Judge's Take-Down of Kathy Hochul's 'Hate Speech' Law Is Important and Satisfying

AP Photo/Hans Pennink

Kathy Hochul’s dangerous and Orwellian “Hateful Conduct Law” suffered a major defeat, being struck down in the Southern District of New York by Judge Andrew L. Carter. That came after Rumble and a blogger teamed up to challenge the law in court.

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The law, which Hochul originally signed in the summer of 2022, would have forced social media companies to “report” hateful conduct to the state (in this case, New York) and also have policies in place to censor such speech.

According to Judge Carter (Breitbart), that was a no-go given the protections afforded by the First Amendment.

“The Hateful Conduct Law both compels social media networks to speak about the contours of hate speech and chills the constitutionally protected speech of social media users, without articulating a compelling governmental interest or ensuring that the law is narrowly tailored to that goal,” said Judge Carter Jr. in his ruling.

The law, according to Judge Carter, conflicts with the United States’ “national commitment to the free expression of speech, even where that speech is offensive or repugnant.”

“The law is clearly aimed at regulating speech. Social media websites are publishers and curators of speech, and their users are engaged in speech by writing, posting, and creating content. Although the law ostensibly is aimed at social media networks, it fundamentally implicates the speech of the networks’ users by mandating a policy and mechanism by which users can complain about other users’ protected speech.”

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It’s always nice to see sanity prevail, even if those moments seem to be happening less and less lately. New York’s law was an obvious infringement on free speech, seeking to have social media companies quell user posts based on vague, state-defined definitions of what constitutes “hateful conduct.”

As the judge notes, there was also no compelling government interest here. What exactly did New York plan to do with the information provided to them by social media companies? I think we can speculate on that given the breakneck pace at which liberals have shifted away from respect for the First Amendment.

In other words, this law sure seemed like a giant first step in outright criminalizing speech, by proxy at first with an eye toward direct intervention. Why else pass and sign a law that requires the reporting of “hateful conduct,” if the government had no intention of using that data for its own tyrannical ends?

The judge’s second argument is also prudent. By having the long arm of the government involved, mandating that social media companies provide a mechanism by which some users can demand the censorship of others is, in and of itself, an attempt to quell free speech. It’s not enough for the government to not directly infringe on speech. They are also not allowed to use proxies to do so through fear of reprisal.

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But as my colleague Jeff Charles shared in his VIP post on this matter, don’t expect this to be the endpoint for left-wing quashing of speech. They never give up, and every setback is just another opportunity to push the ball down the field the next play. California has a similar law that needs to meet the same fate, and eventually, the Supreme Court will likely have to weigh in. In the meantime, it is vitally important that lower court judges continue to set these precedents.

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