Free Speech Tracker*

The Free Speech Tracker is a tool for monitoring Free Speech controversies in U.S. civil society and on college campuses across the country. It will also track action and comment on Free Speech issues at all levels of government, especially in state legislatures, including ongoing efforts there to regulate public protests.

The Tracker is an integral part of the Free Speech Project, founded at Georgetown University in the summer of 2017 with major support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It is designed to provide a real-time glimpse of the wave of controversies involving Free Speech sweeping public and private spaces, including college campuses and state capitals. The map included in the Tracker offers a large-scale visualization of national Free Speech trends, including fact-based summaries on each incident or legislative development.

Each day, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is exercised, tested, and debated in countless ways across the country. While it would be impossible to create a comprehensive catalog of controversies and incidents involving First Amendment freedoms, the Free Speech Tracker strives to offer a compilation and analysis of interesting incidents – some emblematic of a broader debate and others admittedly eccentric – that have occurred in the halls of state legislatures, on the greens and in the classrooms of college campuses, and in civil society more generally. Although some incidents are more consequential than others, collectively they tell a story about the state of the First Amendment in America today.

Managed and updated by researchers for the Free Speech Project, the Tracker is a work in progress and should not be considered a complete listing of every instance in which freedom of speech was tested, challenged, or commented upon. The items included in the Tracker originate from review of open source materials that reveal attempts to constrain speech, including news reports in national, local, and campus media, both mainstream and alternative. This review is inherently subjective, but will be decidedly neutral and nonpartisan. The Tracker currently comprises incidents that mostly occurred during or since 2016, but will be updated on a regular basis. As it grows in size and content, it should become a steadily more useful tool for analysis. Long-term, the Tracker will be one part of the Free Speech Project’s efforts to evaluate the condition of liberty of expression at institutions of higher education, in society at large, and at all levels of government.

This Tracker is provided free of charge to the general public in the hope of generating interest in general Free Speech issues as well as specific controversies. Designed to be apolitical, as far as possible the Tracker will try to avoid labels and judgments of the speech it discusses.

Planned updates to the tracker include filters for incidents based on size, nature of the institution or other forum where Free Speech has been challenged, region of the country, and status of legislative action.

*The Free Speech Tracker is a work in progress. New incident summaries will be continuously uploaded.

TitleCategoryAddress
Arkansas General Assembly - Senate Bill 550 - 2017 State and Local Government Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock, AR
Auburn University - April 18, 2017 Campus Auburn University, Auburn, AL
Baltimore Book Festival - A Disinvitation - 2017 Civil Society Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD
Bucknell University - February 2016–February 2017 Campus Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA
California State University, Los Angeles - February 25, 2016 Campus Cal State LA, Los Angeles, CA
Claremont McKenna College - April 6, 2017 Campus Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA
Colorado General Assembly - Senate Bill 2 - 2017 State and Local Government Colorado General Assembly, Denver, CO
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Saudi Arabia - May 2017 Civil Society Department of Commerce, Washington, DC
Community College of Aurora - September 2016 Campus Community College of Aurora, Aurora, CO
Congressional candidate Greg Gianforte assaults a reporter - May 2017 Civil Society Missoula, MT
Dartmouth College - May 22, 2017 Campus Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
DePaul University - November 2016 Campus DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Duke University - May 9, 2015 Campus Duke University, Durham, NC
Elon University - October 4, 2016 Campus Elon University, Elon, NC
Evergreen State College - May 2017 Campus Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA
Franklin & Marshall College - March 2, 2017 Campus Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA
Georgetown University Law Center - March 2016 Campus Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC
Grand Valley State University - May 30, 2017 Campus Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI
Hampshire College - November 2016 Campus Hampshire College, Amherst, MA
Harvard University - June 2017 Campus Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Harvard University - March 30, 2017 Campus Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Iowa General Assembly considers anti-protest bills – 2017 Civil Society Iowa State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa
Lincoln Memorial - White Nationalist Rally - June 2017 Civil Society Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
Louisiana State University - June 18, 2015 Campus Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Marquette University - February 8, 2017 Campus Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
Northwestern University - 2015–2017 Campus Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Northwestern University - May 16, 2017 Campus Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Oberlin College & Conservatory - March–November 2016 Campus Oberlin College and Conservatory, Oberlin, OH
Oklahoma Legislature - House Bill 1123 - 2017 State and Local Government Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma City, OK
Old Town Sport & Health - A Membership Revoked - May 2017 Civil Society Old Town Sport & Health, Alexandria, VA
Portland mayor contends the First Amendment does not protect hate speech - June 2017 Civil Society Terry Schrunk Plaza, Portland, OR
Portland State University - January 27, 2017 Campus Portland State University, Portland, OR
Radio host resigns after being ordered not to criticize Trump - June 2017 Civil Society Palmyra, PA
Republican legislators shot at baseball practice; New York Times editorial corrected - June 2017 Civil Society Alexandria, VA
Rutgers University - February 7, 2017 Campus Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
San Francisco State University - April 6, 2016 and April 6, 2017 Campus San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA
Solidcore - An Unexpected Patron - February 2017 Civil Society Solidcore, Washington, DC
Sonoma State University - June 2017 Campus Sonomoa State University, Rohnert Park, CA
South Dakota Legislature - Senate Bill 176 - 2017 State and Local Government South Dakota State Capitol. Pierre, SD
Spalding University - November 11, 2016 Campus Spalding University, Louisville, KY
Texas A&M University - May 2017 Campus Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Texas House of Representatives - A Brawl on the Floor - May 2017 Civil Society Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX
Trinity College - June 2017 Campus Trinity College, Hartford, CT
Tufts University - March 2015–November 2016 Campus Tufts University, Medford, MA
Unite the Right March - August 12, 2017 Civil Society Charlottesville, VA
University of Buffalo - May 1, 2017 Campus University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
University of California, San Diego - June 2017 Campus University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA
University of Denver - October 2016 Campus University of Denver, Denver, CO
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - 2014–2017 Campus University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
University of Iowa - June 2017 Campus University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
University of Maryland - Hate Crime? - May 2017 Civil Society University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD
University of New Mexico - October 2016 Campus University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
University of South Carolina - November 23, 2015 Campus University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
US Attorney General reviews policies on media subpoenas - August 2017 Civil Society Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Virginia General Assembly passes symbolic bill to protect Free Speech – 2017 State and Local Government Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, VA
Wellesley College - April 14, 2017 Campus Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
Wellesley College - March 8, 2017 Campus Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
Wesleyan University - September 2014–June 2017 Campus Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
Wesleyan University - September 2015–March 2016 Campus Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
Williams College - February 18, 2016 Campus Williams College, Williamstown, MA
WMATA disallows controversial advertisements - August 2017 Civil Society WMATA Headquarters, Washington, DC