Ed Brayton quotes from a cyber-bullying report issued by a group of New York Democrats:
And yet, proponents of a more refined First Amendment argue that this freedom should be treated not as a right but as a privilege — a special entitlement granted by the state on a conditional basis that can be revoked if it is ever abused or maltreated.
Cyber-bullying can be a serious problem, but the idea that the First Amendment is a conditional privilege is a daft fiction cooked up by these legislators. The First Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, not the Bill of Conditional Privileges.
The courts have ruled that certain kinds of speech aren't protected under the First Amendment. For example threatening people with bodily harm isn't protected speech. Blackmail isn't protected. Defamation isn't protected. And, as Ed explains, certain kinds of cyber-bullying could cross the line into illegal behavior. But even those who cross the line into criminal speech can't have their First Amendment rights revoked. Protected speech is still protected speech.
Here is what is conditional: holding political office. Holding public office is conditional on the approval of a majority of those who vote.
Ed delves further into the details of the proposed cyber-bullying law and offers some troubling hypothetical cases that could fall under its broad reach. Check it out here.