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May 19, 2016 07:14 AM EDT

Columbia University Launches First Amendment Center With A Staggering $60 Million Budget!

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Citing concern over the weakening of First Amendment rights, Columbia University, in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has created an institute that aims to not only preserve but also expand First Amendment rights in the information age.

The combined efforts of Columbia University and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation was announced on Tuesday, May 17 and first reported by The Associated Press

A $60 million project named The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University will reportedly use litigation and research as well as education to defend  freedom of expression in this digital era.

Alberto Ibarguen, president of Knight Foundation pointed out that the last half of the 20th century recorded court cases that not only exemplified but also propelled the First Amendment to the next level. However, in the wake of technology along with the tools of information coming together, and dissemination changing fast, and there being lack of number of newspaper outlets with adequate tools  to take on the fights, the environment is not the same any more.

That's exactly where the The Knight First Amendment Institute can actually make a difference, Ibarguen noted.

In addition, the institute would attempt to make a significant impact as far as legal debates over First Amendment protections that had to deal with new scrutiny from the perspective of an internet-connected world is concerned. 
The issues of concern include online privacy rights, whistle-blower protections, and freedom of expression on college campuses. Columbia and the foundation have decided to split the cost equally, substituting for the largest journalism grant in Knight's history, according to reports on NY Times.

The institute is currently looking for an executive director and is scheduled to start taking and supporting cases that are in some way related to the freedom of expression as soon as they have  the director position taken, Columbia  University president, Lee Bollinger said.

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