Social media comments praising the sniper and vowing to kill more cops should not be protected under the First Amendment.
In 1942, the U.S. Supreme Court established the fighting words doctrine in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. The court determined “insulting or ‘fighting words,’ those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of peace” are among the “well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech the prevention and punishment of [which] … have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem.”
But the enforcement of this standard may not come quickly enough. Therefore, it’s up to the social media companies to make good on their policies.
Everyone has to agree to policies to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and most other social media operations.
Here is the Terms of Service agreement with Facebook:
“We respect other people’s rights, and expect you to do the same.
- You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.
- We can remove any content or information you post on Facebook if we believe that it violates this Statement or our policies.”
Social media organizations, which deploy an army of editors taking down content that violate copyright, need to employ editors to remove content.
A note to news organizations: I do not care about the motivation or psychological condition of the shooter. The name should never be reported in the media. I share the name of some wingnut who killed people in Oregon. Everyone who searches for my name will see his first on the results. These vicious people have followed the notoriety of other vicious people, being remembered only by their vicious acts.
I was pleased to see Anderson Cooper decide not to use the name of the Orlando shooter. I hope other news organizations follow his lead.