However, unlike past studies involving analyses of hate site content, this study was not limited to white supremacist sites. The sample of hate sites examined in this study was unique in that it included sites maintained by several different kinds of hate groups: Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, Christian Identity, black separatist, neo-Confederate, white conservative, and pro-Jewish. The main purpose of the study was to determine whether it appeared, based on the publicly accessible content of the sampled sites, that U.S.-based hate sites are deserving of First Amendment protection.
Determining whether U.S.-based hate sites appear to be deserving of First Amendment protection is important for various reasons. One is because some groups and individuals have called for the U.S. government to ban hate Web sites, something which the governments of some less speech-protective countries already do. Although the U.S. government has not seriously considered any of these requests because of the United States’ commitment to the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, the time may come when it does. Should the U.S. government ever decide to ban hate sites its decision would be made all the more easy if the Web sites did not appear to be deserving of First Amendment protection. Conversely, if hate sites did appear to be deserving of First Amendment protection, then the U.S. government would be hard-pressed to justify banning the sites.
A determination of whether Web sites operated by U.S.-based hate groups appear to be worthy of First Amendment protection is also important because neither the Supreme Court, nor any other federal courts, have made a ruling in this area. It is true that there have been federal court decisions relating to the constitutionality of hateful speech sent via e-mail and posted on antiabortion Web sites, but not Web sites operated by organized hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan. Yet, it is only a matter of time before a case involving a question about a hate site’s constitutionality comes before a federal court. Thus, the findings of this study lend some insight into how federal courts may rule with regard to the First Amendment status of hate sites.