalez v. Google (2023)

The U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzalez v. Google (2023) declined to rule on whether targeted recommendations by a social media company’s algorithms would fall outside the liability of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.   Instead, the Court said that its ruling in Twitter v. Taamneh on the same day “is sufficient to acknowledge […]

NetChoice v. Attorney General of Florida (11th Circuit) (2022)

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2022 upheld an injunction against a Florida law, the "Stop Social Media Censorship Act," saying it likely violated the First Amendment rights of social media companies.

Twitter v. Taamneh (2023)

In Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh (2023), the Supreme Court ruled that social media companies did not “aid and abet” an ISIS terrorist attack simply because their algorithms recommended ISIS content or they failed to remove content that recruited members and spread terrorist messages.   The case overturned a ruling by the 9th U. S. Circuit […]

NetChoice v. Paxton (5th Circuit) (2022)

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in NetChoice v. Paxton upheld a Texas law barring social media companies from censoring users based on their viewpoints.

People v. Counterman (Colo. Court of Appeals) (2021)

A Colorado appellate court’s ruling in an online stalking case has led to a review by the U.S. Supreme Court on what the government must show about the speaker’s state of mind for speech to be considered a “true threat” and not protected under the First Amendment. In People v. Counterman (2021), the Colorado Court […]