Thursday, June 07, 2018

Campaigners lock horns with EU justice chief on ‘hate speech’

EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová stood by the EU’s principles that freedom of speech was not absolute at a panel discussion held in Brussels, saying that attempts to regulate hate speech were justified but her comments prompted a fierce debate.

Jourová added that Austria and France were among the member states that were considering a German-style law on ‘hate speech’ if the EU Code of Conduct did not prove successful.

The Czech official stressed that she was “offended” by the suggestion that the Code amounted to censorship.

Speaking in response to the Commissioner, Prof. Nadine Strossen, a former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the EU executive’s approach was misguided.

“No matter how well-intentioned, in practice, prohibiting ‘hate speech’ is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst,” she said. “We have to answer speech we disagree with with more speech.”

“Hate is an emotion. There is no agreed upon concept of ‘hate speech’. One person’s ‘hate speech’ is another person’s cherished speech,” she added.

Replying to Jourová’s claim that the Code was not censorship, Strossen asked: “How can you say that the code of conduct does not introduce censorship when the result is the same?”

“What the Commission is doing with the code of conduct is telling the IT industry ‘do it yourself or we will do it for you’,” she added.

Sophia Kuby, the director of EU Advocacy for ADF International, also criticised the Code of Conduct and legislation on ‘hate speech’.

“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.”

“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’, 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,” said Kuby.


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