Censoring Hate Speech In Cyberspace: A New Debate in a New America

June 16, 2012

Following the tragic events which occurred in the United States on September 11, 2001, the threat of violence due to hate-based ideas and values has become a pressing reality. Americans have been forced to question whether hate-filled online rhetoric is simply the harmless exercise of free speech or is a preventable catalyst of illegal conduct. The death and destruction caused by terrorists who listened to and adopted anti-American views are reminders that speech can often spur dangerous actions in response.
As the national security of the United States has become increasingly important in recent months, the debate regarding the censorship of hate speech has again arisen. While many individuals remain wary of infringing upon First Amendment rights through the regulation of hate speech in cyberspace, some suggest that the expansive and pervasive nature of the Internet calls for such regulation.
This Comment will attempt to illustrate the need for increased regulation of hate speech on the Internet by examining three facets of this debate. It will first examine existing First Amendment precedent dealing with freedom of expression issues generally. It will then examine how this structure limits the government’s ability to regulate hate speech on the Internet. This section will also explore other legal means that are being used to regulate hate speech. Finally, it will conclude by taking a look at alternative techniques that are being used to protect individuals from hate speech.