Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups?

The past few days have seen many of the largest tech companies coming out against extremist groups such as the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists. While condemning hate is nothing new, this has led to a debate over whether or not these groups are protected under the First Amendment. They have the legal right to free speech and to protest in the real world, but what about when they look to form communities and engage in hate speech online?

The debate started when GoDaddy kicked the Daily Stormer off of their site for violating their terms of service. They have since been exiled to the Tor network after their .com and .ru domain names were cancelled. Cloudflare, Apple, Google, and many others have followed by dropping domain names of hate sites, banning accounts of white supremacists, or otherwise canceling service to those putting forward hate speech. Can these companies legally do this despite given the protection of free speech under the first amendment? The tentative answer for now is yes.

Current laws do allow discrimination based on ideology and the Communications Decency Act allows tech companies to "publish or not publish things" as they choose.

These laws are different from ones regarding employment which protect from discrimination based on race, religion, and sexual orientation. This means political groups like neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other extremists are not protected classes and therefore have no right to free speech online. Private companies are currently withing the law to refuse them service.

Going forward, the Supreme Court plans to make a decision on this issue in the coming months. They will be hearing the case of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. While not related to hate speech online, the ruling might have far reaching effects for accommodation laws.

Comments

Privacy Policy

Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups? is dedicated to protecting consumer privacy on the Internet. Our practices are consistent with privacy guidelines established by eTrust.com.

Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups? does not require any personal information to obtain access to our website.

Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups? does require limited personal information including name and mailing address from individuals wishing to join as members. Additional information such as e-mail address and phone number may also be requested in order that we may contact members in a timely manner on issues related to our mission.

You will only receive e-mail from us if you request to be added to our e-mail list. You may revise or remove your e-mail address from our files at any time.

Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups? uses "cookie" technology to obtain non-personal information from our online visitors, such as browser/computer type, number of visitors, and site usage. We do not use cookies to extract personal information.

Our website contains links to other sites, but Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups? does not necessarily advocate, support or condone the privacy practices or content of these websites.

Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups? makes all information received from our online visitors as secure as possible against unauthorized access and use. All information is protected by state-of-the-art security technology.

Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups? respects the individual privacy rights and concerns of visitors to our website. We support meaningful self-regulation of the Internet to ensure that responsible organizations maintain the right to use all communications media to interact with the public.