Testing the First Amendment Online

Incendiary words on blog spark accusations of hate speech

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions.”

Internet radio host Hal Turner wrote those incendiary words on his blog and landed himself in a large and very public pool of hot water. In a case that will once again test the limits of free speech protection, the Justice Department charged that the radio host had crossed the line into hate speech, and that his words were tantamount to death threats. Mr. Turner was already on trial in Connecticut criminal court for comments made against Catholic lawmakers. ...(continue reading)

Traditionally, the courts have given wide latitude to First Amendment rights, even in cases involving speech that is widely considered offensive, but public statements regarded as “true threats” have not been afforded legal protection. While we all cherish our right to free speech, where should we draw the line online? To lay out the legal landscape, we are joined by Anna Sale, capitol region reporter for WNPR in Connecticut, Paul Butler, a former prosecutor and law professor at George Washington University, and Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media and law professor at the University of Virginia.


Paul Butler, Anna Sale and Siva Vaidhyanthan

Hosted by:

Andrea Bernstein and Amy Holmes


Melissa Locker

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.