- German official called for big fines for tech firms that aren't aggressive on hate speech
- Paul Callan: Punishing "hate speech" soon leads to squelching all controversial speech
Global companies like Twitter and Facebook have emerged as vibrant forums for the debate of controversial issues throughout the United States and the world. At least here in the United States, both the First Amendment and the Communications Decency Act
have provided substantial legal protection to internet companies that merely provide a platform for the free speech of others.
Restricting the use of "hate speech" is difficult and dangerous because it is often so difficult to define.
Historically, US courts have remained focused on the punishment of criminal conduct rather than the punishment of speech. US law criminalizes speech itself only if the speech can be shown to actually incite criminal activity, as for instance a speaker's call to burn down a building, followed by the action of a riotous crowd in setting the fire.
On the other hand, Americans' remain free to praise "Islamic Terrorism" -- or even the repulsive philosophies of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.
It has been said that we are a society whose Constitution protects even the speech we hate. This tolerance for free speech has been the hallmark of American democracy and must be fiercely protected from the well-intentioned but dangerous proposals of allies like Germany.
All controversial political speech soon becomes suspect when "hate speech" is punished -- and then democracy suffocates.