New York Considers Legislation to Curtail Free Speech in the Name of Democracy

The great civil libertarian Justice Louis Brandeis once warned that “the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” New York State Democrat Senator Brad Holyman is one of those “men of zeal.” With the approaching anniversary of the Jan. 6th riots, he has proposed a new law that would legislate an even greater level of censorship to prevent the “social media amplification” of views that are deemed harmful or “disinformation.”  It is only the latest example of our “whatever it takes” politics.

Under S.7568, there would be criminal liability for anyone who makes “a false statement of fact or fraudulent medical theory that is likely to endanger the safety or health of the public.” 

If this language is chilling for anyone who values free speech, Hoylman’s defense will freeze you to the bone. It is a censorship measure introduced on “the anniversary of the notorious January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and as vaccine hesitancy continues to fuel the Omicron variant.” It is a mix of algorithmic conspiracy theory and anti-free speech doublespeak:

“Social media algorithms are specially programmed to spread disinformation and hate speech at the expense of the public good. The prioritization of this type of content has real life costs to public health and safety.  So when social media push anti-vaccine falsehoods and help domestic terrorists plan a riot at the U.S.  Capitol, they must be held accountable. Our new legislation will force social media companies to be held accountable for the dangers they promote.”

For years, social companies have claimed protection from any legal consequences of their actions relating to content on their websites by hiding behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Social media websites are no longer simply a host for their users’ content, however. Many social media companies employ complex algorithms designed to put the most controversial and provocative content in front of users as much as possible. These algorithms drive engagement with their platform, keep users hooked, and increase profits. Social media companies employing these algorithms are not an impassive forum for the exchange of ideas; they are active participants in the conversation.”

The rationale is perfectly Orwellian. It treats the failure to censor as being a participant in “disinformation.”

This is only the latest anti-free speech measure to be introduced on the federal or state levels. In one critical hearing, tech CEOs appeared before the Senate to discuss censorship programs. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story, but then pledged to censor more people in defense of “electoral integrity.”

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, however, was not happy. He was upset not by the promised censorship but that it was not broad enough. He noted that it was hard to define the problem of “misleading information,” but the companies had to impose a sweeping system to combat the “harm” of misinformation on climate change as well as other areas. “The pandemic and misinformation about COVID-19, manipulated media also cause harm,” Coons said. “But I’d urge you to reconsider that because helping to disseminate climate denialism, in my view, further facilitates and accelerates one of the greatest existential threats to our world.”

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal also warned that he and his colleagues would not tolerate any “backsliding or retrenching” by “failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.” He demanded “the same kind of robust content modification” from the companies – the new Orwellian term for censorship.

In the meantime, Facebook is continuing its creepy corporate commercials to try to convince a free people to embrace censorship (or “content modification”).  It is working. Free speech advocates are facing a generational shift that is now being reflected in our law schools, where free speech principles were once a touchstone of the rule of law. As millions of students are taught that free speech is a threat and that “China is right” about censorship, these figures are shaping a new society in their own intolerant images.

The New York legislation would gut free speech by creating criminal penalties for views deemed “false” despite the continuing debates over issues like the efficacy of masks or vaccine protocols. The First Amendment is premised on the belief that this right is essential to protecting the other freedoms in the Constitution. It is the right that allows people to challenge their government and others on electoral issues, public health issues, and other controversies.

This is why I have described myself as an Internet Originalist:

The alternative is “internet originalism” — no censorship. If social media companies returned to their original roles, there would be no slippery slope of political bias or opportunism; they would assume the same status as telephone companies. We do not need companies to protect us from harmful or “misleading” thoughts. The solution to bad speech is more speech, not approved speech.

If Pelosi demanded that Verizon or Sprint interrupt calls to stop people saying false or misleading things, the public would be outraged. Twitter serves the same communicative function between consenting parties; it simply allows thousands of people to participate in such digital exchanges. Those people do not sign up to exchange thoughts only to have Dorsey or some other internet overlord monitor their conversations and “protect” them from errant or harmful thoughts.

The danger of the rising levels of censorship is far greater than the dangers of such absurd claims of the law or science — or in this case both. What we can do is to maximize the free discourse and expression on the Internet to allow free speech itself to be the ultimate disinfectant of disinformation.

59 thoughts on “New York Considers Legislation to Curtail Free Speech in the Name of Democracy”

  1. “Men of zeal,” you say?

    “Crazy Abe” Lincoln and his pen pals, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, were definitely “men of zeal.”

    These zealous comrades forcibly imposed communist theory on the United States.



    “These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.”

    – Abraham Lincoln, from his first speech as an Illinois state legislator, 1837

    “Everyone now is more or less a Socialist.”

    – Charles Dana, managing editor of the New York Tribune, and Lincoln’s assistant secretary of war, 1848

    “The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.”

    – Karl Marx and the First International Workingmen’s Association to Lincoln, 1864

    “ON DECEMBER 3, 1861, a former one-term congressman, who had spent most of the past dozen years studying dissident economic theories, mounting challenges to the existing political order and proposing ever more radical responses to the American crisis, delivered his first State of the Union address as the sixteenth president of the United States.

    “Long before 1848, German radicals had begun to arrive in Illinois, where they quickly entered into the legal and political circles in which Lincoln traveled. One of them, Gustav Korner, was a student revolutionary at the University of Munich who had been imprisoned by German authorities in the early 1830s for organizing illegal demonstrations. After his release, Korner returned to his hometown of Frankfurt am Main where, according to historian Raymond Lohne, “he was one of about fifty conspirators involved in an attack upon the two main city guardhouses and the arsenal at the police facility and jail. This admixture of students and soldiers had planned to seize cannon, muskets, and ammunition; free political prisoners accused of breaking press-censorship laws, and begin ringing the great Sturmglocke (storm bell) of the Dom, the signal for the people to come in from the countryside. At that point, the democratic revolution would be announced…. Unfortunately, they were walking into a trap…. Betrayed by both a spy in their midst, and the reluctance of the common people to rise, nine students were killed, twenty-four were seriously wounded, and by August 3, 1833, Gustav Körner found himself riding into downtown Belleville, Illinois.”

    “Within a decade, Korner would pass the Illinois bar, win election to the legislature and be appointed to the state Supreme Court. Korner and Lincoln formed an alliance that would become so close that the student revolutionary from Frankfurt would eventually be one of seven personal delegates-at-large named by Lincoln to serve at the critical Republican State Convention in May 1860, which propelled the Springfield lawyer into that year’s presidential race. Through Korner, Lincoln met and befriended many of the German radicals who, after the failure of the 1848 revolution, fled to Illinois and neighboring Wisconsin. Along with Korner on Lincoln’s list of personal delegates-at-large to the 1860 convention was Friedrich Karl Franz Hecker, a lawyer from Mannheim who had served as a liberal legislator in the lower chamber of the Baden State Assembly before leading an April 1848 uprising in the region—an uprising cheered on by the newspaper Marx briefly edited during that turbulent period, Neue Rheinische Zeitung—Organ der Demokratie.

    “Even as they agreed on homesteading, Greeley and Lincoln wrangled over the timing and scope of an emancipation proclamation. The editor joined Frederick Douglass in demanding that the president take steps to make the Civil War not merely a struggle to preserve the Union, but “an Abolition war.” Even as Greeley and Lincoln exchanged sometimes pointed letters, the Tribune’s longtime managing editor Charles Dana was now working for Lincoln. Officially assigned to the War Department—where he would eventually serve as assistant secretary—Dana’s real role was as an aide and adviser to the president on questions of what the former newspaperman described as the “judicious, humane, and wise uses of executive authority.” That Lincoln spent much of his presidency reading dispatches from and welcoming the counsel of Marx’s longtime editor—like the fact that he awarded military commissions to the numerous comrades of the author of The Communist Manifesto who had come to the United States as political refugees following the failed European revolutions of 1848—is a shard of history rarely seen in the hagiographic accounts that produce a sanitized version of the sixteenth president’s story. In the years following Lincoln’s death, his law partner and political comrade, William Herndon, complained that Lincoln’s official biographers were already attempting “to make the story with the classes as against the masses,” an approach that he suggested “will result in delineating the real Lincoln about as well as does a wax figure in the museum.”

    – ISR International Socialist Review

  2. Why not let people express the truth as they see it…a subjective thing, like beauty or obscenity?

  3. “While all of your comments are concerning, several of the comments you made publicly stand out — the first being: ‘the residents of Essex and Westford will not stand idly by as anti-whiteness invades our school system.’ The second being: ‘what you people plan to do is redistribute opportunity based solely on individual identity.’ The third being: ‘This is why we have fifth graders coming home and saying they wish they were black.’ The first comment mentioned above could be taken as a threat against the school and/or our community. It is aggressive and threatening and nature, while also being vague enough to elicit fear. The second comment mentioned above uses an offensive phrase “you people” while also being very vague and intimidating in nature. The third comment, along with the rest of the public comments we have referenced, shows that you do not possess, and that you cannot uphold, the Village core beliefs and values around racial equity, diversity and inclusion.”
    From the other side of the looking glass in Vermont. Lifeguard fired by the village for speech at a political rally.

  4. My fellow free people never want me to question, object to, or complain about them. They have been more tyrannical to me than the government has been.
    So why should I care if they are ever tyrannized themselves?

  5. Jonathan, it is simply not true, as you alluded in this piece, that unvaccinated people are driving the high rates of omicron infections. It’s difficult for me to believe that you haven’t kept up with actual science on viral spread! First, the vaccines are leaky and non-sterilizing which means that the vaccinated are just as likely, and perhaps even more so, to become infected with covid. Second, omicron is nothing to fear as its symptoms are like a mild cold, including for those who are unvaccinated. That is because this particular mutation binds with cells in the upper airways, as does a common cold, instead of deep down in the lungs where it’s can do much more damage to those with co-morbidities. Third, please note that the CDC and Fauci have deftly redefined what the vaccines do. First they were said to prevent spread, contagion, and provide herd immunityr. Period. Today, the vaccines are meant to prevent severity of infection in the vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, according to some physician/scientists like Pierre Kory and Peter McCullough, you are 40% MORE likely to present with a case of covid than someone who is unvaccinated. I’m sorry, although not very sorry, but it annoys the hell out of me when someone of your stature continues parroting Fauci and Walensky’s and Biden’s talking points when they have been disproven over and over and over again.

    1. “. . . it annoys the hell out of me when someone of your stature continues parroting . . .”

      He is quoting Holyman, not expressing his own view.

      1. He has said in the past that he is fully vaxxed and believe doing so is helpful. He is likely boosted also.

    2. Nothing you said is true. Those you referenced are known quacks. It is firmly established that the vaccine works very well. It is posts like this, spreading lies about covid and the vaccine, which is causing the problem at the hospitals we are seeing now.

      1. You have been wrong on most things having to do with Covid and its mutations. Why should we suddenly believe anything you say. This is not an agreement with anyone else, rather it is pointing out how awful your facts and predictions are.

      2. The lie is that the CoVax shots work. They don’t. The majority of hospital cases now are the vaccinated. Here are some recent figures from Britain (because the CDC refuses to provide accurate or clear data here in the USA). Notice anything interesting? How about 99 people in hospital had received at least one Covid shot as opposed to 27 unvaccinated received no shots. Should make you think, no?
        COVID-19 variants identified in the UK
        Latest updates on SARS-CoV-2 variants detected in the UK.
        From: UK Health Security Agency
        Last updated: 23 December 2021

        As of 20 December, 132 individuals with confirmed Omicron have been admitted to or transferred from emergency departments. Over 40% of hospital admissions were in London. Of those patients admitted to hospital, 17 had received a booster vaccine, 74 people had 2 doses and 27 people were not vaccinated. The vaccination status was unknown for 6 people, while 8 had received a single dose. Fourteen people are reported to have died within 28 days of an Omicron diagnosis, ranging in age from 52 to 96 years old.

        1. “Notice anything interesting?”

          Yes — That some people don’t know how to analyze statistics. Or, worse, misrepresent them to justify an irrational agenda.

          What, for example, is the total population of the respective groups? And that’s just a starter question, to make any sense out of those numbers.

    3. Agree Mary. I and others have whacked Jonathan on the knuckles in the past over his refusal to read and absorb accurate Covid info. The fact that he refuses to accept obvious info so clearly available from so many sources makes me wonder what kind of weight I should give to any of his other missives.

    4. “. . . you are 40% MORE likely to present with a case of covid than someone who is unvaccinated . . .”

      Where did you get that from?

      The recent data I’ve read, from various states, shows just the opposite — a some 4X higher rate of infection among the unvaccinated.

  6. You know what would be great?….if JT could widen his purview enough to see that there isn’t one greatest threat to democracy, but a number of challenges, any of which we fail at, brings down the free society we know. We could poison ourselves with chemicals that impede reproduction (as has already extinguished thousands of species). We could go soft and lazy, pander to whims and conceits, and fail to perform the essential work needed. Youth could rebel against learning the social skills and technologies upon which our legal, business, energy, food, transportation and health systems run. We could become paranoid spirits, so convinced of imagined demons surrounding us that we elect a sociopathic despot who soothes with comfort words and images. We could fall prey to a plot such as developed in Turkey over 30-years, where a secret-society quietly moves into positions of leadership and control, with an unelected, unaccountable “boss” calling the shots. We could allow the infospace to become dominated with negative thinking, where citizens are bathed daily in the putrid waters of negative expectations to the point where they absorb and transmit those negative expectations — positive thinkers are marginalized based on their ideas lacking conflict theatrics, heroes, villains, and drama.

    You know what would be great?….for JT to be able to acknowledge that there is a PROBLEM with deceitful infowarfare, that government censorship is not the answer, but that we must nonetheless figure out other ways to deter it.

    You know what would be great?… for JT to say “I don’t want to live in a world where the concept of “truth” is expanded to mean “that which it is in my interest for you to believe”.

    1. So – does that mean that they will prosecute Biden and Harris for their anti-vaxx campaign statements?

  7. Turley continues to be on the right side of freedom of speech. This will irk some leftists.

  8. A better solution to the problem the esteemed Senator prattles about would be to repeal the entire Communications Decency Act.

    The basis for the repeal is the United States Constitution, Amendment 1: “Congress shall [make] no law…regarding the Freedom of the Speech….”

  9. Under S.7568, there would be criminal liability for anyone who makes “a false statement of fact or fraudulent medical theory that is likely to endanger the safety or health of the public.”

    like Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, ex-NIH Director Francis Collins, Teachers Unions, etc, the list is extremely long of public leaders who denigrated both Americans and the discipline of medicine with fraudulent policy directives under the banner of “follow the science”. Today’s younger generation will not forgive them, once/if they recover psychologically and/or physically from these inhumane lockdowns.

    Published yesterday, bullet proof data:

    SARS-CoV-2 spike T cell responses induced upon vaccination or infection remain robust against Omicron
    These results demonstrate that despite Omicron’s extensive mutations and reduced susceptibility to neutralizing antibodies, the majority of T cell response, induced by vaccination or natural infection, cross-recognises the variant. Well-preserved T cell immunity to Omicron is likely to contribute to protection from severe COVID-19, supporting early clinical observations from South Africa.

    Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal also warned that he and his colleagues would not tolerate any “backsliding or retrenching” by “failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.”

    Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, all of DNC, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, all Democrats in the US House, FBI, DOJ, CIA, all legacy media outfits, etc should be punished to the maximum as allowed by laws, for their coup against Donald Trump via the Russian disinformation ”hoax”, for starters…

  10. Holyman “has proposed a new law that would legislate an even greater level of censorship . . .”

    Yet another reason to flee the “People’s State” of New York — as individuals are doing in droves:

    “New York in the last year also recorded a net loss of 352,185 of its population . . .”–new-york-s-population-dropped-by-more-than-300-000-in-one-year

    Guess which states they’re going to.

  11. Stolen Valor Blummenthal is going to protect me from misinformation?

    After 5 years of the Russia Russia Russia sham, and no one held accountable?

    These people have no connection to reality.

    1. Da Nang Dick Blumenthal….who LIED about serving in combat in Vietnam (never having set foot in the place during the War) making himself the very worst kind of LIAR there is….one who steals the Valor from those who did serve in combat…..should be the very first one prosecuted under that new Law….and be put behind Bars where he rightfully belongs. The Federal Prisons would change names from Club Fed to Club Dem overnight.

  12. Corrupt Power grabbing DEM’s all willing to MARCH off the Cliff for the Radical Socialist Authoritarian Corrupt DEM agenda/Bernie Sanders and brother Joe Biden. The DEMS are heading for a disaster in 2022 and they know it but refuse to change course. Perhaps its good then the DEMS loose and then kick out the Left Wing Socialist and rebuild the party from center.

  13. JT is oddly silent on the R assaults on free speech. Like the Florida bill where you can sue your company if they do diversity training, or the Oklahoma 1142 where parents can demand that books be removed from schools and automatically fires any school administrator who refuses.

    1. Being oddly silent for Turley on things that would upset his base is par for the course.

    2. The Florida law does not prohibit “diversity training”. It prevents the promotion of racial essentialism, such as the idea that whites are systemically and perpetually oppressors and blacks systemically and perpetually oppressed.

    3. Citizens, lobbying their Representatives to write legislation directing public education, is not infringing on free speech. It is protecting what is taught in the public Schools.

    4. Sammy — actually, according to the Florida proposal, people can sue their company if they are forced to undergo critical race training. Big difference. Compelled speech is not free speech. You are gaslighting, and the “hate-Turley” brigade jumps right onboard without verifying the facts. Just shows the depth of their thinking.

      1. Gaslighting is the correct word for anything Sammy/ ATS/ Anonymous the Stupid says.

        I will quote an entire paragraph from Ron DeSantis Speech:

        “Bank of America has had training teaching that the United States is a system of “white supremacy” and encourages their employees to become woke at work. Verizon has taught employees that America’s fundamentally racist and they’ve even promoted defunding the police. A Google employee program claims that America’s “a system of white premise and that all Americans are raised to be racist”. That is some of the stuff that we’re seeing. I think about it, if you’re in a company and someone’s telling dirty jokes or doing this, that could be considered a hostile work environment. Well, how is it not a hostile work environment to be attacking people based on their race or telling them that they’re privileged or that they’re part of oppressive systems, when all they’re doing is showing up to work and trying to earn a living. We believe that this corporate CRT, it’s basically corporate sanctioned racism and they’re trying to shove it down these employees throats. We believe that violates the Florida civil rights laws, but at the extent it doesn’t, we’re going to make sure that the law does include this into these laws, so that employees have an ability to protect themselves against this harassment.

        One can read or listen to the rest of the speech themselves.

    5. (I think the Oklahoma bill addresses the rights of parents to control what sexual information is being taught to their students. This right-particularly through the function and purpose of school “boards”–is as old as public education in America. The bill addressed sexually-graphic books and/or those that focus on sexual preference/transgender/homosexuality, etc. that parents had complained about. I’m not sure why you mention this as a “Republican” issue. The Florida bill addressed the political indoctrination of students, triggered by the controversial teaching of CRT. Florida is hardly alone. Again, why is this a “Republican” issue???)

  14. When a law maker in a state house makes false comments he should be censored. One way would be to scream in a bullhorn when lawmaker is speaking. Sound him out.

  15. Professor Turley, ,with all due respect, down South we enjoy the use of the vernacular and idioms that embrace the nuance of language……where you say “men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”, we say “Dumb Ass”.

  16. The real aim of this law is to dissuade people from questioning the orthodoxy of “climate change.” There is a growing body of scientific evidence that the entire phenomenon of man made climate change is a hoax manufactured by the government and bureaucratic elites to gain further control over our lives. The real goal of the left is not to encourage open debate and discourse but to stifle it.

    1. It’s not just the orthodoxy of climate change but any orthodoxy of those in power. What most progressives fail to realize is that free speech and the free exchange of ideas is what allows this country to be somewhat stable even with significant differences between the parties and, individually, politicians. Without the capability to have an open exchange of all ideas the tendency will be a regression o the mean and that is regression to whatever the prevalent orthodoxy is.

      1. I am surprised that he thinks the “complex algorithms” used by social media privilege right wing disinformation. From what I have read it is the opposite.

        1. True. And I would also point to Google algorithms that appear to elevate leftwing ideology in search results (although I cannot claim that it is all disinformation).

    2. Yes, the field of meteorology is a natural fit to alpha-types driven by the need to exert control over others. That’s why they choose this field over investment banker, police officer, or military leader. Meteorologists have access to one of the most corrupt media avenues for pushing out propaganda — peer-reviewed scientific journals and conferences. Looking back in history, we can see numerous instances of those interested in climate study who amassed great power — Adolph “Droughtman” Hitler, Benito “El Nino” Mousolini, Ghenghis Khanflagration, and Alexander The Great Typhoon. Have you seen how meteorologists hoard information as a token of maintaining power over their minions?….just to find out the average rainfall in your city will cost you figuring out how to use a browser and $000,000.00. That’s six figures!!!

      Finally, you never want to trust a meteorologist who makes a distinction between global climate and local weather. Doing things like averaging over time and geography is a tool of censorship, to bury the true story, which is exactly what you see looking out your window. Satellite data taken from thousands of points over the Earth’s surface are easily massaged by Jews with lasers. Global warming is all a big hoax to scare you into preserving what you’ve enjoyed for others who will be born 1000 years from now. What a selfish agenda!
      There’s no way I’m going to sacrifice one iota for people who are living centuries after I’m dead.

      1. pbinica, Your are confusing meteorology, with climatology.

        Climatologists, study climate. Using proxy records going back 100’s of thousands of years to identify patterns. In fact, we are overdue for a 14 thousand year cycle cold pattern.
        Back in the 80’s I state through a lecture, where a Climatologist explained that the weather pattern all the people of the that last 4 to 5 generations experienced was an anomaly. The quiet predictable weather with will established, almost predictable patterns. Where the abnormal. What hundreds of thousand of years of data revealed, is the NORMAL weather pattern is chaotic, and devastaing. Lots of big weather events, Floods, drought, hurricanes typhoons, blizzards.
        Which, I found interesting, and informative from an agricultural perspective. Then, to my surprise, Climate scare mongers start tying big weather events to CAGCC.
        In short they are predicting, what climatologists knew was coming anyway. Or rather, the quite climate we experienced was an anomaly and normal had to reassert itself.

    3. Dennis Bedard: Their real goal is profits. The Dems are (literally) banking on a non-fossil fuel future, and their control over the climate change narrative is essential for their dominance of the “renewable energy” industry. That’s where their future campaign funds will be coming from.

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