Federal Judge Strikes Down New York's Unconstitutional 'Hate Speech' Law

A federal judge has struck down a recently passed law in New York that would ban "hate speech" on social media, describing it as a blatant violation of the First Amendment. 

U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. on Tuesday sided with the Volokh Conspiracy legal blog and video site Rumble, both of who claimed that the law would cause harm to online services and stifle alternative viewpoints.

The "Hateful Conduct Law," which went into effect in December, was championed by Gov. Kathy Hochul after a white supremacist live-streamed himself massacring black shoppers in Buffalo, New York. 

Defining "hateful conduct" as the "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," the law mandated that social media companies should make it easier for users to report "incidents of hateful conduct" and reply to complaints by explaining how the problem is being tackled.

In his ruling, Carter referenced the Supreme Court's 2017 Matal v. Tam verdict, where the judges unanimously determined that a federal law that forbids trademark names that degrade others is unconstitutional since "speech may not be banned on the grounds that it expresses ideas that offend."

"The First Amendment defends speech that may be seen as 'hateful' from state control and usually disfavors speech regulation based on its content, except when it is narrowly designed to serve a compelling government interest," he wrote.

Despite describing the law as "well-intentioned," Carter also described a "potential chilling effect" owing to the vagueness of some of the terms used.

"The potential chilling effect to social media users is exacerbated by the indefiniteness of some of the Hateful Conduct Law’s key terms," he continued. "It is not clear what the terms like 'vilify' and 'humiliate' mean for the purposes of the law. While it is true that there are readily accessible dictionary definitions of those words, the law does not define what type of 'conduct' or 'speech' could be encapsulated by them." 


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