There are limits to freedom of speech. All countries in Europe have laws against harassment, incitement to commit crimes, and restrictions on libellous, defamatory, or slanderous speech. Some countries make it illegal to deny crimes against humanity such as the holocaust, or to promote certain extremist ideologies or groups.

Where should the line be drawn? If hate speech legislation is overly-strict, can it impinge upon the right to freedom of expression? Who should decide where the limits lie and what is acceptable? The question becomes particularly relevant in the 21st century, when individuals have the ability to publish content that is read, watched, or listened to by millions of people around the world. It’s also an issue for platforms such as Debating Europe, which have to balance the right to freedom of speech with their responsibility to prevent hate speech (not to mention their desire to foster a positive, inclusive community).

Curious to know more about hate speech? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What do our readers think? We had a question sent in from Catherine from the UK, who asks: “What is hate speech?” (with the implicit subtext that nobody can really define it).

To get a response, we put Catherine’s question to Julia Mozer, Hate Speech Advisor to the organisation CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe. How would she define “hate speech”?

We also had a comment sent in by Pedro, who thinks social media has made the problem of hate speech much more complex. He believes the issue is that ordinary people have now become “publishers” and can broadcast their personal thoughts to millions of others without really understanding the laws around hate speech. Is he right? If so, how can we ensure that citizens can stay safe, make their voices heard and play a positive role as online consumers and producers of content?

To get a response, we put this question to Laurentiu Bunescu, CEO of ALL DIGITAL, a pan-European association based in Brussels representing member organisations that teach and promote digital skills and competency. How would he respond?

For another perspective, we put the same question Myles Dyer, a YouTube creator and an ambassador for YouTube’s ‘Creators For Change‘ programme, which works to promote awareness around issues such as tackling hate speech, and ending online harassment and abuse. How would he respond?

What is hate speech for you? Has the internet made hate speech worse (or, at least, more obvious)? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

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41 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Yes there is plenty of hate speech but there is also honest speech which is demonized by politicians and media. Then you have biased and untruthful media reporting or media simply not reporting at all. Tommy Robinson’s treatment is a classic example as are the numbers of rapes committed by immigrants in Europe. While professional immigrants and asylum seekers are very welcome politicians have only themselves to blame if there is a massive kickback against open borders policy. Where it comes to defining hate speech, those who do so need to be properly accountable or we risk the loss of freedom of speech itself.

  2. avatar

    Autocratic limitation on free speech.

  3. avatar

    “Hate speech” is a buzzword used to completely nullify the opinion of another by branding it “against” something. It’s the equivalent of being called an anarchist in the beginning of the 20th century and it’s the main weapon of the “victim” generation

    • avatar

      Dimitar my view is that a second amendment approach should be adopted here

    • avatar

      Stef my view is that a second amendment approach should be adopted here

  4. avatar

    By modern defenition it is; when someone doesn’t agree with my view on a matter so I use it as a buzzword in an attempt to discredit their opinions and/or facts.

  5. avatar

    “Southern Europe wasted money on ‘drinks and women’”
    President of Eurogrup Dijsselbloem

    “No negotiations with carpet sellers”
    EU Commissioner Moscovici

    The main promoters of hate speech are EU institutions.

  6. avatar

    There is only speech! The made up title “hate speech ” is governments way of forcing us to accept something we don’t want!

    • avatar

      Mike my view is that a second amendment approach should be adopted here

    • avatar

      something we don’t want, or someone we hate?

  7. avatar

    I guess, it is meaningless! It’s a representation of the politically correct itself! It forbids every opposition to mainstream ideas! But I know, this was not the question! Threatens, violence without any aggression to people, or some groups of people who peacefully explain their ideas… I think this is meant to be, HATE SPEECH! But it’s no use to talk about this, once you made the rules, than you create a weapon in the hands of someone, who’s not interested in dialogues, and it will come someone, who use this expression, to ban people, whose only fault is not to think, as you wish they think! Personally, I wish you stop using this expression, that’s only a bullsh*t!

  8. avatar
    catherine benning

    What is hate speech for you?

    There is no such thing as ‘hate’ speech. It is a ludicrous term. One devised by those who have no proper command of the English language. It is confused speak, Designed to bully the citizen who does not want to absorb hysteria as a way of life. It is reference associated with and used by hysteria. Those too confused to communicate what it is they wish to promote.

    Example, Clinton used this method when she referred to a large majority of American people, who went against her vision for leadership. Her term was, a basket of ‘deplorables’.

    And as many have already written, it is a term devised to eliminate debate regarding opposition to the unfathomable political policies there is no way to justify. For, they are policies of nonsense. It is the users of the word ‘hate speech’ that are filled with hate. Hatred of the society they want to destroy by removing democracy through lack of verbal opposition to their off the wall thinking. Hatred of the people they claim they want to rule. Yet, cannot put their ‘true vision ‘ out for discussion and a vote. Instead they wish to impose their unspoken aims on the masses by threatening incarceration if you speak out. As they know their future aim will be rejected if discussed.

    The ‘New World Order’ in its very name, is confirming the aim we see as policy. Which is to destroy the concept and cultural evolution we presently enjoy and to change that irrevocably. And one of the many ways Globalist policy has to bring about this change, is to make it a criminal offence to debate on how we are happy with our old world order. Or, to express our wish to remain culturally as we are and not be forced to adopt that which does not follow what we believe is acceptable transition.

    Beware when ‘hate speech’ is used to silence your voice.

    The New World Order is not new. We were first warned of it a long time ago.

  9. avatar

    Anything Farage spouts from his racist mouth.

  10. avatar

    Hate speech is the lies told by the establishment and the media to the people.

  11. avatar

    The vile evil dictatorship called the eu ,or perhaps I should say , German Franco empire

  12. avatar

    Anything which would cause someone else to feel threatened or bullied based on their race, orientation, religion etc.

    With respect are you seeing the futility of asking a bunch of white people what hate speech looks like? It’s like asking a polar bear what a camel looks like.

    • avatar

      Sorry Johan I disagree. It may insult but we should have the right to insult. Calling someone or a group of people idiots to me is not hate speech, if hate speech is a crime. Otherwise in every pub near closing time the police would be investigating numerous hate crimes. Or how about football matches.

    • avatar

      Johan You gave a poor example. People who refuse to vaccinate their children ARE idiots. That’s not hate speech, as long as you don’t incite other people to kill or harm them.

    • avatar

      Yeah but vaccinating your children isn’t the same thing as being black or gay or such. You have an actual choice whether or not to vaccinate, and unlike black people or gay people unvaccinated children are *provably* hazardous to society.

      It’s hate speech if it criticises who you *are*; but valid criticism if it criticises what you say or do.

  13. avatar

    I think hate speech can not be determined by somebody else’s feelings. People feel bullied/ threatened by all sorts of things. For me what defines hate speech is intent and content. If, let’s say, I say that people who don’t vaccinate are idiots both the intent and content are negative and aggressive towards a group of people. Clearly hate speech. At the same time if I say that I disagree with people who don’t vaccinate their children for reasons A, B, and C then both the intent and content I would argue is positive even though some people would still feel bullied by it.

  14. avatar

    Josh. Are only white people capable of this made up crime? Feeling threatened is entirely subjective. You could feel threatened by an entirely innocuous remark but according to your definition that would be hate speech. The whole concept is total nonsense. We need to man up and accept criticism or argue our point.

  15. avatar
    E Peter

    The far right political parties as they remind of Hitler.

  16. avatar

    Hate speech for me comes from anyone that’s PC. Hate is those who try to smother truthfulness by promoting lies and half truths. Hate speech is everytime a politician opens his/her mouth.

  17. avatar

    It’s just speech that is hatefull! Nothing to worry about! 👍🏻

  18. avatar

    Hate simply means to ” intensely dislike, ” a person, thing, or whatever. To exercrate. It is a very human expression or disposition and to try and suppress it is ridiculous. We all have a right to hate. It is part of being human. There is no such thing as hate speech in the manner it is being presented. The use of the term is simply a means of control. Are we not to hate fascism. Merkel and co are very much into banning so-called hate speech. Merkel an ex-communist is very much a mind-control freak. East-Germany has arrived all over Europe. Hate Speech away – it is your human right and if you are wrong time will prove that to be the case. All very sinister.

  19. avatar

    Hate speech is the answer of brain washed people that are offended by everything and can’t live in the real world. The day that we will be censored on everything is the day we will die as a free speaking specie.

  20. avatar

    If you imply that someone shouldn’t have rights just because who they are or you threaten them because who they are, it cancels freedom, because freedom for them is in danger. Democracy cannot work by going towards to intolerance. Freedom is not individual, nobody can be free unless the rest of the people are free to be.

  21. avatar

    What is hate speach?…easy…disagreeing with the liberal left

  22. avatar

    Hate is in the heart. No-one has the power to see into my heart. So hate speech should not be a category of crime. There are some agreed limits to free speech. There are laws against libel/slander, incitement to violence and ‘shouting “fire!” in a crowded theatre’. But hate speech? Really??? That’s like the ‘thought crime’ we read about in ‘1984’.

  23. avatar

    Feed prejudice with ideas based on lies and myths ignoring real facts. A lot of good examples nowadays in the speeches of : Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Marine Le Pen, Mateo Salvini, Santiago Abascal, and the mother and sponsor of them all : Vladimir Putin. They all want to destroy European values

  24. avatar

    If you don’t know what hate speech is, then you’ve never been subjected to it. If you have experienced it, you know its got SFA to do with thought control, censorship or ‘snowflakes’…
    And if you still insist it’s about freedom of speech, then exactly what word or words can you not say that diminishes your freedom of expression to such an extent that it’s a big deal?

  25. avatar

    Hate speech is any utterance that promotes, defends or advocates for abortion. You must hate the preborn child if you want to kill them.

  26. avatar

    When we were younger, what is now called hate speech was taken in our stride, either ignored or answered back. So someone called me names, so what! When it becomes violence then we must act! But until that point, let’s teach each other to act as adults, not children. All this is about dividing our communities not bringing them together. So for me there is no such thing as hate speech, except for those who are trying to insight violence against others. So come on shout me down or call me names, that is your opinion!

  27. avatar

    Speech, means to speak words and sometimes these words are only spoken from a play.
    Hate means to dislike someone or something intensely.
    I don’t see that presented in general by very many people, only those who have an agenda to try and stop People from having an ordinary opinion about something that they should have an opinion about anyway.
    The political agenda and others are trying to Stop the People from being able to have an opinion about anything.
    If having an opinion is to be against the Law, then surely voting for an election is also against the Law, an opinion has to be formed as to who you like or don’t like as your representation in government.
    Wake up people and see what is being done here, total control is on the way.

  28. avatar

    The problem is one persons opinion is another persons hate speech if I disagree with your opinions or political thoughts I
    become a racist or a bigot or a woman
    hater why have we all become so stupid,
    to other people

  29. avatar

    If you do not call people for violence against someone there is no suchting as hatespeech. Hatespeech has become an excuse to not say anything that opposes the will of a minority, ending freespeech and establishing a minority dictatorship, which is the new form of proletariat’s dictatorship. Hate is you can’t say anything about what you think has no sense because you are heterosexual white male and minorities don’t like it.

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