Regulating Online Hate Speech: A U.S. Perspective
6 INT’L J. DIGITAL & DATA L. 259 (2020)
12 Pages Posted: 12 May 2020
Date Written: 2020
In the early 2010s, Terry Jones of Florida became known for his threats to burn, and for eventually burning, the Koran, the holy book of Muslims. The actions and message of the pastor eventually attracted the attention of figures as prominent as U.S. President Barack Obama and, with transmission around the world via the Internet, spread to countries far from the United States like Afghanistan and Indonesia. The response was explosive.
The burning of sacred texts such as the Koran provides particularly rich opportunities for study by academics in a variety of fields. Topics like religion, politics, marginalization, nonverbal communication, intercultural communication, and hate speech come together. Digital dissemination adds an element of contemporary technology to the mix.
Drawing upon the Florida Koran-burning case, this paper briefly examines the constitutional regulation of online hate speech in the United States, illustrating how limited the punishment and thus regulation of such hate speech generally are. Hate speech is discourse that aims to promote hatred based on categories such as ethnicity, race, national origin, class, and similar categories. The paper proceeds with a summary of the Florida Koran-burning case, continues with a discussion of relevant constitutional principles, and then moves to constitutional analyses of the Florida case.
Keywords: Hate speech, digital, online, Koran-burning, Terry Jones, constitutional regulation
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