First Amendment of the US Constitution Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Most people think of the First Amendment as “Freedom of Speech” and some of more clued-in say it’s all about “Freedom of Expression” and go on to state that expression is a bit more general than speech. It comprises music, videos, etc.
However, Freedom of the Press is very different than Freedom of Speech. This is really the right to make copies of an original and distribute it freely. The first press was used to mass distribute the bible. During the American Revolution, printers printed revolutionary tracts and pamphlets and inspired the Colonists to rebel against the Crown.
You may have the right to say anything you want — Freedom of Speech — but if you have no distribution, you have no Freedom of the Press. And again, you may have the right to say anything you want — but if you can’t assemble, no one will hear what you have to say.
There was no radio or TV back in 1776, Ben Franklin only had a kite with a key. So, the First Amendment doesn’t really cover broadcast news explicilty. This is covered by the establishment of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which is empowered to regulate what can and can not be said on broadcast news. This covers saying bad words, and also the “Fairness Doctrine”. So this might apply to CBS, NBC, or ABC — Columbia Broadcast System.
Cable news is not bound by the FCC because its distribution is not over the public airwaves. So Cable gets away with bad words, and having unfair news.I think this applies to CNN and FOX — Cable News Network.
The Internet and Social media are not covered literally in the First Amendment, because as we know it did not exist in 1776. These form of distributions are much like Presses. However, they allow organizing priniciples similar to the Right of Assembly — one can organize via a Zoom meeting many people, or through an online chat group on can organize millions of people. So they are not strictly speaking Presses.
Are they a public media like broadcast new and the airways, or are they like the private cable channels ? If they are presses, then doesn’t the owner of the press decide what he wants to print?
So when you hear Josh Hawley rail against Big Tech taking Donald Trump off of Twitter or shutting down Parler, you can see that there are some twists to this story.
A good reference to First Amendment rights First Amendment Rights Cener
Added June 4, 2021: As you may know I have been running for U.S. Senate here in Missouri and actively petitioning for ballot access in the election. I need 10,000 signatures for my name to appear on the November 2022 election. I have been repeatedly told that I can’t petition on private property when I stand meekly on the sidewalk in front of the big box stores with a clipboard and a pen. I ask very politely, “Will you please sign my petition? I am running for U.S. Senate. I need 10,000 signatures.” This includes Whole Foods Supermarket, Target, and Costco.
The point being that in a real practical sense, you don’t have the right to petition in suburban America. Because there are no public spaces where people congregate. There is no public sidewalk.
And in downtown Saint Louis either, “At this time we do not allow for political canvasing on property here at St. Louis Union Station.” I received this in response to my request to canvass. There is no public sidewalk.
You should check out the cases “Lloyd Corp v. Tanner (1972)” and “Hudgens v. NLRB (1976)”. These are two SCOTUS cases which state that private shopping centers are private property (distinguishable from the “town square”) and that they have the privilege under the trespass law to deprive other people of free speech opportunities. I think that is why the Girl Scouts have to get permits or permission from stores in order to sell cookies there.
No, I don’t shed any tears for Josh Hawley or Donald Trump. I am galled by their cynicism in repeatedly twisting the laws to appear that they are the disadvantaged, when plainly put they have all the advantages.
I will continue this blog, and I will continue to Tweet, and I will continue to lawfully canvass. I believe in miracles. I invoke the name of Don Quixote in this noble quest to reach our goal of 10,000 signatures. It is gonna take a miracle. But, you know, every day is a miracle.