Equality and hate speech

Hate and discrimination present increasing challenges to ensuring that all people are able to enjoy their right to freedom of expression, and other human rights, equally.   Removing discriminatory barriers so that all people can speak out and be heard, and ensuring that no one is censored on the basis of who they are, is central securing the right to freedom of expression.

“Hate speech”, as a form of discriminatory expression, is a serious human rights concern.  It is a tool often used to silence and intimidate minorities, and to scapegoat whole groups in society while stifling dissent. Whether promulgated by politicians or spread by media outlets or online, “hate speech” can create environments conducive to violence and other human rights violations against minority groups.

While international human rights law requires States to prohibit the most severe forms of “hate speech”, censorship is rarely an effective means of tackling its root-causes.    Broadly framed “hate speech” laws are also frequently misapplied to target minority and dissenting expression.

ARTICLE 19 advocates for States to engage in a range of law and policy measures to counter “hate speech” with more speech, seeking to maximise inclusivity, diversity and pluralism in public discourse. That means clearly defining the circumstances in which certain types of “hate speech” can or must be limited, and ensuring those measures are only used exceptionally, and as a last resort.

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