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Should hate speech be illegal?
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Freedom of speech

The freedom to speak freely is an important aspect of a well-functioning country. Banning opinions stifles the power of the people who are governed.

The Argument

We must remember that free speech is a principle which states that people may speak in any way without facing existential consequences or criminalisation. This clearly implies that, even if an expression is defined as ‘hate speech’, it is irrelevant, and all types of speech should be permitted. Many countries, including Germany, restrict hate speech, including the promotion of fascism. By doing this, Germany no longer respects freedom of speech in its entirety.[1] Therefore, there is simply no way to ban ‘hate speech’ without trampling on the rights of the people. In the United States, the First Amendment clearly states that Congress cannot make a law that prohibits the freedom of speech for American citizens. Contrary to a common misconception, expression that may be identified as ‘hate speech’ is protected by the First Amendment, and cannot be legally censored by the United States government - including by Universities and colleges.[2] Furthermore, the Supreme Court has constantly rejected government attempts to prohibit ‘hate speech’. Instead, the Court has identified a guarantee of “Freedom for the thought that we hate” as Justice Wendell Holmes described the concept in a 1929 dissent.[2] Therefore, if the Supreme Court believes that hate speech is free speech, then hate speech should still be legal. If there are calls to ban this form of expression, then those same people are intending to limit a fundamental human right. The United States has taken the correct approach to hate speech, but countries intending to ban it, have not.

Counter arguments

Hate speech should never be protected under the banner of freedom of speech. People are given many rights, such as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, but no right is absolute. If by hate speech one is offending another person, then what about the rights of the person being offended? It is not fair for someone to potentially fear for their life when racial abuse is being expressed, because they still have the right to pursue their own lifestyle without being harassed. To maintain a peaceful society, we must avoid using inflammatory language aimed at provoking others, so we cannot protect hate speech by arguing that we have the right to free speech.[3]



[P1] Hate speech shouldn’t be illegal because it’s free speech. [P2] Taking away the right to speak freely would be taking away someone’s human rights, which is why hate speech should be legal.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Hate speech should not be under the banner of freedom of speech because it is dismissive of the people hate speech is targeted at. [Rejecting P2] Hate speech can affect other people's human rights.


This page was last edited on Monday, 14 Sep 2020 at 07:19 UTC

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