Opinion: Hate Speech and Why It Should Be Criminalized


Observing the media nowadays, there hasn’t been quite a lack of cases regarding hate speech. Although the occurrence of hate speech in real life is considered rare, either because there haven’t been that many authentic shreds of evidence or it simply just didn’t happen, none of it changes the fact that the amount of hate speech out here is not ignorable.

Even without watching the news or reading the newspaper, one could still find several examples of hate speech in social media posts, comment sections, videos, and online blogs.

The debate of whether hate speech should be considered an act of crime has been had by many parties and people. Indeed, there has been a Code of Conduct made by the European Union regarding the fight against the spread of illegal hate speech online.

It is my personal belief that hate speech should be criminalized or at the very least, vigorously discouraged and looked down upon in society. Hate speech has been defined mostly in two ways by various sources, conceptually and legally, although there isn’t yet any officially agreed international way of defining it.

In the context of this essay, I’m going to use the term to refer to any kind of communication in speech, writing or behavior, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender or any other identity factor, as written on a document by the UN about the plan of action on hate speech.

Before moving on to other points, I think it’s important to talk about free speech, hate speech, and how they shouldn’t be confused with one another. According to Newton Lee, the difference between the two is that free speech encourages debate whereas hate speech incites and indirectly endorses violence. I fully agree with this as I think that free speech is a tool that should be used constructively and shouldn’t be a reason to do harm to anyone.

Using freedom of expression as something to hide behind while committing hate speech is also something I disagree with and I think is simply wrong. While I’m aware that freedom of speech is a fundamental right, it isn’t an absolute right.

This means that unlike the right to live, the right to have freedom of speech doesn’t apply in every situation the same way regardless of the circumstances. Our rights are limited by the rights of others which is why hate speech is not justifiable using freedom of speech when it is being used as a way to ostracize others or used for criminal acts.

For my next point, let’s narrow it down to the effects hate speech could have in Indonesia. I believe that criminalizing hate crime should very well be considered since it disrupts The National Motto of Indonesia which is “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” or “Unity in Diversity” considering one of the most common causes of hate speech is racial-based.

Race, as we know, is an integral part of Indonesian culture; it gives the country its colorful touch with its abundant cultural heritage and traditions; it’s what sets Indonesia apart from other countries in the world. It would be such a huge loss to see what makes Indonesia special ended up being a factor in internal conflict and disharmony because of the existence of hate speech, especially race-related.

With the increasing amount of hate speech around us, it is possible that it could promote what scientists call “The Dehumanization Effect” in which we are more likely to dismiss or even justify the suffering and harm caused to another human being.

This is alarming, especially if let go on for long periods of time because it will strip humans from what makes them human. We have empathy and the ability to care for one another, without which, our society demoralizes.

Additionally, the rapid developments made in technology for these past couple of decades have undoubtedly impacted our means of communication. From the invention of new tools and devices, new sources of information, and eventually the creation of a new environment that is virtual.

One of the results of these major developments that we can clearly see in our daily life is social media. Social media is a brand-new way of communicating and interacting with other people, it enables us to reach out to hundreds and thousands of people at once with a touch of a fingertip.

However, the existence of social media also serves as a dynamic and interactive way to commit the act of hate speech. A recent example of this would be the case of Sulli, a
Korean ex-girl band member who had been found dead in her own home in October 2019.

She was suspected to have been suffering from depression, as well as being targeted for cyberbullying by many internet users. There have also been many studies linking exposure to cyberbullying to the likeliness of suffering from depression.

This shows that no one, not even celebrities, is entirely safe from hate speech and verbal abuse whether it’s in real life or on the internet. But the risk of encountering or being a victim of hate speech is higher on the internet considering that the amount of people who could contact and reach you is a lot more than it could be in real life, hence increasing the chances of you being targeted with a hate crime.

Another supporting factor is the fact that someone could be committing acts of hate speech online while being anonymous. This way, they can get away with the consequences which would’ve come if their identity had been known.

criminalize hate speech

The reasons above are why I’m speaking in favor of the criminalization of hate speech. Not only does it harm the victim, but it also has the potential to ruin their general mentality and could have adverse effects in the long run, especially if it manages to cause mass violence and riots. I believe that hate speech should be handled and treated legally as a crime, let it be minor or major crimes, and those who commit those crimes should be punished based on the impact of their doings or put simply, rightfully punished according to the law.