By Natalie Alkiviadou

This paper looks at the developments of hate speech regulation online, specifically its horizontalization, with private companies increasingly
ruling on the permissibility levels of speech, placing the right to free speech at peril. To elucidate issues at stake, the paper will look at the meaning of hate speech, the online landscape in terms of the prevalence and removal of hate speech and recent legal and policy developments in the sphere of private regulation in Europe, critically weighing up the pros and cons of this strategy. This paper demonstrates how seeking to tackle all types of hate speech through enhanced pressures on intermediaries to remove content may come with dire effects to both freedom of expression and the right to non-discrimination. At the same time, due attention must be given to speech which may actually lead to real world harm. A perfect solution is not available since, as is the case in the real world, the Internet cannot be expected to be perfect. However, at the very least, the principles and precepts of IHRL and the thresholds attached to Article 20(2) ICCPR, as further interpreted by the Rabat Plan of Action, must inform and guide any effort in enhanced platform liability.

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Natalie Alkiviadou is a Senior Research Fellow at The Future of Free Speech. Her research interests lie in the freedom of expression, the far-right, hate speech, hate crime, and non-discrimination.