• Matthew Inui

Weekly News Blast | May 29-Jun. 5


(Marten Bjork/Unsplash)


1. Supreme Court blocks Texas law to regulate social media companies.


In a 5–4 decision this Tuesday, the Supreme Court blocked a Texas law that would ban social media platforms from removing posts that the company does not agree with. Signed in early September, H.B. 20 prohibits platforms with more than 50 million active users (including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube) from removing posts based on content, with a few exceptions. Supporters of the law, including Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, say it is in response to the “dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas.” Opposition to the law, however, claimed the measures “would compel platforms to disseminate all sorts of objectionable viewpoints — such as Russia’s propaganda claiming that its invasion of Ukraine is justified, ISIS propaganda claiming that extremism is warranted, neo-Nazi or K.K.K. creeds denying or supporting the Holocaust, and encouraging children to engage in risky or unhealthy behavior like eating disorders.”


In December of 2021, a Federal District Court Judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the injunction in mid-May. Tuesday’s emergency Supreme Court ruling overturned the Circuit Court’s stay and blocked the Texas law until the Circuit Court makes an official decision. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Alito wrote, “This application concerns issues of great importance that will plainly merit this court’s review.” He stated that he is not “comfortable” with the Supreme Court blocking the law, preferring the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to make its decision without intervention.


2. Shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


On June 1, at approximately 5 p.m., 45-year-old Michael Louis shot and killed four people at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among those killed was Dr. Preston Philips, a surgeon; Dr. Stephanie Husen, a sports medicine practitioner; Amanda Glenn, an office worker; and William Love, a veteran who sacrificed himself to save his wife. An unspecified number of people were injured. Chief Wendell Franklin of the Tulsa police reported that Louis had gone to Dr. Philips for an operation and “he blamed Dr. Philips for the ongoing pain following the surgery.” A letter by Louis was later released that “made it clear that he came in with the intent to kill Dr. Phillips and anyone who got in his way.”


This shooting comes in the wake of sweeping gun violence across the country in the past week. Since the attack on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last week, almost 20 shootings have occurred. As Chief Franklin described it, the tragedy in Tulsa was “another act of violence upon an American city.”


Supporters of stronger gun safety measures have used the recent spate of shootings to call for stricter firearm sales laws or bans on semi-automatic rifles. For example, in a speech on Thursday, President Biden said, “We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21. Strengthen background checks. Enact safe storage laws and red-flag laws. . . . These are rational, common sense measures.” But even though Republicans and Democrats are negotiating on measures to address the shootings, there is still widespread skepticism as to whether they will be able to come to a compromise. “Our leaders ignore, gloss over, or refuse to address the complex challenges and difficulties facing our country and communities,” said Kendra Horn, a former Democratic congresswoman from Oklahoma who is now running for the Senate.


3. Johnny Depp wins defamation case.


In the recent defamation trial involving actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, a Virginia jury found Heard guilty of defaming Depp in her 2018 Washington Post op-ed titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” On June 1, the jury awarded Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. It also awarded Heard $2 million in compensatory damages but nothing in punitive damages. This decision came after nearly 100 hours of testimony in which Heard accused Depp of verbally and physically abusing her. This Depp denied, testifying that Heard had instead abused him.


In a statement following the verdict, Depp thanked the jury, writing that “the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled.” Heard, on the other hand, expressed her disappointment that “the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of [her] ex-husband.” She also called the verdict a “setback” to “a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated.” Since then, Heard’s representative as well as her lawyer have indicated they have plans to appeal the verdict in the near future.


 

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