By- Karnika Seth, Cyberlaw expert
Hate speech is a term for speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a person or group of people based on their race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation,
gender identity,disability, language ability, moral or political views, socioeconomic, class, occupation or appearance (such as height,weight,and hair color), mental capacity and any other distinction-liability. The term covers written as well as oral communication and some forms of behaviors in a public setting. It is also sometimes called antilocution and is the first point on Allport’s scale which measures prejudice in a society. In the United Kingdom,
incitement to racial hatred is an offence under the Public Order Act 1986 with a maximum sentence of up to seven years imprisonment.
• In Germany, Volksverhetzung (incitement of hatred against a minority under certain conditions) is a punishable offense under Section 130 of theStrafgesetzbuch
(Germany’s criminal code) and can lead to up to five years imprisonment. Volksverhetzung is punishable in Germany even if committed abroad and even if committed by non-German citizens, if only the incitement of hatred takes effect within German territory, e.g. the seditious sentiment was expressed in German writ or speech and made accessible in Germany (German criminal code’s Principle of Ubiquity, Section 9 §1 Alt. 3 and 4 of the Strafgesetzbuch).
• In Ireland, the right to free speech is guaranteed under the Constitution (Article 40.6.1.i). However, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, proscribes words or behaviours which are “threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended or, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to stir up hatred” against “a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation
• The Council of Europe has worked intensively on this issue. While Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights does not prohibit criminal laws against revisionism such as denial or minimization of genocides or crimes against humanity, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe went further and recommended to member governments to combat hate speech under its Recommendation R (97) 20. The Council of Europe also created the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (www.coe.int/ecri ) which has produced country reports and several general policy recommendations, for instance against anti-Semitism and intolerance against Muslims. In USA, ‘Ku Klux Klan’, ‘the White Aryan Resistance’, ‘Skin Heads’ and other Neo Nazi organizations have used internet for spreading violence and discrimination against their target groups, usually the Jews.
Proponents of limitations on hate speech argue that repeated instances of hate speech do more than express ideas or expresses dissent; rather, hate speech often promotes and results in fear,intimidation and harassment of individuals, and may result in murder and even genocide of those it is targeted against. As such, historical revisionism is thought to be a form of propaganda which, deleting memory of real events, allows them to repeat themselves.
According to Richard Delgado, it is possible to identify hate speech on the use of certain key-words, arguing that “Words such as ‘nigger’, ‘spic’, ‘kike’, ‘chink’ and ‘wop’ are badges of degradation even when used between friends: these words have no other connotation.” Therefore, the act of calling someone a name should be censored if the name used belongs to a previously identified hate speech. However, Judith Butler (1997) claims that “this very statement, whether written in his text or cited here, has another