Canada’s new hate speech rules are creating a stir but over in the UK it’s far worse.
I think it’s important that we see how our closest political neighbors are handling their own free speech issues as a lesson for why a line has to be drawn here in the US.
In the UK, hate speech laws are extraordinarily broad. Here is a quick source discussing the various laws that apply: https://www.theweek.co.uk/97552/hate-speech-vs-free-speech-the-uk-laws
The one that stands out to me the most is Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986:
A number of different UK laws outlaw hate speech. Among them is Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 (POA), which makes it an offence for a person to use “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that causes, or is likely to cause, another person harassment, alarm or distress”.
This can be applied to pretty much any encounter where one party feels ‘insulted’ or ‘distressed’ from the use of speech. Now you can argue all day what is or isn’t ‘criminal’ hate speech per the letter of this law but all of that is moot when you consider that the UK takes their hate speech rules to another level beyond the ‘criminal.’
The Home Secretary has asked the College of Policing to carry out a review into “non-crime hate incidents” which can blight people’s careers years after they occur, The Telegraph can disclose.
Currently, if an individual is reported for committing a hate crime and an investigation by the police finds no crime has been committed, it will remain on their police record as a “hate incident”.
This can lead to individuals being disadvantaged in their daily life as the incident can show up on a vetting inquiry such as a DBS check, which discloses a person’s criminal convictions when they are applying for a sensitive job.
Currently the way it works in the UK is that anyone who considers themselves a ‘victim’ of a “hate incident” can report another individual to the police. At this point the police will investigate it and determine whether or not a crime has been committed. If the police determine that no crime has been committed, it’s recorded as a “non-crime hate incident.” This incident remains on the accused police record which is searchable by employers when running background checks on potential applicants. The most chilling part of this is that determining whether a “hateful incident” has occurred is entire at the ‘victims’ discretion. If the person who filed the report says a hateful incident occurred then it occurred. The police have absolutely no discretion to drop a claim for any reason:
A Home Office source said: “These so-called ‘non-crime hate incidents’ have a chilling effect on free speech and potentially stop people expressing views legally and legitimately. If people are found to have done nothing wrong, the police shouldn’t punish them.”
Recording of hate remains mandatory, with no option for the police to dismiss a claim.
On top of it all, the guidance treats these crimes as a priority over other police matters and even goes so far as to request that a senior officer visits the accused at work regardless of whether it’s been determined that they committed a crime:
The College of Policing guidance said social media hate crime must be treated as “priority” and handled by senior officers. Officers were told that even where a crime had not been committed, they should consider visiting the accused at work and it should be recorded as a “hate incident”.
Imagine posting your views on social media and all it takes to have a senior police officer show up at your place of work to publicly shame you and notify you that you will be tagged “hateful” on your criminal record is one single person reporting you because they felt offended by what you said.
I think it’s important for libertarians to discuss this because it’s shocking how quickly people on this sub jump to the defense of countries like Canada in threads related to their own hate speech laws. Our first amendment is special and it seems like we’ve taken it for granted for so long that we’ve just assumed that these kinds of things will never happen here. Our (US, Canada, UK, ect) laws are largely all based on English common-law and the only thing separating us from draconian hate speech laws like these is a single amendment in our constitution. We cannot take this for granted.
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society