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Essay On Hate Speech

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Although freedom of speech is regarded by many as an essential part of a democratic society, there is ongoing debate as to how far this right should extend, and whether it is acceptable to place limitations upon the right on the grounds that the speech could be classified as “hate speech”. Hate speech is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “speech expressing hatred or intolerance of other social groups”. This covers a wide array of language, from racist or homophobic language, through to the publication of unsavoury views such as holocaust denialism. Despite the importance of free speech being widely accepted within both political commentary and legislation such as the European Convention on Human Rights, some commentators argue that…show more content…
Article 10 of the European Constitution on Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority”. This is a conditional right, which may be limited insofar as it is prescribed by law and “necessary in a democratic society”. The key question is, to what extent is the prohibition of hate speech necessary in a democratic society? Some theorists argue that it is necessary for the law to prohibit speech which may cause offence or harm to…show more content…
Each person will interpret such speech in a different way, and their emotional reaction will also differ. Legislation is passed by politicians under the fear that certain language will trigger a specific reaction. This assumes that the population consists of people with psyches so fragile that any exposure to views which are unsavoury or offensive if likely to cause deep emotional distress. The offensiveness of a particular piece of speech will vary greatly between people, based upon their own personal experiences, and their own characteristics. Whilst a joke against disabled people may encourage laughter from a crowd of able-bodied people, the same joke may cause offence to a crowd of people with disabilities. This means that it would be very difficult to enact legislation based purely upon the offence
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