Terrorism and the First Amendment, & More from CRS

09.12.16 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Incitement to commit an imminent act of violence is not protected by the First Amendment, and may be restricted by the government. But advocacy of terrorism that stops short of inciting “imminent” violence probably falls within the ambit of freedom of speech. A new report from the Congressional Research Service examines the legal framework for evaluating this issue.

“Many policymakers, including some Members of Congress, have expressed concern about the influence the speech of terrorist groups and the speech of others who advocate terrorism can have on those who view or read it,” CRS notes. Yet, “Significant First Amendment freedom of speech issues are raised by the prospect of government restrictions on the publication and distribution of speech, even speech that advocates terrorism.”

Essentially, in order for punishment of speech advocating violence to be constitutional, “the speaker must both intend to incite a violent or lawless action and that action must be likely to imminently occur as a result.”

At the same time, “government restrictions on advocacy that is provided to foreign terrorist organizations as material support have been upheld as permissible. This report will discuss relevant precedent that may limit the extent to which advocacy of terrorism may be restricted. The report will also discuss the potential application of the federal ban on the provision of material support to foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) to the advocacy of terrorism and the dissemination of such advocacy by online service providers like Twitter or Facebook.”

See The Advocacy of Terrorism on the Internet: Freedom of Speech Issues and the Material Support Statutes, September 8, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Digital Searches and Seizures: Overview of Proposed Amendments to Rule 41 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, updated September 8, 2016

Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence, September 7, 2016

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 114th Congress, updated September 9, 2016

Interior Immigration Enforcement: Criminal Alien Programs, September 8, 2016

The Endangered Species Act: A Primer, updated September 8, 2016

Biologics and Biosimilars: Background and Key Issues, September 7, 2016

Corporate Inversions: Frequently Asked Legal Questions, September 7, 2016

FATCA Reporting on U.S. Accounts: Recent Legal Developments, September 7, 2016

National Monuments and the Antiquities Act, updated September 7, 2016

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2016, updated September 7, 2016

The 2016 G-20 Summit, CRS Insight, September 8, 2016

Qatar: Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, September 7, 2016

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations, updated September 6, 2016

Burma Holds Peace Conference, CRS Insight, September 8, 2016

EU State Aid and Apple’s Taxes, CRS Insight, September 2, 2016

Leadership Succession in Uzbekistan, CRS Insight, September 6, 2016

Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC): Background and Issues for Congress, updated September 9, 2016

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV): Background and Issues for Congress, updated September 9, 2016

NASA: FY2017 Budget and Appropriations, September 6, 2016

Information Warfare: Russian Activities, CRS Insight, September 2, 2016