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Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, speaking at a conference. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

The American Civil Liberties Union is rethinking how they defend free speech, according to a leaked memo surfaced by the Wall Street Journal's Wendy Kaminer. The memo argues that free speech can, at times, undermine civil rights groups and present a conflict between priorities.

"Work to protect speech rights may raise tensions with racial justice, reproductive freedom, or a myriad of other rights, where the content of the speech we seek to protect conflicts with our policies on those matters, and/or otherwise is directed at menacing vulnerable groups or individuals."
— ACLU memo

The details: According to the memo, the ACLU began to consider how to prioritize who they're defending after the Charlottesville rally in 2017 led by white nationalists incited riots. The city initially tried to block the group's right to protest, but the ACLU defended it. The organization faced criticism after.

  • The memo says the "resolution will virtually always turn on specific factors to each case."
  • Though it is considering how to weigh free speech, the ACLU says it is still committed to defending free speech and peaceful protest granted by the first amendment.

Be smart: Though the company issued this memo, it is not considered a policy change. ACLU branches are given discretion to prioritize different rights in individual cases around the country.

The big picture: As hate speech and the marginalization of minorities continue to be dominating issues in the U.S., the ACLU has been trying to strike the right balance between defending the civil rights of marginalized communities and the inherent right of free speech.

Yes, but: The ACLU has also attempted to keep this memo confidential, Kaminer notes. The ACLU is a non-partisan organization, but conservatives are arguing that the union wavering on free speech gives it more favor with its progressive allies while abandoning conservatives.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
9 hours ago - Health

The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

The Wuhan Institute of Virology. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

A group of high-profile scientists published a letter calling for renewed investigation into the origins of COVID-19 — including the theory that it spilled out of a virology lab.

Why it matters: The possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a Chinese lab and accidentally escaped — rather than emerging naturally from an animal — was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory. But the letter shows a potential lab leak is increasingly being taken seriously.

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