A federal judge has blocked New York's new law that prohibits hate speech on social media, ruling the measure violates the Constitution's protection of free speech.
U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. on Tuesday, in Volokh v. James, sided with the Volokh Conspiracy legal blog and Peter Thiel-backed video site Rumble Inc., which claimed the law will hurt online services and silence disfavored viewpoints.
New York Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul in June signed a legislative package that included new regulations governing how social media platforms police what the law calls "hateful conduct."
The "Hateful Conduct Law" required that social media websites make it easy for users to report "incidents of hateful conduct," and to respond to complaints explaining how the matter is being handled.
Carter began his ruling by citing the Supreme Court's 2017 Matal v. Tam decision in which the justices unanimously ruled that a federal law prohibiting trademark names that disparage others was unconstitutional because "speech may not be banned on the grounds that it expresses ideas that offend."
After calling the law "well-intentioned," Carter explained his decision.
"Yet, the First Amendment protects from state regulation speech that may be deemed 'hateful' and generally disfavors regulation of speech based on its content unless it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest," Carter wrote in his decision.
"The Hateful Conduct Law both compels social media networks to speak about the contours of hate speech and chills the constitutionally protected speech of social media users, without articulating a compelling governmental interest or ensuring that the law is narrowly tailored to that goal.
"In the face of our national commitment to the free expression of speech, even where that speech is offensive or repugnant, Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction, prohibiting enforcement of the law, is GRANTED."
Carter said the law overreached.
"The Hateful Conduct Law does not merely require that a social media network provide its users with a mechanism to complain about instances of 'hateful conduct,'" Carter wrote. "The law also requires that a social media network must make a ‘policy’ available on its website which details how the network will respond to a complaint of hateful content.
"In other words, the law requires that social media networks devise and implement a written policy — i.e., speech."
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