United States: Media and Law Round Up – April 2020

16 04 2020

Coronavirus-oriented news has, unsurprisingly, dominated the US headlines this month. The Presidential response to the health crisis, policy implications and media misinformation has been the focus of much coverage.

The reports make grim reading with the US death toll now having overtaken Italy with the number of deaths daily exceeding 2,000 and total deaths nationally exceeding 26,000. These reports come in the wake of comments by President Donald Trump that the country could expect a return to normality following the Easter Weekend. It has now been announced that Federal Coronavirus guidelines, including social distancing measures, will be extended until at least 30 April.

The Guardian and New York Times report on the difficulties US media outlets are facing in covering the coronavirus. It further reports on the “infodemic” surrounding coverage of the virus. Facebook has reportedly injected $100m in media outlets.

US unemployment rose by 6.6m in the past week. Emergency powers have been exercised to expel more than 6,300 undocumented migrants on the US-Mexico border.

The Japan Times and Guardian have highlighted the rising tensions between China and the US given the coronavirus outbreak being dubbed the “Chinese virus” by the US President. The US has tightened rules on Chinese state media organisations, accusing them of “propaganda”. In response the WHO Director General has called for the end of the politicisation of the pandemic.

Privacy issues arising around the increased recording of health information during the pandemic have been scrutinised by TechCrunch and the Dispatch whilst Politico covers recent Senate scrutiny. NBCNews raises concerns following federal health officials suggesting that they could use aggregated user data collected by technology companies to measure and mitigate coronavirus impact.

Joe Biden has emerged as the likely Democratic nominee following Bernie Saunders dropping out of the democratic presidential candidate race on 8 April 2020. NPR notes Biden’s moves towards promoting party unification, with his actions seeking to support progressive groups. This includes lowering the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60 and measures to curb student debt.

Netflix recently won a defamation case concerning their show, When They See Us. The show tells the story of the Central Park Five. Linda Fairstein, a former prosecutor, sued claiming that the show portrayed her as a “racist, unethical villain”.

This month in the Courts

Coronavirus has had a significant impact on the US Courts system, raising concerns over the preservation of the rule of law. On 16 March 2020 the US Supreme Court indefinitely postponed oral arguments. However, on  13 April 2020 the Supreme Court announced that it would hear oral arguments by telephone conference on 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13 May 2020 in a limited number of previously postponed cases.  The federal court system has established a task force to provide information and guidance to district and circuit courts.

Many trials have been suspended with the most recent guidance being available on the US Courts website. A list of coronavirus oriented orders including on the suspension of operations and extension of deadlines, can be found here.

This Round up was complied by Suneet Sharma a junior legal professional with a particular interest and experience in media, information and privacy law.


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