Module 6: Hate Speech
Modules on Litigating Freedom of Expression and Digital Rights in South and Southeast Asia
- Certain types of speech, known as hate speech, are prohibited by international law.
- It is important to draw a clear distinction between speech that is offensive or even racist, and yet protected under international guarantees of freedom of expression, and speech which constitutes impermissible hate speech that should legitimately be restricted.
- Regulating hate speech can be particularly difficult in the online context.
- International law requires states to ban hate speech which intentionally incites to violence, hatred or discrimination, but not that actual harm results.
- The biggest danger with hate speech is that vagueness in defining its meaning may allow such laws to be used as tools to stifle legitimate criticism or political speech.
- Incitement to genocide is often treated as a special case of hate speech, although care is also needed here to ensure that any restrictions are narrow and legitimate.