Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has already exhibited a seemingly authoritarian streak that came into stark focus after she replaced disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo more than two years ago and promptly imposed widespread COVID-related mask and vaccine mandates.
Since then, she has taken a heavy-handed approach to other issues, most recently the supposed threat imposed by so-called “hate speech” on social media. Instead of embracing the constitutionally protected right of free speech, Hochul touted an investment in “surveillance efforts” aimed at identifying those who express unpopular opinions online.
She used the alleged “rise in hate crimes and incidents of harassment” statewide as the basis for a plan that will “increase staffing to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force” with the goal of monitoring social media posts and even prosecuting certain users whose speech is deemed hateful.
While the governor rightfully called out the rise of antisemitism in the wake of last month’s Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, she also referenced a “reported increase” in Islamophobia as a factor in the new social media surveillance program.
“It’s painful to me as the governor of this great state that has been known for its diversity and how we celebrate different cultures, different religions, different viewpoints … to see the cruelty with which New Yorkers are treating each other,” Hochul said. “Everywhere from college campuses to our streets to schools to playgrounds, even as they’re entering their houses of worship.”
She referenced an increased police presence at strategic locations as one aspect of her administration’s response — but her focus on social media monitoring struck many critics as a step too far.
This is what a modern day Gestapo looks like.
Kathy Hochul said that the “social media analysis unit” will CONTACT people who commit “hate speech” online.
— Graham Allen (@GrahamAllen_1) November 14, 2023
“We’re very focused on the data we’re collecting from surveillance efforts — what’s being said on social media platforms,” Hochul gushed. “And we have launched an effort to be able to counter some of the negativity and reach out to people when we see hate speech being spoken about on online platforms.
Claiming the state’s “capacities for surveillance” are actually part of a plan to “ensure that everyone can live freely,” the governor concluded: “If anyone thinks that they can get away with spreading hate and harming other New Yorkers and violating the law, you will be caught.”