Hate speech

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Hate-speech)

Hate speech is a legal term with varied meaning. It has no single, consistent definition. It is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as "public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation".[1] The Encyclopedia of the American Constitution states that hate speech is "usually thought to include communications of animosity or disparagement of an individual or a group on account of a group characteristic such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, or sexual orientation".[2] There is no single definition of what constitutes "hate" or "disparagement". Legal definitions of hate speech vary from country to country.

There has been much debate over freedom of speech, hate speech, and hate speech legislation.[3] The laws of some countries describe hate speech as speech, gestures, conduct, writing, or displays that incite violence or prejudicial actions against a group or individuals on the basis of their membership in the group, or that disparage or intimidate a group or individuals on the basis of their membership in the group. The law may identify protected groups based on certain characteristics.[4][5][6] In some countries, hate speech is not a legal term.[7] Additionally, in some countries, including the United States, much of what falls under the category of "hate speech" is constitutionally protected.[8][9] In other countries, a victim of hate speech may seek redress under civil law, criminal law, or both.

Hate speech is generally accepted to be one of the prerequisites for mass atrocities such as genocide.[10] Incitement to genocide is an extreme form of hate speech, and has been prosecuted in international courts such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.


Starting in the 1940s and 50s, various American civil rights groups responded to the atrocities of World War II by advocating for restrictions on hateful speech targeting groups on the basis of race and religion.[11] These organizations used group libel as a legal framework for describing the violence of hate speech and addressing its harm. In his discussion of the history of criminal libel, scholar Jeremy Waldron states that these laws helped "vindicate public order, not just by preempting violence, but by upholding against attack a shared sense of the basic elements of each person's status, dignity, and reputation as a citizen or member of society in good standing".[12] A key legal victory for this view came in 1952 when group libel law was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in Beauharnais v. Illinois.[13] However, the group libel approach lost ground due to a rise in support for individual rights within civil rights movements during the 60s.[14] Critiques of group defamation laws are not limited to defenders of individual rights. Some legal theorists, such as critical race theorist Richard Delgado, support legal limits on hate speech, but claim that defamation is too narrow a category to fully counter hate speech. Ultimately, Delgado advocates a legal strategy that would establish a specific section of tort law for responding to racist insults, citing the difficulty of receiving redress under the existing legal system.[15]

Hate speech laws[edit]

After WWII, Germany criminalized Volksverhetzung ("incitement of popular hatred") to prevent resurgence of Nazism. Hate speech on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity also is banned in Germany. Today, most European countries have likewise implemented various laws and regulations regarding hate speech, and the European Union's Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA requires member states to criminalize hate crimes and speech (though individual implementation and interpretation of this framework varies by state).[16][17]

International human rights laws from the United Nations Human Rights Committee have been protecting freedom of expression, and one of the most fundamental documents is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) drafted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948.[18] Article 19 of the UDHR states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."[18]

Even though there are fundamental laws protecting freedom of expression, there are multiple international laws that expand on the UDHR and pose limitations and restrictions, specifically concerning the safety and protection of individuals.[19]

A majority of developed democracies have laws that restrict hate speech, including Australia, Canada,[23] Denmark, France, Germany, India, South Africa, Sweden, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.[24] In the United Kingdom, Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 expands on the UDHR, stating that restrictions on freedom of expression would be permitted when it threatens national security, incites racial or religious hatred, causes individual harm on health or morals, or threatens the rights and reputations of individuals.[25] The United States does not have hate speech laws, since the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that laws criminalizing hate speech violate the guarantee to freedom of speech contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[9]

Laws against hate speech can be divided into two types: those intended to preserve public order and those intended to protect human dignity. The laws designed to protect public order require that a higher threshold be violated, so they are not often enforced. For example, a 1992 study found that only one person was prosecuted in Northern Ireland in the preceding 21 years for violating a law against incitement to religious violence. The laws meant to protect human dignity have a much lower threshold for violation, so those in Canada, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands tend to be more frequently enforced.[26]

State-sanctioned hate speech[edit]

A few states, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Rwanda Hutu factions, actors in the Yugoslav Wars and Ethiopia have been described as spreading official hate speech or incitement to genocide.[27][28][29]


Virgin SIM card in Poland with the slogan of the campaign against hate speech "Words have power, use them wisely"

On 31 May 2016, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, jointly agreed to a European Union code of conduct obligating them to review "[the] majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech" posted on their services within 24 hours.[30]

Prior to this in 2013, Facebook, with pressure from over 100 advocacy groups including the Everyday Sexism Project, agreed to change their hate speech policies to better combat posts promoting domestic and sexual violence against women. These types of posts were collected and highlighted by advocacy groups to bring attention to the serious gaps in Facebook's policies and successfully conviced at least 15 companies to pull advertisements from the platform.[31][32]

Companies that have hate speech policies include Facebook and YouTube. In 2018 a post containing a section of the United States Declaration of Independence that labeled Native Americans as "merciless Indian savages" was labeled as hate speech by Facebook and removed from its site.[33] In 2019, video-sharing platform YouTube demonetized channels, such as U.S. radio host Jesse Lee Peterson, under their hate speech policy.[34]


Several activists and scholars have criticized the practice of limiting hate speech. Civil liberties activist Nadine Strossen says that, while efforts to censor hate speech have the goal of protecting the most vulnerable, they are ineffective and may have the opposite effect: disadvantaged and ethnic minorities being charged with violating laws against hate speech.[35] Kim Holmes, Vice President of the conservative Heritage Foundation and a critic of hate speech theory, has argued that it "assumes bad faith on the part of people regardless of their stated intentions" and that it "obliterates the ethical responsibility of the individual".[36] Rebecca Ruth Gould, a professor of Islamic and Comparative Literature at the University of Birmingham, argues that laws against hate speech constitute viewpoint discrimination (which is prohibited by the First Amendment in the United States) as the legal system punishes some viewpoints but not others.[37] Other scholars, such as Gideon Elford, argue instead that "insofar as hate speech regulation targets the consequences of speech that are contingently connected with the substance of what is expressed then it is viewpoint discriminatory in only an indirect sense."[38] John Bennett argues that restricting hate speech relies on questionable conceptual and empirical foundations[39] and is reminiscent of efforts by totalitarian regimes to control the thoughts of their citizens.[40]

Miisa Kreandner and Eriz Henze argue that hate speech laws are arbitrary, as they only protect some categories of people but not others.[41][42] Henze argues the only way to resolve this problem without abolishing hate speech laws would be to extend them to all possible conceivable categories, which Henze argues would amount to totalitarian control over speech.[43]

Michael Conklin argues that there are benefits to hate speech that are often overlooked. He contends that allowing hate speech provides a more accurate view of the human condition, provides opportunities to change people's minds, and identifies certain people that may need to be avoided in certain circumstances.[44] According to one psychological research study, a high degree of psychopathy is "a significant predictor" for involvement in online hate activity, while none of the other 7 potential factors examined were found to have a statistically significant predictive power.[45]

Political philosopher Jeffrey W. Howard considers the popular framing of hate speech as "free speech vs. other political values" as a mischaracterization. He refers to this as the "balancing model", and says it seeks to weigh the benefit of free speech against other values such as dignity and equality for historically marginalized groups. Instead, he believes that the crux of debate should be whether or not freedom of expression is inclusive of hate speech.[24] Research indicates that when people support censoring hate speech, they are motivated more by concerns about the effects the speech has on others than they are about its effects on themselves.[46] Women are somewhat more likely than men to support censoring hate speech due to greater perceived harm of hate speech, which some researchers believe may be due to gender differences in empathy towards targets of hate speech.[47]


  1. ^ "hate speech". dictionary.cambridge.org.
  2. ^ John T. Nockleby, "Hate Speech," in Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, eds. Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst, vol. 3 (2nd ed., Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000, pp. 1277–1279); quoted by Brown-Sica, Margaret; Beall, Jeffrey (2008). "Library 2.0 and the Problem of Hate Speech". Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship. 9 (2). Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  3. ^ "Herz, Michael and Peter Molnar, eds. 2012. The content and context of hate speech. Cambridge University Press" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 July 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Criminal Justice Act 2003". www.legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  5. ^ An Activist's Guide to The Yogyakarta Principles (PDF) (Report). 14 November 2010. p. 125. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 January 2017.
  6. ^ Kinney, Terry A. (5 June 2008). "Hate Speech and Ethnophaulisms". The International Encyclopedia of Communication. doi:10.1002/9781405186407.wbiech004. ISBN 978-1405186407.
  7. ^ "CNN's Chris Cuomo: First Amendment doesn't cover hate speech". Archived from the original on 24 July 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  8. ^ Stone, Geoffrey R. (1994). "Hate Speech and the U.S. Constitution." Archived 27 April 2018 at the Wayback Machine East European Constitutional Review, vol. 3, pp. 78–82.
  9. ^ a b Volokh, Eugene (5 May 2015). "No, there's no "hate speech" exception to the First Amendment". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  10. ^ Gordon, Gregory S. (2017). Atrocity Speech Law: Foundation, Fragmentation, Fruition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-061270-2. SSRN 3230050. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  11. ^ Walker, Samuel (1994). Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 79.
  12. ^ Waldron, Jeremy (2012). The Harm in Hate Speech. Harvard University Press. p. 47.
  13. ^ Waldron, Jeremy (2012). The Harm in Hate Speech. Harvard University Press. p. 41.
  14. ^ Walker, Samuel (1994). Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 78.
  15. ^ Delgado, Richard. Matsuda, Mari J. (ed.). Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment. Westview Press. p. 90.
  16. ^ "Combating hate speech and hate crime". commission.europa.eu. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  17. ^ Publications Office of the European Union. "EUR-Lex - l33178 - EN - EUR-Lex". eur-lex.europa.eu. Retrieved 20 October 2023.
  18. ^ a b Nations, United. "Universal Declaration of Human Rights". United Nations. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  19. ^ Altman, Andrew (31 May 2012), Maitra, Ishani; McGowan, Mary Kate (eds.), "Freedom of Expression and Human Rights Law: The Case of Holocaust Denial", Speech and Harm, Oxford University Press, pp. 24–49, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199236282.003.0002, ISBN 978-0-19-923628-2, retrieved 8 December 2021
  20. ^ Mendel, Toby (2012), Herz, Michael; Molnar, Peter (eds.), "Does International Law Provide for Consistent Rules on Hate Speech?", The Content and Context of Hate Speech, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 417–429, doi:10.1017/cbo9781139042871.029, ISBN 978-1139042871
  21. ^ "OHCHR | Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  22. ^ a b "OHCHR | International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  23. ^ Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c. C-46, s. 319
  24. ^ a b Howard, Jeffrey W. (2019). "Free Speech and Hate Speech". Annual Review of Political Science. 22: 93–109. doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-051517-012343.
  25. ^ "Article 10: Freedom of expression | Equality and Human Rights Commission". www.equalityhumanrights.com. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  26. ^ Bell, Jeannine (Summer 2009). "Restraining the heartless: racist speech and minority rights". Indiana Law Journal. 84: 963–979. SSRN 1618848. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  27. ^ Cotler, Irwin (2012). Herz, Michael; Molnar, Peter (eds.). "State-Sanctioned Incitement to Genocide". The Content and Context of Hate Speech: 430–455. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139042871.030. ISBN 978-1139042871.
  28. ^ Dozier, Kimberly (10 February 2020). "Saudi Arabia Rebuffs Trump Administration's Requests to Stop Teaching Hate Speech in Schools". Time.
  29. ^ de Waal, Alex (17 September 2021). "The world watches as Abiy loses it – and risks losing Ethiopia, too". World Peace Foundation. Archived from the original on 21 September 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  30. ^ Hern, Alex (31 May 2016). "Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft sign EU hate speech code". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  31. ^ Sara C Nelson (28 May 2013). "#FBrape: Will Facebook Heed Open Letter Protesting 'Endorsement of Rape & Domestic Violence'?". The Huffington Post UK. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  32. ^ Rory Carroll (29 May 2013). "Facebook gives way to campaign against hate speech on its pages". The Guardian UK. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Facebook labels declaration of independence as 'hate speech'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  34. ^ Re, Gregg (5 June 2019). "YouTube ends monetization of conservative commentator Steven Crowder's channel, several others after left-wing outrage". Fox News. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  35. ^ Strossen, Nadine (14 December 2018). "Minorities suffer the most from hate-speech laws". Spiked. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  36. ^ Holmes, Kim (22 October 2018). "The Origins of "Hate Speech"". heritage.org. The Heritage Foundation.
  37. ^ Gould, Rebecca Ruth (15 November 2018). "Is the 'Hate' in Hate Speech the 'Hate' in Hate Crime? Waldron and Dworkin on Political Legitimacy". Jurisprudence. SSRN 3284999.
  38. ^ Elford, Gideon. "Legitimacy, Hate Speech, and Viewpoint Discrimination." Journal of Moral Philosophy 1, no. aop (2020): 1–26.
  39. ^ Bennett, John T. "The Harm in Hate Speech: A Critique of the Empirical and Legal Bases of Hate Speech Regulation." Hastings Const. LQ 43 (2015): 445.
  40. ^ Bennett, John. "The Totalitarian Ideological Origins of Hate Speech Regulation." Cap. UL Rev. 46 (2018): 23.
  41. ^ Heinze, Eric. "Cumulative jurisprudence and human rights: The example of sexual minorities and hate speech." The International Journal of Human Rights 13, no. 2–3 (2009): 193–209.
  42. ^ Kreander, Miisa. "The Widening Definition of Hate Speech – How Well Intended Hate Speech Laws Undermine Democracy and the Rule of Law." (2022).[ISBN missing][page needed]
  43. ^ Heinze, Eric. "Cumulative jurisprudence and human rights: The example of sexual minorities and hate speech." The International Journal of Human Rights 13, no. 2–3 (2009): 193–209.
  44. ^ Conklin, Michael (2020). "The Overlooked Benefits of 'Hate Speech': Not Just the Lesser of Two Evils". SSRN 3604244.
  45. ^ Sorokowski, Piotr; Kowal, Marta; Zdybek, Przemysław; Oleszkiewicz, Anna (27 March 2020). "Are Online Haters Psychopaths? Psychological Predictors of Online Hating Behavior". Frontiers in Psychology. 11: 553. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00553. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 7121332. PMID 32292374.
  46. ^ Guo, Lei; Johnson, Brett G. (April 2020). "Third-Person Effect and Hate Speech Censorship on Facebook". Social Media + Society. 6 (2). doi:10.1177/2056305120923003.
  47. ^ Downs, Daniel M., and Gloria Cowan. "Predicting the importance of freedom of speech and the perceived harm of hate speech." Journal of Applied Social Psychology 42, no. 6 (2012): 1353–1375.

External links[edit]