Lawmakers Call for Examination of Hate Speech in Media

Bill introduced in wake of Kansas City shooting

Reacting to Sunday's hate crime at two Jewish centers in Kansas City, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) introduced today a bill to update the government's 20-year-old report on hate speech in the media.

The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014 would examine the role of the Internet and other telecommunications in encouraging hate crimes based on gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, and would provide recommendations to address such crimes.

On Sunday, the eve of the Jewish Passover, a 73-year-old man shot and killed three people at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and the Village Shalom Retirement Center in Overland Park, Kansas. The suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, was charged Monday with a hate crime

According to reports, the Kansas City suspect has a long history as a white supremacist who authored more than 12,000 posts on Vanguard News Network, an anti-Semitic, white supremacist website. 

"We have recently seen in Kansas the deadly destruction and loss of life that hate speech can fuel in the United States, which is why it is critical to ensure the Internet, television and radio are not encouraging hate crimes or hate speech that is not outside the protection of the First Amendment," said Markey.

Markey was responsible for the bill that in 1992 directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to examine the role of telecommunications in encouraging hate crimes. This new bill would update that report, which was submitted to Congress in 1993.

The 1993 report was inconclusive. It found only a few cases in which individuals used telecommunications to advocate openly the commission of crimes; in most of the cases, individuals used telecommunications to disseminate messages of hate and bigotry to wider audiences.

Congress defines a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation."