New York State lawmakers passed a law requiring online platforms to address “hateful” content posted by users. Last week, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) teamed up with Rumble and filed a lawsuit challenging the law, which took effect on December 3. A federal judge has fast-tracked the briefing and set a teleconference for December 19.
FIRE teamed up with Rumble, Locals, and First Amendment advocate and blogger Eugene Volokh to challenge the controversial law that requires platforms to police what lawmakers deem “hateful” content. The law was introduced in response to the racially-motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, in May.
The law requires online platforms to police speech, including any speech considered “vilifying” or “humiliating” to someone based on protected characteristics like religion, race, or gender. Platforms are also required to create a reporting system allowing users to report content, and the platforms must address each complaint.
Failure to comply with the law results in daily fines of up to $1,000 per day. The fine might not be much for Big Tech platforms like YouTube and Facebook. However, the law’s definition of “social media networks” is so broad that it covers a wide range of platforms, apps, sites, and forums.
Another issue is the broad definition of “hateful” speech. “Hateful” is subjective, depending on who’s viewing the content.
According to FIRE, the mass shooting in Buffalo does not justify cracking down on free speech online.
“What happened in Buffalo broke the nation’s heart, and the impulse to take action is understandable,” said FIRE’s senior attorney Jay Diaz in a press statement.
“But violating expressive rights online won’t make us safer.”