Judge strikes 'misguided' attempt to impose 'hate speech' definition on public

February 15, 2023
World Net Daily

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A federal judge has struck a "misguided" attempt by the state of New York to force the public to adopt its definition of "hate speech."

A statement from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression explained the ruling came in a case brought by constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, online platform Rumble and others.

They sued New York Attorney General Letitia James after the state announced a plan to "control speech" on the internet.

The ruling, FIRE explained, means "that New York cannot legally force blogs and other internet platforms to adopt its preferred definition of hate speech or be drafted into New York's 'speech police.'"

The law was adopted last year after a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo.

But the lawsuit charged the law "compelled" all websites to "parrot the state's message."

"New York tried to single out particular ideological viewpoints by requiring me and other platform operators to have policies for dealing with those viewpoints," explained Volokh. "That’s just as unconstitutional as the government targeting 'unpatriotic' speech or anti-police speech or whatever else. I’m grateful that this decision makes clear that such viewpoint-based attempts at government regulation are unconstitutional."

The ruling, from Judge Andrew Carter of the Southern District of New York, said the law is unconstitutional because it orders social media to "disseminate the state's message."

Regulation of hate speech is "particularly onerous for plaintiffs, whose websites 'have dedicated pro-free speech purpose[s],'" he said.

Because the law "is clearly aimed at regulating speech," Carter ruled, it "chills the constitutionally protected speech of social media users" in violation of the First Amendment.

FIRE lawyer Jay Diaz noted, "For decades, courts have been very clear: States cannot burden the free exchange of ideas, regardless of the ideas’ perceived morality or merit. What happened in Buffalo broke the nation’s heart, and we are thankful that the killer is being brought to justice. But, as the court recognized, violating expressive rights online won’t make us safer."

Constitutional expert Jonathan Turley said, "There is a major victory for free speech in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York where Judge Andrew Carter Jr. has enjoined a New York Hate Speech law regulating social media."

He noted the law identifies "hateful conduct" as "[T]he use of a social media network to vilify, humiliate, or incite violence against a group or a class of persons on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."

He said the scheme would have demanded: "all social media companies to have (1) a mechanism for social media users to file complaints about instances of 'hateful conduct' and (2) to publish the social media network’s policy for how it will respond to any such complaints."

He said, "What is most troubling about this law is not that the state has again sought to violate the constitutional rights of citizens or companies. It is that it will not matter to voters. [Gov. Kathy] Hochul and state legislators knew that there will be no political costs for passing laws that violate the First Amendment. Today, free speech is often portrayed as harmful and even a threat to democracy."

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