13 House Democrats offer bill demanding government study on Internet hate speech

Thirteen House Democrats have proposed legislation that would require the government to study hate speech on the Internet, mobile phones and television and radio.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and 12 other House Democrats, would look at how those media are used to "advocate and encourage violent acts and the commission of crimes of hate."

The Hate Crime Reporting Act, H.R. 3878, is meant to update a 20-year-old study from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). That study, delivered to Congress in 1993, looked at hate speech on radio, TV and computer bulletin boards.

Jeffries says the NTIA needs to see how hate speech is transmitted over the various new modes of communication that have sprung up over the last two decades.

"The Internet is a wonderful vehicle for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship," he said. "But it can also be used as a platform to promote hate and target vulnerable individuals.

"This legislation will mandate a comprehensive analysis of criminal and hateful activity on the Internet that occurs outside of the zone of the First Amendment protection."

His legislation requires the NTIA to update its report to examine how the Internet and mobile phones can be used to encourage and commit hate crimes based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

The NTIA would also have to recommend a way to address these actions "while respecting the important protections of the First Amendment."

The NAACP supports the bill, and says more information is needed about how people commit or encourage hate crimes online.

"As the use of the Internet and the ever-expanding variety of social media tools used by these groups continues to grow and evolve, we need to have a better idea of what they are doing and how they are doing it," said Hilary Shelton, the director of the NAACP's Washington Bureau.

The National Organization for Women also supports the bill. "We hope that the study will address continuing hate speech that vilifies women seeking reproductive health care as well as websites that encourage violence against healthcare providers at women's clinics which we believe have led to the injuries and death of clinic personnel and volunteers," NOW said in an official statement.

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