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The First Amendment & Disinformation/Hate Speech

Understanding the First Amendment and verify false/hate speech with the Truxal library’s resources


Disinformation and hate speech are putting our society in danger. Understanding the First Amendment with the Truxal Library's resources will help you identify reliable information and assist you to make a sound judgement.

How to Identify Bots, Trolls, and Botnets--Resources from Global Investigative Journalism Network (





What Is a Bot?

A bot is an automated social media account run by an algorithm, rather than a real person. In other words, a bot is designed to make posts without human intervention. @DFRLab previously provided 12 indicators that help identify a bot. The three key bot indicators are anonymity, high levels of activity, and amplification of particular users, topics or hashtags.

What Is a Troll?

A troll is a person who intentionally initiates online conflict or offends other users to distract and sow divisions by posting inflammatory or off-topic posts in an online community or a social network. Their goal is to provoke others into an emotional response and derail discussions.

What Is a Botnet?

A botnet is a network of bot accounts managed by the same individual or group. Those who manage botnets, which require original human input prior to deployment, are referred to as bot herders or shepherds. Bots operate in networks because they are designed to manufacture social media engagement that make the topic on which the botnet deploys appear more heavily engaged by “real” users than it actually is. On social media platforms, engagement begets more engagement, so a successful botnet puts the topic it is deployed on in front of more real users.

How to Combat Disinformation? Resources from ABC News (

  • Is this the original account, article, or piece of content?
  • Who shared this or created it?
  • When was this created?
  • What account is sharing this? When was the account created? Do they share things from all over the world at all times during the day and night? Could this be a bot?
  • Why was this shared?

YouTube by

Hate Speech

There is no legal definition of "hate speech" under U.S. law, just as there is no legal definition for evil ideas, rudeness, unpatriotic speech, or any other kind of speech that people might condemn. Generally, however, hate speech is any form of expression through which speakers intend to vilify, humiliate, or incite hatred against a group or a class of persons on the basis of race, religion, skin color sexual identity, gender identity, ethnicity, disability, or national origin. 

In the United States, hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. Courts extend this protection on the grounds that the First Amendment requires the government to strictly protect robust debate on matters of public concern even when such debate devolves into distasteful, offensive, or hateful speech that causes others to feel grief, anger, or fear. (The Supreme Court's decision in Snyder v. Phelps provides an example of this legal reasoning.) Under current First Amendment jurisprudence, hate speech can only be criminalized when it directly incites imminent criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence targeted against a person or group. (

The First Amendment and Hate Speech

Under current First Amendment jurisprudence, hate speech can only be criminalized when it directly incites imminent criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence targeted against a person or group. (


Library photo courtesy of Barry Halkin Photography