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General News / December 17, 2020

Sharing hate speech online to be made a criminal offence

General News / December 17, 2020

Sharing hate speech online to be made a criminal offence

Words: Katie Gartland

Under the new plan, sharing and retweeting hate speech would be a crime.

The sharing of hate speech on social media is to be made a criminal offence under a new plan by the Government to combat racism and bigotry online.

Sharing or retweeting hate speech will be subject to prosecution even if the sharer didn’t write the original statement.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said the Government’s new plan will include protections for social media platforms. Companies can show they had preexisting measures for hate speech in their defence.

The Plan will involve the repeal of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989. The Act is proving to be ineffective in combating hate speech.

For the first time, trans and disabled people will be protected alongside ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants and others LGBTQ+ community. The Plan will also protect individual people and groups as opposed to just groups of people the former Act protected.

“I am determined to tackle these crimes and to ensure that those who seek to divide our communities and spread hatred and fear are dealt with effectively by our criminal justice system,” said the Minister.

The Report on the sharing of online hate speech found that public figures were using social media “to promote racist stereotypes and harmful myths in order to generate attention for their campaigns”.

“Participants were strongly of the view that there is a greater need for protection from hate speech on social media,” the Report says.

There will be a high bar set for the prosecution of hate speech. It will include policies for free speech and public debate. Academia and the arts will be exempt.

The report also spoke about the publishing and reporting of hate speech, “a broadcast or speech which is clearly designed to incite hatred, but is couched in polite or coded language, would be covered by the new offence”.

Read more about the Department of Justice Plan for tackling hate speech here.