Free Speech Be Damned! Soros-Funded Group Cries No First Amendment Right for So-Called Election Disinfo

February 14th, 2024 4:35 PM

A leftist legal group heavily funded by leftist billionaire George Soros is trying to convince a federal appellate court that the First Amendment right to free speech doesn’t necessarily protect … free speech.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL) actually argued that if the speech in question could be considered to constitute the murky concept of “harmful election disinformation,” First Amendment protections should be tossed to the curb. The group broke down its dystopian stance in a press release summarizing the sentiment of an amicus brief it filed with the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals for the ongoing United States v. Douglass Mackey case. Soros injected LCCRUL with at least $10,729,441 between 2016 and 2021 alone. 

The LCCRUL’s extensive monetary connections to Soros are especially concerning given the latter’s deep investment into undercutting free speech online writ large. MRC Free Speech America released a study in September 2023 uncovering how Soros had funneled over $14.8 million to at least 50 leftist anti-free speech groups attempting to quash so-called “disinformation” online and elsewhere between 2017-2021.

LCCRUL based its argument on the initial outcome of the Mackey case, which RealClearInvestigations Editor-at-Large Benjamin Weingarten referred to as a “straight-out-of-the-Soviet Union case.” The defendant — a Twitter troll — was sentenced to prison by a U.S. District Court judge for posting an anti-Hillary Clinton meme on Twitter in 2016. “Avoid the line. Vote from home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925,” the spoof ad read. The Daily Wire noted that it was "unclear how many people, if anyone, fell for the meme and did not cast the vote they intended to cast; or were merely participating in the joke." The Second Circuit Court later stayed the initial prison sentence in favor of Mackey until after his appeal was adjudicated. The Soros-funded LCCRUL was clearly triggered.

"[T]he First Amendment does not protect efforts to spread harmful election disinformation with the intention of disenfranchising” voters, the group whined in its press release. In essence, objectionable speech on elections must be verboten, even if it’s a meme! 

The LCCRUL even spun race into its argument by assuming that if the Court doesn’t adopt its dystopian anti-free speech view, minority voters will be too stupid to think for themselves. “[I]f the court provides protection to the kind of conduct at issue in Mackey, it has the potential to threaten the exercise of the right to vote by populations targeted by such deceptions—often Black communities and other communities of color.” In another amicus brief to the Second Circuit opposing the dystopian position, attorneys Russell B. Balikian & Cody M. Poplin pointed out that Congress has established no federal statute explicitly prohibiting false speech about elections:

The First Amendment likely tolerates narrow and clearly defined bans on disseminating knowing lies regarding election procedures—that is, false statements of fact (not opinion, humor, parody, hyperbole, or the like) made with actual malice regarding the time or place of an election, or the procedures one must follow to lawfully cast a valid vote. But Congress has not enacted any federal law that clearly criminalizes such conduct, [emphasis added.]

In fact, Balikian and Poplin argued, “the district court's broad reading of Section 241 [of 18 U.S.C. that led to Mackey’s jailing] brings the statute into conflict with the First Amendment and risks chilling protected political speech.” The statute, as America First Legal pointed out in a press release on a separate brief it filed in support of Mackey, is “generally referred to as the Ku Klux Klan Act.” Specifically, said AFL, “Speech about elections and political rivals – even if misleading or inaccurate, and especially satirical speech – is as old as democracy itself, yet no one ever thought Section 241 made that a crime." In its press release, AFL noted that it was “telling that the government has cited no cases where section 241 has been applied to deceptive speech on any topic.”

The LCCRUL proceeded to racialize the case in its rant by diminishing minority voters’ capabilities to determine facts for themselves. “There continue to be significant developments in the technologies that allow people to create misleading and harmful election disinformation and deter marginalized communities from exercising their voting rights. Our democracy cannot afford to let this trend continue unchecked,” propagandized LCCRUL senior counsel Marc Epstein in the press release. Free speech be damned!

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