Cyber Trolls, Death Threats and the First Amendment

WED, MAR 15, 2017

In October 2016, Politico reporter Hadas Gold wrote an article about the presidential campaign and was met with a litany of Naziesque death threats. She received a photoshopped image of herself with a bloody bullet hole to her forehead and a yellow “Jude” star, as Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, on her chest.

From journalists and activists, to doctors and politicians, death threats, and particularly anti-Semitic and anti-women cyber threats, have become common fodder on social media. The mechanisms of the internet – its global reach, immediacy and anonymity – have exposed an ugly underbelly of targeted hate. As they consider user rights and First Amendment freedoms, social media platforms are grappling with whether to police, or even prosecute, these threats.

On the internet, the push and pull between hate speech and freedom of speech reflects a new frontier in the pursuit of an ethical society. Is there a road back to civility? How far can the First Amendment be reasonably stretched? Should journalists and others under threat simply double down, or is self-censorship the way forward?

(Photo: Pixbay)

+ BIO: Lisa Green

Lisa Green (pictured) is an author, lawyer, and legal analyst. A former senior producer at NBC News, Lisa has appeared on TODAY, CBS This Morning, MSNBC, CNBC and CNN.com to discuss current legal issues, and has written for MSNBC.com and Tablet. Lisa has litigated cases involving First Amendment, access, new media and intellectual property claims. Her book, On Your Case: A Comprehensive, Compassionate (and Only Slightly Bossy) Legal Guide for Every Stage of a Women's Life (William Morrow) was hailed by Judge Judy Sheindlin as "an insightful encyclopedia and brilliantly crafted."

+ BIO: Mary Anne Frank

Mary Anne Franks is a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law and the Vice-President and Legislative & Tech Policy Director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating online abuse and discrimination. Professor Franks frequently advises legislators and tech industry leaders, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft, on privacy and abuse issues. She is the author of The Radicalized Constitution: The Rise of Fanaticism in American Law and Politics (forthcoming, Stanford University Press), in addition to numerous scholarly and popular press articles. Professor Franks holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and doctorate and master’s degrees from Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

+ BIO: Hadas Gold

Hadas Gold is a reporter at POLITICO, covering media and politics. She joined POLITICO after a wide range of experience from following trash pickers in Argentina with the Pulitzer Center and work with Spanish-language network NTN24, to internships with 60 Minutes, PolitiFact and Cox Newspapers. Gold earned her B.A. in journalism and M.A. in media and public affairs from The George Washington University and is a proud alumna of the award-winning college newspaper, The GW Hatchet. She was born in Tel Aviv born and raised in Arizona.

+ BIO: Ari Ezra Waldman

Ari Ezra Waldman is Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School (NYLS) and an Affiliate Scholar with Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. Professor Waldman is the Founder and Director of NYLS’s Data Privacy Project, a locus of student-faculty cross-disciplinary research on notice and choice, privacy and design, and trust and disclosure. He is the founder and director of the Institute for CyberSafety, a research and direct services initiative that includes, among other things, the first and to date only law school clinic providing free counsel to victims of cyberharassment. Professor Waldman is a nationally recognized expert on data privacy and cyberharassment. He recently appeared as an expert on Syfy’s “The Internet Ruined My Life,” a six-episode miniseries on privacy and cyberharassment. Professor Waldman holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and a B.A., magna cum laude, from Harvard College and has published work in many leading law reviews.

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