The American Civil Liberties Union and a group of moderate internet freedom advocates are trying to beat the clock to a new state law that aims to deter so-called “terroristic threats” and harassment.
The Alabama senate approved a “Anti-Trolling Bill” last month, but it hasn’t been officially signed by the governor yet.
The bill would impose criminal and civil penalties on people who make “terroristic threats or express hateful speech,” the Fox7 Alabama news station reported. The measure specifically targets people who use online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
But some of the most prominent and powerful anti-hate groups are being left out of the process. Instead, they’re gathering signatures on a petition that would force lawmakers to pass the bill.
Criminal law doesn’t apply on social media sites, but hate speech law does. Mississippi legislators recently amended the hate speech law to cover cyberspace.
Wisconsin’s bill also deals with only social media. The Alabama measure that only mentions social media would otherwise seem to supersede Wisconsin’s, but the ACLU would have no problem with it.
The problem, however, is that Arizona, Connecticut, South Carolina, South Dakota, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming all require legislation to deal with hate speech online.
Mississippi’s law was drafted specifically to address the way Facebook tracks when users interact with targeted political campaigns. It said it allows for “reasonable data collection and collection of data about users to better identify and control users’ online behaviors.”
As it stands now, state and federal legislators have no legal power to get Facebook to stop handing over info when an individual is targeted.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, in remarks carried on local television, called the Internet a “golden age of democracy” and said people who have used it to incite and incite and incite is “not what the Internet should be.”
Supporters of the Alabama bill say free speech is under attack and they hope it’s a step in the right direction. They would like it to become law well before the governor signs it, but that seems unlikely in a state that strongly supports the First Amendment.
The Georgia-based project Social Security Hate Crime: Civil Liability for Facebook has created a petition on change.org to “end the supremacy of free speech for bullies and haters, instead taking responsibility to protect victims of threats, harassment, and hate speech online.”
FoxNews.com’s Trace Gallagher contributed to this report.