Hate Speech: Is US Protection Too Broad?

Free speech protections increasingly at odd with European model
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2008 8:39 AM CDT
The first amendment to the Constitution offers unique protections of free speech, increasingly at odds with a European model of criminalizing hate speech.   ((c) Thorne Enterprises)
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(Newser) – Several years ago American conservative journalist Mark Steyn published a piece denigrating Islam in Maclean's, the leading newsweekly in Canada. While its tone was sharp, its content was no more inflammatory than the material in American rightwing publications. But now Maclean's is facing trial for publishing hate speech, writes Adam Liptak in the Times, in a story highlighting the uniqueness of US free speech protections, and questioning whether they're out of date.

While free speech enjoys profound protections in the US, most countries have criminalized pronouncements of hate or incitations to violence. Denying the Holocaust is a crime in many nations, while American courts famously allowed neo-Nazis to march. Many legal scholars are now wondering whether the First Amendment is too broad: "It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken," said one philosopher.