The United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. Even though, it does not contain any statements prohibiting hate propaganda, there were enough controversial opinions during the drafting period whether or not to allow restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.
The member states had a heated discussion about such restrictions and also what their purpose should be. The horrifying consequences of WWII motivated the nations of the world to take a maximum effort in order to prevent the spreading of intolerance and hate rooted in the war and the events leading up to it. They also wanted to minimize the results of such hate and ensure that events such as those which happened in Nazi Germany, would ever happen again. Unfortunately, the international community knows other consequences of hate propaganda, such as genocide in Rwanda, anti-Semitic attacks in Germany, and racial discrimination all over the world. The Internet is considered to be one of the most, if not the most, important evolutionary steps in the advancement of freedom of speech in modern history. At the same time, a considerable amount of UN declarations, conventions, and conferences include provisions on the protection of privacy and honor and prohibition of discrimination. Therefore, member states, already aware of dangers in the mid-1990s, made various legislative attempts to restrict and control content on the Internet, mostly in relation to protecting minors from harmful content.
However, in recent years, there has been an increase in calls globally for greater regulation of social media platforms, including in Europe. In this respect, the way in which social media companies address ‘hate speech’ on their platforms is a particularly burning issue for governments, policy makers, regulatory bodies, self-regulatory institutions, media, civil society and, the public at large. It can sometimes be difficult to recognize hate speech, it may be „hidden” in a sentence or a statement which at first glance may seem logical and natural. However, certain key points/standards, such as intent to stir up hatred against a certain group of people, incitement to hatred, and causal link, indicating hate speech, may be present. It is therefore not only the words which establish hate speech.
Each instance must be reviewed in light of context, content, intent, and the likelihood of the speech to cause actual harm. Our past experiences clearly show how severe the consequences of hate speech can be. There are many examples of hate speech, by not being addressed, having led to certain groups of people being disrespected and discrimination against them considered to be legitimate. The most serious instances have led to a deep divide in the social cohesion and even to conflict. This is not acceptable in a democratic society.
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