A pair of Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill in both the Senate and House of Representatives that, if enacted, would seek to curb limits on the publication of so-called “hate speech” in the media.
The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014, introduced in both legislative houses on Wednesday, would call for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to compile a comprehensive report annually that would examine “the role of the Internet and other telecommunications in encouraging hate crimes based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”
Specifically, the report would take a hard look at media broadcast over the air and on cable, as well as publications broadcast online and on “commercial mobile services,” that could be considered encouraging of such hate crimes.
The act alone wouldn’t limit what a television or radio station could air, or what a digital news organization could publish on the Internet, but the report could yield recommendations that other agencies, such as the Department of Justice or the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, could adopt to limit incendiary speech.
It’s not clear what limits the DOJ or the Civil Rights commission would consider based on the report, and any such limitation will almost certainly raise free speech concerns by journalism advocacy and civil libertarian groups.
In a press release on Wednesday, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) drew upon the recent fatal shooting at a Jewish community center in Kansas by a man believed to have ties to hate groups as grounds for a new report that examines the role broadcasters and the Internet play in fueling such ideology.
“We have recently seen in Kansas the deadly destruction and loss of life that hate speech can fuel in the United States,” Sen. Markey said in a press release, “which is why it is critical to ensure the Internet, television and radio are not encouraging hate crimes or hate speech that is not outside the protection of the First Amendment.”
Markey has called for similar legislation throughout his congressional career, and though he used the recent shooting in Kansas as evidence to support his new bill, the act had actually been introduced one week earlier. His colleague, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives at the same time.
This week, the DOJ announced it would file hate crimes charges against Frazier Glenn Cross, the 73-year-old man accused of fatally shooting three people at a Jewish community center on Sunday.
Cross, also known as Frazier Glenn Miller, is a former Ku Klux Klan leader according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Cross ran as a write-in senatorial candidate in his home state of Missouri several years ago.
As part of his campaign, Cross attempted to buy ad inventory on local radio stations. Under a Federal Communications Commission ruling, broadcasters must make commercial airtime available to politicians who are running for election; however, the agency found in 2010 that Cross was not a “bona fide” candidate and thus Missouri radio stations did not have to sell airtime to him.
Cross found no such limitation on the Internet, where the Associated Press reports he ran a website filled with anti-Semitic remarks. None of the victims Cross targeted in Sunday’s shooting were Jewish, the AP reported.