In the spring of 2005, Tarek Mehanna began translating radical Arabic books and videos into English for the website At Tibyan. The materials had an undeniable flavor of terrorism, encouraging readers to join al-Qaida and kill American soldiers in Iraq. But even the government acknowledges that Mehanna never translated anything...
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Essential question, and a difficult one. Excerpts.
"If the justices do agree to review Mehanna’s conviction, it’ll be wading into a constitutional controversy at once timeless and novel. The court has long recognized that cheerleading for terrorism may eventually cross the line from free speech to a criminal act. But the Internet’s ability to spread ideas and connect like-minded people may now force the justices to reconsider that boundary. And if the court lets Mehanna’s conviction stand, it may wind up drawing the line dangerously close to the kind of Internet activity some of us engage in without a second thought."
Why is this distinction between “advocacy” and “communication” important? Because without it, we may accidentally become a nation of criminal terrorist sympathizers. The Internet fosters association and amplifies advocacy. Under the government’s revised interpretation of the law, an American who uses the Web to defend terrorist groups might find herself facing federal prosecution."