Markey’s mission creep

April 25, 2014 in News by The Manimal

Source: Boston Herald

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey wants to empower an obscure federal agency to begin scouring the Internet, TV and radio for speech it finds threatening — a plan met with jeers from defenders of the First Amendment. Here we add one more incredulous voice to the chorus.

The “Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014” presents a frankly chilling proposition. The spookily-named National Telecommunications and Information Administration (what, you’ve never heard of it?) would be required to submit a report to Congress on “the use of telecommunications” “to advocate and encourage violent acts and the commission of crimes of hate.”

Using its own judgment to determine what qualifies as impermissible speech, the new government hall monitors would then recommend steps for Congress to take that are “appropriate and necessary to address such use of telecommunications.” Now, those recs must be “consistent with the First Amendment,” the bill says — and Markey insists.

But prosecutors already have the authority to prosecute threats. And for the life of us we can’t fathom any further government limit on Internet postings or talk radio callers that could be structured to protect an American’s right to free expression. Neither can the experts.

“This proposed legislation is worse than merely silly. It is dangerous,” civil liberties lawyer Harvey A. Silverglate said. “It is not up to Sen. Markey, nor to the federal government, to define for a free people what speech is, and is not, acceptable.”

Either silly, dangerous or both — a Markey specialty. Inexplicably unchallenged in his bid for a full Senate term the state’s junior senator clearly needs something to occupy his time. Perhaps he could crack a briefing book on the crisis in Ukraine rather than looking for his own extra-constitutional methods of punishing speech he finds unacceptable.