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In Volokh v. James, NetChoice Asks Court to Protect Free Speech and Halt New York’s Efforts to Influence Online Discourse

NEW YORK, NY — Today, NetChoice and the Chamber of Progress filed an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, supporting the Foundation for Individual Rights in Expression in their lawsuit against the state of New York in Volokh v. James. We ask the Second Circuit to affirm the lower court’s injunction, stopping New York’s Online Hate Speech law, which risks giving the government unconstitutional authority to control legal online speech, from going into effect.

Last year, New York passed a law requiring all online services – small blogs, news websites, and large social media services, alike – to publish a policy explaining how they will respond to “hateful conduct,” and requiring a reporting mechanism for users to complain about certain content. The State defines “hateful conduct” to mean users’ posts which “vilify, humiliate, or incite violence.” The District Court enjoined the law in February of this year, but New York Attorney General Letitia James appealed the District Court’s judgment.

Policies like this do nothing to address the causes of hate and violence, and do nothing to help law enforcement deal with actual crime online or otherwise, as is a growing issue in the state of New York. Instead, this policy provides the government with expanded authority to control lawful online discourse.

“New York’s attempt to regulate online speech its politicians consider ‘hateful’ represents a great threat to free expression online. If New York’s law can stand, other states can enforce similar statutes against lawful speech that criticizes local elected officials or supports or opposes LGBT rights,” said Nicole Saad Bembridge, Associate Director of NetChoice’s Litigation Center.

“The government has no place influencing lawful speech, whether it occurs offline or online. We ask the Second Circuit to affirm in order to halt continuing political efforts to control free expression on the internet.”

NetChoice’s brief with Chamber of Progress makes three key points:

  1. When social media services define, publish, and enforce community guidelines — and when users share and receive expression on these services — they engage in speech. New York cannot regulate speech by unilaterally renaming it “conduct”;
  2. The Online Hate Speech Law will not aid existing content moderation efforts to identify and remove harmful content online; and
  3. The Court should affirm to halt continuing political efforts to influence online discourse in the Second Circuit.

You can read the amicus curiae brief here. Please contact with inquiries.