The Free Expression Policy Project (FEPP) began in 2000 as a project of NCAC to provide empirical research and policy development on tough censorship issues and seek free speech-friendly solutions to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. From 2004-2007, FEPP was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. From 2007-2018, Marjorie Heins, the founding director, maintained the FEPP site as an information resource.
By now, the controversy over University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s August 1, 2014 decision to terminate the faculty appointment of Professor Steven Salaita has gone viral. A multitude of opinions have poured forth from blogs, news stories, editorials, and protest letters. The debate brings into focus the continuing problem of efforts by adamantly pro-Israel […]
The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are best-known for donating millions to the election campaigns of Tea Party candidates and others committed to fighting regulation of business and to protecting the oil and gas industries from efforts to combat climate change. It turns out that Charles Koch, through his foundation, is now also heavily invested […]
The Harvard Law Review has censored a link to an image by the prominent photographer Nan Goldin, ostensibly because of concerns about child pornography. The image, “Klara and Eddy Belly Dancing,” shows two little girls cavorting, one of them nude. The link was included in an article by Marjorie Heins on censorship by private companies […]
The Supreme Court last week took a small step toward limiting the damage done to the First Amendment by its controversial 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos. The Court in Garcetti denied First Amendment protection to a public employee (there, an assistant prosecutor) who had blown the whistle on police misconduct (in that case, fraudulent search warrants). […]
The current controversy over Yale University’s planned campus in Singapore is, at bottom, an argument over how much compromise on free speech is justified in exchange for the presumed benefits of locating branches of U.S. universities within authoritarian regimes. For although the champions of global ventures like Yale’s often claim that academic freedom will be […]
The potentially momentous case of Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television ended on June 21 not with a bang but a whimper. True, a unanimous Supreme Court vacated the FCC’s rulings that the “fleeting expletives” in two TV programs and the fleeting nudity in a third were “indecent.” But it did so on the narrow […]
This Fact Sheet answers some frequently-asked questions about social science research into the effects of media violence. The bottom line is that despite the claims of some psychologists and politicians, the actual research results have been weak and ambiguous. This should not be surprising: media violence is so pervasive in our lives, and comes in […]
On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court put an end to the attempts of state and local lawmakers to censor violent video games. Or at least, one hopes so. After two decades of political grandstanding, vaguely drafted laws, and unproven claims that “excessive” or “gratuitous” violence in this particular medium of entertainment has harmful effects […]
“I know it when I see it” – This famous phrase, by former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart,1 nicely summarizes the way that American law defines criminally punishable “obscenity.” Yet the First Amendment to the Constitution states unequivocally that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” So where did the exception to […]
Most Americans today get their information and entertainment from the mass media – radio, television, newspapers, movies, and the Internet. The companies that own these mass media outlets thus have a powerful influence over our culture, our political system, and the ideas that inform public discourse. In the past half-century, media companies have grown into […]
Blanche DuBois, the fragile, self-deluding southern belle in Tennessee Williams’s 1947 play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” is one of the great tragic characters in American literature. But who owns Blanche, and can the holder of the copyright in “Streetcar” stop a creative artist from impersonating her, as the author and performer Mark Sam Rosenthal does […]
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A recent incident in California has dramatized the insidious persistence of loyalty oaths for public employment in America. These oaths of allegiance originated in the days of King Henry VIII of England, when treasonous plots and religious wars threatened royal hegemony. They survive today as coerced rituals of political orthodoxy, and as threats to free […]
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and of U.S. government efforts to combat terrorism by often secretive or constitutionally dubious means, questions have arisen about the scope of First Amendment protection for political protest and dissent. This Fact Sheet, originally prepared for a November 2006 conference on “Civil Liberties in […]
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In a fractured decision, the Supreme Court today approved the punishment of a high school student for unfurling a banner with the nonsense message “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” across the street from his school while the U.S. Olympic Torch Relay passed by. Eighteen year-old Joseph Frederick insisted that his banner had no particular message except […]
The Free Expression Policy Project undertook a survey of 25 online service providers to learn how they handle notices asking them to remove material that the sender alleges violates her copyright or trademark rights. These notices typically take the form of either “cease and desist” letters or takedown notices sent in accordance with § 512 of the Copyright Act. We wanted to learn whether service providers, including educational institutions, consider their users’ free speech interests in the course of responding to copyright and trademark owners’ complaints; and if so, how they act on those considerations. We also wanted to know how well the takedown process is working for service providers, for users, and for copyright owners.
Countless words have been spilled over the Danish newspaper JyullandsPosten‘s publication last September of 12 cartoons commenting on journalistic self-censorship and Islamic beliefs, including several that caricatured the prophet Muhammad. Surely, everything has been said by now. Yet the controversy rages on: Is this an easy case for freedom of expression? Should there be no acquiescence […]
Every new technology brings with it both excitement and anxiety. No sooner was the Internet upon us in the 1990s than anxiety arose over the ease of accessing pornography and other controversial content. In response, entrepreneurs soon developed filtering products. By the end of the decade, a new industry had emerged to create and market Internet filters.