Hate speech – negatively characterised statements addressed to a specific individual/group due to the possessed features.
According to the Recommendation No. R (97) 20 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on hate speech, “Hate speech shall be understood as covering all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin”.
In the context of each time more frequent phenomenon that is hate speech, a special attention is paid to its development in the media – Internet, media, public life and widely understood cyberspace. With the development of social media, one can notice that we are more often dealing with the persons using hate speech who, taking advantage of apparent anonymity, allow themselves for hateful rhetoric and contribute to increasing negative attitudes and to rooting stereotypes in relation to certain social groups.
It should be remembered that hate speech is characterised by lack of tolerance for diversity, promotion of stereotypes, degrading treatment of others, often of racist or xenophobic nature. Therefore, hate speech may be (and in practice it really is) the first stage of criminal activities (escalation of hatred in the form of acts of violence, inciting to commit a crime, etc.). It takes various forms, both through public incitement to hatred or violence directed against persons due to a feature they have (such as: gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, etc.), public dissemination of information, texts, offensive or humiliating images/materials about a given person, etc.
It is also often emphasised that hate speech should not be confused with falsely interpreted freedom of speech and the right to express own opinions. It should be remembered that hate speech is a concept which fosters hatred, promotes negative emotions towards a given person/group of persons, bases on stereotypes, discriminatory and humiliating treatment of others; it is not an objective opinion.
An example of hate speech is the following situation: Student X of a nonheteronormative orientation received threats from other students. During the classes, he was ridiculed, mocked and offensive statements were addressed to him. After some time, a false account of student X was created on a social profile, where untrue, degrading and vulgar information/images about him were posted. The university authorities and other students did not react to the above situation, explaining that they cannot do anything with that and at the university there is freedom of speech.