Summary: The Truth and Tolerance Commission creates a [state/city/county] office and commission that seeks to de-legitimize stereotypes and specific lies that promote racist, nationalist, antisemitic or anti-LGBTQ messages. The commission will identify hate speech and combat it by stating truth, promoting tolerance, and encouraging civic, business, religious and government leaders, with a united voice, to actively respond to hate with the tactic of “counter-speech.”
Note: This model is similar to recent efforts in states and localities. California created a Commission on the State of Hate with AB 1126 (2021), which monitors and tracks hate crimes and recommends policy in response. New York’s NY SB 123A/A.5913A (2022) creates a statewide campaign, by the Division of Human Rights, for tolerance of diversity. The Virginia Governor created a Commission to combat antisemitism and Montgomery County, Maryland created a Committee Against Hate/Violence. In fact, virtually all states and localities could—and should—do something to combat prejudice-based hate and lies, either by legislation or executive order.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Truth and Tolerance Commission Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature/council finds that:
(1) Our state/city/county is suffering from a wave of hate directed at various demographic groups, including Blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ people and the Asian, Jewish and Moslem communities. This hate is driven by baseless conspiracy theories and specific lies, largely spread on the Internet.
(2) This hate speech has led to hate crimes, including violence in Black churches, synagogues, mosques, LGBTQ-friendly nightclubs, as well as in homes, businesses and on the streets.
(3) Hate speech undermines our democratic systems. When people believe outlandish conspiracy theories, they become susceptible to doubting our systems for elections and the administration of justice, and they become ready to support authoritarian use of government power to punish those who have been wrongly, outrageously accused. It has happened before. The QAnon conspiracy theory, for example, is largely a re-branding of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which empowered Hitler.
(4) While social media platforms should certainly enforce rules against dangerous lies, it will never be practical to block all hate speech. As anti-defamation authorities explained in the book Viral Hate, “The best antidote to hate speech is counter-speech—exposing hate speech for its deceitful and false content, setting the record straight, and promoting the values of respect and diversity.”
(5) Counter-speech is, however, only effective if it is backed by a broad coalition of community leaders. It is the names of individuals and organizations that give these counter-messages credibility. Setting the record straight requires a broadly-endorsed concerted effort.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to prevent hate crimes and defend our democratic institutions.
SECTION 3. TRUTH AND TOLERANCE COMMISSION
In section XXX, the following new paragraphs shall be inserted:
(A) MISSION OF THE TRUTH AND TOLERANCE COMMISSION—The Truth and Tolerance Commission shall work to de-legitimize hate speech, that is, lies directed against demographic groups of people based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, hereinafter called “demographic groups targeted for hate.”
(B) CREATION OF OFFICE OF TRUTH AND TOLERANCE—The governor/mayor/county executive shall create an Office of Truth and Tolerance within the [Department of Civil Rights] to help lead and support the work of the Truth and Tolerance Commission.
(C) CREATION OF THE TRUTH AND TOLERANCE COMMISSION—The governor/mayor/county executive shall appoint a commission consisting of [fifteen] voting members, including:
(1) Five members who are leaders within the faith community.
(2) Five members from universities or nonprofit groups that have expertise in the problem of hate groups, hate speech and the spread of disinformation.
(3) Two members who represent the business community: one member representing businesses with fewer than fifty employees, and one member representing businesses with fifty or more employees.
(4) Three members who represent government agencies that have some jurisdiction over the problem of hate groups, hate speech and the spread of disinformation.
(D) DUTIES OF THE TRUTH AND TOLERANCE COMMISSION—The Truth and Tolerance Commission shall:
(1) Meet monthly, or more often as needed, to receive information, direct research, and create responses to dangerous conspiracy theories and lies against demographic groups targeted for hate.
(2) Conduct public hearings and town hall meetings allowing experts, organizations, and individuals to provide information and make proposals for responding to hate speech.
(3) Use the Internet to accept input, making it simple to report instances of hate speech.
(4) Create and promote resources to counter hate speech and promote tolerance, including truthful counterarguments and memes for use on social media. These resources may include text, audio, video or slideshow presentations designed for any particular audience, including government agencies.
(5) Create an advisory committee of residents who may help: identify stories, theories and lies against demographic groups targeted for hate; provide information to help debunk the lies; and promote information that debunks hate speech and encourages tolerance.
(6) Make recommendations, whenever appropriate, to the legislature/council about the most appropriate and effective measures the jurisdiction could put into effect to combat hate speech.
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This law shall become effective on XXXX 1, 202X.