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June 9, 2016 0

LA Times Editorial Board Criticizes EU Hate Speech Code of Conduct for Online Platforms

In response to a Code of Con­duct adopted at the request of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion by online com­pa­nies Face­book, Twit­ter, YouTube and Microsoft, the Los Ange­les Times Edi­to­r­ial Board called the Code “a well-meaning but heavy-handed move against jihadist pro­pa­ganda.”  The Edi­to­r­ial explained:

The code of con­duct was pre­sented as a set of vol­un­tary com­mit­ments closely track­ing what the four com­pa­nies say they’ve been doing on their own ini­tia­tives. But it’s not as if they could have blithely refused to coop­er­ate. Under Euro­pean law, cer­tain types of hate speech are ille­gal and must be removed on request. The com­mis­sion also is a highly active reg­u­la­tor  — much more so than U.S. author­i­ties are — hav­ing launched antitrust, tax and pri­vacy enforce­ment actions against some or all of the four com­pa­nies. In other words, they would have ignored the com­mis­sion at their peril.

The LA Times Edi­to­r­ial Board item­ized its con­cerns this way:

  • “The Commission’s move could lead the com­pa­nies to cen­sor legal speech as well. Rather than leav­ing com­pa­nies to set their own terms of use, the code of con­duct man­dates that such rules “pro­hibit the pro­mo­tion of incite­ment to vio­lence and hate­ful con­duct,” which is a vaguer and broader cat­e­gory than what Euro­pean gov­ern­ments have outlawed.”
  • “It would fast-track the removal of con­tent flagged by advo­cacy groups and other non-governmental orga­ni­za­tions blessed by Euro­pean offi­cials, leav­ing those whose posts are blocked online with no due-process rights (the com­pa­nies say they have inter­nal appeals processes, but that’s a far cry from the court-supervised process under U.S. copy­right law).”
  • “The code could set a prece­dent for other coun­tries to force Inter­net com­pa­nies to restrain speech more than their laws dic­tate or global prin­ci­ples of human rights sup­port. For exam­ple, what if a repres­sive regime demands that social net­works adopt rules ban­ning “incite­ment to insta­bil­ity” or other code words for dissent?”
  • “But just as the United States has strug­gled to find the right bal­ance between secu­rity and civil lib­er­ties, so too must the com­mis­sion be care­ful not to squelch legal speech. The new code of con­duct may be well-meaning, but it would have been bet­ter to have a truly vol­un­tary effort by social net­works backed by real due-process protections.”

While Jonathan A. Green­blatt, ADL CEO has stated that the Code par­al­lels ADL’s Best Prac­tices for Respond­ing to Cyber­hate, and that empow­er­ing users to bet­ter report hate speech is the rea­son why ADL has brought it Cyber-Safety Action Guide to Europe, ADL acknowl­edges the con­cerns expressed by civil soci­ety and the Los Ange­les Times, and con­tin­ues to believe that vol­un­tary efforts to com­bat online hate speech is prefer­able to government-imposed require­ments.  ADL has com­mit­ted to work with the Euro­pean Jew­ish Con­gress and Euro­pean Union of Jew­ish Stu­dents to expand ADL’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide for use by Euro­pean cit­i­zens in the wake of the EU Code announcement.

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June 7, 2016 5

Governor Urges Iowans to Attend Bible Marathons

Iowa Gov­er­nor, Terry E. Bran­stand, recently issued a reli­giously divi­sive and likely uncon­sti­tu­tional procla­ma­tion urg­ing all Iowans to attend state-wide Bible read­ing marathons orga­nized by Christian-based groups.

Iowa gov proclamationDeclar­ing “the Bible … as the one true rev­e­la­tion from God, show­ing the way of Sal­va­tion, Truth, and Life …,” the procla­ma­tion states that the Governor:

… encourage[s] all Iowans to join in this his­tor­i­cal 99 County Bible Read­ing Marathon to take place June 30th through July 3rd, 2016 in front of all 99 cour­t­houses and fur­ther­more, encour­ages indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies in Iowa to read through the Bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes.

Read­ing the Bible gives many Amer­i­cans guid­ance, strength and com­fort.  And it is com­pletely appro­pri­ate for clergy and other reli­gious lead­ers to call on con­gre­gants to read the Bible.  The Gov­er­nor, how­ever, should not be pro­mot­ing such activities.

This procla­ma­tion divides Iowans along reli­gious lines within and out­side the Chris­t­ian faith.  As a start­ing point, there are numer­ous ver­sions of the Chris­t­ian Bible.  So which ver­sion is the right one for Iowans read?  Undoubt­edly, the procla­ma­tion also sends a mes­sage of exclu­sion and mar­gin­al­iza­tion to Iowans who are not Chris­t­ian or are of no faith.

The Governor’s action is a good illus­tra­tion for why the First Amend­ment pro­hibits gov­ern­ment from pre­fer­ring one faith or reli­gion more gen­er­ally.   Offi­cial reli­gious par­tial­ity erodes non-adherents’ trust in gov­ern­ment treat­ing them fairly and in the most extreme cases can coerce adop­tion of a par­tic­u­lar faith based on the belief that it will result in favor­able treatment.

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June 7, 2016 5

Attacks Against Police Are Not Hate Crimes

The Anti-Defamation League and many other groups have deep con­cerns about a new Louisiana statute – the so-called “Blue Lives Mat­ter” law – that inserts police and fire­fight­ers into the state’s hate crime law.    ADL is proud of the spe­cial con­nec­tions and joint ini­tia­tives we have with the law enforce­ment com­mu­nity.  As the non-governmental agency that works most closely with and trains more state and local police and fed­eral law enforce­ment offi­cials than any­one else, we strongly sup­port laws that deter attacks against police.  In Louisiana – and nearly every other state – an assault against a police offi­cer is already a seri­ous crime, car­ry­ing a more severe penalty than an assault against a civil­ian.  There­fore, Louisiana’s new “Blue Lives Mat­ter” law is unnec­es­sary, and could even make it more dif­fi­cult to pros­e­cute attacks against police.

Police groupHate crimes tar­get indi­vid­u­als or insti­tu­tions because of race, reli­gion, national ori­gin, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, dis­abil­ity, or gen­der iden­tity, focus on per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics.  They are designed to intim­i­date the vic­tim and mem­bers of the victim’s com­mu­nity, leav­ing them feel­ing fear­ful, iso­lated, vul­ner­a­ble, and unpro­tected by the law.   These inci­dents can dam­age the fab­ric of our soci­ety and frag­ment communities.

Crimes against police also, obvi­ously, have a seri­ous and deeply harm­ful com­mu­nity impact.   But adding police – or any other cat­e­gory based on voca­tion or employ­ment – con­fuses the pur­pose of hate crime laws, and threat­ens to make crimes against police more dif­fi­cult to prove.  If police are included in hate crime laws, pros­e­cu­tors would face the addi­tional require­ment of hav­ing to prove both that the per­pe­tra­tor attacked the offi­cer – and that the act was com­mit­ted because he/she was a police offi­cer.  That addi­tional intent require­ment, which is not included in exist­ing laws cov­er­ing attacks on police offi­cers, would make pros­e­cu­tions more dif­fi­cult, not easier.

While there is wide­spread doc­u­men­ta­tion that hate crimes based on per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics are down­played and under­re­ported, there is no evi­dence that pros­e­cu­tors any­where in the coun­try are fail­ing to vig­or­ously inves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute crimes against police.  To fur­ther high­light their seri­ous treat­ment, the FBI spe­cially tracks and pre­pares an annual report on these crimes,

Louisiana should recon­sider, and its statute should not be repli­cated by other states.

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