LOS ANGELES, MAR. 29, 2001 (Zenit.org).- A federal appeals court ruled that an Internet site run by militant anti-abortion activists and filled with threatening content on abortionists is protected free speech, the Washington Post reported.
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California, said that the site, called “The Nuremberg Files,” cannot be banned or sued for damages even though it publishes the names, addresses and photos of some physicians in the format of a “wanted” poster and accuses them of crimes against humanity. The site also crosses out names of doctors who have been slain.
The court´s decision Wednesday overturns a $107 million settlement that abortion-industry figures won from a jury in Portland, Oregon, in 1999 after they sued the creators of the Web site.
For the past two years, a coalition of pro-abortion groups have denounced the Web site as a “hit list” that incites violence against doctors and violates a federal law passed to protect those involved in the abortion industry.
But the court ruled that such content is safeguarded by the First Amendment because even though it is incendiary and could be intimidating, it presents no explicit or imminent threat of violence against the doctors.
The case has drawn national attention as an important test on the limits of free speech, particularly in a new forum such as the Internet.
“Political speech may not be punished just because it makes it more likely that someone will be harmed at some unknown time in the future by an unrelated third party,” the three-judge panel concluded.