Last month, 13 Democrats in the House of Representatives introduced legislation intended “to provide essential information on the presence of criminal activity and hate speech on the Internet.”Meanwhile, an industry association of Christian broadcasters is expressing concerns about anti-Christian censorship.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) and twelve Members of the House of Representatives introduced H.R.3878, “The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014.”
“The Internet is a wonderful vehicle for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. But it can also be used as a platform to promote hate and target vulnerable individuals,” said Jeffries. “This legislation will mandate a comprehensive analysis of criminal and hateful activity on the Internet that occurs outside of the zone of First Amendment protection,” he added.
“The role played by hate speech in context of our Constitutionality protected right to freedom of speech is vitally important; as such, and the NAACP deeply appreciates Congressman Jeffries’ legislation and efforts on this issue,” said Hilary Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. Shelton added: In the last 20 years, we have seen the number of hate groups grow, and the percentage of hate crimes against African-Americans has grown to over 60 percent of all reported hate crimes during that time as well.”
The National Organization for Women (NOW) also supports the legislation. NOW issued a statement saying “Use of the public airwaves to promote hateful attitudes and actions toward certain groups and individuals is an issue long overdue in receiving closer examination. We believe that hate speech engenders disrespect and violence against women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.”
Congress directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to investigate the role of telecommunications in encouraging violent behavior and subsequent commission of hate crimes against designated persons and groups . The study investigated speech that fostered a climate of hatred and prejudice in which hate crimes may occur on broadcast radio and television, cable television, public access television and computer bulletin boards.
The proposed legislation requires the NTIS, with the assistance of the Department of Justice to (1) create a comprehensive, updated report that examines the use of the Internet and telecommunications by individuals to create hate crimes based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation; and (2) make recommendations to address such crimes while respecting the important protections of the First Amendment.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines hate speech as “bigoted speech, attacking or disparaging a social or ethnic group or a member of such a group.
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) says “Hate” labels (or similar language) have been used by Facebook to shut down the pages of conservative commentator Todd Starnes and Gov. Mike Huckabee because they posted viewpoints consistent with conservative Christian principles.
NRB was founded in the 1940s in order to help Evangelical Christian broadcasters gain access to radio airtime for religious broadcasting.
Craig Parshall is the senior vice president and general counsel of the National Religious Broadcasters. He is also director of the John Milton Project for Free Speech, a program started by the NRB to monitor the threats of anti-Christian censorship and other free speech violations on the Internet, especially on communications platforms established by “new media“ tech companies in the private sector like Google, Facebook and Apple.
Parshall points out that in 2009, advocacy groups, following up from the NTIA report asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate conservative talk radio and television commentators on charges of “hate speech. Parshall says the request did not receive action, but he says the use of misplaced “hate speech” labels to silence expression by conservatives is occurring quite frequently.
Parshall says though that H.R. 3878 does state that “any NTIA recommendations that are issued from an investigation must be “consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution.” He adds “If that is really true , then we are all safe, because that would necessarily mean that there would be no politically motivated inquisition into radio, television, or the Internet as proposed, and there would be no more wrong-headed proposals about “hate speech.”