On Wednesday, The Guardian reported:
Hundreds of videos inciting violence, including some linked to the suspected al-Qaida mastermind of the cargo plane bomb plot, were removed from YouTube today.
The videos were highlighted after the conviction of Roshonara Choudhry for attempting to kill the former [British] government minister Stephen Timms. She was radicalised watching internet sermons by Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist cleric now in Yemen who the US suspects masterminded several terrorist plots.
In a private speech in the US last week, the security minister, Lady Neville-Jones, called on the White House to “take down this hateful material” in cases where servers were located within its jurisdiction.
“When you have incitement to murder, when you have people actively calling for the killing of their fellow citizens and when you have the means to stop that person doing so, then I believe we should act,” she said. “Those websites would categorically not be allowed in the UK. They incite cold-blooded murder and as such are surely contrary to the public good.”
Will YouTube also now be looking at videos conveying messages of hate from people like Michael Savage?
When Byron Williams went on a shooting spree in California this summer, his desire to “start a revolution” was inspired in part, it was reported, by Savage’s talk radio rants. Speaking about the ACLU, Savage had warned: “They will kill us all if they’re not stopped.” Williams aimed to do just that by killing the ACLU’s leaders.
In 2006, Savage called for the killing of 100 million Muslims:
There are too many RDDBs [red-diaper doper babies, Savage’s term for people supposedly raised by Marxist parents] in high places and in the media and in the courts for us to stand up to this fanatical enemy. And so unless the RDDB is reined in somehow or taken out of power, we’re going to die as a nation. I swear to God that’s what people are saying to me. And these are intelligent people, wealthy people. They are very depressed by the weakness that America is showing to these psychotics in the Muslim world. They say, “Oh, there’s a billion of them.” I said, “So, kill 100 million of them, then there’ll be 900 million of them.” I mean, would you rather die — would you rather us die than them? I mean, what is it going to take for you people to wake up? Would you rather we disappear or we die? Or would you rather they disappear and they die? Because you’re going to have to make that choice sooner rather than later.
In 2008, after the Mumbai attacks, Savage advocated genocide, referring to the tribal areas of Western Pakistan, saying: “[T]here’s no question that entire region needs to be annihilated and stripped off the earth.”
From Michael Savage, to Pastors John Hagee, Rod Parsley and Terry Jones, America has no shortage of hate-mongers whose words are capable of inciting violence. Should YouTube and other publishers and media outlets be policing their operations so that none of these men can find an easily available platform from which to vent their anger?
Not if we want to protect the First Amendment.
In 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” The ruling went on to cite Noto v United States (1961) which said: “the mere abstract teaching … of the moral propriety or even moral necessity for a resort to force and violence, is not the same as preparing a group for violent action and steeling it to such action.”
On this basis, it seems pretty clear that lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, available on YouTube, and Michael Savage’s talk-radio rants, are both examples of free speech protected by the First Amendment.