The First Amendment protects Americans’ freedom of speech and assembly. Unfortunately, at various times in US history, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have disregarded these protections, targeting people or groups based on political viewpoint, religious affiliation, or participation in lawful protests. The advent of the internet as the new “town square,” has opened a new front in the battle to protect free speech and assembly, and new technologies make it easier for the government to track our communications and movements both on and offline, inhibiting our willingness to dissent.
Undercover agents have infiltrated law-abiding activist groups, police have beaten and tear-gassed protesters at peaceful protests, and people are considered suspect merely because of their real or perceived Islamic faith. On the internet, police and intelligence agencies monitor social media and speech that should be protected by the First Amendment is considered evidence of “material support for terrorism.”
Dissent is being criminalized by DHS Terror Threat Assessments that name environmentalists, practicing Muslims or people with Ron Paul bumper stickers as potential terrorists, by legislation that conflates activism with terrorism (as in the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act), and by over-policing at protests and restrictive “free speech zones.”
On April 23, 2017, Defending Rights & Dissent’s Policy & Legislative Counsel, Chip Gibbons, addressed 110 people at the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy.
In Spite of Local Law Limiting Investigations of First Amendment Assemblies, DC Police Infiltrated Organizing Group for Inauguration Protests
Before the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had arrested a single protester at Trump’s inauguration, undercover agents had infiltrated one of the main groups organizing protests according to court documents.
A Customs and Border Patrol proposal to collect social media identifiers of Chinese visa holders is racist and undermines internet freedom and privacy. Take action to oppose the proposal.
Does the First Amendment protect your right to tweet anonymously or “pseudonymously” (as the case is when one uses a twitter handle, but not their real name)? Even when you criticize the President?
Undercover officers with the New York Police Department (NYPD) not only infiltrated Black Lives Matter protesters, they become so embedded within the group as to have access to text communications available only to a limited number of organizers. And, they continued their undercover operations despite a lack of any evidence of criminal wrongdoing