Informujemy, że Państwa dane osobowe są przetwarzane przez Fundację Instytut na Rzecz Kultury Prawnej Ordo Iuris z siedzibą w Warszawie przy ul. Górnośląskiej 20/6, kod pocztowy 00-484 (administrator danych) w celu informowania o realizacji działań statutowych, w tym do informowania o organizowanych akcjach społecznych. Podanie danych jest dobrowolne. Informujemy, że przysługuje Państwu prawo dostępu do treści swoich danych i możliwości ich poprawiania.
Skip to main content
PL | EN
Facebook Twitter Youtube

Freedom of speech in jeopardy. European Commission to ban so-called hate speech

Published: 30.04.2021

Adobe Stock

The European Commission intends to take action against freedom of speech. The EC initiative would incorporate the so-called ‘hate speech’ and ‘hate crimes’ in the catalogue of ‘EU crimes’. This means that they would be included in Article 83 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and, in this way, behaviours covered by these terms would be inevitably considered crimes by all EU Member States. However, these terms have not been clearly defined in any act of international law, so the Commission’s plans could result in violations of freedom of speech. The Ordo Iuris Institute has submitted its opinion on this matter.

 

On 20 April, the feedback period for the EC initiative ended. Until then, over 1,500 feedbacks were submitted, which proves the large-scale interest in the subject matter across the EU. The number of critical opinions, including the extensive and comprehensive opinion of Ordo Iuris, indicates that Europeans see the threats that the draft act poses to freedom of speech and are reluctant to implement censorship.

 

In its opinion, the Ordo Iuris Institute expressed its concern that the terms ‘hate speech’ and ‘hate crime’ are neither defined nor clearly explained in any international treaty. These terms have also not been defined by any international court. The only available definitions are non-binding, do not explain much, and point mostly to far-reaching liberty and lack of objective criteria to assess what fits within the boundaries of freedom of speech and what does not.

 

The ambiguity of the term ‘hate speech’, apparent in international documents, is reflected in the acts drawn up by international companies, NGOs and other public and private entities. It is clear, for example, in the ‘Facebook Community Standards’ which, among others, the European Commission refers to in trying to demonstrate the allegedly overwhelming scale of ‘hate speech’ and ‘hate crime’ on the Internet. In fact, according to the Community Standards, an attack is understood as, among others, ‘expressions about being less than adequate’, ‘expressions about deviating from the norm’, ‘self-admission to intolerance on the basis of protected characteristics, including but not limited to: homophobic, islamophobic’, ‘expressions of dismissal, including but not limited to: don’t respect, don’t like, don’t care for’. In practice, the already functioning definitions of hate speech can give rise to haphazard and subjective interpretations, which turns the fight against hate speech into a threat to the freedom of public debate and can (and sometimes does) take the form of censorship.

 

Protection of freedom of speech and pluralism of opinions requires precision both in definitions and in legal regulations of freedom of speech. Meanwhile, the term ‘hate speech’ focuses on motivations, feelings, and thoughts or views of the perpetrator and the victim. Such a perspective is basically contrary to the requirement of precision and specificity. These criteria are also far from objective and are difficult to verify.

 

Freedom of speech as one of the fundamental freedoms is declared in all acts of international and supranational law on the protection of human rights. Freedom of speech is provided for in Article 19 of UDHR, Article 19 of ICCPR, Article 10 of ECHR, and Article 11 of CFR. The idea of combating ‘hate speech’, legitimised by the common disapproval of hatred, involves, without any precision, many more behaviours that those which the advocates of improving the culture of public debate want to counteract. In fact, it degrades this culture by allowing for far-reaching arbitrariness in instrumentally labelling specific behaviours (statements) and removing them from the public debate.

 

“First of all, the terms hate speech and hate crime do not meet the conditions specified in Article 83 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which would allow a treaty amendment involving the addition of such crimes to the list of EU crimes. In fact, hate speech and hate crime are not crimes, but most frequently offences referred to by law as ‘common’. As a rule, they are also not cross-border phenomena, and since there is no precise applicable definition, it is impossible to look for or point to any trend in the number of such crimes. No provision of the Treaty enabling the inclusion of a new crime to the list of EU crimes is met, therefore the European Commission initiative is doomed to fail,” emphasised Anna Kubacka, analyst from the International Law Centre.

The ECtHR dismissed the complaint about the appeal to God in the oath to the office of president

· The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a complaint by left-wing activists who had sought the removal of provisions in the Irish constitution requiring a person about to assume the office of president, or member of the Council of State, to take the oath with reference to God.

· The complainants, who claim to be non-believers, argued that such an obligation violates their freedom of conscience and religion.

Read more
Family and marriage

29.11.2021

World Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in the European Parliament was marked by the ideological Istanbul Convention

· The European Parliament held a debate on violence against women and the current situation regarding ratification of the gender-based Istanbul Convention.

Read more

European Parliament supports Poland in the conflict with Belarus

· The European Parliament held a debate on ‘the situation in Belarus and at its border with the EU, and the security and humanitarian implications’.

· The debate was remarkably calm, with the majority of MEPs unanimously supporting Poland’s resistance and condemning the aggressive actions of Belarus.

Read more
Life protection

24.11.2021

Stop ideological neocolonialism. An international coalition against the agreement between the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States

· The European Union intends to sign a new partnership agreement with the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

Read more