Project R-9980


Freedom of expression endangered in the digital age? A critical legal analysis of the regulation of online hate speech in Europe (Research)


Online hate speech is of great concern in our digital societies. Given its potential to cause psychological, dignitary, material and physical harm, hate speech is illegal in most European countries and needs to be countered wherever it occurs, including in the online world. Yet, state regulation of online hate speech is complicated by key characteristic of the Internet, such as the anonymity and pseudonymity it provides to authors of hate speech. To circumvent these obstacles, Europe's lawmakers generally enlist the platforms on which online hate speech is spread: so-called host service providers like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Lawmakers have introduced regulatory frameworks that either cooperate with or co-opt these host service providers, inducing or coercing them to monitor, block and remove hate speech. These regulatory frameworks, however, are plagued by a series of problems that generate potential threats to freedom of expression in the digital age. In particular, they may cause host service providers to overblock and overcensor speech, whereby digital platforms not only remove illegal hate speech but also protected speech. The proposed research critically analyzes the impact on freedom of expression of existing regulatory frameworks on online hate speech in Europe. The research aims to identify 'good and bad practices', with a view to constructing the contours of a more balanced regulatory framework.

Period of project

01 October 2019 - 31 October 2019