New York law aims to force social media platforms to restrict ‘hate’ speech

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General Business Law of the State of New York § 394-cccsigned yesterday by the Governor (AB A7865A / SB S4511A) and which is expected to come into force in six months, provides:

Social media networks; hateful behavior prohibited.

  1. As used in this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
    1. “hateful conduct” means the use of a social media network to defame, humiliate or incite violence against any group or class of people on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
    2. Social Media Network” means service providers who, for profit, operate Internet platforms designed to enable Users to share any Content with other Users or to make such Content available to the public.
  2. A social media network operating in the state must provide and maintain a clear and easily accessible mechanism for individual users to report incidents of hateful conduct. This mechanism should be clearly accessible to users of that network and easily accessible from a social media network’s app and website, and should allow the social media network to provide a direct response to anyone reporting hateful behavior. informing him of how the case is progressing. be manipulated.
  3. Each social media network must have a clear and concise policy readily available and accessible on its website and app, which includes how that social media network will respond to and deal with reports of incidents of hateful conduct on its platform .
  1. Nothing in this section should be construed
    1. as an obligation imposed on a social media network that infringes the rights or freedoms of any person, such as the exercise of the right to free speech pursuant to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or
    2. to add or increase the liability of a social media network for anything other than failure to provide a mechanism for a user to report any incidents of hateful conduct on their platform to the social media network and to receive a response to this report.
  2. Any social media platform that knowingly fails to comply with the requirements of this Section shall be subject to a civil penalty for such violation by the Attorney General not to exceed one thousand dollars. Each day that such violation continues will constitute a separate additional violation. In determining such violation, the Attorney General is authorized to gather evidence and determine the relevant facts and issue subpoenas in accordance with law and rules of civil practice.

Despite the title of the section – “hateful conduct prohibited” – it just seems to require platforms to provide a reporting mechanism and state how they will respond:. Presumably, “we will not remove such material” or “we may or may not remove such material, in our own editorial judgment” would be a legally permissible response.

Yet both the title and the body of the act make it clear that this regulation is intended to impose restrictions on certain points of view, and the mandate it imposes is limited to particular points of view. Compare a similar law mandating a mechanism for reporting “un-American conduct,” defined as “using a social media network to defame, humiliate, or incite violence against the United States of America or any state , their governments or one of their institutions” – both, it seems to me, are based on the viewpoint of the discourse they are aimed at, and both should therefore be unconstitutional.

By the way, it seems that sites that allow comments, that allow users to share content with other users and make it publicly available, would likely be treated as “social media networks” under the definition. of the law. It could be the Conspiracy, for example, or for that matter Reason.com and many others. We’re obviously much smaller than Facebook and Twitter, and only allow commenters to talk to other commenters, but that seems to be a difference in degree not kind for the purposes of the law: of course, we’re not not the Internet service providers of the type that provide an Internet connection, but neither Facebook nor Twitter (at least for most US users).

So I have six months to determine if I should post a policy (which would be “you can complain all you want by emailing me at this address, but I will respond and deal with complaints entirely at my discretion”), or perhaps to challenge the law.

Thanks to Stephen Green (VodkaPundit) for the pointer.

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