Online Hate Speech

 Online Hate Speech on social media platforms and other various online and the interactive medium is subject to great importance as these practices need to be curbed as soon as possible. Internet interactive facilities have their own merits and demerits however, the hatred and spread of insulting comments and communication of filthy and violent thoughts are increasing at an alarming rate. All the social media platforms have provided and realized the importance and need for regulation of hate speech as hate speech is different and sperate from an individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression. The need to curb the practice online hate speech is subject to both national as well as in international polices. Thus, an important and functional framework is required to stop and combat these evil practices of hate speech either online or offline.

Introduction

Today, the internet is known to be an invention that not only brought separated and long-forgotten family, friends, and relatives closer but also helped them to interact and communicate their feelings and sense of togetherness with each other with just one click on their smartphones, laptops, etc.

The expanded technology also helped people all over the globe to share their ideas, views, and express their feelings through a better and understandable medium of social networking and sites. The connected medium of interaction and technology not only helped us in sharing information and ideas in times of growing economy and mankind but also served as a safety tool for our survival by acting as a medium of virtual earnings by work from home, online study material, virtual meetings, e- schools, and providing resourceful knowledge to deal and overcome difficulties in this time of pandemic of COVID-19.

However, this gift of technology is also corrupted and misused at the same time, these inventions come with demerits of promotion of evil practices like cyber-crimes, bullying and abusing, hate speech, etc. Online Hate Speech is one of the evil outcomes of the invention of this interactive and resourceful technology.

This Article on ‘Online Hate Speech’ shall state the understanding of the term ’Online Hate Speech’ followed by the differences in terms of Hate Speech and critical speech. The status of enacted laws and principles by various countries including the position of India shall be stated and lastly will state the need to regulate the practice of Online Hate Speech.

Definitions of Online Hate Speech

There is no internationally stated or observed definition of Online Hate Speech, however, to understand the meaning of the term ‘online hate speech’ it can be said that any type of speech or communication that takes place online or internet or through any social networking medium with the purpose and aim to attack or hurt someone or a group based on the attributes of their religion, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, caste, creed, gender or any disability.

Similarly, the YouTube website also states the definition of the term ‘Online Hate Speech’ as ‘Speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity.[1]

Difference between Hate Speech and Critical Speech

There is a difference between having a critical and negative approach towards different scenario’s, however not all negative thoughts and views can be called Hate Speech. The basic difference can be the motive and action behind that particular thought. A person can have opposing views regarding the government’s policies and can criticize their practices and the steps taken thereof but hate speech is much wider in approach since it is accompanied with the idea to demean other’s thought and views on basis of different attributes like religion, race, creed, caste, etc. Having a critical approach is like having a difference of opinion with other thoughts and views but Hate speech is demeaning and attacking other thoughts and views based on own opinion.

Difference between Hate Speech and Bullying

As there is a difference between Hate Speech and Critical Speech, there is a thin line difference between the concept of bullying and Hate Speech as both of them often overlap. Bulling is called as unwanted aggression and offensive behaviour. However, bullying cannot always include demeaning of a person or group based on religion, caste, sexual orientation, etc. Hate speech can be said to be a narrow term in comparison to the term ‘Bullying’ as bullying involves a much aggressive behaviour and may or may not involve demeaning of thoughts and views alone but the term Hate Speech is much mild as it only involves the communication of demeaning or hurtful speech based on different attributes.

Freedom of Speech and Expression and Hate Speech

With great powers and privileges of rights, duties, and responsibilities of those rights needs to be followed. The Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression is a hallmark of every democracy. It follows with the idea that if all voices are allowed to a part of a discussion, the best argument shall win. However, hate speech is more effective than just a mere insult. The hate speech removes the voice of an individual based on different attributes of sexual orientation, race, creed, etc. Freedom of Speech is a way to make own opinion on a particular issue and hate speech is said to be demeaning of other’s voices based on their characteristics. By relying on the principles of freedom of speech, the politicians and intellectuals, as well as mainstream media, can combat hate speech by disproving the dehumanizing messages contained in hate speech and set up examples of the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression in a positive way.

Position of Various Countries in Laws Related to Hate Speech

Position of the USA

 The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to be free from government inference in speech but even under the First Amendment. Hate speech is unprotected and not permitted when it incites imminent criminal activity or specific threats of violence against a person or a group.

Position of Europe

Europe has passed anti-hate speech laws in the times of World War II, to curb and prevent incitement to racial, ethnic, and religious hatred after the Holocaust. French law prohibits defamatory or insulting communication or that incited discrimination, hatred against a person, or a group based on place of origin, sex, religion, ethnicity, etc.

Position of India

India bans the concept of Hate speech based on religion, ethnicity, race, sex, etc. There is no mention of the term ‘Hate Speech’ in the enacted statues but it can identify in different forms across the laws that govern India.

Section 153A, 153B, 296A,198 505(1) and 505(2) declares the word, spoken or written or employing signs or any kind of visual representation that promotes disharmony, enmity, hatred, or ill-will or offends or insults based on religion, ethnicity, culture, language, region, caste, community, race, etc is a punishable offense. Other laws like the Information Technology Act , Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have been enacted to safeguard and prohibit these evil practices of hate speech. The Indian Constitution imposes ‘reasonable restrictions’ on the fundamental rights empowered under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.

Another important framework called as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is more comprehensive in terms to combat and prohibit the practice of online or offline hate speech and contains right of freedom of speech in Article 19 and the prohibition of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence in Article 20. Many other frameworks and drafts like the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1951), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ICERD (1969), and, to a lesser extent, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW (1981) have included the measures and prohibition of hate speech.

International Principles governing Online Hate Speech

Online Hate speech is not where mentioned expressly in any of the formulated conventions and charters but have a special place in international governing principles. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) contains provisions for equal protection of all the citizens without any discrimination based on different attributes. It also states that everyone has the right to freedom of speech and expression of their thoughts, ideas, views through the online or offline medium. UDHR is very decisive and accurate in forming a framework for the protection of human rights and curb discrimination.

The Need for Regulation of Online Hate Speech

Online Hate Speech can harm individuals, communities as well as societies. Social media or the internet as a platform to voice their insulting or hurtful thoughts or views towards a person or a group based on different attributes. This Hate speech which can be both offline as well as online harms the relationships and can also deteriorate an individual’s or a group’s mental, physical, and emotional health.

Online hate speech has resulted in more serious harm than offline hate speech as in today’s time online medium has taken a larger coverage all over the globe and since it has an impact on every individual or group it has led to serious instances of violence, cyber-crimes. As to spread their hurtful thoughts, the people take up social media as a platform to communicate the hatred or ill-practices easily and effectively because of better connectivity and influence of the internet.

The violence and spreading of hate speech through these communication media are growing and spreading at an alarming rate. There is an urgent need to regulate the practice of online hate speech since it has not only deteriorated the relationships of an individual or a group but is also acting as a key to widespread hatred and violence on basis of different attributes of discrimination which in result harm the development process and the very idea and aim of positive and helpful communication through these social mediums are disturbed.

Conclusion

Finally, to understand and comprehend from the concept of online hate speech, it can be said that as freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed and secured human rights, it does come with the duty and responsibility to act and practice effectively and empathetically.

It can be stated that online hate speech cannot be covered under the ambit of the right to freedom of speech and expression. And to combat and overcome the demerits that these practices pose towards individuals as well as the nation, there is a need for more formulated laws and statutes Nationally and Internationally. Given the global nature of social media and the internet, it is essential to take steps the curb this problem Internationally. However as rightly said ‘many drops can fill the ocean’, we all need to realize our responsibilities and duties to curb hatred and try to build a better society of different opinions yet a positive environment for necessary checks and balance.

FAQs

Q.1 What Is Online Hate Speech?

Facebook has given the definition of Online Hate Speech that is- “Content that attacks people based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease is not allowed”.

Q.2. How Is the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression Different from Hate Speech?

Freedom of Speech is a way to make own opinion on a particular issue and hate speech is said to be demeaning of other’s voices based on their characteristics.

Q.3. Is There Any Difference Between Critical Speech and Hate Speech?

The basic difference can be the motive and action behind that particular thought. A person can have opposing views regarding the government’s policies and can criticize their practices and the steps taken thereof but hate speech is much wider in approach since it is accompanied with the idea to demean other’s thought and views on basis of different attributes like religion, race, creed, caste, etc.

Q.4. What Are the Laws or Statutes Nationally and Internationally That Condemn the Practice of Online or Offline Hate Speech?

Nationally, Section 153A, 153B, 296A,198 505(1) and 505(2)  declares the word, spoken or written or employing signs or any kind of visual representation that promotes disharmony, enmity, hatred, or ill-will or offends or insults based on religion, ethnicity, culture, language, region, caste, community, race, etc is a punishable offense. Other laws like the Information Technology Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act have been enacted to safeguard and prohibit these evil practices of hate speech. Internationally, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) contains provisions for equal protection of all the citizens without any discrimination based on different attributes. It also states that everyone has the right to freedom of speech and expression of their thoughts, ideas, views through the online or offline medium. Another important framework called as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is more comprehensive in terms to combat and prohibit the practice of online or offline hate speech.

Q.5. Why Is Online Hate Speech Harmful?

Online Hate Speech can harm individuals, communities as well as societies. Social media or the internet as a platform to voice their insulting or hurtful thoughts or views towards a person or a group based on different attributes. This Hate speech which can be both offline as well as online harms the relationships and can also deteriorate an individual’s or a group’s mental, physical, and emotional health.

Q.6. Why Do We Need to Regulate the Practice of Online Hate Speech?

There is an urgent need to regulate the practice of online hate speech since it has not only deteriorated the relationships of an individual or a group but is also acting as a key to widespread hatred and violence on basis of different attributes of discrimination which in result harm the development process and the very idea and aim of positive and helpful communication through these social mediums are disturbed.

References

https://files.elsa.org/AA/Online_Hate_Speech_Essay_Competition_runner_up.pdf

http://ili.ac.in/pdf/csi.pdf

https://www.connectsafely.org/wp-content/uploads/Hate-Speech-8.5×11.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330974104_Targets_of_Online_Hate_Speech_in_Context

https://files.elsa.org/AA/Online_Hate_Speech_Essay_Competition_runner_up.pdf

http://www.iglyo.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Online-Hate-Speech-WEB.pdf


[1] You Tube Community Guidelines: Available at: https://www.youtube.com/about/policies/#community-guidelines

[2] The Indian Penal Code 1860.

[3] Information Technology Act, 2000.

[4] The Constitution of India, art 19(2).

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