Posts tagged as:

hate speech

Canada’s infamous speech-smothering Section 13’s dead. And good riddance too. Among targets of legal action under Section 13 over the years have been well-known conservative commentators Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant [National Post and more, Brian Lilley, Wikipedia, earlier]


Life without a First Amendment: “Eleven people across UK arrested for making ‘racist or anti-religious’ comments on Facebook and Twitter about British soldier’s death” [Daily Mail (with notice: "Sorry, we are unable to accept comments for legal reasons"), more, The Lincolnite; Eugene Volokh (quoting British police: "People should stop and think about what they say on social media before making statements as the consequences could be serious")]

On a happier note, with regard to countering objectionable speech, the BBC reports that when members of the nativist English Defence League organized a gathering outside a mosque in the city of York, worshipers brought out tea and cookies and invited them inside for a chat.

Data point 2 about free speech in Britain: 11 lawyers have signed a letter in the Guardian “threatening supermarkets with immediate legal action” unless they remove from sale “lad’s mags,” men’s magazines that are anathema to feminist campaigners. “Displaying these publications in workplaces, and/or requiring staff to handle them in the course of their jobs, may amount to sex discrimination and sexual harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010,” it says. “Similarly, exposing customers to these publications in the process of displaying them is capable of giving rise to breaches of the Equality Act.” [Guardian; Toby Young, Telegraph; ITV] Young points out that reported incidents of domestic violence have fallen quite sharply since lad’s mags became popular in the 1990s, making nonsense of claims that the publications somehow promote male aggression. For the campaigners, writes Toby Young, “this is simply about preventing men – predominantly working-class men – from buying magazines that they consider vulgar and in poor taste.”

More in comments from Bill Poser: “Here’s another: police in Wales ordered a shop-keeper to remove T-shirts saying ‘Obey our laws, respect our beliefs, or go back to your own country.'”

And from the “It Can’t Happen Here” department: “Justice Department to Hold Seminar Warning Against the Legal ‘Consequences’ of Anti-Muslim Speech.” Let’s hope there’s some reporting error here.


Anti-religious, xenophobic, and “Islamophobic” speech has already drawn prosecution in a number of cases and some in the European country wish to push the trend further [Dr. Jogchum Vrielink, University of Leuven, via Volokh]:

On the political level too some are attempting to increase the legal sensitivity for ‘Islamophobia’. Senators Fauzaya Talhaoui and Bert Anciaux, for instance, introduced a draft resolution on 21 February 2013, aimed at the ‘the fight against Islamophobia’. Following the definition offered by the Runnymede Trust, the Senators understand ‘Islamophobia’ to entail the ‘strong presence’ of any of eight elements, including: ‘Islam as monolithic and static’; ‘Islam as inferior to the West and as barbaric, irrational and sexist’; and ‘Islam as violent, providing support to terrorism, and actively involved in a clash of civilisations’. Such ‘Islamophobic’ ideas, Talhaoui and Anciaux contend, “incite to discrimination and racism, and require unequivocal condemnation and judicial prosecution”. They argue that the police and that the office of the public prosecutor should be instructed to treat the issue as an absolute priority.

The Runnymede Trust, incidentally, “is the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank. We generate intelligence for a multi-ethnic Britain through research, network building, leading debate, and policy engagement.”

Meanwhile, in blasphemy prosecutions elsewhere, a court in Turkey has convicted composer and pianist Fazil Say of committing blasphemy on Twitter [Guardian] And Islamists are inciting prosecution and worse for atheist bloggers in Bangladesh [Volokh, Christian Post]


  • UK: Jack Shafer on the trouble with the Leveson press inquiry [Reuters] Journos already cowed by hostile press laws: “Even foreign dictatorships know how to frighten Fleet Street.” [Spectator] “Even people who RT’d libelous allusions to [him] on Twitter could be sued. … surreal” [BoingBoing, Popehat]
  • Calling people names in Hanna, Alberta, or cheering on those who do, can now expose you to penalties under anti-bullying ordinance [Sun News]
  • “Britain’s High-Tech Thought Police” [Brendan O'Neill] Related, Rowan Atkinson [Telegraph]
  • Language muscle in Quebec: “After series of fire-bombings, Second Cup coffee shops added the words ‘les cafes’ to signs” [Yahoo Canada]
  • Blasphemy law around the world: Vexed with their speech, Egyptian court sentences to death in absentia various persons living in US and Canada [Volokh] “Turkish TV channel fined for ‘The Simpsons’ blasphemy episode” [Telegraph] After using Facebook to criticize politico’s funeral, women in India arrested for “hurting religious sentiments” [AFP] Indonesian man jailed, attacked by mob for writing “God does not exist” on Facebook group [Andrew Stuttaford, Secular Right] “A year of blasphemy” [Popehat]
  • Protesters block student access to “men’s-rights” speech at U. Toronto [Joshua Kennon via @amyalkon]


“Offense 101″

by Walter Olson on October 26, 2012

A modest proposal for freshman orientation [Julian Sanchez] Separately, Greg Lukianoff is out with his much-awaited new book, “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate” [Ken at Popehat, New York Times]. And a speech code at SUNY New Paltz warns “all members of the campus community” not to “discuss” material that “shows…aversion” to persons over 30 [Volokh]

Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on October 12, 2012

  • Why did Chevron subpoena a lawprof/blogger who took opposite side in Ecuador case? [Kevin Jon Heller, Opinio Juris]
  • “Paleo Diet Lawsuit Dismissed By Court in Blow to Free Expression” [Brian Doherty, Reason; earlier here, etc.]
  • “[National Hispanic Media Coalition] Renews Call for Federal Government to Study Hate Speech in Media” [Volokh]
  • Call for “oversight board of regional experts” to direct more YouTube takedowns [Ann Althouse]
  • No more dirty looks: North Carolina students now face possible jail time for what they say about teachers online [Reason]
  • Popehat sampler: “Schadenfreude Is Not A Free Speech Value; Holmes’s fire-in-theater quote the most “pervasive lazy cheat in American dialogue about free speech”; “Zampolit Angela McCaskill, Report For Reeducation.”
  • EU “terror” web-muzzle schemes: “We should start to freak out, but in a sort of preliminary way” [Ars Technica]

Yet another law professor, this time Harvard’s Noah Feldman, suggests suspending First Amendment protection to placate offense [Newsday, Volokh, Greenfield] As background, in Britain, “Channel 4 has cited concerns over security as the reason for cancelling a planned screening at its headquarters this week of a documentary film questioning the origins of Islam.” [Guardian via Volokh; Michael Totten, "The Terrorists' Veto, City Journal] Notes Ken at Popehat: “The context is one in which the decision to take offense is a political act.”

Ken has also stayed on top of this issue in other posts, noting, for example, that the Holocaust-denial laws already accepted in many Western countries pave the way for further restrictions on speech; that Greece has lately moved against mild religious satire; and that Great Britain is electing to unleash criminal-law enforcement against a broader range of Internet comment trollery.

Earlier on Eric Posner here and here; on Jeremy Waldron here, here, and here; on Peter Spiro here; Volokh on Spiro and Harold Koh here.


“Scapegoating Free Speech”

by Walter Olson on September 29, 2012

Hans Bader on the curious insistence on blaming the Benghazi attack on a YouTube video [CEI] Greg Lukianoff responds to Eric Posner on blasphemy laws [HuffPo, earlier] “Uh oh. The Atlantic gets in the game of trolling the First Amendment.” [Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on this by Garrett Epps, earlier on Epps]

P.S. Ken at Popehat rates the President’s U.N. speech mostly good, with a few lapses. “It’s time for Canada to repeal its prohibition on blasphemous libel.” [Derek From, Canadian Constitution Foundation Justice Report] And in the “Pastitsios” affair, advocates of free speech in Greece are protesting the blasphemy arrest of a 27 year old man over his website, which makes fun of a well-known deceased Orthodox monk. [BoingBoing]


Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on September 20, 2012

  • Already firebombed once: “Satirical French Magazine Publishes Caricatures Of Mohammed, White House Rebukes.” [Mediaite] More calls for punishing makers of anti-Muslim YouTube video for supposed incitement [Ann Althouse on Sarah Chayes, earlier here and here; also, the late Christopher Hitchens on "fire in a crowded theater" arguments] “The people who instigate these protests seek a very particular goal: an extension of Egyptian and Pakistani style blasphemy laws into the West.” [David Frum]
  • “$60,000 Verdict for Blogging the Truth About A Person Intending to Get Him Fired – Reversed” [Volokh]
  • Judge closes probe of opinion-maker influence in Google-Oracle battle [The Recorder, earlier]
  • Weight-loss device promoter files, then drops suit against Public Citizen, consumerist website Fair Warning [Paul Alan Levy, Fair Warning]
  • “How Ag Gag Laws Suppress Free Speech and the Marketplace of Ideas” [Baylen Linnekin, earlier here, etc.]
  • Big government Republicans in charge: “GOP Platform Changed To Now Target All Forms Of Pornography” [Andrew Kirell, Mediaite; Volokh]
  • Missouri activist starts website criticizing local cops and soon the department’s halls display what looks very much like a “Wanted” poster of him [Eapen Thampy, Agitator]

“Earlier in the week, YouTube said it found that the video was “clearly within” its guidelines.” [L.A. Times, Washington Post, Jesse Walker, Matt Welch, Paul Alan Levy; previously on calls to suppress putative "hate speech" in response to riots in the Middle East and elsewhere] Per news accounts, YouTube chose to block access to the video in certain Arab countries where outbreaks of violence have occurred. More: “Google rejects White House request to pull Mohammad film clip” [Reuters]

Meanwhile, L.A. County sheriffs swoop down to round up the alleged filmmaker for questioning, supposedly for probation violations. Ann Althouse has a thing or two to say about that. But see defense lawyer and former prosecutor Ken at Popehat (viewing arrest as not unusual if a defendant in serious fraud case involving aliases is observed to violate probation terms by doing business under alias)(more).


Peter Spiro of Temple, one of the more prominent international-law specialists in the legal academy, claims that the killing of U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, following demonstrations over a video produced by private U.S. citizens denouncing Mohammed, “bolsters” the case for free-speech laws by adding a foreign-policy rationale, and warns that on matters of unfettered speech (“The First Amendment? Call me a relativist”) “international law is going … in a different direction than we are.” [Opinio Juris] (Later news reports suggest that the Benghazi attack, though taking advantage of a mob demonstration for cover, was in fact a well-planned paramilitary operation.) Meanwhile, a religious-studies professor has proposed arrest of the offending filmmaker, even though “If there is anyone who values free speech, it is a tenured professor!” [Anthea Butler (U. Penn.), USA Today] And here’s the background climate of opinion at the United Nations. More: Ken White/Salon, and Alana Goodman/Commentary on the elusive “Sam Bacile.”

More: Eugene Volokh traces how Prof. Spiro and Prof. Harold Koh — now top State Department legal adviser — propose to use international law to adjust First Amendment norms toward those prevailing elsewhere.

Further from Volokh (“I think such suppression would likely lead to more riots and more deaths, not less.”) and more (modernist views often vulnerable to being characterized as an “intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others”), and Ken at Popehat (“We can’t cave on this in the face of demands that we censor. We can’t. Today it’s bigoted videos. Tomorrow it’s any representation whatsoever of Mohammed.”)


“Choc ice”

by Walter Olson on July 19, 2012

In Britain, which has hate-speech laws, police investigate a racially derogatory Tweet. [Telegraph]


Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on July 10, 2012

  • The Chart of Death: “Law School Tuition Over the Last 40 Years” [Orin Kerr summarizing Paul Campos, PDF] Staggering debt projections (often $200K+) for law students, broken down by school (in more than one sense) [Law School Transparency]
  • Schools For Misrule dept.: “Some things that are big in the legal academy are considered irrelevant or crackpot by judges” [Yale's Fred Shapiro via Ann Althouse] But as we’ve noted, the influence in legal academia of Critical Theory and suchlike coteries has waned [Tony Mauro, NLJ] In defense of the faculty lounge [Stephen Carter, Bloomberg]
  • “I don’t know why law professors get such large advances for their mystery novels, just like I don’t know why Americans like to name motel chains after numbers.” [Kyle Graham]
  • Jim Chen and others review Brian Tamanaha’s new book Failing Law Schools [Paul Caron, TaxProf; earlier including my Liberty and Law symposium entry with Chen and Tamanaha] “After law school deregulation” [Dave Hoffman, ConcurOp] “Five Ways To Mitigate the Crisis In Legal Education” [bring in more practitioner/adjuncts, dump the library requirements; Andrew Trask, Class Strategist]
  • Since Prof. Leiter’s views will never prevail in the United States, Rep. Paul Ryan is free to go on speaking all he pleases [SSRN; more on Jeremy Waldron]
  • George Will on Elizabeth Warren race-box furor [WaPo, earlier]
  • Obsession with law schools’ prestige levels: is there any way out? [William Henderson and Rachel Zahorsky, ABA Journal; Henderson, Legal Whiteboard]

There are a great many reasons to be grateful that the United States declared its independence on this date in 1776, but one reason is that we, unlike Great Britain, managed soon thereafter to secure a First Amendment in our Constitution to protect the freedom of speech. That means we, unlike Lincolnshire pensioner John Richards, are unlikely to be threatened with arrest should we choose to put up a small sign in our window promoting atheism, on the grounds that it might cause distress to passersby [Boston Standard via Popehat] Relatedly, we need not worry that NYU law prof Jeremy Waldron, advocate of “hate speech” bans, will see his views enacted into U.S. policy anytime soon [Erica Goldberg, ConcurOp], despite repeated signals from places like Harvard Law School and the New York Times that he is a Very Serious Person whose views we need to engage.

And while not all the differences between British libel law and ours can be traced to our First Amendment, we are also fortunate that it is a fair bit harder for public figures and organizations here to use defamation charges to ruin critics and authors [Guardian; novelist Amanda Craig, Telegraph] We have likewise been spared the activities of any exact equivalent of Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority, recently reported as banning a “fathers’ rights” ad [BoingBoing]. And so forth.

Enjoy the Fourth, and our freedoms.


Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on June 21, 2012

  • Courtesy Stanley Fish, Prof. Jeremy Waldron gets a long, favorable hearing in the New York Times for his let’s-suppress-hate-speech proposals [Opinionator]
  • On the other hand, free speech scores huge victory in Canada as parliament mostly along party lines votes to repeal notorious Section 13 of Canadian Human Rights Act, authorizing private federal complaints over alleged hate speech [Jonathan Kay]
  • “Christian Nation” historical writer and Texas curriculum reshaper David Barton sues critics; don’t let him find out what Ed Brayton keeps writing [Reason]
  • Pennsylvania bill: “Crime for Minor to Post or Send Messages That ‘Emotional[ly] Distress’ Another Minor?” [Volokh]
  • Norfolk, Va. business puts up a big sign protesting eminent domain scheme to seize its property; guess what happens next [Marc Scribner, Open Market]
  • Chris Evans nastygram to Lipstick Alley: Has Hollywood already forgotten about the Streisand effect? [Paul Alan Levy, Mike Masnick/TechDirt] Also at Public Citizen, the dispute over a boilermaker union official’s effort to unmask an online critic has now been settled (earlier);
  • Interesting bank case: “Employer SLAPPed for Suing Ex-Employee” [Shaw Valenza]


Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on May 25, 2012

  • Boilermaker union president resorts to litigation against satirical site [Levy; another case on demands for disclosure of anonymous commenters] More on ghastly NY bill to strip protection from anonymous online speech [David Kravets/Wired, Daily Caller, my take]
  • Defending people like Aaron Worthing and Patterico shouldn’t be a left-right matter [Popehat, Tapscott/Examiner, earlier] Maryland and indeed all states need stronger statutory protection against vexatious litigants [Ace of Spades] And as a longtime Charles Schwab customer I was at first distressed to find the Schwab Charitable Fund on this list, but since the fund is billed as “donor-advised” I take it some Schwab customer rather than the company itself got to choose the beneficiary;
  • “Indonesia Prosecution for Posting ‘God Doesn’t Exist’ on Facebook” [Volokh] Curious to see an argument for Euro-style hate speech laws appearing on the Liberty and Law site [David Conway]
  • “Cyberbullying and Bullying Used As Pretexts for Censorship” [Bader]
  • “EEOC: Wearing Confederate Flag T-Shirts May Be ‘Hostile Work Environment Harassment'” [Volokh, more, Bader]
  • Video on new freedom of assembly book [FedSoc]
  • Maybe Citizens United turned out so badly for the speech-suppressive side because a government lawyer was imprudently candid before the Court [Jacob Sullum, earlier on Toobin New Yorker piece]


Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on May 2, 2012

  • “People’s Rights Amendment” paves way for government control of media and trampling of many other rights. Is your Rep a sponsor? [Volokh, more, Somin]
  • Indian skeptic charged with blasphemy for revealing secret behind “miracle” of weeping cross [Doctorow] “Arab world’s most famous comedian” jailed in Egypt on charges of “insulting Islam” [Volokh]
  • “Is the Real Intent of Cyber-Bullying Laws to Eliminate Criticism of Politicians?” [Coyote]
  • Timothy Kincaid: why I oppose the California “don’t say ex-gay” therapy-ban bill [BTB]
  • More on unreasonable IRS demands of tea party groups seeking nonprofit status [Stoll, Anne Sorock/Bill Jacobson, Houston Chronicle, earlier]
  • Denmark Supreme Court, 7-0, strikes down conviction of Lars Hedegaard for criticizing Islam in own home [Mark Steyn] Institute of Public Affairs launches campaign to defend free speech in Australia [Andrew Bolt case earlier] Free speech in Britain looking the worse for wear [Cooke, NRO] Belgian court throws out lawsuit seeking ban on allegedly racist “Tintin” comic book [Volokh] Group files criminal complaint against Swiss magazine over cover story on Roma crime [Spiegel]


Updated twice: According to college paper Nota Bene, the student bar association Senate at George Washington University is asking the law school to consider a proposed policy which would attach substantial new restrictions to student decisions to invite speakers from “hate groups” to campus. (More: GW Patriot; a list of the asked-for restrictions, which include hiring security personnel at the expense of the inviting group and making “this is a hate group speaker” pre-announcements to audiences, is here; Nota Bene reports that the demand will not be considered this semester, and other sources say NB coverage has overstated how far the proposal managed to get). Making matters especially problematic, the blacklist would consist of groups designated as “hate groups” by Morris Dees’s Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] or the Anti-Defamation League.

Dees, long a deeply controversial public figure and polemicist, has been roundly criticized in recent years for expanding his list of “hate” and “extremist” groups, sent to law enforcement groups across the country, far beyond violent and criminal groups to include organizations and websites that advocate various (typically conservative) causes in a vehement and unpleasant manner, and thus offend liberal SPLC donors (and typically offend me as well). This year SPLC came in for widespread derision when it added a new category in its hate group report for “pickup artist” blogs, a target of feminist ire.

The demands for a policy change at GW were apparently triggered by an appearance on campus by the anti-gay Family Research Council, a spinoff of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family group. I have about as low an opinion of the FRC as it’s possible to have, but it’s not exactly to be confused with the Aryan Nations — major Republican politicians are willing to appear at its events, for example — and if you’re a student at a law school, it’s probably not a bad idea to be made aware that there are people out there with a wide range of views on the controversies of the day.

When I speak to audiences about the ideological law school atmosphere described in Schools for Misrule, I’m sometimes asked whether the pressures for conformity and silence are getting worse. Usually I argue the reverse, that law schools have tended to become more open in recent years to a broad spectrum of debate. If the advocates pushing the GWU initiative manage to get their proposal taken seriously by the law faculty, I may need to revise my thinking. [Updated 3/28 to reflect subsequent NotaBene report and questioning of its coverage; h/t Peter Bonilla, FIRE]