Charles Koch Foundation Helps Sponsor New Blog Dedicated to Protecting Free Speech

The internet blog Techdirt announced this morning that it will dedicate a section of its blog to covering threats to free speech.

Several organizations, including the Charles Koch Foundation, will sponsor the effort, an Aug. 9 post announcing the free speech blog said.

The foundation stepped in because it wanted to help “address structural threats to free speech,” Sarah Ruger, Director of Free Expression for the Charles Koch Institute, a sister organization of the foundation, told Bloomberg BNA in an email.

The institute is particularly concerned about freedom of the press, free speech on campus, censorship of the arts, and defending free speech in new forums such as social media, according to its website.

“We benefit tremendously from the protection of the First Amendment in the U.S., but if media platforms and individuals can be thoroughly silenced through burdensome legal battles, do we really have free speech?” Ruger said.

One reason for the blog’s inception was a $15 million lawsuit brought in January of this year against Techdirt that was “specifically designed to either shut down the company or to silence reporting on matters of public interest,” the press release said.

The plaintiff, Shiva Ayyadurai, alleges he invented email and he sued the company for defamation after Techdirt wrote that email existed long before he created any software.

Supporting Techdirt’s blog is “a natural fit” for the Charles Koch Foundation, Jesse Blumenthal, Manager of Technology & Innovation for the Charles Koch Institute, told Bloomberg BNA.

It’s a small blog that has been around for almost two decades and is now facing a $15 million lawsuit, in “what they have deemed the ‘First Amendment Fight for Its Life,’” Blumenthal said.

“We may not agree with every opinion they offer, but we share a common commitment to the importance of free speech,” he said.

Many people don’t fully grasp what the issues related to free speech on the internet are, “what legal protections there are, where those protections are under attack, and where they could be strengthened,” Techdirt’s press release said.

“Legal protections for free speech will only stand in a society that values it,” Ruger said.

The foundation is “deeply concerned about the trend towards intimidation and coercion to compel conformity and silence ideas outside the mainstream,” she said.

“We want to shine a light on those who resort to such unprincipled tactics, and elevate civil, reasoned discourse (counter speech) as an alternative,” Ruger said.