Incendiary Speech and Social Media
Texas Tech Law Review, Vol. 44, No. 1, 2011
18 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2011 Last revised: 20 Sep 2015
Date Written: November 1, 2011
Incidents illustrating the incendiary capacity of social media have rekindled concerns about the "mismatch" between existing doctrinal categories and new types of dangerous speech. This Essay examines two such incidents, one in which an offensive tweet and YouTube video led a hostile audience to riot and murder, and the other in which a blogger urged his nameless, faceless audience to murder federal judges. One incident resulted in liability for the speaker even though no violence occurred; the other did not lead to liability for the speaker even though at least thirty people died as a result of his words. An examination of both incidents reveals flaws in existing First Amendment doctrines. In particular, this examination raises questions about whether underlying assumptions made by current doctrine concerning how audiences respond to incitement, threats, or fighting words are confounded by the new reality social media create.
Keywords: incitement, threats, fighting words, social media, First Amendment, Hal Turner, Terry Jones, internet, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, anonymous speech, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blog, weblog
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