What constitutes hate speech might be controversial. If you are accused of hate speech you may need to consider taking legal advice
If you have been threatened and abused online and been a target of hate speech, it can make you feel violated and afraid. If it is spreading and finding different expressions across the internet, it can make you feel so out of control and desperate.
What to do if you face hate speech
You may be feeling frustrated and flummoxed as to why anyone would want to post hate-filled speech directed at you or about you on an online platform or group, where once you felt safe and understood and with like-minded people.
You may be wondering what to do; where to go; who can help you and who can make it stop and go away. Hate speech legal advice is available to you here. Anonymous internet users often find that the internet can facilitate their hate speech online, as they think they will not be discovered and thus not have to suffer the consequences of being a perpetrator of harassment, as they would if it was offline.
Most anonymous internet users can be found and there have been serious consequences for those who deliver hate speech on the internet. Any communications that are threatening, abusive and intended to cause alarm or distress are offences under harassment law or malicious communications law. The penalties can include fines, imprisonment or both. If you are in doubt whether what you are going to post on the internet might be considered as hate speech, obtain hate speech legal advice. It can save you a lot of trouble and unnecessary suffering.
What might be considered as hate speech
Hate speech online refers to speech that takes place on the internet where the content of the speech has the purpose of inciting hatred, instilling hatred or promoting violence and attacks, as well as seeking to exclude people from society and conveying support for death/disease and harm against individuals or groups that are based on certain attributes or views, eg., gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, veteran status, nationality, citizenship, religion, skin colour and size and can target forums for marginalised groups that discuss sensitive issues, historical events and beliefs. Hate speech could be considered as harassment.
You can read more about what might be considered as online harassment. It’s permanence, source, anonymity, sharing and linking in different formats across multiple platforms and cross-jurisdictional character. Hateful speech online can be linked repeatedly and shared and republished in no time. One hate-fuelled speech posted online can spread like wildfire within seconds.
As online hate speech can be itinerant,even when removed from one place, it can find expression elsewhere.
What to do if you become subjected to hate speech online
Social Media platforms have the largest online engagements, so these sites have the greatest ability to take a message of hate viral. They used to be free speech platforms and they would not remove anything, even if you complained. Twitter , for example, allows for the facilitation of quick, wide spreading messages and Facebook may allow multiple threads in parallel that go unnoticed, creating longer lasting spaces where people can be offended and discriminated.
The longer the content is online, the more damage it inflicts on victims and empowers the perpetrators.Things have changed because they have had to make it a safer place to encourage people to use their platforms, so that people know it is a safe place to be. So, if you need to report any abuse that you experience whilst using their platform, there is a section on their site that you can access to report hate speech. If can read this article if you need online trolling legal help.
Unfortunately, we know that social media companies tend to be unhelpful when it comes to handling complaints about defamation, hate speech or Social media defamation.Social Media site operators don't always respond with online abuse queries and there have been proven inconsistencies with how they deal with removing (or not removing the content) and the users accounts.
If the relevant social media operator is being unhelpful to you, you might want to think about approaching a specialist solicitor. One who understands how the internet works and is experienced in removing online hateful speech across the internet. A specialist internet lawyer that is able to go deeper and find the perpetrators and force them to stop whilst holding them accountable. An example of how a law firm can help you stop free speech and bring the offenders to justice can be found here: harassment injunction via Instagram.
As well as permanent removals and injunctions to remove harassing websites, in some cases you might be able to secure payment of damages from the offender in compensation for your suffering.
What to do if you are accused of spreading hate speech
Remember, that hate speech by itself is not a criminal offence. The speech, to be a criminal offence, must include an element of a more specific criminal act, for example,stirring up religious hatred or hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Although the law does not prescribe what type of speech might be considered as hate speech, the police may consider it as a hate crime: 'Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; or religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation or a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender'.
The emphasis therefore is not placed on the type of language used in a social media post but rather on whether or not the offender has demonstrated hostility towards the victim. So if you get arrested and questioned in a police interview whether you think that hostility might have played any part in the incident, and you answer in the affirmative, it is likely that the speech involved in the incident will be considered as a an element of a hate crime.