e-book The Cost of Free Speech: Pornography, Hate Speech, and their Challenge to Liberalism

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What does it mean gas all the Jews? How is this possible? Even if the audience were to be deeply anti-Semitic, they would still question the validity and practicality of this suggestion to gas all Jews. Today, after the horror of the holocaust, the same statement is likely to evoke strong negative public reaction. The assertion would no longer be dismissed as mad but would be taken most seriously. We do learn some lessons. Lord Parekh speaks in support of a law that would ban hate speech.

I addressed the issue in my article and find myself in much agreement with my good friend Bhikhu. Like him, I think that we have to fight against hate and bigotry. Like him, I think that hate speech has no place in a decent society and deserves to be discouraged. Like him I believe there is room to invoke restrictive laws as last resort, after exhausting educational, social and moral means. Parekh and I speak of maintaining civility and human dignity. As students of history, it would be utterly irresponsible on our part to turn a blind eye, legitimize or condone in one way or another the existence of such discriminatory, indeed evil talk in society.

As Parekh rightly notes, we may differ in our view as to when is time to invoke such laws. It seems to me that Parekh would see the necessity of such laws in an earlier stage. When hate speech is concerned, he would be inclined to weigh freedom of expression less favourably than the competing interests of protecting minorities and maintaining civility.

Lord Parekh and I share concerns regarding the marketplace of ideas concept. Both of us are cognizant of its limitations.


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This is because this view puts the onus not on the speaker but on his target group, and in so doing places the latter at disadvantage. Second, because harm is not easy to define, identify and prove.

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It seems that Parekh sees no value in being tolerant to hate speech. He does not think that such restrictions would go against the spirit of democracy. Quite the opposite. Restrictions on hate speech would benefit democracy and society. Professor Berkey, on the other hand, argues that my definition of hate speech is overly broad though in one sense it is curiously narrow. In my book, hate speech is defined as a bias-motivated, hostile, malicious speech aimed at a person or a group of people because of some of their actual or perceived innate characteristics.

Berkey thinks that this definition is broad because a great deal of speech is bias motivated, hostile and malicious, and not all of it amounts to hate speech. In his example, Jane watches a video featuring an African American artist performing a violent song. Jane, who is a white woman, does not like it and she posts online comment saying that the artist should be in prison. Professor Berkey rightly says that this comment is bias motivated, hostile and malicious but it is not hate speech.

I agree with Berkey. It is not hate speech because it is not aimed at the artist due to his actual or perceived innate characteristics. The statement might be morally repugnant but, Berkey argues, it does not amount hate speech. Now this is an interesting example. For many years, I have been presenting to my students the case of Jean-Philippe Rushton, a Canadian psychology professor who has argued about hierarchy of races: Asians are smarter than whites, who are in turn smarter than blacks.

In his book Race, Evolution, and Behavior Rushton explained that brain and genital size are inversely related, and that races differ in brain size, intelligence, sexual behaviour, fertility, personality, maturation, lifespan, crime and in family stability. He explained that blacks are less intelligent than Orientals and Whites and they are more involved in criminal activities. Black people are also more sexually promiscuous and they lack social organization. Here are some quotes from his book:. On average, Orientals are slower to mature, less fertile and less sexually active, have larger brains and higher IQ scores.

Blacks are at the opposite end in each of these areas. Whites fall in the middle, often close to Orientals p. Blacks are more aggressive and outgoing than Whites, while Whites are more aggressive and outgoing than Orientals. Blacks also have more mental instability than Whites. Black rates of drug and alcohol abuse are higher pp. Orientals have about million more brain cells than Whites, and… Whites have about million more than Blacks.

These differences in brain size probably explain the racial differences in IQ and cultural achievement p. The science behind these assertions is debatable. His theory attempts to explain everything by the sole criterion of race. It ignores social circumstances and social construction. It does not take into account other, no less important factors, such as individual abilities, class, poverty, education and family infrastructure.

But is it hate speech? Its scientific facade needs to be exposed and simultaneously the true motives that guide Rushton should be explored. This, indeed, is my belief.

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Balancing Freedom of Expression and Social Responsibility on the Internet

It is opened to interpretations but it should not be silenced. But just about every idea - nationalism, religion, egalitarianism, even self-defence - has been used as an excuse for war, oppression or genocide.


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Science, however, is objective. With this answer, Rushton was trivializing the Nazi crimes. Rushton says nothing about the evil ideas of Nazism per se but how they were used for evil deeds, in the same way that other ideas, including noble ideas such as egalitarianism and well-established ideas such as self-defence, have been used for evil deeds.

Then Rushton declares that his science is objective. His commitment is to scientific truth, no matter how crude that truth might be. And then he goes on to argue that his ideas may better children education. But surely not the education of every child. No matter how much you invest in the education of black children, they would not be able to escape their lot.

Free speech on the internet

They belong to the inferior race and therefore they are doomed to suffer the consequences of their brute luck. Rushton was embraced by anti-black associations, by racists and bigots. Rushton not only did not flinch; he accepted their attention and the honour of being their star scientist. In , Rushton was appointed president of the Pioneer Fund, which has for decades funded dubious studies linking race to characteristics like criminality, sexuality and intelligence. His work is often published on racist websites, including the anti-immigrant hate site, Vdare. A questionable race theory when invoked in radical extremist rallies is the fuel for their raging hatred, the validating force for their twisted beliefs, the scientific cloth that legitimized crude beliefs about hierarchy of races.

Professor Berkey maintains that my definition of hate speech appears to exclude speech that intuitively should count as hate speech. This is because of the requirement that the speech in question is directed against individuals or groups because of actual or perceived innate characteristics. Berkey understands that as a result hate speech against religious groups cannot be defined as hate speech.

By innate characteristics I meant a quality or ability that one is born with to be distinguished from a quality or ability one that have learned. Thus hateful speech against religious people would certainly fall within the definition of hate speech.

True, people are free to change their religion. But they are unable to change the past. Hate speech is harmful and dangerous. It may have, indeed it has, significant effect on the lives of targeted groups. Bigots, inspired by what they have read online, went on to inflict violence on their targets. I am not going to repeat the evidence provided in the book. Here I want to highlight the connection between hate groups and biochemical warfare. Hate groups have talked for years about using anthrax to strike at the U.

Chemical and biological warfare can result in many casualties, an attractive proposition for hate mongers who opt for harmful action. In , Larry Wayne Harris, a microbiologist and former member of the Aryan Nations, was arrested in Ohio with three vials of bubonic plague toxin he had ordered fraudulently by mail from a supplier in Maryland. The FBI found legal veterinary anthrax vaccine in the trunk of his car Slevin a , b. In , members of a Texas anti-government group were charged with plotting to infect people with cactus needles dipped in anthrax or the AIDS virus Slevin a , b.

Curtis had extensive Internet connections in which he kept in touch with like-minded individuals and had spread his message of intolerance nationwide Perry Indicted with Curtis were three men who met him through his extensive websites dedicated to preaching racial superiority and violence: Michael Brian DaSilva, 21; Robert Nicol Morehouse, 53; and Kevin Christopher Holland, The four defendants were charged with violating federal civil rights and hate-crime laws that make it illegal to target someone for mistreatment on the basis of race, religion or national origin Perry and Murphy ; Web-Based White Supremacist and followers charged with hate crimes Raymond A.

In brackets I should mention that cryptome. This is protected speech under the First Amendment. In this era of global terrorism and nuclear proliferation, I question whether this is also a responsible speech. While my approach prefers adopting standards of civility and social responsibility by all stakeholders — Netusers who upload information onto the Net, readers, Internet gatekeepers, countries and the international community at large, and while I see the need for legislation as a last resort after exhausting all other methods short of legislation education, open debate, deliberative procedures facilitate by the media, discussions and consultations with the Internet industry , Amos N.

Guiora argues for legislation. Given the demonstrated impact of social media on our daily lives, Guiora contends that a values—based approach must be buttressed by legal standards and limits. Adopting and re-articulation the American Brandenburg test, 13 Guiora calls for limiting social media speech because we can no longer afford to ignore the harm posed by Internet hate speech. Postings on social media must be assessed on a sliding scale taking into account multiple factors including magnitude, frequency, intent of the platform, and content of the post and platform.

Why do people differ in their view of such balancing? We are all products of our education and upbringing. We are social beings, influenced by what we witness in our societies, and the values enshrined in our families, significant other group, culture and nation.

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I think the perception of free speech in Israel is somewhere between India and the USA, probably closer to the American view than to the Indian view. In his critique of the American First Amendment position, Jeremy Waldron notes , that Britain has laws that prohibit racial and religious hatred Public Order Act and racial discrimination Race Relations Act Hate speech laws aim to protect the public good of dignity-based assurance, and to block the construction of the rival public good that the racists and Islamophobes are seeking to construct among themselves Waldron , Are these laws illegitimate?

Was their enactment inappropriate and their enforcement morally wrong? Furthermore, almost all democracies have hate speech laws. Are they all wrong and only the United States, which protects hate speech, is right? My book tries to balance one against the other two important principles: freedom of expression and social responsibility. The forefathers of the Internet had the vision of creating a free highway, a public space where everyone can say what he or she has in mind.

This wonderful innovation of unfettered platform has backfired. The Internet is open for use and abuse. We should provide and promote responsible use and we should also fight against those who abuse. The abuse corrupt public space and has posed many challenges on all levels: individual, the community, the state and the international community. We are in the early stages of learning how to cope and how to combat the abuse.

Slowly we are developing the necessary tools to enjoy innovation and freedom while, at the same time, we are adopting safeguards and rules of responsible conduct. In my book, I made a distinction between Netusers and Netcitizens. It is a neutral term. It does not convey any clue as to how people use the Internet. It does not suggest any appraisal of their use. It describes a responsible use of the Internet. Netcitizens are people who use the Internet as an integral part of their real life.

That is to say, their virtual life is not separated from their real life. Even if they invent an identity for themselves on social networks, they do it in a responsible manner. They still hold themselves accountable for the consequences of their Internet use.

In other words, netcitizens are good citizens of the Internet. They foster free speech, open access and social culture of respecting others, and of not harming others. Netcitizens are Netusers with a sense of responsibility. While a great deal is dependent on how we use the Internet, a great deal is also dependent on the Internet gatekeepers. These companies possess immense power. Sometimes it has been said that Facebook and Google have more power than presidents and prime ministers. I do not think that this statement is exaggerated. Power without responsibility is dangerous.

Power without responsibility is corrosive. Power without responsibility undermines our well-being. Therefore we must insist that Internet intermediaries will take responsibility and ensure that Netusers will be able to enjoy the vast capabilities of the Internet without putting themselves in danger. To enable this, boundaries should be introduced, antisocial and violent activities should be curbed, safe environment should be established.

This is a combined effort of Netusers, business, countries and the international community at large. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Philosophia Ramat-Gan, Israel. Philosophia Ramat Gan.

Obscenity vs. Freedom of Expression: The John Stagliano Trial

Published online Jun 6. Raphael Cohen-Almagor. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Corresponding author.

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Clear, well organized, and thoroughly argued, it simultaneously provides a non-superficial introduction to the central theoretical issues at the intersection of political philosophy and free speech and significant food for thought for those more familiar with the relevant topics. JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser. Publishing With Us. Book Authors Journal Authors. Free Preview. Buy eBook. Buy Hardcover. Buy Softcover.

FAQ Policy. About this book The distinctly contemporary proliferation of pornography and hate speech poses a challenge to liberalism's traditional ideal of a 'marketplace of ideas' facilitated by state neutrality about the content of speech.