Minorities, Free Speech and Internet

Open Panel

Nowadays there is a great debate whether the rules concerning free speech regulations should be the same on and off the Internet. Today, views on the subject are divided. There are those who argue that the Internet should be a free content space while, on the other hand, in some countries, online hate speech and types of speech are prohibited.
There are some characteristics that make the Internet a special realm. Firstly, on the Net opinions can expressed anonymously, something that raises legal questions of liability and guilt. Secondly, US and European hate speech regulations are different but there is only one Internet and it is global. As the Yahoo case has shown, it is not possible to claim for an exclusively local solution on an Internet case. Thirdly, from the United Nations resolution 68/167 in 2013, basic human rights principles are no longer disputed to be valid only offline but also online. However, the way that governments enforce, or failed to enforce, these principles vary from country to country.

Minorities are affected by free speech in several ways, for example: hate speech. The possibility of avoiding spreading massively hateful messages online is one issue on debate. Some views defend the Internet has its own rules that are linked with the maximum possible freedom. Other views argue that the judge may have the capacity to remove hateful websites.

Another debate is with the limits of humour. Should it be possible to joke about minority members or their characteristics? This is linked with Political Correctness (PC). In some countries, group libel is prohibited and in certain circumstances, some humoristic manifestations are considered hate speech, as a type collective vilification. On the other hand, some views make a strong point defending literary and artistic freedoms.

Finally, in some countries there is crime of offending religious feelings of believers. Although blasphemy is an old-fashioned crime because of secularism, a proper respect for religious places or figures is expected in some situations.

The Internet should be a new opportunity to enforce human rights and to protect minorities, not the opposite.