Hate speech and hate crimes will become illegal under new Irish government laws before the end of the year, according to reports.
While forms of extreme ‘hate speech’ that puts people in danger would make sense, the question is, who will decide what constitutes this?
The definition of “hate speech” is almost a blanket term that is objective and could be interpreted in multiple ways, meaning something you say online, whether innocent or not, could land you in hot water.
“The new legislation will criminalize any intentional or reckless communication or behavior that is likely to incite violence or hatred against a person or persons because they are associated with a protected characteristic,” the Government said.
“It will also create new, aggravated forms of certain existing criminal offenses, where those offenses are motivated by hatred of a protected characteristic. These will carry an enhanced penalty, and the criminal record will clearly state that the offense was a hate crime,” the Government added.
Those found guilty of this offense could face five years in prison.
So, for example, if you posted online you hate horses which prompts someone who identifies as a horse to get offended – regardless of how bizzare that sounds, such a blanket term as “hate speech” allows many mechanisms to silence free speech.
Minister for Justice of Ireland, Helen McEntee, says hate speech is not about free speech; it is intended to silence people and to make them afraid to open up.
“We are all horrified when we hear of homophobic, racist, and other hateful incidents in our country. While these repulsive acts of violence and abuse against innocent people have been extensively reported on, we know that some people go about their lives constantly in fear of abuse simply because of who they are,” she said
“Although it is a small minority of individuals carrying out these reprehensible acts and spouting this abuse, there is a clear desire from the public that these individuals need to be dealt with in the appropriate way.
“This Bill provides separately for hate crime and for hate speech, but on the basis of the same protected characteristics.
“All provisions throughout the Bill have been carefully developed to ensure it is victim-centered and effective in securing convictions where serious crimes are committed, and the legislation follows extensive public consultation and research.”
The Irish Government added:
“The provisions of the new legislation have been crafted to ensure that they will capture hate speech in an online context. There has also been significant engagement between officials in the Department of Justice and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media to ensure that the provisions dovetail with the regulatory framework for online safety proposed by the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. That Bill will link closely with these provisions on incitement to hatred, particularly in a social media environment, and the role that companies will play in managing hate speech on their platforms.”