Regulation of Hate Speech on Social Media: A Legal Perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Approximately 4 billion people worldwide used social media each month of 2020. Social media usage of mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp provides these platforms - on which most of the world communicates today - with a lot of influence in determining which voices and ideas may be heard. Social media has completely revolutionised the manner in which people communicate. People live and work online without giving much thought to what may or may not be said and the consequences of speech that is not legally acceptable within a human rights context. There is a fine line between the freedom of expression and expression that constitutes hate speech. Unfortunately freedom of speech and hate speech are concepts that give rise to disagreement, both pertaining to its meaning and application. The right to free speech is not an absolute right and censoring hate speech is in some instances justifiable. The challenge is that censorship, which traditionally was a public matter decided by courts and legislators, is now in the hands of private companies. Social media platforms may decide what constitutes hate speech and the circumstances in which to censor such speech. An increasing number of U.S. lawmakers are proposing legislation to change how social media companies govern online speech. Self-regulation of hate speech by social media companies - and the potential abuse of their powers in determining which information may be shared - may pose a serious threat to the right of freedom of expression and to democracy itself. A possible solution to limiting the power of social media platforms and mitigating potential abuse of free speech may be found in legal regulation. Alternatively the pressure of public and user demand could be utilised to fulfil a checks and balances role. Consideration should be given to holding social media users accountable for hate speech. The possible imposition of a sanction upon conviction for hate speech may serve as a deterrent.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication8th European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2021
EditorsChristos Karpasitis
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International Limited
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781713832263
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event8th European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 1 Jul 20212 Jul 2021

Publication series

Name8th European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2021


Conference8th European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2021
CityVirtual, Online


  • freedom of expression
  • hate speech
  • legal regulation of hate speech on social media platforms
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications


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