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The EU’s push to ban ‘hate speech’ on the internet is premised on the idea that we can fix social ills simply by preventing people from saying things that those in power disapprove of. The value of free expression is in the information it conveys, the thoughts it provokes, and the greater clarity about the world it provides.
Hate speech’ is not a legal term of art, but rather an epithet invoked by advocates of censoring a wide range of speech whose ideas they hate. We should certainly punish some speech that could be labelled ‘hateful’, but only if it directly causes certain concrete harms – for example, threats aimed at specific targets, which instil reasonable fear of violence. In contrast, we must not punish speech whose only harm is offending sensibilities of audience members.
As private corporations, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft certainly have the right to establish rules for speech on their platforms, including restrictions on ‘hate speech’. But the fact that they are signing on to a speech code created by a government bureaucracy should be worrisome to anyone who cares about freedom.
Nevertheless, hate-speech codes amount to creating thoughtcrimes; their arbitrariness inevitably restricts legitimate speech; and they assume stupidity: that people are not smart enough to hear hateful ideas and not be indoctrinated by them
hate — like envy — is the planet’s greatest renewable energy source, motivating humans to live better, richer, freer lives.
How is ‘hate speech’ defined, and who decides which speech comes within the definition? Mostly, it’s not us.
Hate speech is the secular equivalent of blasphemy. Blasphemy targeted ‘evil speaking’, but in a non-religious world, censors don’t do morality. So hate speech is defined as prejudice directed at individuals or groups on the basis of their identity — be it racial, cultural or lifestyle.
The focus on bias is important. Since all human beings are biased at some level, hate speech must discriminate between sanctioned bias and prohibited bias; effectively between acceptable hate and unacceptable hate. This is why it is okay to mock Christians but not to ridicule Islam.
Progress depends on our freedom to express dangerous ideas – a freedom which relies on a strict differentiation between speech and physical acts. Hate-speech policies blur this line; they categorise speech that offends as in itself a form of violence, thereby unwittingly justifying violence as a response to offensive speech
Sometimes it’s good to be an American. Here mandatory civility crusaders are constrained by the First Amendment. Here a corporate media ban on ‘illegal hate speech’ would be meaningless since allegedly hateful speech is not illegal. Corporations, not bound by the Constitution, have the power to ban legal speech, but in an American court, hate speech is free speech. How could it not be? Hate speech is an imprecise, subjective concept.
So what do both EU and Non-EU ATS members think about the implementation of this new code of conformity within the EU?