Jan 17, 2018

Washington woes, a Charleston charade and some hope

My January column for the South Carolina Press Association...
When I was a legal fellow at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press we had an “outrage meter” drawn on one of the whiteboards in the reception area. The “needle” on the meter would be redrawn frequently, either towards the left or right, depending on the latest developments in media law and the perceived threats to freedom of speech and the press.

During most of my tenure, the outrage needle mainly fluctuated in the middle range. But if the Reporters Committee still has such a meter, recent developments on the national level and here in South Carolina would be pushing the needle into the red danger zone, and perhaps beyond. But there are also reminders of the importance of the First Amendment, and the role of robust media in the democratic process.

Dec 13, 2017

What’s the FCC got to do with newspapers? Lately, a Lot.

My latest column for the South Carolina Press Association... 

Most actions by the Federal Communications Commission affect television and radio broadcasters, not newspapers. But the FCC, under Chairman Ajit Pai, is working on two rule changes which could impact the newspaper industry, with the effect on individual newspapers determined by several factors including the newspapers’ size, market dominance, and ownership.

Oct 21, 2017

CLE, For Free, with Me

On Thursday, Oct. 26, I will be among the speakers in a free Continuing Legal Education seminar on "Fake News: The Law of False Publications."

Registration for the seminar is here.

Oct 18, 2017

Another president who took on ‘fake news’

Virtually every president has at times expressed anger and frustration with the press. But rarely have they seriously threatened to use the power of government—its power to license broadcasters, or to prosecute criminal offenders—to retaliate for media coverage. (Although it should be noted that despite his threats, President Trump has actually taken little definitive action against the media.)

But there was one president who took such action, criminally prosecuting his critics in the media. This important yet largely forgotten episode in American history offers lessons for the current president and his threats against the press.

Sep 22, 2017

Charlottesville, the First Amendment and the Press

Most reactions to the march by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., last month condemned the marchers, their message and their use of swastikas, chants and Nazi imagery. But there were also questions of why they were allowed to hold their march and spread their vile message of hate.

Sep 8, 2017

For First Time, FTC Goes After Bloggers for Paid Endorsements

I've written quite a bit in the past about the Federal Trade Commission's enforcement of its guidelines for testimonials and endorsements, which require disclosure of any payment or benefit that endorsers receive for their endorsements.

Until now, in the online realm the FTC has only pursued advertisers who have offered inducements to bloggers and others for endorsements without telling them to disclose the relationship. But now the FTC has gone after two video bloggers themselves for failing to reveal their connections to a web site that they endorsed, and has sent warning letters to individuals who posted endorsements on Instagram without revealing that they were compensated.

Aug 17, 2017

Only one star, but several legal issues

My August column for the South Carolina Press Association:

A lawsuit by a Charleston psychiatrist over a single star review on Google raises several legal issues regarding standards for the social media era, including issues that apply equally to traditional media.

Jul 19, 2017