Words that Hurt (1): Normative and Institutional Considerations in the Regulation of Hate Speech in Europe

ECMI Working Paper n.118

21 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2019

See all articles by Kyriaki Topidi

Kyriaki Topidi

European Centre for Minority Issues; Institute of Law and Religion /Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 30, 2019


Europe is experiencing at present intense dilemmas in regulating hate speech and online harassment. Free speech exercise can be offensive and even contribute to a climate of prejudice and discrimination against minorities. Often, the media exacerbate the tendency by reporting negatively about minorities. The first working paper on this topic engages with the normative dimensions of the balance between the need to control and limit incitement to violence in reconciliation with the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Three distinct aspects of hate speech are covered: the first relates to the role of freedom of expression as a tool of inclusiveness. With the limits of liberal tolerance being unclear, just like the definition of hate speech itself, legal actors and systems are torn between criminalising the speaker’s motive alone or in conjunction with the effects of the speech. A survey of recent related European Court of Human Rights case-law demonstrates these ambiguities. The second aspect covered looks at the challenges of the regulation of the freedom of expression in the digital age, with emphasis of the online dimensions of the phenomenon from a legal perspective. The final aspect of the paper proposes an actor-based analysis of hate speech, as it emerges from the current regulatory frameworks applied. This section deals not only with the role of the State but also with that of equality bodies, political parties and private businesses in providing more efficient networks of protection of minorities from such violent expressions of hatred.

Keywords: freedom of expression, online hate speech, discrimination, minorities, European Court of Human Rights

Suggested Citation

Topidi, Kyriaki, Words that Hurt (1): Normative and Institutional Considerations in the Regulation of Hate Speech in Europe (September 30, 2019). ECMI Working Paper n.118, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3488707 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3488707

Kyriaki Topidi (Contact Author)

European Centre for Minority Issues ( email )

Schiffbrücke 12 ⋅ D-24939
Flensburg, 24937

Institute of Law and Religion /Faculty of Law ( email )

Avenue de l'Europe 20
CH-1700 Fribourg

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