New York Seeks To Reinstate Online Hate Speech Law

New York is seeking to reinstate a law that requires social media platforms to accept complaints about “hate speech,” and disclose how those complaints are handled.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Carter in the Southern District of New York blocked the law last month, ruling that it likely violates the First Amendment. On Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James initiated an appeal to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

State lawmakers passed the hate speech bill several months after a white supremacist killed 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo.

The law mandates that social platforms offer users a mechanism to make complaints about “hateful conduct,” and also requires the platforms to publicly post a policy explaining how they will respond to complaints. Hateful conduct is defined in the statute as using social media 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.”



In December, UCLA Law professor Eugene Volokh, who operates the Volokh Conspiracy blog, and video platform Rumble challenged the law in court, arguing that it violates the First Amendment because it attempts to regulate speech based on viewpoint and content.

Carter agreed, writing that the law requires social platforms “to endorse the state’s message about 'hateful conduct.'”

The law “requires social media networks to disseminate a message about the definition of 'hateful conduct' or hate speech -- a fraught and heavily debated topic today,” Carter wrote.

New York officials urged Carter to uphold the law, arguing that it doesn't require companies to remove speech, or even to respond to complaints about offensive posts.

Carter rejected those arguments, writing that the requirement to post a policy about hate speech in itself forces Rumble and others “to publish a message with which they disagree.”

He added that the law is vague, and appears to cover constitutionally protected speech.

“It is not clear what the terms like 'vilify' and 'humiliate' mean for the purposes of the law,” he wrote. “For example, could a post using the hashtag 'BlackLivesMatter' or 'BlueLivesMatter' be considered 'hateful conduct' under the law? Likewise, could social media posts expressing anti-American views be considered conduct that humiliates or vilifies a group based on national origin?”

He also said the law “fundamentally implicates” users' speech, by requiring social platforms to give people a mechanism to complain about other people's speech.

What's more, the judge said, even if the law aimed to reduce “hate-fueled mass shootings” such as the one in Buffalo, the measure wasn't narrowly tailored toward that goal.

Next story loading loading..