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Free speech vs hate laws

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Free speech vs hate laws

Post  Fred on Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:49 am

In Canada, there are laws that limit free speech, namely speech that promotes hatred.

Today there was a Supreme Court ruling that specifically upheld the hate speech law in the province of Saskatchewan, while removing a part regarding causing offense.

This article also discusses some other Canadian cases and explains some of the law



On Wednesday, a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court found that most of Saskatchewan's human rights code was constitutional. The legislation infringes the right to free speech and religion, but the court found it was a reasonable limit.

The court struck down the part of the legislation that includes speech that "ridicules, belittles or otherwise affronts the dignity" of a person or class of persons. The court found those words are not rationally connected to the objective of protecting people from hate speech.

The court left in place the ban on speech that exposes, or tends to expose, persons or groups to hatred.

continues here

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Re: Free speech vs hate laws

Post  nullnvoid on Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:52 am

I think it is a very difficult area. There are specific classes of speech which constitute hate speech, and some of these are harmful.

For example, if a person in a position of authority issues an order to have someone killed then they have in essence caused the action. The question then becomes one of where you draw the line between expressing an opinion and incitement to harm. When the order is implied, or the lines of authority are obscured then it is difficult to prove. It is likely that in some instances the sanctions intended to prevent harmful speech could be used to prevent non-harmful speech. Someone standing up and making a speech inciting people to rise up and kill a specific group of people is clearly harmful, so they often obfuscate their message with metaphor and analogy making it harder to pin down the actual hate speech.

When laws enter into grey areas they almost invariably wind up causing injustices. This doesn't invalidate the need to prevent people from inciting others to commit harmful acts, but it does highlight the potential to override the freedoms of others. It also highlights the need to justify the validity of such laws and for them to be constantly tested by the government, courts and by rights groups.

We have had a similar court case heard in Australia in the last week where a close decision has prevented a Muslim cleric from continuing to send highly insulting letters to the widows and families of soldiers killed in Afganistan.

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/high-court-dismisses-appeal-in-offensive-letters-case-20130227-2f53i.html


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Re: Free speech vs hate laws

Post  mood2 on Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:07 pm

I'm not comfortable with the whole concept of hate crime. If an action wouldn't otherwise be illegal, I don't think this motive should make it so, or justify additional punishment if it is illegal. Though you're right that it can be difficult to say exactly where it crosses over into incitement to commit a crime.

If it could be demonstrated it helps reduce antisocial bigotry I might be persuaded, but I worry it has the opposite effect when controversial cases keep being publicised.

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Re: Free speech vs hate laws

Post  nullnvoid on Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:10 am

It's really hard to find data on the effectiveness of such laws. Unfortunately, when it comes to the implementation of such laws politicians' logic applies. (If you aren't familiar with Yes Minister you should be.)

"Something must be done. This is something. Therefore this must be done."

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