Over the past year, clashes over freedom of expression have made their way to the top of the news. Whether it be journalists responding to President Trump’s threats against the press or the league-wide protests by NFL players, the right to express themselves has continued to spark debate amongst people from all walks of life.
With the launch of First Amendment Watch, the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU hopes to better inform the conversation by highlighting threats to the freedom of speech, press, assembly and petition.
The website (firstamendmentwatch.org) offers daily updates, analysis, access to important legal cases, an interactive map and links to additional resources. It also features content from expert organizations such as the Newseum’s First Amendment Center.
“The public needs reliable and nonpartisan information about how the First Amendment applies to these conflicts. What is protected speech? How are hate speech, symbolic speech, satire and the right to protest upheld under the First Amendment?” said Stephen D. Solomon, a professor at the Carter Journalism Institute and the site’s founding editor. “Our goal is to provide news, commentary, and legal and historical context that is critical to understanding and protecting our First Amendment rights.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which was unveiled earlier this year, had no influence on the development of their own site, Solomon said.
“Our site is much broader in scope, covering threats to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, petition and more,” he said. “By the time the Press Tracker was launched at the beginning of August, we had been working on First Amendment Watch for more than three months and had our editorial goals in focus.”
According to Solomon, much of the feedback received so far has been very positive. Some professors noted they plan on using the site for their students studying First Amendment law or journalism.
Although NYU provided initial funding for the project, Solomon and his staff plan on raising money from foundations and individuals in order to maintain and grow the site. They also are looking to add a full-time staff member to assist with daily updates and build out its content.
“Our goal is to add much more original legal and historical material to provide greater depth in our coverage. This would include contributions from outside experts such as lawyers, professors, and historians,” Solomon said. “We are also developing a new section to publish excerpts from top First Amendment books and another section providing historical documents central to the development of freedom of speech.”