Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, is also the author of a book called The Twilight of International Human Rights Law. I wonder if he noticed the irony, as he wrote,
Never before in our history have enemies outside the United States been able to propagate genuinely dangerous ideas on American territory in such an effective way—and by this I mean ideas that lead directly to terrorist attacks that kill people. The novelty of this threat calls for new thinking about limits on freedom of speech.
Posner isn’t calling for making it a crime to recruit people for terrorism. That is already illegal. And he makes it clear that Twitter and Facebook censoring ISIS pages is not enough. He’s worried that ISIS gets past such measures by using “a graduated approach.”
Consider Ali Amin, the subject of a recent article in the New York Times. Lonely and bored, the 17-year-old Virginia resident discovered ISIS online, was gradually drawn into its messianic world, eventually exchanged messages with other supporters and members, and then provided some modest logistical support to ISIS supporters (instructing them how to transfer funds secretly and driving an ISIS recruit to the airport). He was convicted of the crime of material support of terrorism and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Amin did not start out as a jihadi; he was made into one.
And that’s the bottom line. We have an obligation to punish people if they are curious about ISIS to protect the weak-minded from becoming jihadists.
But there is something we can do to protect people like Amin from being infected by the ISIS virus by propagandists, many of whom are anonymous and most of whom live in foreign countries. Consider a law that makes it a crime to access websites that glorify, express support for, or provide encouragement for ISIS or support recruitment by ISIS; to distribute links to those websites or videos, images, or text taken from those websites; or to encourage people to access such websites by supplying them with links or instructions. Such a law would be directed at people like Amin: naïve people, rather than sophisticated terrorists, who are initially driven by curiosity to research ISIS on the Web.
The law would provide graduated penalties. After the first violation, a person would receive a warning letter from the government; subsequent violations would result in fines or prison sentences. The idea would be to get out the word that looking at ISIS-related websites, like looking at websites that display child pornography, is strictly forbidden. As word spread, people like Amin would be discouraged from searching for ISIS-related websites and perhaps be spared radicalization and draconian punishment for more serious terrorism-related crimes.
So instead of prosecuting Amin for supporting terrorism, we should instead have punished him earlier for reading an ISIS-related website. Otherwise he will be “infected by the ISIS virus.” The First Amendment must be cancelled.
This sounds a lot like criminalizing Islam on the web.
There is a lot to be said for that idea in a Christian theocracy, but it wouldn’t work in secular America (whether that is what the Constitution intended or not, that is what we have currently). Instead, it would play out to allow our ruling class to jail anyone who visits Christian or conservative websites. You know our regime is constantly trumpeting “domestic terrorism,” and associating that label with the right to life, gun rights, and liberty.