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

Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky

University of Florida - Levin College of Law

Date Written: November 1, 2011

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Lidsky, Lyrissa Barnett, Incendiary Speech and Social Media (November 1, 2011). Texas Tech Law Review, Vol. 44, No. 1, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1952577

Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky (Contact Author)

University of Florida - Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States
352.392.2211 (Phone)
352.392.3005 (Fax)

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