The adoption by Florida and Texas of statutes limiting social media companies from engaging in content modification policies of their choice has recently led the federal courts of appeal in two circuits to address the topic. When one of the cases reached the Supreme Court recently, it divided by a five-four vote about whether a ruling below in favor of the social media entities should be stayed.
Issues raised by these cases are amongst the most significant recent ones relating to the scope of First Amendment protection in this digital era and will be addressed at our next Conversation by two counsel who filed briefs in the cases taking different approaches to the proper constitutional analysis. Floyd Abrams will explore with Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director of the Knight Institute, and Katie Townsend, Deputy Executive Director and Legal Director at the Reporters Committee, what is at stake and what their positions portend about the future of social media regulation. Please join us.
Jameel Jaffer is Executive Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which defends the freedoms of speech and the press through strategic litigation, research, and public education. Jaffer previously served as deputy legal director at the ACLU, where he oversaw the organization’s work on free speech, privacy, technology, national security, and international human rights. Jaffer’s recent writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the Yale Law Journal Forum. He is an executive editor of Just Security, a national security blog, serves on the board of the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation, and on the advisory boards of the Press Freedom Defense Fund and the Center for Democracy and Technology.
Katie Townsend is the Deputy Executive Director and Legal Director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press where she oversees the Reporters Committee’s extensive legal services portfolio — including its litigation, vetting/pre-publication review, and amicus practices. Townsend leads the Reporters Committee’s impact litigation efforts, and regularly represents news organizations and journalists, including documentary filmmakers, in public records, court access, and legal defense matters. She recently led the successful launch of the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative (LLI) providing legal support for local investigative and enterprise reporting in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Floyd Abrams is senior counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School. He is the author of three books about the First Amendment of which the most recent was “The Soul of the First Amendment“ (2017). Mr. Abrams has argued numerous cases involving the First Amendment in the Supreme Court and lower courts. Among others, he was co-counsel to the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case, counsel to the Brooklyn Museum in its litigation against New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and counsel to Senator Mitch McConnell in the Citizens United case. Former Yale Law School Dean Robert Post has observed that “no lawyer has exercised a greater influence on the development of First Amendment jurisprudence in the last four decades.