Court Rules Speech Law Unconstitutional

Court Rules Speech Law Unconstitutional

( – New York lawmakers decided to step into the turbulent waters of regulating Big Tech companies when it passed its so-called “Hateful Conduct Law” in June 2022. The law required social media companies to address hate speech on their platforms by controlling how they moderate content on their platforms. Lawmakers apparently hoped to cure constitutional errors in similar laws blocked by the courts in Florida and Texas but to no avail.

On February 14, US District Judge Andrew Carter Jr. sided with a video-sharing platform Rumble and a legal blogger and ruled that New York’s Gen. Bus. Law § 394-CCC violated the First Amendment and issued an injunction blocking the measure’s enforcement.

As Judge Carter explained, the law compelled social media companies to address the “contours of hate speech,” creating a chilling effect on free speech protections “without articulating a compelling governmental interest.” He pointed to the nation’s ongoing commitment to the “free expression of speech,” even if some consider it “offensive or repugnant.”

Judge Carter indirectly addressed the effort by New York lawmakers to regulate the substance of content online by forcing regulations onto social media companies to do their dirty work for them. In doing so, he wrote that although the law targeted moderation practices, it was “clearly aimed at regulating speech.”

Carter also noted that users of these websites actively use their First Amendment right to write, post, and create content. The judge also pointed out that while the law targeted social media companies, it effectively created a situation wherein users could complain to moderators and throttle the free exercise of speech by others.

Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed a bill similar to the Hateful Conduct Law last year. The California legislation requires social media networks to report biannually to the state’s attorney general and detail their policies on hate speech, disinformation, and extremism. It remains to be seen whether or not that measure will ultimately survive scrutiny in the courts.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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