The rights to free speech and a free press aren’t just integral to democracy — they are core American values. But today these fundamental rights are under threat. President Trump regularly stokes outrage against the media and has demanded that the Justice Department investigate companies whose media outlets anger him. His administration has even suggested narrowing First Amendment protections to make it harder for the press to criticize the government. At the same time, social media companies’ efforts to crack down on disinformation and hate — an important goal — run the risk of suppressing legitimate online speech and singling out vulnerable groups if those efforts are not conducted with care and transparency.
Meanwhile, the courts have weaponized the First Amendment’s protection of free speech to produce perverse, undemocratic results. In a series of cases, most notably Citizens United, campaign finance laws that protect the integrity of our elections against corruption have been overturned. This misguided jurisprudence has helped usher in a flood of corporate and special-interest money into our elections, diminishing the voices of ordinary citizens.
The Brennan Center fights to protect free speech and freedom of the press by raising the alarm about the government’s bid to silence and intimidate the media. And we’re closely monitoring social media companies that remove content, to ensure they’re upholding speech rights and allowing for a free and robust public conversation. We also work to advance a vision of the Constitution as a charter for a vibrant, participatory democracy protected from the outsize influence of corporations and special interests.