The Danger of Vagueness
Module 6: Hate Speech
The obvious danger in regulating hate speech is that vagueness in the definition of what constitutes a criminal speech act will be used to penalise expression that has neither the intent nor the realistic possibility of inciting hatred.
An example of a vague hate speech provision is section 298 of Singapore’s Penal Code,(1) which proscribes various acts undertaken with the intention of hurting others’ feelings, as opposed to requiring incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. This section reads: “Whoever, with deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, or causes any matter however represented to be seen or heard by that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or with fine, or with both.”