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]
Life without a First Amendment: a student in Swansea, Wales, is jailed for posting racially offensive comments on Twitter while drunk [Nick Cohen, Spectator]
“The Delhi High Court has ordered 21 companies, which have already been asked to develop a mechanism to block objectionable material in India, to present their plans for policing their services in the next 15 days.” A private complaint had charged the internet firms with permitting the dissemination of material offensive to Hindus, Muslims and Christians. [Emil Protalinski, ZDNet]
“An Austrian appellate court has upheld the conviction of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a Viennese housewife and anti-Jihad activist, for ‘denigrating religious beliefs’ after giving a series of seminars about the dangers of radical Islam.” [Soeren Kern, Hudson New York via Volokh]
Sighs of relief after a decision in a defamation case (Crooks v. Newton) reported on earlier. [Michael Geist] Justice Abella:
I would conclude that a hyperlink, by itself, should never be seen as “publication” of the content to which it refers.
Adventurous litigants in U.S. defamation cases have occasionally argued otherwise. On Canada, see also proposals to criminalize links to so-called hate speech.
Popular commentator Andrew Bolt “was found guilty Wednesday of breaking Australian discrimination law by implying that fair-skinned Aborigines chose to identify as indigenous for profit and career advancement.” A judge “said he will prohibit reproduction of the offending articles,” and “Bolt and his publisher must meet with the plaintiffs to discuss appropriate court orders that would reflect the judgment.” [AP, earlier, Volokh](& Popehat)
While the campaign to ban “defamation of religion” appears to have lost some steam at the world body recently, continued efforts to curtail “religious hate speech” could restrict free expression in some of the same ways. [Nina Shea, NRO "Corner"; Ilya Somin, Volokh] Warns Nina Shea:
In 2009, the Obama administration had the U.S. co-sponsor with Egypt, which represented the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference], a non-binding hate-speech resolution in the Human Rights Council. In contrast to U.S. constitutional law, that resolution urges states to take and to effectively implement “all necessary measures” to combat any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence. It thus encourages the worldwide criminalization of religious hate speech.
Prosecutors say the evidence does not support convicting prominent Dutch politician Geert Wilders of violating hate speech laws. [Dutch News] On the other hand, Andy McCarthy points out that the Dutch legal system — which obviously differs on this point from our own — allows judges to force the case to continue notwithstanding the prosecutors’ view that it should be dropped. [NRO "Corner"]