A frightening new bill is working itself through the committees in Congress that would call on the federal government to police the Internet and social media for any statements that might cause some sort of hate crime at some point in the future. The American Free Press.net had the story on Tuesday, but even the Boston Herald, hardly a Conservative voice, has decried the threat to free speech that this bill entails. The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014 (S. 2219) was introduced by Sen. Edward Markey. (D-Mass.)
While the Senate bill has no co-sponsors as yet, the House companion bill H.R. 3378, sponsored by Representative Hakeem Sekou Jeffries (D-N.Y.), currently has 29 co-sponsors. If passed, the law would empower the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to monitor (spy) on not only the Internet, but radio and television for anything that “allegedly advocates or encourages so-called “hate crimes.” This may even encompass that snide remark you posted about your boss or a particular political candidate. The reality is that nobody really knows what content the whole process would target as deeming an investigation.
The official announcement released by Sen. Markey’s office on April 16 indicated that the process would start with an extensive report based on an examination of “the role of the Internet and other telecommunications in encouraging hate crimes based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation and create recommendations to address such crimes.” There has been discussion that government oversight of the media could also be involved, but there is nothing concrete. Folks in Tennessee use a phrase that perfectly describes the legislation being considered. The American public is being asked to “buy a pig in a poke.” Nobody really knows where the bar will be or who will arbitrarily decide where free speech ends and inciting hate crimes begins.
So, in common terms, this bill may force everyone to reconsider what they post on the Internet, even on private venues. Possibly, a major housecleaning effort could be called for to protect ourselves from long-ago, forgotten infractions. One man’s political joke could be another man’s potential hate crime! This would be a good time to write your legislators and express your outrage about this bill. No, wait; don’t express outrage because that could indicate you are a potential threat. Calmly express your displeasure.