California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) has launched a hotline for people to report alleged hostility against their "actual or perceived" identities, but he has given no clear indication of what the state will do with complaints.
The project, dubbed "CA vs. Hate," was conceived as California's response to the nationwide spate of anti-Asian violence. It was launched after a 2021 bill by Democratic lawmakers mandated the state to create an online reporting system for "victims and witnesses to report a hate incident against any group in a safe, anonymous manner, particularly those who may face language or cultural barriers or are undocumented."
The Newsom administration defines a hate act vaguely as "a hostile expression or action that may be motivated by bias against another person's actual or perceived identity." Examples include derogatory name-calling, bullying, hate mail, and refusing service, according to the website.
It's unclear what the hotline will do. Potential callers are assured that the state will only involve police if specifically requested—the hotline's primary goals, according to its website, are finding "help" for people and communities and gathering data about hate incidents and crime.
"Reporting will stop the normalization of hate in our communities, and ensure impacted individuals get the help they need," the CA vs. Hate website says.
The state will only involve the police if a caller specifically asks, and special attention is paid to illegal immigrants. "You do not need to disclose your immigration status when you report with California vs Hate," the website says. "Hotline services are provided for free, regardless of immigration status."
The hotline launch follows years of California Democrats pushing pandemic-era censorship and surveillance. The state health department runs an email hotline for people to submit alleged COVID-19 misinformation in social media posts. Two laws from last year—one requiring social media companies to report "hate speech," "disinformation," and other content to the government and another barring doctors from giving patients COVID advice that falls outside the "scientific consensus"—are already embroiled in lawsuits.
Julie Hamill, a Los Angeles attorney who has fought local pandemic mandates in court, called the hotline "insane" and questioned its implications for civil rights.
"I think best case, this is a political stunt to show they're 'doing something and they care,' and nothing will come of this waste of taxpayer dollars," Hamill said. "Anything more than that is too horrifying to imagine. Are we going to get knocks on our door from the California Department of Civil Rights because of a mean tweet? Is this going to be a place for students to report teachers and professors who don't toe the party line on thorny political issues?"
Newsom's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, helped unveil CA vs. Hate at an event late last week. Siebel Newsom is best known for her nonprofits, which are funded by many of her husband's donors and corporate backers.
"It's horrifying that hate crimes are on the rise, and so let it be made clear: We stand with our diverse communities, and we are committed to ensuring they feel safe and heard," Siebel Newsom said.