Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) teamed up with five other groups funded by George Soros to pressure tech companies to "reduce hateful activities on their platforms." While this sounds like a noble goal, mainstream conservative and Christian groups that have fallen afoul of the SPLC warned that these liberal organizations have an "Orwellian" definition of hate that most Americans would disagree with. Worse, social media companies already seem biased against conservatives, and this SPLC campaign would only embolden that bias.
On Wednesday, the SPLC led a coalition of groups in releasing "Change the Terms," aiming to convince Big Tech to "reduce hateful activities on their platforms." The coalition warned that "white supremacist and other organizations that incite hate are using online platforms to organize, fund, recruit supporters for, and normalize racism, sexism, religious bigotry, as well as anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant animus, among other activities."
While the overwhelming majority of Americans abhor wicked ideologies like white supremacy, the SPLC boldly associates its political opponents with similar "hate," smearing them as "hate groups" to be compared with the KKK.
"It's obviously concerning that they want to censor free speech, and of course their definition of 'hate speech' is not what most people think of as hate speech," Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Christian legal nonprofit Liberty Counsel, told PJ Media.
"Most people think of hate speech as somebody encouraging physical violence," Staver argued. Groups like the SPLC "extend it to anybody who doesn't accept their view on LGBT issues, same-sex marriage, abortion, immigration, or Islam."
Tech companies have already targeted Liberty Counsel for adverse treatment thanks to the SPLC's "hate group" list. "We had Norton Security software attempt to block us," Staver recalled. "We sent a demand letter, and they withdrew the block. When they did their own review, they concluded that we were not a hate group."
If tech companies consider "Change the Terms," they should also examine the source.
"Tech companies should be aware that the Southern Poverty Law Center was connected in federal court to domestic terrorism when the shooter who attacked the Family Research Council in 2012 pled guilty to the crime while confessing that he relied on the SPLC's discredited 'hate map' to target the FRC," Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, executive vice president at the Family Research Council (FRC), told PJ Media.
Boykin warned that "the SPLC is a political defamation machine that has little respect for freedom of thought and expression. The SPLC is calling on tech companies to sacrifice free speech on the altar of political correctness."
"To demand that social media platforms push past First Amendment principles to pursue nothing but the strictest forms of content-based regulation on free speech is to throw decades of jurisprudence on the fires of history," Boykin argued. "The SPLC's requests are nothing more than a demand to acquiesce to Neo-Marxism."
The SPLC and its coalition would likely respond that the proposed terms do not violate the First Amendment. In a set of Frequently Asked Questions on the "Change the Terms" website, the groups argue that "hateful activity" means "activities that incite or engage in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability."
"Because of the strict definition of hateful activity found in the terms of service, these policies will not block free speech," the site claims. The First Amendment does not bind a private company, but it also does not protect all speech. "We carefully wrote the definition of hateful activity to cover types of speech that courts have said are not protected as free speech: incitement, violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, and defamation."
The difficulty comes, however, in the application of these terms. "Change the Terms" calls on tech companies to "allow for individuals and organizations — but not government actors — to flag hateful activities, as well as flag groups and individuals engaged in hateful activities," and to "create a trusted flagger program for vetted, well-established civil and human rights organizations to expedite review of potential hateful activities."
Monitoring content on massive social media sites is difficult, so the SPLC and its Soros-funded allies are here to help! Just who would these "civil and human rights organizations" be?
The coalition includes the Center for American Progress (CAP), a left-wing group whose former president served as chief of staff for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. CAP admits receiving more than $1 million from Soros' Open Society Foundations, but the Media Research Center put the number at $10 million — back in 2015!
CAP and the SPLC also teamed up with Free Press (which received $350,000 from Open Society Foundations in 2009), Color of Change (whose co-founders are Van Jones and a former MoveOn.org director, and which received $550,000 from the Open Society Foundation), the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (a group that opposed Robert Bork in 1984 and received more than $900,000 from Soros groups), and the National Hispanic Media Coalition (which took $450,000from Open Society Foundations in 2016). Not to be left out, the SPLC also received a $75,000 grant from Open Society Foundations in 2016.
Jennifer Roback Morse, a leader at the Ruth Institute (which lost its credit-card processor thanks to the SPLC's "hate group" label), told PJ Media that "'Change the Terms' seems to be a coalition of well-funded hard-Left organizations intent on shutting down even small opponents."
Lamentably, "the people behind 'Change the Terms' appear to be completely oblivious to their own biases," Morse noted. She warned that "independent thinkers should not allow groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center to censor the Internet."