Race, Racism and the Law 
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Racism on the Internet

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Vernellia R. Randall
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Racism on the Internet. The Supreme Court has made it clear that communications on the Internet receive the same constitutional protections under the First Amendment that communications in other media enjoy. Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997). Thus, material that can be proscribed or punished in print and voice media can be proscribed or punished if published on the Internet. In the past several years, the United States has investigated and prosecuted allegations of racially-motivated threats over the Internet. For example, in 1996, a California man sent death threats by e-mail to numerous Asian-American students at the University of California at Irvine indicating his hatred of Asians, accusing Asians of being responsible for all crime on campus, and threatening to "hunt down" and "kill" the individuals if they did not leave the school. The sender of these messages was federally prosecuted and convicted by a jury of using racially-motivated threats of force to interfere with the victims' rights to attend public college in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 245. Similarly, in February of 1999, another California defendant pleaded guilty to violating the same statute by sending racially-threatening e-mails through the Internet to numerous Hispanic individuals at various governmental and educational institutions across the country.

Racism on the Internet. The Supreme Court has made it clear that communications on the Internet receive the same constitutional protections under the First Amendment that communications in other media enjoy. Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997). Thus, material that can be proscribed or punished in print and voice media can be proscribed or punished if published on the Internet. In the past several years, the United States has investigated and prosecuted allegations of racially-motivated threats over the Internet. For example, in 1996, a California man sent death threats by e-mail to numerous Asian-American students at the University of California at Irvine indicating his hatred of Asians, accusing Asians of being responsible for all crime on campus, and threatening to "hunt down" and "kill" the individuals if they did not leave the school. The sender of these messages was federally prosecuted and convicted by a jury of using racially-motivated threats of force to interfere with the victims' rights to attend public college in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 245. Similarly, in February of 1999, another California defendant pleaded guilty to violating the same statute by sending racially-threatening e-mails through the Internet to numerous Hispanic individuals at various governmental and educational institutions across the country.

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Last Updated:
Friday, October 05, 2001  

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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).