Legislation Calls for Electronic Media Hate Report

Hate crimes are again on the radar for Members of Congress. Legislation introduced last month by U.S. Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) would direct the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to update a 1993 report examining the role of the Internet and other telecommunications (including broadcast radio and TV) in encouraging hate crimes based on race, gender and gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.  Senator Markey’s bill, The Hate Crime Reporting Act (S.2219), also directs the NTIA to make recommendations to address such on-air and online practices “consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

In an article titled “The New Inquisition,” Craig Parshall, NRB Senior Vice President & General Counsel, called this bill “not only audacious, but … downright dangerous.”  Citing past experience, he suggested the NTIA’s study would likely lead to new regulatory problems for free speech, particularly since “within the communications culture the use of misplaced ‘hate speech’ labels to squelch expression by conservatives, proponents of traditional values, and Christians has occurred so frequently as to become legendary.”

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) introduced identical legislation in the House in January, and currently that bill has 27 Representatives as co-sponsors.  While the Senate bill does not yet have any co-sponsors, it is worth monitoring closely should it find its way into any larger “must-pass” legislation. Notably, then-Rep. Markey used the Telecommunications Authorization Act of 1992 to authorize the NTIA to conduct its original hate crimes report.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: May 16, 2014