– High-level event on “hate speech” in Europe with EU Commissioner Jourová
– Free speech advocates highlighted the danger of censorship in “hate speech” regulation
BRUSSELS (17.5.2018) – Are “hate speech” laws fundamentally flawed and infringing upon free speech? On 16 May 2018, ADF International partnered with the Brussels based media outlet Euractiv to host a high-level panel discussion addressing this issue. Amongst the prominent speakers were Vĕra Jourová, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Nadine Strossen, the former President of the American Civil Liberties Union and Professor at the New York Law School, Christophe Leclercq, founder of Euractiv media network, and Joachim Steinhöfel, a prominent German free speech lawyer.
“In the Western world, we seem to have forgotten the fundamental link between freedom of speech and all other freedoms in society. Do away with free speech and you do away with a free society. Freedom of speech is the foundation of every free and democratic society”, said Sophia Kuby, Director of EU Advocacy for ADF International, in her statement.
“Censorship is always a step in the wrong direction. ‘Hate speech’ laws, as well as the EU Code of Conduct on ‘countering illegal hate speech online’, introduced by Commissioner Jourová, create a ‘you-can’t-say-that’ culture which silences debate and has a chilling effect on society. In a free society, ideas should be fought with ideas, not criminal penalties.”
The steady rise of “hate speech” laws
Amidst a steady rise of “hate speech” laws in most European countries, the panel discussion sought to address the necessity of free speech and asked what exactly is defined as “hateful.”
In her opening speech, EU Commissioner Vĕra Jourová rejected the criticism on the Code of Conduct and insisted on banning “hate speech” from the digital space as the best way of promoting an inclusive society. However, she conceded: “We don’t want a ministry of truth. Hate speech online has cultural roots, so it would be a mistake for the EU to come up with a one size fits all solution.”
Nadine Strossen, the former President of the American Civil Liberties Union, profoundly disagreed with Ms. Jourová’s suggestion that “hate speech” laws would promote “social inclusivity.” She explained why we should resist hate with free speech and not censorship: “We have to answer speech we disagree with, with more speech. Hate is an emotion. One person’s ‘hate speech’ is another person’s cherished speech. Censoring speech does more harm than good. It is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.”