A leading European Union bureaucrat predicted on Tuesday that “hate speech” laws are coming to the United States.
Speaking with on a panel moderated by former CNN host Brian Stelter at the World Economic Forum, Věra Jourová, a vice president of the European Commission, boasted that laws against “illegal hate speech” will soon be codified in America.
“We need the people who understand the language and the case law in the country because what qualifies as hate speech — illegal hate speech, which you will have soon also in the U.S,” she said.
“I think that we have a strong reason why we have this in the criminal law,” she added.
Jourová was speaking on a forum about “The Clear and Present Danger of Disinformation.” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, chairman of the New York Times Company, were also on the panel. Specifically, Jourová was speaking about, in her estimation, the importance of social media platforms working with governments to enforce speech codes against “hate speech.”
There is no indication that hate speech laws are coming to the U.S.
Indeed, the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting free speech. The Supreme Court has ruled that speech can be narrowly regulated — including against “true threats,” incitement,” and harassment, among other narrow exceptions — but “hate speech” is not a category of speech that can be outlawed.
While speaking on the panel, Moulton repeated a common misconception about free speech laws in America.
“This concept of preserving public safety, even under the banner of free speech, is actually something we’ve accepted for a long time. You get taught in grade school the concept of, yes, you’re allowed free speech but not crying ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” he asserted.
But this is not true, according to lawyer Greg Lukianoff.
“Anyone who says ‘you can’t shout fire! in a crowded theatre’ is showing that they don’t know much about the principles of free speech, or free speech law — or history,” Lukianoff explained. “This old canard, a favorite reference of censorship apologists, needs to be retired. It’s repeatedly and inappropriately used to justify speech limitations.
“The phrase is a misquotation of an analogy made in a 1919 Supreme Court opinion that upheld the imprisonment of three people — a newspaper editor, a pamphlet publisher, and a public speaker — who argued that military conscription was wrong,” Lukianoff explained.
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