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Template:Discrimination sidebar Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication which disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race or sexual orientation.[1][2] In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.[3] In some countries, a victim of hate speech may seek redress under civil law, criminal law, or both. In some countries, such as the United States, hate speech laws have been held to be incompatible with free speech.[4]

Critics have claimed that the term "Hate Speech" is a modern example of Newspeak, used to silence critics of social policies that have been poorly implemented in a rush to appear politically correct.[5][6][7]

A website that uses hate speech is called a hate site. Most of these sites contain Internet forums and news briefs that emphasize a particular viewpoint. There has been debate over how freedom of speech applies to the Internet. Conferences concerning such sites have been sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.[8]


Australia's hate speech laws vary by jurisdiction, and seek especially to prevent victimisation on account of race.


The Belgian Anti-Racism Law, in full, the Law of July 30, 1981 on the Punishment of Certain Acts inspired by Racism or Xenophobia, is a law against hate speech and discrimination passed by the Federal Parliament of Belgium in 1981 which made certain acts motivated by racism or xenophobia illegal. It is also known as the Moureaux Law.

The Belgian Holocaust denial law, passed on March 23, 1995, bans public Holocaust denial. Specifically, the law makes it illegal to publicly "deny, play down, justify or approve of the genocide committed by the German National Socialist regime during the Second World War". Prosecution is led by the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities. The offense is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and fines of up to 2500 EUR.


In Brazil, according to the 1988 Brazilian Constitution, racism and other forms of race-related hate speech are "imprescriptible crime(s) with no right to bail to its accused".[9] In 2006, a joint-action between the Federal Police and the Argentinian police has cracked down several hate-related websites. However, some of these sites have recently reappeared—the users have re-created the same sites on United States' domains. The federal police have asked permission from the FBI to crack down these sites, but the FBI denied, stating that the First Amendment guarantees the right to any speech, even if it involves racism.


In Canada, advocating genocide or inciting hatred[10] against any 'identifiable group' is an indictable offence under the Criminal Code of Canada with maximum prison terms of two to fourteen years. An 'identifiable group' is defined as 'any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.' It makes exceptions for cases of statements of truth, and subjects of public debate and religious doctrine. The landmark judicial decision on the constitutionality of this law was R. v. Keegstra (1990). This law is very rarely used.

Council of Europe

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, which has produced country reports and several general policy recommendations, for instance against anti-Semitism and intolerance against Muslims.


Croatian constitution guarantees freedom of speech, but Croatian penal code prohibits and punishes "who based on racial, religious, language, political or any other belief, wealth, birth, education, social status or other properties, gender, skin color, nationality or ethnicity violates basic human rights and freedoms recognized from international community".[11]


Denmark prohibits hate speech, and defines it as publicly making statements that threaten, ridicule or hold in contempt a group due to race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, faith or sexual orientation.[12]


Finland prohibits hate speech, and defines it as publicly making statements that threaten or insult a national, racial, ethnic or religious group or a similar group.[13]


France prohibits by its penal code and by its press laws public and private communication which is defamatory or insulting, or which incites discrimination, hatred, or violence against a person or a group of persons on account of place of origin, ethnicity or lack thereof, nationality, race, specific religion, sex, sexual orientation, or handicap. The law prohibits declarations that justify or deny crimes against humanity, for example, the Holocaust (Gayssot Act).[14]


In Germany, Volksverhetzung ("Sedition") is a punishable offense under Section 130 of the Strafgesetzbuch (Germany's criminal code) and can lead to up to five years imprisonment. Section 130 makes it a crime to publicly incite hatred against parts of the population or to call for violent or arbitrary measures against them or to insult, maliciously slur or defame them in a manner violating their (constitutionally protected) human dignity. Thus for instance it is illegal to publicly call certain ethnic groups "maggots" or "freeloaders". 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 Iceland, the hate speech law is not confined to inciting hatred, as one can see from Article 233 a. in the Icelandic Penal Code, but includes simply expressing such hatred publicly:

Anyone who in a ridiculing, slanderous, insulting, threatening or any other manner publicly assaults a person or a group of people on the basis of their nationality, skin colour, race, religion or sexual orientation, shall be fined or jailed for up to 2 years. (The word "assault" in this context does not refer to physical violence, only to expressions of hatred.)


India prohibits any manner of expression which someone might consider insulting to his religion or which for whatever reason might disturb public tranquility.


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."[15]


In 2006, two Jordanian newspaper editors were jailed for two months after being found guilty of "attacking religious sentiment." The editors had reprinted cartoons from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.[16]


In January 2009, a court in Amsterdam ordered the prosecution of Geert Wilders, a Dutch Member of Parliament, "for inciting hatred and discrimination, based on comments by him in various media on Muslims and their beliefs."[17]

New Zealand

New Zealand prohibits hate speech under the Human Rights Act 1993. Section 61 (Racial Disharmony) makes it unlawful to publish or distribute "threatening, abusive, or insulting...matter or words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons...on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national or ethnic origins of that group of persons." Section 131 (Inciting Racial Disharmony) lists offences for which "racial disharmony" creates liability.


Norway prohibits hate speech, and defines it as publicly making statements that threaten or ridicule someone or that incite hatred, persecution or contempt for someone due to their skin colour, ethnic origin, homosexual life style or orientation or, religion or philosophy of life.[18]


The hate speech laws in Poland punish those who intentionally offend the feelings of the religious, and prohibit any expression that insults a person or a group on account of national, ethnic, racial, or religious affiliation or the lack of a religious affiliation.[19]


The Serbian constitution guarantees freedom of speech, but declares that it may be restricted by law to protect rights and respectability of others. Because of inter ethnic conflicts during last decade of 20th century, Serbian authorities are very rigorous about ethnic, racial and religion based hate speech. It is processed as "Provoking ethnic, racial and religion based animosity and intolerance" criminal act, and punished with six months to ten years of imprisonment.[20]


Singapore has passed numerous laws that prohibit speech that causes disharmony among various religious groups. The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act is an example of such legislation. The Penal Code criminalizes the deliberate promotion by someone of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different racial and religious groups on grounds of race or religion. It also makes it an offence for anyone to deliberately wound the religious or racial feelings of any person.

South Africa

In South Africa, Act No. 4 of 2000: Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act contains the following clause:

10. (1) Subject to the proviso in section 12, no person may publish, propagate, advocate or communicate words based on one or more of the prohibited grounds, against any person, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to -
(a) be hurtful;
(b) be harmful or to incite harm;
(c) promote or propagate hatred.[21]

The crime of crimen injuria ("unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another")[22] may also be used to prosecute hate speech.[23]


Sweden prohibits hate speech, and defines it as publicly making statements that threaten or express disrespect for an ethnic group or similar group regarding their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, faith or sexual orientation.[24] The sexual orientation provision, added in 2002,[25] was used to convict Pentecostalist pastor Åke Green of hate speech based on a 2003 sermon citing biblical passages concerning homosexuality. His conviction was later overturned.[26]


In Switzerland public discrimination or invoking to rancor against persons or a group of people because of their race, ethnicity, is getting penalized with a term of imprisonment until 3 years or a mulct. In 1934, the authorities of the Basel-Stadt canton criminalized anti-Jewish hate speech, e.g. the accusation of ritual murders, mostly in reaction against a pro-nazi antisemitic group and newspaper, the Volksbund.[27]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, several statutes protect several categories of persons from hate speech. The statutes forbid communication which is hateful, threatening, abusive, or insulting and which targets a person on account of skin colour, race, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. The penalties for hate speech include fines, imprisonment, or both.[28][29][30][31][32][33]

United States

Laws concerning hate speech outside of obscenity, defamation and incitement to riot are illegal in the United States.[34][35][36] The United States federal government and state governments are broadly forbidden by the First Amendment of the Constitution from restricting speech.[37] Even in cases where speech encourages illegal violence, instances of incitement qualify as criminal only if the threat of violence is imminent.[38] This strict standard prevents prosecution of many cases of incitement, including prosecution of those advocating violent opposition to the government, and those exhorting violence against racial, ethnic, or gender minorities.[39]

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may sometimes be prosecuted for tolerating "hate speech" by their employees, if that speech contributes to a broader pattern of harassment resulting in a "hostile or offensive working environment" for other employees.[40][41]

In the 1980s and 1990s, more than 350 public universities adopted "speech codes" regulating discriminatory speech by faculty and students.[42] These codes have not fared well in the courts, where they are frequently overturned as violations of the First Amendment.[43] Debate over restriction of "hate speech" in public universities has resurfaced with the adoption of anti-harassment codes covering discriminatory speech.[44]

Hate speech in media

In 1993 the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a report titled “The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes.” This report gave one of the first definitions by government on hate speech. According to NTIA hate speech is:

  • Speech that advocates or encourages violent acts or crimes of hate.
  • Speech that creates a climate of hate or prejudice, which may in turn foster the commission of hate crimes.

NTIA 1993 Report

In 1992, Congress directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to examine the role of telecommunications, including broadcast radio and television, cable television, public access television, and computer bulletin boards, in advocating or encouraging violent acts and the commission of hate crimes against designated persons and groups. The NTIA study investigated speech that fostered a climate of hatred and prejudice in which hate crimes may occur. Study findings revealed only a few instances during the past decade in which broadcast facilities were used to spread messages of hate and bigotry. In two such instances, radio broadcasts arguably urged an audience to commit hate-motivated crimes. In other instances, radio broadcast licensees aired programming that evidenced prejudice. A few highly publicized cable television programs promoted messages of hate and bigotry. In some cases, cable programming stirred community reaction and was followed by counterprogramming. During the 1980's, computer bulletin boards were established by various white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, but many fell into disuse later in the decade. The study also found that hate "hotlines" are used to deliver recorded messages of bigotry and prejudice and that telephones can be used to intimidate, threaten, and harass individuals and organizations. NTIA's research suggests that hate messages represent a very small percentage of electronic communications media and that the best response is public education rather than government censorship and regulation. Legal remedies involving the use of telecommunications to commit or encourage hate crimes are discussed, as well as technologies that can protect or empower targets of hate speech.[45] A list of commenters is appended. 285 footnotes

In January, 2009, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), a not for profit organization with a mission to improve the image of American Latinos as portrayed by the media, unveiled a three prong strategy to address the issue of hate speech in media. 1) NHMC filed a petition for inquiry into hate speech with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [46]. The petition urges the Commission to examine the extent and effects of hate speech in media, including the likely link between hate speech and hate crimes, and to explore non-regulatory ways in which to counteract its negative impacts. 2) NHMC asked the the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to update its 1993 report “The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes”; 3) NHMC collaborated with the UCLA/Chicano Research Study Center (CRSC) to produce groundbreaking research on the subject. “Hate Speech on Commercial Radio, Preliminary Report on a Pilot Study,” was also released in January, 2009 [47].

“Hate Speech on Commercial Radio” categorized hate speech in four different areas.

  • False facts
  • Flawed argumentation
  • Divisive language
  • Dehumanizing metaphors

In May, 2010 NHMC filed comments in the FCC’s proceeding on the Future of Media and Information Needs of Communities in the Digital Age [48]. Joined by 32 national and regional organizations from throughout the country, the comments ask the FCC to examine hate speech in media. The Future of Media proceeding was designed to assess whether all Americans have access to vibrant, diverse sources of news and information that will enable them to enrich their lives, their communities and our democracy. In its comments, NHMC reinforces the need for the FCC to act on NHMC’s petition for inquiry on hate speech in media filed in January of 2009.


  2. Nockleby, John T. (2000), “Hate Speech,” in Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, ed. Leonard W. Levy and Kenneth L. Karst, vol. 3. (2nd ed.), Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, pp. 1277-1279. Cited in "Library 2.0 and the Problem of Hate Speech," by Margaret Brown-Sica and Jeffrey Beall, Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, vol. 9 no. 2 (Summer 2008).
  3. Kinney, Terry A. (2008). "Hate Speech and Ethnophaulisms". The International Encyclopedia of Communication. Blackwell Reference Online. doi:10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  4. R. A. V. v. City of St. Paul "As explained earlier ... the reason why fighting words are categorically excluded from the protection of the First Amendment is not that their content communicates any particular idea, but that their content embodies a particularly intolerable (and socially unnecessary) mode of expressing whatever idea the speaker wishes to convey. ... [St. Paul] has proscribed fighting words of whatever manner that communicate messages of racial, gender, or religious intolerance. Selectivity of this sort creates the possibility that the city is seeking to handicap the expression of particular ideas. That possibility would alone be enough to render the ordinance presumptively invalid, but St. Paul’s comments and concessions in this case elevate the possibility to a certainty."
  5. UK-USA: The British Character of America
  6. The PCspeak of Diversity
  7. George Orwell meets the OIC
  9. "1988 Constitution made racism a crime with no right to bail", Folha de São Paulo, 15 April 2005.
  11. Article 174. of Croatian penal code on Croatian Wikisource
  12. Danish Penal code, Straffeloven, section 266 B.
  13. Finnish Penal code Rikoslaki/Strafflagen Chapter 11, section 8
  14. Loi 90-615 du 13 juillet 1990
  15. Irish Statute Book Database
  16. "Jordanian poet accused of 'atheism and blasphemy'," The Daily Star Lebanon Saturday, October 25, 2008.
  17. BBC report on Geert Wilders
  18. Norwegian Penal code, Straffeloven, section 135 a.
  19. Venice Commission (2008). "Analysis of the Domestic Law Concerning Blasphemy, Religious Insult and Inciting Religious Hatred in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Turkey, United Kingdom on the Basis of Replies to a Questionnaire". Council of Europe. Archived from the original on 14 Feb 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  20. Serbian Penal code, section 317.
  21. "Act No. 4 of 2000: Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act." (PDF). Government Gazette. 2000-02-09. Retrieved 2008-10-26.[dead link]
  22. Clark, DM (2003). South African Law Reform Commission Issue Paper 22 Project 130: Stalking. South African Law Commission. ISBN 0-621-34410-9.
  23. Hanti, Otto (2006-08-09). "Man fined after racial slur to top judge". IOL. Retrieved 2007-07-10.
  24. Swedish Penal code, Brottsbalken, chapter 16, section 8.
  25. Lag om hets mot folkgrupp innefattar homosexuella
  26. The Local, 29 Nov 2005: Åke Green cleared over gay sermon
  27. "Basel verbiete jede Diffamierung von Juden und Judentum" (in German) (PDF). Vienna: Die Stimme - Jüdische Zeitung. 1934-12-14. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  28. Public Order Act 1986
  29. Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  30. Crime and Disorder Act 1998
  31. Amendment to Crime and Disorder Act 1998
  32. Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (England and Wales)
  33. Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008
  34. R. A. V. v. City of St. Paul
  35. Unfettered Press: Libel Law in the United States
  36. US CODE: Title 18,2101. Riots
  37. See, e.g., Gitlow v. New York (1925), incorporating the free speech clause.
  38. Hate speech or free speech? What much of West bans is protected in U.S. - The New York Times
  39. See, e.g.,Terminiello v. Chicago (1949), Yates v. United States (1957), Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969).
  40. Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson
  41. See, e.g., Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986), Patterson v. McLean Credit Union (1989).
  42. Free speech on public college campuses - Topic
  43. See, e.g., Doe v. Michigan (1989), UWM Post v. Board of Regents of University of Wisconsin (1991), Dambrot v. Central Michigan University (1995), Corry v. Stanford (1995).
  44. SpringerLink - Journal Article
  45. National Criminal Justice Reference Service[1]
  46. NHMC, 2009, FCC Petition[2]
  47. Social Science Research Council [3]
  48. NHMC, 2010, FCC Comments [4]

See also


External links

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