Can tech companies legally cancel service to hate groups?

By William Gayde ยท 61 replies
Aug 18, 2017
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  1. 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.

    Permalink to story.

  2. trparky

    trparky TS Evangelist Posts: 328   +189

    If it's against their Terms of Service then yes, they can cancel service. But I can guarantee you that those Terms of Service better be legally sound or it's Lawsuit City.
    Reehahs, Evernessince and Avro Arrow like this.
  3. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow TS Enthusiast Posts: 30   +13

    I totally agree with what these companies have done but I'm willing to bet that there are several hate groups that they are still serving. As much as I hate Neo-Nazis (I can't even stand Neo-Cons), I think that they're being singled out somewhat. I think that all groups that preach hate and intolerance should be removed.
  4. Tinderbox

    Tinderbox TS Rookie

    Slippery slope.
  5. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 10,230   +4,156

    Yes it is and I guarantee no one will like where this leads to.
    rpjkw11 and psycros like this.
  6. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,704   +1,812

    Pretty much this, so long as the ToS doesn't cross any lines of the law. Federal law will always override any ToS.

    The said, the question remains: What will happen for physical stores like the Baker above who denied service to a Gay couple. It's not like they had a sign out front saying "No Gays". The sign, in my opinion, is like the ToS for the store. If they don't have one then you wouldn't expect any restrictions. The only reason these people were denied service is because it interfered with someone's religion but we are supposed to have religious freedom in the United States.
    dms96960 and Reehahs like this.
  7. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 5,119   +4,178

    What your garden variety socialist looks like before power:

    What your garden variety socialist looks like in power:

    That's not how socialism or communism work. You do what the SJWs say or there will be "progress."
    rpjkw11 and psycros like this.
  8. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 10,230   +4,156

    Denying someone in my shop/home does not deny anyone the right to freedom of religion in their shop/home. It does however strengthen my freedom of religion. Anyone else is free to pursue their own freedom of religion. With enough demand they can then start their own shop of supplies.
  9. jaxonian

    jaxonian TS Rookie

    Here's why this will never work: If they can do this and make it stick, I know so many people who would happily ban everyone and every group who ever even thought of supporting Donald effing Trump. Not that that's such a bad idea, but you see what I'm saying. After all, it's his hateful words and actions that encourages these neo-Nazis and makes them feel entitled to visit violence on others.
  10. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,656   +3,115

    So, it could basically be said you "hate, hate groups".

    Why not be the bigger person, and simply, "don't go to the church where that gospel is being preached".

    If we proceed under your rules, the only opinion which will be allowed is one of which you approve, That would be most likely your opinion.
    Trump has never preached hate. Your vivid imagination has chosen to read that into it, for the sake of your SJW pretend warrior's convenience.

    You sound more like someone who's still angry about the outcome of the presidential election, and is also pissed because he wasn't allowed to write Trump's initial denunciation speech.
    rpjkw11, Magnums94, dms96960 and 3 others like this.
  11. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,104   +1,591

    So when can we expect all these companies to denounce and/or blacklist BLM, Antifa, etc? You know, the groups that have been maiming, burning, looting and killing for years now. Where were the demands for Obama to denounce the violence of these anarchists? Oh, right, he was too busy blaming "white privilege" for all of society's problems while the media was excusing the murders of police officers who were just doing their jobs. Only a compete fool believes that Trump did anything to empower white supremacists - and if they bothered to actually educate themselves they would know this.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
  12. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,704   +1,812

    We've been down that road before though. Anyone can make a religion up with whatever rule set they wish.
  13. Panda218

    Panda218 TS Evangelist Posts: 521   +246

    Keep drinking that Koolaid. I dare you to visit a local BLM meeting in your area. Maybe you could actually learn something about the group. As with other groups there are always radical *****s ruining the message that's trying to be spread.
  14. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 10,230   +4,156

    To be fair that is what all the groups say about themselves. It is a recruitment tactic used by all, and says nothing for being worthy of fellowship.
  15. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 2,154   +288

    I don't think Trump should be able to take down anti Trump tweet accounts, I guess I would have to support the right of racists too then.... but for all I care they can all die in a fire.
  16. namesrejected

    namesrejected TS Guru Posts: 398   +301

    Geez, just pass a law forcing everyone to only screw people of other races till we are all an equal blend of everything.
    captaincranky likes this.
  17. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,656   +3,115

    Wouldn't that be like trying to create "the master race in reverse"? It would appear, (although no one will admit to it), that it's human nature to hate others different than ourselves. Wouldn't that cause the entire population to be consumed by self loathing?
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
  18. namesrejected

    namesrejected TS Guru Posts: 398   +301

    I wouldn't say its human nature to "hate" others different than ourselves. I have many friends of many different races, the issue is when government, corporations, colleges cater to them based on their race so as not to be " racist ". That IS RACIST, and that makes others racist! Think about the Caucasian person who comes from a low income family, but has worked hard all their life keeping excellent grades hoping that the effort will get them financial aid, only to be turned down for a full scholarship to a great college because an Indian from a fairly wealthy family applied for the same scholarship.

    Let me put it this way.
    No one will be mad if I say. " Lets send all KKK, and NeoNazis to the moon! They are the problem "
    What if I say " Lets send all Lulac and NAACP to the moon! They are the problem ". Well now I'm guilty of hate speech.

    In reality, all of those are the same, they are all organizations that cater to a single race, and they all are part of the problem.

    As long as people can get certain benefits that others can't because of race, there will be racism. The only place race should be used for anything is in the medical industry.
    captaincranky likes this.
  19. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,463   +512

    Is BLM a hate group? Are Muslim's a hate group? Who decides? This is BS
  20. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,619   +1,236

    One thing that really does not have to be in the terms of service is that if these groups have anything that is in any way illegal in their hosted content. If there is, then any hosting service/isp is well within their rights to terminate the service. I would not be surprised if at least some extremist groups have something in their content that is illegal no matter whether that is left or right. I get people are not stupid, but there are those extremists that have been emboldened recently. Whether everyone believes so or not, there are limits to first amendment rights, and for those interested, it does not take much to confirm this.
  21. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,619   +1,236

    As I see it, it is the extremist members of any group that give those who do not subscribe to extremist views a bad name and reputation. Just because an extremist claims to be a member of (put your favorite group to hate here - left or right) is far from meaning that all of that group subscribe to those same extremist views.
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  22. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,619   +1,236

    Apples and PCs. Once more, is it fair to classify all from a group extremist because a few in that group are?
  23. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,656   +3,115

    Dude, you're preaching to the choir.

    And the number of wars fought during the entirety of human history over, ideology and property, would very much dispute your claim that we're one big happy family.

    Plus, I'm really disappointed with you, that you didn't pick up my post you're quoting as satire, pure and simple.

    And BTW, "some of my best friends are, (insert race here), has been played out for decades.

    I'd say, "please don't. They are becoming an endangered species, and we can't afford to allow them to become extinct
    I wouldn't! I'd say, "it's a stellar idea", pun intended. This nation can't withstand the onslaught of their propaganda very much longer, without bringing about a race war. At least anybody with any semblance of a sense of reality should be able to see that. The only thing preventing exactly that, is the fact groups like the NAACP, have been able to tap into, and harness, "white guilt" over slavery with tremendous, self serving success.. I've never owned a slave, and hence I don't have any guilt to feel about it. Accordingly I see these movements for what they are; a vehicle to enforce the old axiom, "give them an inch, and they'll take a mile".

    "Equality" is naught but a buzz word, for a much more sinister agenda. In fact, even Bob Dylan, a great social activist saw it for what it was, 50 years ago.

    He dismissed the concept thus: "Equality I spoke the words, as though a wedding vow".
    "But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now"

    Actually, it should also be used by taxonomists.

    A "sub species" is a group of the same species of individuals, separated by geographic boundaries, oftentimes was differences in size, habitat, and coloration. "Race" is something humans cooked up, because well, we can't handle the truth. A truth which places us as the apex predator of the entire animal kingdom.

    Humans have "the power of reason", which is a euphemism for, "we don't do anything without an ulterior motive". Those same "ulterior motives", are what is shaping our cultural dynamic.

    And by the way, if you want to hear "hate speech", just suffer through a few modern hip-hop albums. But hey, that tactless, profane, artless garbage, is "protected speech".

    Modern times almost make me glad I most likely won't be around to see how this turns out.

    I could go on.....mercifully, I won't. I can hear a lot of hapless, naive, idealistic, thoroughly brainwashed , millennial twits saying, "thank god he's done for now.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
    namesrejected likes this.
  24. Kris95

    Kris95 TS Member

    Of course companies can legally cancel service to hate groups. Since when does the first amendment apply to private individuals? What if I came to Techspot and started shouting the N-Word and calling for the extermination of certain ethnic groups? Would Techspot allow that? I seriously doubt it. Would people start crying if Techspot kicked me off the site and removed my posts and would we have an article asking if Techspot could legally do that? Judging by this thread it wouldn't surprise me.
  25. Kris95

    Kris95 TS Member

    It's not very hard unless you're just really dumb. Do all Muslim's spread hate and violence? The answer is no. Therfore they are not a hate group. Do all people involved in BLM spread hatred and violence? Again, of course not. Now what about a group that is specifically about racism and the extermination of inferior races? Are all Nazis bad? Hell yes they are. See how easy this is? Try using your brain once in a while.

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