Former Congressman Denver Riggleman and Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, argue that hate speech “precedent” should be used to ban extremism online.
In an op-ed for Newsweek, the two criticize Gab, a social media platform that is popular among conservatives, for allowing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to post questionable content on the site. Greene’s comments were universally condemned by all sides of the political spectrum when she inexplicably compared mask-wearing with the Holocaust. She later apologized, but many found her apology to be lacking.
In the op-ed, the authors appear to suggest that we seriously consider banning online platforms that “promote hate.”
“There are two options for dealing with online platforms that promote hate—and potential violence—in our political system,” the op-ed reads. “The first is to ban them. There are precedents in law where exceptions to the First Amendment regarding hate speech exist. These standards could be applied to political campaigns as well, making it clear that hate speech in support of political candidates will not be tolerated and that, by extension, funds raised by politicians on hate-based platforms like Gab will not be permitted.”
The authors go on to say the second option for dealing with hate on online platforms is that politicians must, “at minimum,” disclose how they raise funding from online sources.
“[S]ome of the more than $3.2 million Rep. Greene raised in the first quarter of 2021 came from her presence and appeals on Gab,” they add.
“We must take this seriously. While the First Amendment ensures that Congress will make no law respecting the freedom of speech, speech is not without any limitation. If it were, shouting fire in a crowded theater would be protected speech. It is not.”
Constitutional lawyers on Twitter were quick to slam the proposal, noting that so-called “exceptions” to the First Amendment’s protection of hate speech are not good law.
“No there aren't,” Ari Cohn, Free Speech Counsel at Tech Freedom, replied with a screenshot from the article that said there were “precedents” in law for the First Amendment’s protection of hate speech.
The authors of the op-ed were seemingly referencing Beauharnais v. Illinois, a 1952 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld an Illinois law that made it illegal to publish images depicting “depravity, criminality, unchastity, or lack of virtue of a class of citizens of any race, color, creed or religion."
Since then, however, the Court has adopted a more speech-protective attitude to untasteful speech in as New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964) and R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992).
Cohn referenced the latter cases when asked if Beauharnais had been overruled.
“Not formally, but it is not good law and courts all over the place have said so. There is precisely no competent argument to be made about Beauharnais. Period,” he replied.
Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.