The law in question is the "Hateful Conduct Law," signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in June 2022 as part of a legislative package. The law is meant to govern how social media platforms police so-called "hateful conduct" on their platforms. (Related: Former Twitter execs GRILLED by House Republicans over censorship, possible violations of the Constitution.)
The "Hateful Conduct Law" requires social media websites to make it easier for users in New York to report "incidents of hateful conduct," and to respond quickly to complaints explaining how the matter is being handled.
The law went into effect in December. It defines "hateful conduct" as the use of social media platforms "to vilify, humiliate or incite violence against a group or a class of persons on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."
The Hateful Conduct Law shares similarities with a California law requiring social media platforms to report their policies on hate speech, extremism and disinformation to the state attorney general twice a year.
Legal blogger Eugene Volokh, owner of the Volokh Conspiracy blog and pro-free speech video hosting platform Rumble Inc., filed a case against the Hateful Conduct Law, arguing that it would cause harm to online services and stifle the proliferation of alternative viewpoints on the internet.
United States District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. of the District Court for the Southern District of New York sided with Volokh and Rumble in his ruling.
Carter cited the Supreme Court's 2017 decision in the Matal v. Tam case, in which the justices unanimously agreed that a federal law that would have prohibited trademark names that disparaged others was unconstitutional because "speech may not be banned on the grounds that it expresses ideas that offend."
While he called the law "well-intentioned," the district judge noted that the law also has a "potential chilling effect" due to the vagueness of some of the terms used.
For example, Carter noted that the law's definition of hateful conduct includes the terms "to vilify" and "humiliate." In terms of the law, it is not entirely clear what these terms mean.
"While it is true that there are readily accessible dictionary definitions of those words, the law does not define what type of 'conduct' or 'speech' could be encapsulated by them," he wrote.
Carter further noted that the First Amendment also protects speech that others may deem hateful from state regulation "and generally disfavors regulation of speech based on its content unless it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest."
"The Hateful Conduct Law both compels social media networks to speak about the contours of hate speech and chills the constitutionally protected speech of social media users, without articulating a compelling governmental interest or ensuring that the law is narrowly tailored to that goal," wrote Carter in his ruling.
The district judge further noted that the law overreached when it required social media networks to create new policies detailing how they will respond to complaints of hateful content.
"In other words, the law requires that social media networks devise and implement a written policy – i.e., speech," he wrote.
"In the face of our national commitment to the free expression of speech, even where that speech is offensive or repugnant, Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction, prohibiting enforcement of the law, is GRANTED," wrote Carter.
Learn more about the different attempts to regulate online free expression at SpeechPolice.news.
Watch this clip from OAN discussing how Big Tech has censored conservative voices online.