Ocotber 5, 2011
We’ve been pointing out a variety of attempts to push back on the First Amendment lately. One fertile ground for such attacks are local politicians carrying the “cyberbullying” banner, in various attempts to magically outlaw being a “jerk” online, usually by making it illegal to offend someone online. Of course, making someone’s action illegal based on how someone else feels about it is all kinds of crazy. It also would seem to violate the very principles of the First Amendment, which bar Congress (and local governments) from passing any laws that take away one’s right to free speech.
In the past, lawmakers pushing these laws have tended to simply ignore the First Amendment issue, and focus on screaming “protect the children!” as loudly as possible (never mind the fact that kids seem much less concerned about “bullying” than all these adults seem to think). However, it appears that some state Senators in NY are trying a new line of attack: going directly after the First Amendment and suggesting that current interpretations are way too broad, and it’s not really meant to protect any sort of free speech right. In fact, it sounds as though they’re trying to redefine the right to free speech into a privilege that can be taken away. Seriously:
Proponents of a more refined First Amendment argue that this freedom should be treated not as a right but as a privilege — a special entitlement granted by the state on a conditional basis that can be revoked if it is ever abused or maltreated.