Fact Finders: When does free speech become hate speech?

Fact Finders: When does free speech become hate speech?
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 5:39 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) -A graphic anti-abortion demonstration at the University of Arizona has people asking when free speech goes too far in the eyes of the law.

Our fact finders learned, under the law, almost all speech, no matter how offensive, is protected by the First Amendment.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines hate speech as any offensive speech targeted toward people based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender.

Over decades of cases, the Supreme Court has outlined very narrow exceptions where freedom of expression might not be protected - but it’s a high bar.

Basically, the court says speech becomes a crime when it leads directly to a hate crime.

The speaker must incite immediate violence or make clear threats of violence targeting a specific person or group.

Or, the speech must lead to a hate crime: a criminal offense motivated by bias.

Not everyone agrees with the Supreme Court’s interpretation, and college campuses have been a center for the debate over where to draw the line for decades.