Is Incitement on the Internet Easier to Punish than Incitement on Television? A Case Study of the Koran-Burning of Florida Pastor Terry Jones
Free Speech, Privacy and Media: Comparative Perspectives 49 (Russell L. Weaver, Mark D. Cole, Steven I. Friedland, Duncan Fairgrieve, András Koltay & Arnaud Raynouard eds., 2019)
14 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2020
Date Written: 2019
This paper considers the case of Terry Jones, the controversial Florida pastor who, beginning in 2010, threatened to burn, and eventually did burn, copies of the Koran, the holy book of Muslims. Taking advantage of newer media technology, Jones live-streamed his performance on the Internet, thus making the performance available around the planet, and his Koran-burning drew international attention. The actions of Jones began at a time when politicians in numerous states were trying to capitalize on and exacerbate a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment.
The paper tentatively concludes that, under United States law, Internet-based incitement may be somewhat easier to punish than TV-based incitement. The paper unfolds initially with a summary of the Terry Jones case and then continues with a constitutional analysis of that case, noting how this type of case might be different depending whether the speech involved appeared via Internet or TV. In cases of Internet communication, as opposed to cases of TV communication, the likelihood of inciting or producing lawless action probably is higher because accessing the Internet to send messages is so easy for so many people, and a very large potential audience can receive those messages whenever convenient.
Keywords: Koran-burning, Incitement, Internet, Television, Terry Jones
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