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Should hate speech be allowed, why or why not? And if allowed, how much harm would have to result before there are limits?

What do you think? Is it hate speech or free speech? Does civil liberty trump other considerations? What if hate speech lead to more hate, should it be banned in countries like the United States? What's your opinion?

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    Nov 3 2011: Free speech no matter what the cost.
    Everyone should be allowed to write silly books about Gays, Jews, Muslims, just as anyone should be allowed to write clever books about them.
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      Nov 3 2011: I disagree. Slandering should not be allowed. Some people might use the media to spread rumours that's untrue just to discredit their opposition. In politics an accusation is as good a proof. It can do more harm than good.

      I do however believe is freedom of speech... How to draw the line is really the hard part.
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        Nov 3 2011: In the context of politics, I think its a fantastic way to pick the idiots and allow them to expose themselves. They go around spreading rumours and engaging in petty side issues for the sake of ruining creditability purely, then that person becomes untrustworthy and their true colours are revealed.

        If people are free to speak, then we know who they are or what they are trying to be.
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          Nov 3 2011: acute observation. maybe hate speech regulators fear that majority of people are idiots, and they want to mask it?
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          Nov 3 2011: Hate speeches should be banned from schools, everyone agrees with that.
          Children are uneducated and vulnerable to stupid ideas...

          This is why they're in school to begin with. If you can't trust adult citizens to have mature criticism and jugement, what's the point of education?
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          Nov 3 2011: gerald, i for one don't agree with that. children should be exposed to all sides. it eliminates the risk of indoctrination of stupid ideas.
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          Nov 4 2011: Good in principal, but so many people still show a lot trust in people like Bachmann who have shown their general ignorance time and time again.
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          Nov 4 2011: Krisztian, I don't see how I could tell my kids that some people think HIV can be contracted by shaking hands with a gay man. They might not understand why such stupid ideas exist if they're not true. I'd have to explain so many things for them to get it, like why some people think homosexuality is evil... This is quite complicated. I mean, I try my best to explain things to them, but the oldest is only six. If there is a black kid in their school, I'm not ever going to tell them that some people think black people are less intelligent, though it hasn't been proven. So no, I don't think they should be exposed to all sides. I wasn't exposed to such ideas as a kid, and it turns out I can avoid indoctrination anyway.

          Matthieu, I'm speechless. I guess you don't expect people to support such dumb politicians in the real world. But still, I can only hope for more education instead of hate speech control... It's the only democratic way out.
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          Nov 4 2011: gerald, with these words. what is the problem? you want to protect your children from the world? won't happen, you can't keep them in the locker. they are about to be a part of the world. they need to learn it to be able to function in it. they need to know the dangers to avoid them. it is your responsibility as a parent. honestly, i don't care about your feelings. i care more about your children's life.

          btw how do you know you've avoided indoctrination?
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          Nov 13 2011: WEll said David and very true

          When people show their true colors there is a context for their words and actions that makes their agenda more apparent.

          Great value in that.

          The hate speech laws that have been acted in no way curb that or impinge on "free speech"..It is curbed only at the extreme where there is an urgining to violence and harm against others.

          So both can and should exist simultaneously.
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        Nov 5 2011: Unfortunately, your children will have seen different points of view... lock them away and it makes them more vulnerable.

        an excellent vid about this by extra credits:

        The next episode goes on about a game that is on the shelves that can be bought by minors (a recent one on xbox). I've done a write up on my blog on about this particular game.

        You cannot protect them from the biggest surge of information in human history, it is your duty to give them a defence. its hard and they need their childhood... its a beautiful time that I would never dream of shattering, but there is an age where they find out that certain elements of Christmas are not true and a fairy does not come and take your teeth and they start to wonder and seek out answer to their questions... some people are more than happy to give answers... these may be lies.

        If you son or daughter want to be a neo-nazi supremacist, then let it be because they choose to, not because they have been coerced or indoctrinated by fallacy. Give them a choice!
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    Nov 3 2011: Great question and one we developed a lot of information on at a Ted Cionversation on the Limits of Freedom of Religion

    In the course of that discussion ( which you can link to above to see what we covered) we learned California has a great hate speech law and Canada has a great national hate speech law. So there are good models.

    Also there we covered the consitutional background to the hate speech issue. However the Califrbnia Law and Canadas law show that we can treat hate speech as an actionabe crime without in any way impinging on freedom of speech

    .I look forward to your fuller and contiuing discussion of it here. Perhaps we can find other models to put forth and also look at bit at how these laws have worked.
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    Nov 3 2011: The problem with regulating hate speech is that it opens the door to regulating all sorts of free speech that should remain possible such as fair criticism, swearing and blasphemy. Not sure hate speech would end with a criminalization either and it might be hard to prove in court.
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      Nov 3 2011: I agree that it is a slippery slope Matthieu, and i also lean on the side of free speech as opposed to 100% regulated speech.

      However, I have often think that there is a problem with the fact that I control very little of the information that I am bombarded with. Our brains absorb and retain parts of this stream of information, regardless of whether we consider them important or not. Memories form by mere repetition, we get used and feel familiar with names, brands, images and ideas that will then exist in our brains only because someone has been repeating them over and over...

      One could argue that I am free to not pay attention to that information (advertisement is the prime example) but, am I really free to shut it down? completely? And if i cannot, who is giving other people right to use my brain in such fashion? Can that be regulated?
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        Nov 3 2011: More importantly, are the powers capable of regulating it willing to do so?
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          Nov 3 2011: OK, since hate speech is quite a contentious issue (and by definition polarizing issues are the best recipe for ensuring the absence of any significant agreement), let me take it down a notch and discuss the specific example of unsolicited advertising. Yes including spam snail mail, spam email and public space advertising. Some will argue that TV advertisement is solicited, so let's let that out of the discussion for now

          Ideally (and yes i will hear giggles in the back) the powers capable of regulating it are supposed to respond to the people. True, advertisers are people too but they are definitely a minority, so if the process was democratic, their opinion would probably contribute in a very small measure compared to the opinion of those on the receiving end.

          So it seems like the powers capable of regulating it could shift their paradigm and find new ways to figure out what the opinion and desire of the majority is (what a novel concept, right?). I think that being elected for a position in the government is not a blank check to act on behalf of people without constant feedback and accountability.
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        Nov 4 2011: By definition, you have entire control over the kind of e-mail you receive from companies. When you sign up for something online, it is always asked of you if you want to opt out from third party advertisement or promotional offers. If you received unsolicited e-mails from companies that you never signed up for, it is spam and thus very probably illegal.

        Advertisement online is unfortunately the product of our unwillingness to pay for things. Websites such as youtube and facebook need advertisement to keep afloat and judging by the amount of money that people make using google ads, these ads actually generate a lot of money. So these will probably stay unless people start to pay for things like facebook, youtube, gmail and all these kind of things.

        Public advertising is an issue which I guess could be controlled to an extent. But again that would require a certain willingness on people's part to pay more for services that are provided through the help of public advertisement.
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          Nov 4 2011: Matthieu, I think that it is a great definition but i see two issues with it: one is that when you sign up with your email address for a service, more often than not you have no control over the future uses of your information (most agreements are incredible long and boring and full of legalese) and they cleverly include clauses that allow a company to share your information with third parties without specifying which third parties. That is a loophole that is often exploited to provide you with "personalized offerings" from websites you never signed agreements with. The second issue is that I have been around long enough to know that it is a common business practice to purchase bulk lists of email addresses in order to get in touch with potential customers. Why would they buy bulk email lists if not to send some unsolicited information to them? Does this fall under the "third parties" section of the agreements we sign with the first service provider? So the legality is not as clear cut as the principle we are alluding to, or if it is legal, then the law is certainly not on the side of the receiver.

          However, regarding the second topic... it is obvious that big companies need advertisement to increase business, how about small companies or even small groups that offer freeware with no advertisement?. Many of them survive on their customer's voluntary contributions... should we give more support this business model? I have to admit that I tend to support small and local business more than big companies, and you can see clearly that this bias colors many of my comments.

          I completely agree with your statement on public advertisement.

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      Nov 4 2011: You are right that it is a fine edge. That's excatly why there has not been much legislation. But it is a navigable one. Take a look at the California Law and also at the Canadian Law. They are both a replicable road map for how we ca act to make hate speech a crime without impinging on free speech. Cities are on the link I provided to our earlier discussion "Are there limits to Freedom of Religion"..wher we also explored in some depth how the courts have viewed hate speech and the reasoning on which the Canadian and California Laws stand.

      Basically it stands on the same ground as yelling fire in a crowded public place.

      It is no cure for racism and doesn'y in any curb or address racist slurs. We have to regulate that ourselves through zero tolerance for such speech.

      The hate speech legislation is properly focused only on speech inciting or exhorting violence to others; intended to elicit violence towards others.
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    Nov 13 2011: Hate speech is a crime in Canada and I fully support this legislation which I have copied from Wikipedia for you to consider and comment upon.

    "Hate propaganda" means "any writing, sign or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide or the communication of which by any person would constitute an offence under section 319." Section 318 prescribes imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years for anyone who advocates genocide. The Code defines genocide as the destruction of an "identifiable group." The Code defines an "identifiable group" as "any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation." Section 319 prescribes penalties from a fine to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years for anyone who incites hatred against any identifiable group. Section 320 allows a judge to confiscate publications which appear to be hate propaganda. Under section 319, an accused is not guilty: (a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true; (b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text; (c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or (d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.

    I believe that we stop people from starting forest fires with a match for the common good. I think that some forms of speech are just as irresponsible and damaging.
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    Nov 4 2011: The concept of "allowed" is problematic. We cannot legislate enlightened behaviour. Attempting to do so is to negate the very premiss that we are responsible for our own actions.

    The notion that we can "govern" one another is an obvious fallacy but one we consistently fail to acknowledge.

    If hate speech is met with the response it warrants, it will pass. If we attempt to regulate it by artificial means, it will persist.

    So, the question is: What is the response it warrants? And ...

    Whose responsibility is it to respond?
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    Nov 3 2011: every theory behind limiting free speech implies direct relationship between words and actions. that is false. an adult human being bears full responsibility for his/her actions, no matter what information was fed to him/her. implying that actions are direct results of words is denying responsibility, denying self consciousness, denying intentional/rational behavior. no doubt, some people do act irresponsible, based on half information, based on no information, based on instinct or emotions. but it is not to be resolved through limiting the negative impulses from outside, but by punishing of and educating against such behavior. the notion of "protection from temptation" is purely utilitarian, fundamentally unethical and inhuman. it punishes the innocent and excuses the guilty.

    (if you don't believe me: do you think that i'm guilty for an assault on me if money sticks out of my pocket? do you think that wearing sexy clothing leads to rape?)
  • Nov 3 2011: This is a tricky question! Freedom of expression is very important, however there's a fine line where our beliefs and opinions may offend anyone. This is the price every listener has to pay. But on the other hand side, just as the speaker has a right to say what's on his mind, the listener can also lash back at you under the banner of "Freedom of Expression."

    So the question is: We can either shut everyone up or we can teach tolerance to each side as we exercise this Freedom of expression. I'd go for the latter one.
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    Nov 3 2011: I have to Admit... a very tricky one.

    there is no black and white to this one I feel. I think its a case of their intention.

    I think we need to stop asking people to censor things and have access to many different points of view as well as the facts. With a little bulls**t detection and adult thinking, it can be the most powerful tool in the information age.

    censorship allows one perspective to dominate all... that is very very very very VERY bad in my opinion.
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    Nov 3 2011: I'll take good old fashion hate speech over clandestine racism, sexism, homophobia, any day.