Dangerous Speech Online: Identification and Strategies

12 November 2015 - A Workshop on Other in João Pessoa, Brazil


Online hate speech is an ongoing and serious concern for Internet stakeholders. The complex tangle of issues include its implications for disempowered groups, Internet enabled anonymity, its cross-border nature and the effects of regulation on freedom of expression.

This roundtable will discuss comparative experiences with hate speech, especially online, from around the world with a focus on South Asia. It will use Susan Benesch’s Dangerous Speech framework to see if it is possible to separate offensive speech and hate speech from speech that is likely to result in violence. Using Susan’s context-driven understanding of dangerous speech, we will explore different strategies, especially non-legal ones, to deal with online hate speech.

We expect this session to help distinguish between different kinds of online speech like the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, and the targeting of Shias and Ahmadis online in Pakistan and the circulation of morphed images suggesting violence by muslims in India. Speech targeting women and sexual minorities will be a part of this conversation.

Government regulation of online hate speech often backfires because of the tension between any regulation of speech and freedom of expression. The UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue has recognized this tension and has advocated the limited use of legal measures along with non-legal measures to handle hate speech.

The IGF has discussed elements of online hate speech before but has never considered how to isolate and target dangerous speech (as opposed to hate speech). Contextualising this discussion in South Asia will make it particular rich and complex, and suited to very immediate concerns.

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