Mapping Internet Regulations: Online Hate Speech
Once fairly standardized with limited liability, regulations are now developing across the world at a national level. In this dramatically diversifying legal landscape, global technology platforms are being held accountable by multiple regulatory standards at once.
This series of legislative maps offers a guide to the laws that impact technology platforms operating internationally. In our first edition, we reviewed the regulations governing online terrorist content; here, we present the current legislation that regulates hate speech. Access the laws in our interactive map below, download the complete report for an in-depth analysis or check out our comprehensive guide on the ins and outs of the industry and its relationship with legislation.
The map below provides summaries and links to relevant laws around the globe as of May 10, 2022. Click around the map to access these insights. The map and guide will be updated throughout 2022.
For more detailed insights about the laws mentioned here, access our report.
What We’ve Found
The era of limited platform liability seems to be ending. These changes result from systematic abuse from extremist groups that exploit platforms to radicalize individuals and spread dangerous and hateful propaganda.
Legislators around the globe are implementing stricter regulations for online platforms, with the balance between freedom of speech and freedom from harm increasingly at tension. Proposals for new legislation, such as the UK’s Online Safety Bill, are cropping up, following the trend of increasing platform liability.
Shifting Internet Laws
Hate speech is defined differently in various national contexts. Many Western countries define it as abusive, derogatory, or inciting speech against people due to their intrinsic characteristics – race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and disability. However, more broadly, hate speech relates to content that inflames racial, ethnic, and religious tensions.
National governments have begun to set out expectations for platforms – some voluntary and others carrying legal penalties. While most responses to hate speech have been at the national level, Trust & Safety professionals should note three principle multinational responses:
- The United Nation’s International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965) includes one hundred and eighty-two national governments as signatories and requires national governments to outlaw national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.
- Sixty-one national countries either signed up to or gave accession to the Council of Europe’s Additional Protocols to the Convention on Cybercrime (2003). This commits each state to pass and enact laws prohibiting racist and xenophobic content online that either threatens or insults members of specific groups
- The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression (2019) was published by the African Union’s fifty-five countries, which commits each member state to prohibit speech advocating for national, racial, or religious hatred that incites violence.
What are the dividing lines?
Ranging from the requirement of platforms to act upon violations, the requirement to identify content on their servers, and no legal requirements at all, legislation frameworks vary. Most countries fall in the middle, requiring platforms to take down violative content once a court has requested the removal of content.
- Some countries, such as Argentina, Bangladesh, China, and Italy have requirements for platforms to detect illegal hate speech content proactively. The UK is drafting similar provisions.
- The majority of countries such as the EU 27, Austria, Brazil, Ethiopia, New Zealand, and Vietnam have adopted the approach of take-down notices. A subsection of these has enacted penalties such as Austria, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore, and Uganda for failure to comply with orders.
When formulating platform policy, Trust & Safety teams should take notice of the most stringent requirements to ensure compliance.
Trust & Safety teams must be prepared to meet new regulations in the evolving legal landscape of online liability as they arise. To do so, teams must remain up to date on international legislation which affects the internet. Our map and explanatory report of these laws serve as a resource for teams to develop their policies and ensure compliance.
This map and its accompanying report will provide policy teams at global online platforms with the context needed to build robust, compliant policies and avoid liability.
Stay tuned for our next legislation map, which will detail the international laws governing disinformation spread online.