Should hate speech be banned? This article contends that the debate on this question must be disaggregated into discrete analytical stages, lest its participants continue to talk past one another. The first concerns the scope of the moral right to freedom of expression, and whether hate speech falls within the right’s protective ambit. If it does, hate speech bans are necessarily unjust. If not, we turn to the second stage, which assesses whether speakers have moral duties to refrain from hate speech.
The article canvasses several possible duties from which such a duty could be derived, including duties not to threaten, harass, offend, defame, or incite. If there is a duty to refrain from hate speech, it is yet a further question whether the duty should actually be enforced. This third stage depends on pragmatic concerns involving epistemic fallibility, the abuse of state power, and the benefits of counter-speech over coercion.
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