Appeal for blacklisted site goes to hearing

The Turkish Coalition of America initially sued the University of Minnesota in 2010.

Evelina Smirnitskaya

A federal appeals court heard a case against the University of Minnesota’s right to label certain websites as unreliable for academic use Tuesday.

The Turkish Coalition of America filed the appeal after a federal judge dismissed its case against the University last spring.

In 2010, TCA sued the University for a list posted on the school’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies website which deemed certain websites academically unreliable because they promoted genocide denial. TCA’s website was on top of the list.

The Turkish government denies that the killing of Armenians in eastern Turkey that began in 1915 should be classified as genocide. About 20 countries worldwide recognize the killings as genocide.

The group claimed the list violated its right of free speech, equal protection and due process. The judge dismissed the case, citing the University’s claim to make recommendation for scholarly material under Academic Freedom rights.

But during the oral argument in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday morning, Bruce Fein, the attorney representing TCA, argued the list was not “based on any pedagogical concern.”

“You’re just placed on the list, you have no idea why, no explanation.”

He said the University’s actions “handicapped” TCA its ability to disseminate information.

The University maintains the list was an expression of the center’s view on appropriate sources and was protected by Academic Freedom.

“Context matters,” University’s Associate General Counsel Brent Benrud told the three-judge panel.

“The center was giving its opinion on what weight should be given to the site in regards to its scholarly value.”