From the Council on Foreign Relations:
A mounting number of attacks on immigrants and other minorities has raised new concerns about the connection between inflammatory speech online and violent acts, as well as the role of corporations and the state in policing speech. Analysts say trends in hate crimes around the world echo changes in the political climate, and that social media can magnify discord. At their most extreme, rumors and invective disseminated online have contributed to violence ranging from lynchings to ethnic cleansing.
The response has been uneven, and the task of deciding what to censor, and how, has largely fallen to the handful of corporations that control the platforms on which much of the world now communicates. But these companies are constrained by domestic laws. In liberal democracies, these laws can serve to defuse discrimination and head off violence against minorities. But such laws can also be used to suppress minorities and dissidents.
This backgrounder is organized into the following sections:
- How widespread is the problem?
- Does social media catalyze hate crimes?
- How do platforms enforce their rules?
- How do countries regulate hate speech online?
- What are the prospects for international prosecution?
The document includes links to many articles along with several additional resources.