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Volokh Conspiracy

Techdirt gets more than $250,000 to better cover free-speech issues


I've long much liked the free-speech coverage of Techdirt and Mike Masnick, and I was delighted to hear that they have received more than $250,000 to cover free-speech issues. Here's Masnick's post on the subject:

For nearly two decades, Techdirt has reported extensively on issues related to free speech on the internet. Much of this coverage has been about laws that help to protect free speech, such as anti-SLAPP laws, intermediary liability protections, and fair use, among others. Over time, we've seen countless attempts to silence speech and undermine important protections for free speech, even as new technologies and services have risen up to provide more arenas for free speech to thrive. These attacks on free speech—including lawsuits, threats, bullying, and legislative proposals—raise serious concerns about protecting free speech online.

In January of this year, the company behind Techdirt, and two of its employees, were sued for $15 million in a lawsuit that seems specifically designed to either shut down the company or to silence reporting on matters of public interest.

The lawsuit, along with our reporting on many similar stories, motivated the Techdirt team to double down on our coverage of issues related to free speech on the internet, and the ways that it is being attacked. Going through the process ourselves has given us an even deeper appreciation for the First Amendment and the legal protections provided in states with strong anti-SLAPP laws. Similarly, we are more aware than ever before of the myriad ways in which free speech is under attack—not just directly, but indirectly as well, such as via threats against third parties and platforms to stifle speech.

It has also given us greater recognition that many people—even journalists, lawyers and politicians—may not fully understand these issues, what legal protections there are, where those protections are under attack, and where they could be strengthened. Many are also not aware of the massive cost attacks on free speech have, and just how many people they are impacting.

This has inspired us to work with the Freedom of the Press Foundation to put this project together, which will enable us to focus even more reporting resources on covering threats to free speech in the US and around the globe, and to tell the stories of the chilling effects created when free speech is attacked. We are thankful that a number of prominent organizations and foundations have also stepped up to sponsor this effort, including Automattic, the Charles Koch Foundation, Craig Newmark's CraigConnects and Union Square Ventures. [Techdirt maintains full editorial control over all content.] Between all supporting organizations, more than $250,000 has been committed so far to further reporting on free speech. We hope you'll look forward to much more reporting on issues related to free speech online.