Posted on October 25, 2019

People Want Jail Time for Hate Speech as They Call for Updates to First Amendment

Matthew Wright, Daily Mail, October 25, 2019

A new poll found that the majority of Americans would like the First Amendment to be rewritten to reflect the current climate — including updates such as being able to punish ‘hate speech’ and media who publish content that is ‘biased, inflammatory, or false.’

The study, conducted by the Campaign for Free Speech, found that some 51 percent of people in the US believe that the amendment — first adopted in 1791 — ‘should be updated to reflect the cultural norms of today.’

According to the Campaign for Free Speech, findings from the study ‘indicate free speech is under more threat than previously believed.’

Of the 1,004 respondents who completed the online study, 51 percent of Millennials (those between the ages of 21—38) felt that hate speech should be against the law.

In comparison, some 46 percent of Gen X (ages 39—54) and some 46 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 55—73) felt like hate speech should be against the law.

As far as punishment for hate crimes, some 54 percent of those Americans surveyed found that they would prefer ‘possible jail time’ while another 46 percent shared they would want ‘nothing more than a ticket and fine.’

Respondents for the survey also wanted to crack down extensively on the media and ‘alternative news’ sources.

57 percent felt that the government ‘should be able to take action against newspapers and TV stations that publish content that is ‘biased, inflammatory or false.’

Taking things a step further, 54 percent of respondents felt like consequence for media personnel should be nothing more than a ticket while another 46 percent wanted jail time for offenders.

Now there was a distinction made between traditional media companies who ‘check facts, even if they are occasionally wrong or slanted’ or alternative media (like online podcasts) that ‘allow anyone to say anything.’

When asked if they would support a government agency reviewing content put out by these alternative media sources, 36 percent of respondents said they supported regulations while 47 percent said they did not support.

Turning to social media, and specifically Facebook, some 38 percent of survey takers felt that the site should allow all speech while another 49 percent felt ‘Facebook should monitor and restrict offensive speech and views.’

Specific groups were also targeted as being groups that should have their ‘free speech restricted’, with 63 percent of survey takers wanting some form of restrictions.

52 percent of survey takers wanted racist to be restricted, 50 percent of respondents also wanted neo-Nazis restricted while 46 percent said radical Islamist and 35 percent said Holocaust deniers. 20 percent of survey takers wanted anti—vaccine advocates restricted and 18 percent said climate change deniers.

According to Bob Lystad, executive director of the Campaign For Free Speech, the findings are ‘frankly extraordinary’

The Campaign for Free Speech determined that most don’t actually understand what the First Amendment protects after some 79 percent of respondents believed that ‘the First Amendment allows anyone to say their opinion no matter what, and they are protected by law from any consequences of saying those thoughts or opinions.’

According to Bob Lystad, executive director of the Campaign For Free Speech, the findings are ‘frankly extraordinary.’

‘Our free speech rights and our free press rights have evolved well over 200 years, and people now seem to be rethinking them,’ he explained to the Washington Free Beacon.

Lystad explained that ‘hate speech’ was not defined in the survey, allowing respondents to draw their own conclusions by what it meant.

‘I think [our findings] are fueled in large part because of a rise of hate speech, but traditionally, hate speech is protected in the First Amendment,’ Lystad added. ‘The Supreme Court has upheld that principle time and time again.’

Lystad and the group believe hate speech should be denounced but don’t believe censorship to be the solution.

‘Hate speech should be condemned, but legally, the answer to speech we don’t like is more speech, not censorship,’ he said. ‘Our primary focus is education, and to help people better understand the First Amendment, free speech, free press, and why it’s so vital to our democracy.’