Issue of Hate speech

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    • Recently, the Supreme Court reprimanded the government for its failure to stop hate speech and hate crimes in the country.

    What is Hate Speech?

    • Hate speech is defined as any speech, gesture, conduct, writing, or display that may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by any individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a particular individual or group.

    Reasons to Curb Hate Speech

    • It undermines social equality as it reaffirms historical marginalization, oppression & discrimination.
    • It is enacted to cause psychological and physical harm to its victims as it incites violence.
    • It is used to provoke individuals or society to commit acts of terrorism, genocides, ethnic cleansing etc.
    • It is a tool to create panic through rumour mongering against targeted people. For example, the Northeast exodus.

    Laws and regulations on hate speech

    • About: In India, hate speech is regulated by several laws and acts, including the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Indian Information Technology (IT) Act.
      • Indian Penal Code (IPC): It contains provisions that prohibit hate speech, such as :
        • Section 153A: It deals with actions promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. 
        • Section 295A: It deals with deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
        • Section 505: It pertains to statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes)
      • Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC): It provides for the arrest of individuals who have committed a cognizable offense, such as hate speech.
      • Indian Information Technology (IT) Act: It regulates online speech, including hate speech. Under the act, intermediaries such as social media platforms are required to remove content that is in violation of the law within 36 hours of being notified.
    • Court Judgements: In the past, The Supreme court of India has issued several judgments on hate speech. 
      • Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015):  The court struck down Section 66A of the IT Act, which had criminalized online speech, stating that it violated the right to freedom of speech and expression. 
      • Sukumar v. State of Tamil Nadu (2019): The court held that hate speech on social media platforms is not protected by the right to freedom of speech and expression.
    • Representation of People’s Act(1951): 
      • Section 8: It prevents a person convicted of the illegal use of the freedom of speech from contesting an election.
      • Sections 123(3A) and 125 of the RPA: It bars the promotion of animosity on the grounds of race, religion, community, caste, or language in reference to elections and includes it under corrupt electoral practices.
    • Freedom of speech: The right to freedom of speech is protected under Article 19 of the Constitution but it is not absolute and can be limited in certain circumstances, such as when it incites violence or discrimination.
    • Online Hate speech: The internet has made it easier for hate speech to spread, and many social media platforms have policies in place to address hate speech on their platforms. However, the effectiveness of these policies can be limited, and more needs to be done to combat online hate speech.
    • Prevention: It begins with education, raising awareness about the harmful effects of hate speech and promoting tolerance and inclusivity. In this regard, the government, civil society organizations and communities at large can play a role in preventing hate speech.

    Challenges to Hate speech:

    • Defining hate speech: There is no universally accepted definition of hate speech, and different countries and cultures have different norms and expectations in this area. This makes it difficult to establish clear guidelines for what constitutes hate speech and what does not.
    • Balancing free speech and hate speech: Hate speech laws are often viewed as a restriction on free speech. This can lead to legal challenges and pushback from civil liberties groups.
    • Identifying and removing hate speech online: The vast majority of hate speech takes place online, and it can be difficult to identify and remove this content. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have struggled to effectively moderate hate speech, and there is no consensus on how to approach this problem.
    • Addressing hate speech in non-English languages: Hate speech is not limited to English-speaking countries, and it can be difficult to identify and remove hate speech in other languages. Additionally, cultural and linguistic nuances may not be well understood by those trying to moderate content.
    • Addressing hate speech by public figures and politicians: Expression of hate is not limited to anonymous internet users, public figures and politicians also contribute to spreading hate speech. However, due to their public platform, it may be challenging to hold them accountable for their statements.
    • Lack of resources and legal framework: Many countries lack the resources and legal framework to effectively address hate speech. This can make it difficult to enforce laws and regulations, and it can also create a sense of impunity for those who engage in hate speech.

    Way Ahead

    • India has a diverse population with different languages, religions, and cultures, thus there is a need to curb  incidents of hate speech and crimes that can have a detrimental impact on individuals and communities. 
    • It is a complex and multifaceted issue that poses significant challenges for regulators and policymakers which will require a multifaceted approach that includes education, technology, and legal enforcement.
    • Thus, it becomes important for governments, civil society organizations, and individuals to work together to combat hate speech and promote a more inclusive and tolerant society.

    What is Hate Crime?

    • Definition: 
      • A hate crime is a criminal offense committed against a person or property that is motivated by the perpetrator’s bias against a particular group, such as race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.
    • Impact: 
      • Hate crimes can have a devastating impact on both individuals and communities, as they can lead to fear, trauma, and even physical harm.
    • Laws and regulations
      • India has no specific laws on hate crime but has different laws, sections to tackle the hate crimes. Besides, the government has established the National Commission for Minorities and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to provide legal protection and assistance to minority groups that may be targeted by hate crimes.
    • Types of hate crime: 
      • Hate crimes can take many forms, including physical violence, vandalism, and harassment. Some examples include assault, murder, and property damage.
    • Identification: 
      • Identifying a hate crime can be difficult as the perpetrator may not always acknowledge their bias, and sometimes the motivation may be unclear.
    • Issue of online Hate crime: 
      • The prevalence of hate crimes has increased thanks to the internet, and many social media sites have policies in place to deal with them. However, the efficacy of these regulations may be constrained, and other measures are required to address online hate crimes.

    Source: TH