Combating "Hate": The Trojan Horse For Precrime

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Apr 06, 2024 - 03:40 PM

Authored by Conor Gallagher via Naked Capitalism,

Philip K. Dick’s 1956 novella The Minority Report created “precrime,” the clairvoyant foreknowledge of criminal activity as forecast by mutant “precogs.” The book was a dystopian nightmare, but a 2015 Fox television series transforms the story into one in which a precog works with a cop and shows that data is actually effective at predicting future crime.

Canada is trying to enact a precrime law along the lines of the 2015 show, but it is being panned about as much as the television series. Ottawa’s online harms bill includes a provision to impose house arrest on someone who is feared to commit a hate crime in the future. From The Globe and Mail:

The person could be made to wear an electronic tag, if the attorney-general requests it, or ordered by a judge to remain at home, the bill says. Mr. Virani, who is Attorney-General as well as Justice Minister, said it is important that any peace bond be “calibrated carefully,” saying it would have to meet a high threshold to apply.

But he said the new power, which would require the attorney-general’s approval as well as a judge’s, could prove “very, very important” to restrain the behaviour of someone with a track record of hateful behaviour who may be targeting certain people or groups…

People found guilty of posting hate speech could have to pay victims up to $20,000 in compensation. But experts including internet law professor Michael Geist have said even a threat of a civil complaint – with a lower burden of proof than a court of law – and a fine could have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

While this is a dangerous step in Canada, I also wonder if this is where burgeoning “anti-hate” programs across the US are headed. The Canadian bill would also allow “people to file complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission over what they perceive as hate speech online – including, for example, off-colour jokes by comedians.”

There are now programs in multiple US states to do just that –  encourage people to snitch on anyone doing anything perceived as “hateful.”

The 2021 federal COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act began to dole out money to states to help them respond to hate incidents. Oregon now has its Bias Response Hotline to track “bias incidents.”

In December of 2022, New York launched its Hate and Bias Prevention Unit. Maryland, too, has its system – its hate incidents examples include “offensive jokes” and “malicious complaints of smell or noise.”

Maryland also has its Emmett Till Alert System that sends out three levels of alerts for specific acts of hate. For now, they only go to black lawmakers, civil rights activists, the media and other approved outlets, but expansion to the general populace is under consideration.

California vs. Hate, a multilingual statewide hotline and website that encourages people to report all acts of “hate,” is coming up on its one-year anniversary, reportedly receiving a mere 823 calls from 79% of California’s 58 counties during its first nine months of operation. It looks like the program is rolling out even more social media graphics in a bid to get more reports:

A key question is why states like California are rushing to expand the definition of hate. Officials in the Golden State like Governor Gavin Newsom claimed it was because of a rise in reported hate crimes – up 33 percent from 2020 to 2021. A deeper look at the data, however, shows that Newsom is guilty of cherry picking. From Public:

But convictions of hate crimes have been flat. In 2012 there were 107 hate crime convictions in California. In 2021, there were 109, according to the same data. It’s possible that hate crimes really did rise by 80%, and juries decided not to give prosecutors convictions. …But it’s also possible that convictions stayed the same because there was no increase in prosecutable hate crimes. And it may be that Californian prosecutors simply labeled more crimes as “hate” crimes because they were primed to do so by the media’s 700% – 1,000% increased focus on racism between 2011 and 2020.

I’m likely omitting other states with similar programs, but it’s clear that there is a push across the country. No doubt, these efforts to eliminate hate also have other benefits for the ruling class.

In a state like California or New York, there is the added bonus that the program ends up being a massive giveaway to a key part of the Democratic base – the nonprofit industrial complex that is helping to bring this system into existence.

These programs also help spread fear that hate is around every corner, which could allow for an erosion of rights under the guise of eradicating “hate.”

There’s also the issue of who is providing the definitions for hate that go beyond the laws already on the books for hate crimes. The California Senate Public Safety Committee analysis stated the following about the CA vs. Hate program:

A hate incident is an action or behavior motivated by hate but legally protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

That leads to the question of why the state is encouraging people to report and is collecting information on legally protected “behavior.” And where does the expanded definition come from? The committee stated the following:

Define hate incidents with language provided by the Anti-Defamation League.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is a non-governmental organization based in the US, whose stated mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”

But there’s a little more to it than that. In May 2022, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, announced that, “Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.” He also labeled groups that want equal rights for Palestinians in Israel as “extremists” and likened Israel critics to white supremacists. More from Boston Review:

…the ADL has consistently sought to undermine the left, leveling a charge akin to dual loyalty: that the American left’s calls for redistribution of power, its solidarity with global movements, and its prioritization of people over states threaten the very concept of the state. Indeed the ADL, in addition to its stated mission of shoring up U.S. support for Israel, is deeply loyal to the U.S. state. The second is that the ADL has waged a long, vigorous, and successful campaign, alongside AIPAC, specifically to characterize Arab American political organizing as dual loyalty.

Maybe this isn’t an organization that should be defining hate for US governments. We have the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) for that.

In March South Dakota became the 35th state to codify the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism. The law requires the consideration of the definition of antisemitism when investigating unfair or discriminatory practices.That definition includes the traditional elements of antisemitism but also inserts elements that could move the state of Israel under antisemitic protections. Consider the following from the IHRA’s definition:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

A 2022 UK study published in Springer Nature found the following about the IHRA’s definition:

…pro-Israel activists can and have mobilised the IHRA document for political goals unrelated to tackling antisemitism, notably to stigmatise and silence critics of the Israeli government. This causes widespread self-censorship, has an adverse impact on freedom of speech, and impedes action against the unjust treatment of Palestinians. We also identify intrinsic problems in the way the definition refers to criticism of Israel similar ‘to that leveled against any other country’, ambiguous wording about ‘the power of Jews as a collective’, lack of clarity as to the Jewish people’s ‘right to self-determination’, and its denial of obvious racism.

Despite that effect, and despite the 2021 Hate Crimes Act, which provided more money and more programs to collect data on all “hate incidents,” there are still complaints that it all still isn’t enough because they don’t prevent “hate” but only address what takes place afterwards. To fix that, a precrime system will be necessary.


Predictive policing – which uses computer systems to help direct the deployment of police to crime hotspots – has been widely discredited as biased and worthless.

The Markup found that predictive policing does not work – at all. It took a look at efforts by Geolitica, known as PredPol until a 2021 rebrand, and its software that ingests data from crime incident reports and produces daily predictions on where and when crimes are most likely to occur. From The Markup:

We examined 23,631 predictions generated by Geolitica between Feb. 25 to Dec. 18, 2018 for the Plainfield Police Department (PD). Each prediction we analyzed from the company’s algorithm indicated that one type of crime was likely to occur in a location not patrolled by Plainfield PD. In the end, the success rate was less than half a percent.

It is also biased, despite efforts to make it less so. MIT Technology Review points out:

…many developers of predictive policing tools say that they have started using victim reports to get a more accurate picture of crime rates in different neighborhoods. In theory, victim reports should be less biased because they aren’t affected by police prejudice or feedback loops.

But a University of Texas study found this method still led to significant errors:

 For example, in a district where few crimes were reported, the tool predicted around 20% of the actual hot spots—locations with a high rate of crime. On the other hand, in a district with a high number of reports, the tool predicted 20% more hot spots than there really were.

While these predictive policing spatial models prove biased, what if to counter those criticisms you begin to roll out programs to “protect” minorities by preventing hate crimes? Could an approach that treats each individual as a collection of data points (including any “hate incidents”) be predictive of a future hate crime?

Efforts to do just that date back to at least the early 1970s. When UCLA tried to set up a center for the study of violence.The Center for the Long-Term Study of Life-Threatening Behavior was intended to re-think human functioning itself in terms of data and was going to compile behavioral data to understand crimes that were “in formation.”

The center never officially opened its doors, however, as it got caught in the backlash against psychosurgery when groups like the Black Panthers and Nader’s Raiders protested against it.

But the rethink of humans as a collection of data points that can predict crimes in formation never really went away, and is now inching closer to becoming a reality. What is Canada’s proposed law other than a method to use data to measure “dangerousness” and preemptively punish suspects?

As MIT Technology Review pointed out above, there are efforts underway to use victim reports to counteract bias, but the University of Texas study was still trying to use them to predict where a crime might occur and not who might commit the crime.

I should point out that it’s unclear what states are doing with all the info collected from reported hate incidents, particularly the details on the alleged perpetrators. I reached out to the California Civil Rights Division weeks ago to get an answer but have yet to receive a response.

There is a clear line of thinking that these hate incidents can be predictive of future crime, however. That’s what the Canadian bill claims. Back in 2019 NYU researchers claimed to use AI to show that “online hate” could be predictive of offline violence. Could all these efforts to gather data on hate “incidents” be laying the groundwork for precrime detention along the lines of what Canada is attempting?

For those who would like to see the adoption of a precrime system, one of the benefits of focusing on individuals and hate crimes is that it could help diffuse the bias criticism of predictive policing from groups typically suspicious of increased law enforcement powers. Indeed, many of the groups helping to implement the hate incident hotlines in US states are nonprofits focused on minority groups.

As the state efforts above show, the definition of what constitutes a bias or hate “incident” are slippery and many interested parties would like to shape that definition. Again, there are already hate crime laws on the books, and I have yet to encounter an explanation for why these laws are so ineffective that it’s necessary to encourage people to rat on one another in order to gather data on hate incidents.

Placed alongside burgeoning censorship efforts, it begins to make more sense. If we look at Canada’s effort to establish official pre-hate-crime law enforcement, it’s one that would mark the official end of free speech and lead to a dystopian society revolving around the fear of being targeted – either by an individual or AI.

Even without official precrime laws on the books, there are already ways that these efforts to combat “hate” are attempting to stifle speech. Naked Capitalism readers don’t have to look far for errors (or intentional targeting) in this system as Google’s AI targeted this site for “hateful content” among other alleged sins.

And there’s the issue with “hate.” It could mean a racist comment or action; it could also now refer to criticism of Israeli policy or a thought crime against the ruling class. It apparently does not refer to elite policy in California, for example, where the gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest percentiles increased to 15.51 years in 2021 (which seems like the hateful result of hateful policies if you ask me). What happens if Californians begin to make hateful comments about that fact?

We don’t have to only look to fiction like Minority Report for answers. California’s own history provides a great example of the real use of these burgeoning programs to purportedly combat “hate.”

The California Criminal Syndicalism Act of 1919 prohibited speech that suggested the use of violence for political aims. It came at a time when workers were winning important battles in the class war raging across the state. California started locking up Wobblies en masse. As Malcolm Harris describes in his book Palo Alto:

Wobblies filled San Quentin, the Bay Area’s only prison, on bullshit charges that could hold them for up to 14 years. In Southern California, the police teamed with a resurgent KKK to bust the waterfront union, and the IWW was lucky if the cops decided to merely stand by and watch. …By the end of the decade, the state organization was jailed and beaten into submission.