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Hate speech

What is hate speech?

Hate speech is an act that expresses or incites hatred toward people on the basis of some aspect of their identity.

Hate speech is speech, writing, behaviour, text or commentary, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language towards a person or a group on the basis of identity. It can be based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, culture, colour, descent, class, sexuality,  gender or other identity factors.

The effects of hate speech can be devastating to targeted individuals or groups and also impact society as a whole. Hate speech is not an isolated phenomena or limited to extreme groups.  When hate speech enters into everyday discourse and is normalised, democratic values, peace and social cohesion are jeopardised.

Around the world, we are seeing an increasing prevalence of xenophobia, racism, intolerance, scapegoating and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Public discourse is full of hateful and fear driven rhetoric that isolates, vilifies and devalues the most vulnerable in our society.

Hate speech is directly implicated in hate crime and has been shown to lead to and escalate racially motivated violence.

Historically, hate speech has fueled violent conflicts, civil wars, violent extremism and even genocide.

Hate speech poses an important human rights problem and is prohibited by international law.

We can all act to prevent hate speech and foster environments where everyone feels valued and safe. Awareness of the prevalence and impacts of hate speech and the forms it takes is an important part of this process.