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!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – SAJV CSAJ
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70 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Damien

    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
    Leopold

    Autocratic limitation on free speech.

    • avatar
      Wolfgang Mizelli

      since when insulting, sluring, paternalizing, discriminating, violating somebody free speech?

  3. avatar
    Dimitar

    “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
      Max

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

    • avatar
      Wolfgang Mizelli

      and what if yr opinion is stereotyping, discriminating and hurting?

    • avatar
      Max

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

  4. avatar
    Matej

    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
    Marco

    “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
    Mike

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

    • avatar
      Max

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

    • avatar
      Larry

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

    • avatar
      Wolfgang Mizelli

      aha! discriminating, stereotyping, insulting, sluring oppressing, violating is just speech. where do you live?

    • avatar
      douglas mosier

      wolfgang; discrimination is an action not words. The only way one can be “violated” by words is if one is lied about.
      Insulting? Slurring? well, boo-fackin’-hoo. I get called bad names all the time and I ignore it.

  7. avatar
    Leandro

    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’.

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deplorable#other-words

    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.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rd8wwMFmCeE

    • avatar
      Wolfgang Mizelli

      insulting, patronizing, violating, discriminating, sluring, oppressing no hate speech?

  9. avatar
    Chris

    Anything Farage spouts from his racist mouth.

  10. avatar
    Wendy

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

  11. avatar
    Harry

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

  12. avatar
    Josh

    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
      Stephen

      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
      John

      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
      Josh

      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
    Johan

    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
    Stephen

    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
    George

    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
    Stefan

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

  18. avatar
    Pierce

    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
    Michel

    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
    Marta

    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
    David

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

  22. avatar
    John

    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
    Marquitos

    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
    Con

    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
    Martin

    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
    Joan

    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
    Peter

    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
    Mario

    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
    David

    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.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ David

      Yes, that is absolutely right, except one point. And that is, those who want power against our freedom of speech in this ‘democracy’ by using such mouth shutting threats as ‘h–te speech, want you to believe the story of migrants, or those born outside of Europe being minorities. What all of us have to realise is, indigenous people are fast becoming a minority in many European cities. And how you know that is by taking the statistics that list demographic population make up and see how cleverly it is disguised. The movers and shakers break down so called minorities into separate divisions. They do not do that with ethnic indigenous people, they are clumped together under one sample. The rest are in small % packages.

      Example: Hispanic, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Arabic, South African, West African, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, West Indian, South American, and on and on. If you add the percentages together, you see indigenous has been radically reduced over a very short period of time.

      And here we see this fallacy or could we say, fake news. It is reported that as a result of mass migration into the UK our population level has risen to approx 65m. However, it is felt it is nearer 100,000,000. But, don’t shine a spotlight on illegals, overstaying visitors, health care seekers, etc., that may be considered h–e speech. In order to hide what it really is, political deceit.

    • avatar
      Wolfgang Mizelli

      aha! oppressing, insulting, sluring, discriminating no hate speech?

  30. avatar
    Adam Gerencsér

    As pointed out above, ‘hate speech’ is a form of labelling to make actual debate impossible. Saying that ALL immigrants are criminals is a statement that can be statistically proven to be wrong, so one could argue that it’s immoral, hence a form of ‘hate speech’. The same goes for ‘ALL who oppose immigration are racist’, because in effect in means that ‘nativists’ ought to have their freedom of opinion limited. Thus, for instance, a Native American or Australian Aboriginal should be silenced when criticising their displacement by White immigration, because that would be ‘hate speech’, right?

  31. avatar
    Constantinica

    I do not hate, i do not care, big difference

  32. avatar
    Vicente

    Hate speech is an attack to freedom of speech. More, only aplies to Atheists and Christians. The others can say whatever they want that there is no problem. Wake up George Orwell.

  33. avatar
    Wolfgang Mizelli

    using “dis/abled”, “gay”, “lesbian”, “trans” etc. as a slur is hate speech. stereotyping is hate speech.
    anything that hurts, discriminates, oppresses anyone is hate speech.
    should “hate speech” be banned, punished? Not sure about that, even so I am frequently victim of hate speech. I trust more in empower the victims to react properly.

  34. avatar
    Wolfgang Mizelli

    hate speech hurts.

  35. avatar
    George

    “There are limits to freedom of speech.” – it’s called censorship.

    • avatar
      Andrea

      George it’s called EU xD

  36. avatar
    Andrea

    Pushing laws against “hate speech” is just another way to say “we don’t like freedom of speech”.
    Hate speech doesn’t exist.
    What you want is called “thoughtcrime”.

  37. avatar
    Stef

    Is hate speech real? Yes.
    Is it objective? No.
    Should it be controlled/regulated/banned? See previous question.

  38. avatar
    Chris

    Action generates reaction. Thus, focus on actions.

  39. avatar
    Bernard

    I think we should have freedom of speech, and not attempt to censor each other.

  40. avatar
    Παυλος

    It’s quite obvious I think

  41. avatar
    Edita

    I understand hate speech as direct threats of rape, murder, kidnapping, etc. towards a person or group of people. Criticism of something, no matter if you consider it reasonable or unfounded is not and cannot be interpreted as hate speech.

  42. avatar
    Sento

    For me, “hate speech” is propaganda against Christians which is so active now!

  43. avatar
    Jay

    BAN “hate speech” laws! Freedom of speech has no limits! go ask the Americans.

  44. avatar
    Valentin

    There’s no hate speech. There’s argument and none argument. But when the government wants to shut down argument simply declares it political incorrectness and censor it.

  45. avatar
    Alex

    Hate speech is a direct call to violence. Direct as in “imperative”. Anything less than that is freedom of speech. Sadly, there are racist p***ks in this world, and, well, being a p***k is a basic human right. We can’t make self expression a crime – because the right to be a racist p***k is the other side of the coin of, well, the right to self expression. It is people expressing dissent, and no matter how vile it is – banning dissent never played out well in history. We should debate them openly, debunk their nonsense, and make them a laughingstock, not pretend that they don’t exist. We can’t be burning books, because if we do – it’s a pretty clear sign that we let the kind of people that would burn books into power, and from what I was thinking – it’s exactly the sort of thing we were trying to prevent, isn’t it?

  46. avatar
    Alexandru

    “There are limits to freedom of speech”. Yes, it’s called dictatorship.

  47. avatar
    Victor

    The one that differentiate between us and them. The one that justifies our problems because “they” are among us or near us, and once we finish them, we will be happy.
    Trump, Brexit and Cataluña are fantastic examples.

    • avatar
      João

      I wonder what all the colonized people around the world that had to fight the external invaders to get their sovereignty back think about that simplistic definition.

  48. avatar
    Sárdi

    People(mostly females) in Germany yelling at me that I should speak German when, my duties do not imply, require the knowledge of that language.

  49. avatar
    Marc

    There’s free speech and incitement, and no middle ground.

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