Hate in Cyberspace: Regulating Hate Speech on the Internet

53 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2008 Last revised: 18 May 2014

See all articles by Alexander Tsesis

Alexander Tsesis

Loyola University Chicago School of Law


The Internet is a global network providing connections for many forms of speech. All the processes of message transmission occur in real space through a system of identifiable algorithms. The information is posted on the Web by individuals or groups intending it to be read by and to affect a limited or expansive audience.

The worldwide potentials for the Internet offer a mechanism for spreading democracy and commercial entrepreneurialship throughout the world. However, the Internet is also a breeding ground for hate groups who use it to expand their membership and to solidify their forces. The packages of information about how to instigate a racial war or to limit the opportunities for identifiable groups do not exist in a virtual world, absent from reality. False messages which are intended to stifle and exploit existing negative stereotypes impact individuals' lives and the societies where they reside. They strengthen the purveyors of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and gay-bashers. They also intimidate traditional scapegoats and limit their ability to exercise the full extent of their fundamental right to autonomy.

In this article, I argue that criminal penalties should be imposed on persons who intend harm and violence against identifiable groups. I begin with a technological explanation of the Internet. I next turn to the proliferation of Internet sites that spread messages promoting racial and ethnic hatred and oppression. I then demonstrate the harm to hate posses to egalitarian democracy. The next part discusses how Canada and Germany have managed to honor freedom of speech on the Internet while contemporaneously prohibiting hate propaganda. Finally, Part V considers whether it is appropriate to enact laws prohibiting the distribution of hate speech on the Internet, and if so, to what extent such expression may constitutionally be limited.

Keywords: first amendment, free speech, hate speech, destructive messages, group defamation, cyberspace, internet

Suggested Citation

Tsesis, Alexander, Hate in Cyberspace: Regulating Hate Speech on the Internet. San Diego Law Review, Summer 2001, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1096581

Alexander Tsesis (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-915-7929 (Phone)

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