Regulating Online Hate Speech: A Comparative Study of the United States of America, European Union and India’s Approaches

Shantanu Rahul Kulkarni and Spandana Nageshkumar
L.L.M. in Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law,
Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin

Volume II – Issue II, 2020

The evolution of the internet in the 20th century has connected the individual to a host of services such as the e-commerce market, navigational services, social network services, banking and finance services, and media. Some of the essential attributes of the internet are low costs, easy access, anonymity, and the ability to reach diverse audiences. Although these attributes have allowed consumers to connect, the Internet has become a deep abyss for consumers of information. In a diverse jurisdiction like India, the Internet has fuelled ethnic and cultural tensions. As the Internet has become ubiquitous the rise, dissemination & active propagation of hate speech is accelerating.

Freedom of speech and expression are the fulcrum of democracy. However, often in order to curb the dissemination of online hate speech the legislature enacts laws that tend to have unfathomable consequences such as abrogation of the right to free speech & expression, such a situation is a result of excessive legislation. This situation is further aggravated due to the absence of a globally accepted definition of online hate speech. Therefore, it is paramount to test the online hate speech laws on the touchstone of the right to free speech and expression.

The authors through this paper will argue that the internet is a catalyst in fuelling hate amongst society and has increased ethnic and cultural tensions. To substantiate the aforementioned argument the authors intend to examine instances in the United States, Europe & India, where the “internet” was the causa causans of conflicts and dissemination of hate. The paper also examines the existing legal frameworks in the aforementioned countries and their effectiveness in curbing the spread of hate. The third and the last endeavour of this paper is to strike a balance between freedom of speech and expression on the internet and preventing the spread of heat speech online.

Key Words: Online Hate Speech, Freedom of Speech and Expression, Code of Conduct, Excessive Legislation, NETzDG, Regulation of Cyberspeech.


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