Sen. Hatch suggests ban on Internet speech advocating the commiss
ion of violent crime
VOLOKH at mail.law.ucla.edu
Wed Sep 15 21:19:05 PDT 1999
> I'm by no means a reflexive Hatch-basher, but here he seems to be
> way out of line: "I am also contemplating a measure to make it a crime to
> knowingly or intentionally advocate on the Internet the commission of a
> crime of physical violence against a person or the property of any
> individual or group or class of individuals" -- seems pretty clearly
> September 14, 1999
> Contact: Jeanne Lopatto, 202/224-5225
> Statement of Sen. Orrin Hatch
> Before the Committee on the Judiciary
> Hearing on Hate Crime on the Internet
> Good morning and welcome to today's hearing on hate crime on the
> Internet. We are pleased to have five impressive witnesses whom I shall
> introduce in short order.
> The Internet is a technology that heralds a breadth of
> understanding and education never before imagined. It holds a promise for
> disseminating knowledge and breaking down barriers to learning and
> understanding that is unrivaled, and I have accordingly been a staunch
> proponent of efforts to keep the Internet unregulated and competitive.
> However, today's hearing will focus on ramifications of Internet
> technology that can only be described as troubling.
> Unfortunately, for many parents, one of the timeless truths of
> good parenting - to teach children not to speak with strangers - has
> passed from the realm of the possible into a relic of a bygone day. We
> live in a time, according to a recent poll, when a full 60% of parents
> disagree with the proposition that the Internet is a safe place for kids.
> And no wonder. In a technology seldom understood as well by
> parents as by their children, the universal
> information-sharing neighborhood established by the Internet has also come
> to shelter a league of misfits intent on marketing their brand of hate to
> America's future.
> The knowledge of our children's lives - without which we cannot
> hope to fulfill our responsibilities as parents - seems increasingly out
> of our grasp. And the imagination and introspection that are so essential
> to a child's development are threatened by a technology where the power
> for advancement of knowledge exists alongside the possibility of
> contamination through hate.
> The strangers we warned our children not to speak to are, I fear,
> the very ones using the anonymity promised in cyberspace to prowl for
> children to whom they could never hope to endear themselves on a street
> corner. This is a serious situation indeed.
> The facts set out in newspaper accounts and reports by interested
> parties are simply staggering. One of our witnesses today hails from an
> organization - the Southern Poverty Law Center - which individually
> tracked sites for 254 hate groups in January of this year - up 50% from
> one year ago. And another group represented here - the Anti-Defamation
> League - estimated the presence of some 500-600 hate groups on the web
> this June.
> But numbers hardly tell the story; the websites themselves do.
> They are not simply crude websites with blatantly racist or anti-Semitic
> messages. These groups are involved in a concerted effort to recruit
> college-bound, middle and upper-middle-class kids ... kids who are
> educated, energetic and articulate ... in other words, precisely the type
> of kid you wouldn't expect to see marching in a neo-Nazi parade.
> And these wolves come in sheep's clothing. To fulfill their
> recruitment objectives, these hate groups can be
> remarkably sophisticated, carefully avoiding obvious and explicit appeals
> to racism and anti-Semitism.
> Sometimes, the sites are disguised as personal home pages, with
> displays about innocent enough sounding topics as city biographies or
> historical figures. Scroll down from sites about Santa Barbara
> (California), or Martin Luther King, Jr., however, and what you will find
> is a rancid torrent of neo-Nazi invective.
> These sites can be audience-specific, too, in their marketing
> efforts. One site peddles hatred to children, and is replete with a
> bright, crayon-colored web page consisting of white supremacist symbols
> and a crossword puzzle full of racist clues. Other sites seek to recruit
> women, and emphasize family issues, preach the desirability of the death
> penalty for racists [ev: rapists?], and encourage women to fight alongside
> men in their so-called white power struggle.
> To the extent these groups claim to disavow violence, the facts
> speak for themselves. The World Church of the Creator appears to have
> played a pivotal role in the life of Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, the 21
> year-old whose cowardly evil we recall from his July 4 shooting of
> African-Americans, Jews and Asians. In addition, literature from this
> group was found near synagogues burned this June in Sacramento,
> Surely, there is much to be concerned about. The day of the
> anonymously wrapped racist pamphlet has been supplanted by a technology
> that enables any small time fear monger - with a home computer and
> incidental costs - to possess a virtual megaphone from which to broadcast
> widely his message of hatred.
> We must be vigilant and prompt in our efforts to begin
> eliminating hate on the Internet, but we must also do so with exactitude.
> From this complicated maze of issues, there is surely no simple answer.
> And with the First Amendment as our country's first premise, we know that
> any solutions we endorse must recognize that the surest way to defeat the
> message of hate is to hold it under the harsh light of public scrutiny.
> However, where speech invades other protected areas, Congress
> must act. Responsibility by Internet companies and parents (in part
> through the filtering devices we will hear something about today) will
> likely be the first line of defense against these problems. But more seems
> to be needed .
> Throughout the course of this hearing and afterwards, I will be
> interested to hear from the witnesses their view of the adequacy of the
> current state of the law. And I will ask the witnesses whether more might
> be done by Congress, consistent with the First Amendment, to better enable
> the elimination of certain types of hate on the Internet, such as
> non-protected speech that clearly advocates an imminent act of violence.
> As the law currently stands, in addition to various civil
> remedies, the federal books authorize the prosecution of hate crimes
> committed against victims engaged in certain federally protected
> activities. I am pleased to have with us today an Assistant United States
> Attorney from Los Angeles who is responsible for securing, under this law,
> the first conviction against a hate crime assailant for acts taken on the
> But I have some preliminary thoughts on other efforts that
> Congress might explore, and I will be eager for the witnesses' views on
> I have already sought to exercise leadership in this area in
> various ways: through the introduction of legislation that aims to make
> filtering technology more readily accessible and that aims to criminalize
> the use of the Internet to teach bombmaking.
> An additional idea I am now considering aims to encourage
> Internet service providers to implement policies prohibiting the posting
> of material that intentionally incites violence against an individual or
> group. Many companies already do as much to eliminate from the Web child
> pornography or the posting of illegally pirated copyrighted materials.
> Such a proposal would include provisions to help Internet service
> providers identify those sites that illegally incite violence through hate
> It is my hope that ISPs will then put some procedures in place
> and take down a site so designated. To encourage the ISPs in implementing
> such a procedure, we might grant them certain immunities from any
> liabilities they might otherwise face.
> I am also contemplating a measure to make it a crime to knowingly
> or intentionally advocate on the Internet the commission of a crime of
> physical violence against a person or the property of any individual or
> group or class of individuals. Maybe, with this legislation, we will be
> able to deter heinous incitements to violence not yet committed on the
> I look forward to hearing from each of you your thoughts and
> comments on these proposals.
> Finally, prior to closing, I would like to announce that today I
> am re-issuing an updated timely and valuable report prepared by the
> majority staff of the Committee on the Judiciary. The updated report
> includes information about the prevalence of Internet hate, as well as
> recommendations about shielding children from the negative impact of
> violent media. I hope that this report, entitled "Children, Violence, and
> the Media-A Report for Parents and Policy Makers," will further the
> discussion about the flood of media violence in this country- including on
> the Internet and what can be done about it. After all, the problem of
> youth violence is a complex problem which demands a comprehensive solution
> one which deals with the need to empower parents, to make sure our schools
> are safer, and to improve enforcement, deterrence and prevention.
> # # #
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