Hogan Lovells BaSE


About the project

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The third decade of the millennium is witnessing the rampant misuse of online technology to bully, harass and harm minorities, to radicalize youth and to instigate violence and terrorism. Even as social media has grown to new heights as a way for billions of people to share information, to entertain and to communicate, it also has become in certain instances the launching pad for misinformation and campaigns of racism and hate of all kinds. The Internet has become a significant source of hatred.

PeaceTech Lab (PTL) -- a global non-profit organization created to use the power of technology, data and media to save lives and promote peace around the world --has asked its pro bono partner law firm, Hogan Lovells, as part of their formal global partnership, to develop answers to a series of questions regarding the laws and regulations around the world governing online hate. Hogan Lovells has undertaken to analyze the questions in more than 20 jurisdictions.  This website contains the Hogan Lovells analysis. Hogan Lovells volunteers worked alongside lawyers at Citibank, working pro bono, to research hate speech legislation in the Republic of Ireland.

“Understanding the legal tools available to combat hate speech is essential in the fight against the many forms of online and offline hate. The Hogan Lovells/Peace Tech Lab digest of major laws available in an interactive map-based tool will be incredibly useful to ADL and help us understand the parameters of the law in numerous jurisdictions. We welcome the effort and appreciate the work.” – Steven M. Freeman, Vice President, Civil Rights, Anti-Defamation League

International Law

We address the extent to which international law standards cover hate speech and explore whether there are relevant decisions on hate speech arising from the European Convention of Human Rights, the American Convention of Human Rights and the African Convention of Human Rights.

Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right derived from Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. 

Definition of Hate Speech

In each of the places whose laws we assess, we set forth the definition of hate speech, if such a legal definition exists. Where there is such a legal definition of hate speech, we set forth whether the legal definition of hate speech requires threats of violence or incitements to violence. We also specify if the definition covers speech and behavior that incites hatred (but not necessarily violence) towards a group.

Bias Motivation for Hate Speech and Religious Exceptions

Where hate speech laws cover speech that draws on hateful, hostile, or supremacist beliefs directed at a group that is threatened and likely to cause them harm, we so specify. We also set forth whether the definition permits religious beliefs and speech that discriminates against particular communities, and if so, whether there are limits to such discriminatory beliefs.

Civil and Criminal Remedies, and Recourse through Online Platforms

Turning to individuals’ right of recourse when people are victims of online hate, we set forth whether rights of recourse exist in each of the jurisdictions covered, and set forth civil legal remedies, if any. Conversely, we spell out the rights of those accused of hate speech. In addition, we set forth the remedies available to someone who witnesses online hate even whether civil and criminal remedies are not available, for example at the social media platform through which the online hate was disseminated.

We also address criminal legal remedies for hate speech.

Regulation of Media and Immunity from Liability

Turning to regulatory frameworks governing online media where they exist, we set forth whether individuals are allowed to complain. We also explore whether the test for hate speech used by any regulatory bodies is the same as the criminal law definitions, in places where both forms of regulation exist.

With respect to liability rules, we assess whether public and private institutions have to comply with the same duties to avoid hate speech liability. We also look at the contexts in which hate speech may be disseminated, e.g. at an event, in a place of work or online, and set forth whether the rules are different.

Recent Examples of Online Hate as a Backdrop to Our Work

Where severe online hate has been reported publicly, recent examples are provided for many of jurisdictions we assess to illustrate the pernicious nature of the problem around the world.

Importance of Free Expression Even Where Hate Speech is Regulated

Even as we assess the legal regime around the world governing online hate, we remain cognizant of the importance of free expression, and the potential for misuse, up to repression, that hate speech laws possess. A fundamental principle underlying our work, and most of the hate speech laws we assess, is that free speech requires limited and careful regulation.