The enduring belief in the principle of a free marketplace of ideas was demonstrated by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in his dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States in 1919. In Abrams, Holmes wrote:
So powerful was Holmes’ dissent, that some legal scholars believe, rightfully so, that it formed the foundation upon which modern First Amendment protections were built (Novick, 1989).
Seven decades after Holmes’ dissent in Abrams, the Internet, which was commercialized in 1990, began serving as an interactive marketplace in which millions of individuals were able to communicate their views and opinions with relative ease. Today, an unprecedented number of ideas compete for acceptance on the Internet. However, the Internet is not likely the sort of free speech marketplace that Holmes or the First Amendment Framers envisioned, nor perhaps would have supported if they were alive today. While the Internet allows for heightened political and religious discussion, both at the core of the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, it also permits easy access to “hate speech,” content at the fringes of free speech protection.
Of course, Internet hate speech is certainly not the only type of online content to lie at the periphery of the First Amendment. However, Internet hate speech certainly does demand our attention. Hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan are increasingly utilizing the communicative power of the Internet in an attempt to spread their message of hatred to a mass audience composed of many impressionable persons, including youth and children.