Monday, December 28, 2015

ISIS Influence on Web Prompts Second Thoughts on First Amendment

By ERIK ECKHOLM, NYT, DEC. 27, 2015

It is one of the most hallowed precepts in modern constitutional law: Freedom of speech may not be curbed unless it poses a “clear and present danger” — an actual, imminent threat, not the mere advocacy of harmful acts or ideas. But in response to the Islamic State’s success in grooming jihadists over the Internet, some legal scholars are asking whether it is time to reconsider that constitutional line.

Appeals for a tougher response to the Islamic State’s online recruiting efforts have, not surprisingly, emerged from the political realm. Donald J. Trump said the government should call on Bill Gates and others to somehow close off dangerous Internet sites, and called First Amendment concerns foolish.

Hillary Clinton said the government should work with host companies to shut jihadist websites and chat rooms. That would be constitutional if voluntary, legal experts say, but not if the government exerted pressure on private firms to cooperate in censorship.

Some security experts called on YouTube to ban videos of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, which helped radicalize the attackers in San Bernardino, Calif., and many others.

Recently, though, a few legal scholars, too, have engaged in what others call First Amendment heresy. What does clear and present danger mean when terrorists are provoking violence over the Internet? Should not the government have a way, they ask, to block messages that facilitate terrorist acts?

(More here.)

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