New Jersey Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today joined several colleagues in introducing legislation aimed at preventing online extremism from turning into real-life hate crimes.
“Following the shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the violent gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, it is clear that online platforms are being used to spread hateful rhetoric and incite real-life violence,” they said in a statement.
“We need to take a hard look at how the internet, social media platforms and other online technologies are used to facilitate the commission of hate-inspired violence across the United States and abroad,” Menendez said.
“When a perpetrator can livestream a mass murder, as one did in New Zealand, it’s time to examine if our laws are keeping up with the rapid pace of technology. While we may never be able to change what’s in one’s heart, we have a responsibility to make it harder to turn hateful rhetoric into acts of violence.”
“Social media platforms have brought people together and made our world smaller and more interconnected than ever,” Booker added.
“While a significant number of these connections have been positive ones, we have also seen dark online communities that traffic in fear, hate, and bigotry, and use the internet to sow seeds of division rather than unity. The Stop HATE Act would help us better understand how to prevent violence from being incited online and ensure that the internet does not become a tool extremists can use to prey on people and expand their reach.”
The Stop HATE Actwould require the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice to study how current forms of telecommunication are being used to fuel violence and hate crimes against individuals or groups, and recommend ways—consistent with the First Amendment—that the government or private citizens can combat these growing threats. A previous version of this report, released in 1993, has not been updated in over 25 years.
The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Menendez, Booker, Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Congressman Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
A copy of the legislation can be found here.