Digital Platform and State Regulation of Hate Speech

With the rise of the digital age, social media platforms are increasingly becoming a medium for people to express themselves. Nevertheless, there are a large number of comments about hate speech flooding the digital sphere. Due to the influence and anonymity given by social media platforms, it has allowed hate speech to overgrow.

Additionally, the internet spreads information rapidly and has a wide influence, which also provides a platform for the rapid proliferation of hate speech. As Banks (2010) pointed out, the Internet connects previously diverse and scattered groups. It provides them with a cheap and barrier-free community, which makes it easy to form a collective identity. Groups or individuals more easily manipulate collective identities to indicate shared values about things to use hate speech to attack others outside their group and to incite hostility towards out-groups.

Understanding Hate Speech

Hate speech can be defined as the promotion of discriminatory or defamatory content. However, the purpose of this content is not to assist, it is to suppress and discriminate against certain groups of people with words, actions, or writing. Hate speech is generally hateful towards a group of people, such as those of nationality, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion (Flew, 2021).

Hate speech can cause mental illness in those who post the content, and in severe cases, it can affect their lives and even involve genocide (Timmermann, 2008). UN News has also made it clear that hate speech can be weaponized and physically harm people (United Nations, n.d.). This is not conducive to the promotion of sustainable social development. Therefore, Hate speech is an essential topic that affects the well-being of every social media user and the experience of the Internet experience.

This blog will discuss Facebook’s handling of hate speech and its policies and critically bring up the incompleteness of the current policy section. Moreover, the debate on freedom of expression and the decriminalization of hate speech has been ongoing in society, with each country’s version varying. This blog will further critically reflect and discuss this debate by reviewing the policies issued by the Chinese government concerning hate speech and the current policy of eSafety adopted in Australia.

Facebook’s policy against hate speech

(Figure 2: Facebook’s Main Three Policies to Reduce Hate Speech)

Moderation is the core of digital platforms (Humphry, 2024). Facebook has assembled a dedicated “Responsible AI” team that detects content violations based on Facebook’s Community Code of Conduct. Furthermore, they have also created a dedicated human censorship team. Facebook claims that it censored more than 7 million hate speeches in the third quarter of 2019, and 80% of them were detected by AI, not humans (Perrigo, 2019). However, is AI accurate enough to recognize and delete all hate speech? While these data may seem large, the reality is that hate speech is not detected with a similar process in the Asia-Pacific region (Sinpeng et al., 2021).

The Facebook platform has 3 billion users from all parts of the world who speak different languages. Facebook’s AI team is currently only able to recognize language related to racial and religious hate speech in some developed countries, such as English, Spanish, Chinese, and so on. For the languages of other countries, further manual review is still needed (Perrigo, 2019). Due to the fast-spreading nature of the Internet, review teams are not an excellent way to curb hate speech. In particular, hate speech is more likely to cross the line when people attack other people and countries based on their race or nationality, because of people’s education levels, cultural differences, etc.

Case review of Facebook: Hate Speech in India

(Wion, 2021)

India is the second most populous country in the world, with a total population exceeding 1.4 billion, and has a total of 800 languages and 22 official languages(Perrigo, 2019). However, the Facebook AI team’s algorithms can only handle four official Indian languages when dealing with hate speech (Perrigo, 2019). This processing system needs to be more comprehensive because it has led to the rapid growth of hate speech in some developing countries.

“I want to eliminate Muslims and Islam from the face of the Earth”. These words were spoken by the head of the Dasna Devi temple in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, in a speech that was cheered by his followers offstage (Oborne, 2022). Even more frightening is that the video had already been uploaded to Facebook, and by the time Facebook found out and removed it, the video had already been circulated 32 million times. The content of this speech was undoubtedly an incitement to genocide, and such content against Muslims has become the norm on Facebook, with users posting it in a variety of unofficial Indian languages. Some anti-Muslims will refer to Muslims as “parasites,” “rats,” and “rapists” (Perrigo, 2019), and these insulting terms appear directly on Facebook posts. Anti-Muslim users even promote and inspire people to poison Indian girls so that they can prevent the Muslim religion from raping them. This kind of hate speech is not simply against religion; even women are among those being attacked.

(The Cognate, 2023)

Practicing lawyers in the Supreme Court of India have stated that almost every violent incident offline is inspired by the spread of hate speech online (Oborne, 2022). For example, in 2020, the Muslim community in northeastern India was attacked by mobs that killed a total of 53 people, 40 of whom were Muslims (Oborne, 2022). This act destroys the surrounding buildings, stores, and other things that are not conducive to sustainable development and social peace. Furthermore, it is all well documented that one month prior to this violence, Nasin Hanand (an influencer on social media) had started a party offline and made a series of intensifying anti-Muslim statements (Oborne, 2022), most of which were uploaded to Facebook, and combined with his popularity on social media, the speed at which the information circulated was unpredictable.

Hate speech directly negates the human dignity of the targeted group, it makes society less tolerant and increases mistrust and hostility (Flew, 2021). His post is still circulating on Facebook after the incident. It seems that Facebook does not censor hate speech in India (France, 2021). Facebook still has a loophole in hate speech censorship, which is to say that such groups in unofficial Hindi may have been marginalized (Perrigo, 2019). Higher education, which is less prevalent in some areas, also makes it difficult for them to find out how to report hate speech.

Facebook has responded to the issue of AI’s inability to recognize minority or unofficial languages. Facebook focuses on working with external partners to analyze hate speech and expects to mitigate the problem. Sinpeng et al. (2021) established that Facebook’s Asia-Pacific regulation of hate speech is unsatisfactory.

Many regular users and communities remain unaware of the connections between Facebook and various partner organizations. The opacity of these partnerships poses a significant challenge, as users do not know who to turn to for help after experiencing hate speech, even when it comes to the impact on user retention. This problem is particularly evident in the Asia-Pacific region, with users in India, for example, believing that Facebook’s policies are insufficient to address incidents of hate speech against them. Therefore, such users may be skeptical of Facebook’s commitment to enforcing its policies, and may exhibit diminished confidence in the platform’s ability to effectively address hate speech. As users’ trust in the platform declines, they are more likely to disengage from it.

(Image 5: This is a comment from below a YouTube video about Facebook’s inability to recognize hate speech in some Indian languages accurately)

Moreover, some of these organizations are reluctant to disclose the identities of those they work with on Facebook in case they suffer retaliation from extremist groups.

Free speech & Hate speech

(Redwood Bark, n.d.)

The issue of hate speech and free speech has always been controversial. Freedom of expression, as a fundamental human right, is defined as the right to express one’s opinion without reprisal from the government and society (Howard, 2019). In the United States, hate speech is part of free speech, “guaranteed by the First Amendment, and Congress may not enact any laws …… restricting free speech” (CSUSM, n.d.).

Chinese government: free speech is not a talisman for hate speech

The Chinese government emphasizes that freedom of speech is not absolute in China and is subject to legal and social norms (XinHuaWang, 2024). So, do Chinese people have freedom of speech? The Chinese Constitution recognizes the freedom of expression of its citizens. However, exercising this right requires no incitement to violence or disruption of social order. In other words, the Chinese government highlights moderate freedom of speech, not absolute freedom of speech.

China has 56 ethnic groups and different faiths, yet it is almost impossible to view any reports on social media platforms about racial and religious issues. This is because the Chinese government prohibits incitement to hatred of religions and beliefs and is firmly against the clash of civilizations (XinHuaWang, 2024). Even when racial hate speech appears on social media or public forums, it is immediately suppressed (Fu, n.d.). All of China’s prominent social media platforms (TikTok of the Chinese version, Little Red Book) regulate hate speech similarly to Facebook; if the content does not comply with the platform’s community code, the content will be given less exposure, and in severe cases, the account will be taken down or banned from posting.

However, the probability of quickly removing hate speech is not 100%. There have been cases in China where victims have chosen to commit suicide because they could not tolerate the hate speech attacks (Fu, n.d.). Therefore, China has unambiguous legal provisions. Those who use the Internet to defame others, Incitement to cyber violence, and have more than 5,000 views or more than 500 retweets are considered to be in a serious situation. Depending on the circumstances, the court will impose a detention or fine, or a public apology to restore the victim’s reputation (XinHuaWang, 2024). Those involved in incitement to ethnic hatred are even subject to criminal detention or deprivation of political power under China’s criminal law.

Australian Government: The right is not absolute

The Australian Government claims that freedom of expression carries special responsibilities; For example, respect for the rights and reputations of others (Australia Government, n.d.). Citizens enjoy the right to freedom of expression, and the law prohibits advocacy of hatred that incites discrimination and affects national security and development (Australia Government, n.d.). Restrictions on exchanging certain ideas may reduce the incidence of violence and insurgency (Alexander, 2001). China’s views on hate speech are consistent on this point.

Additionally, eSafety, established under the eSafety Act 2015, is a website dedicated to protecting citizens online from hate speech attacks and aims to create a safe online experience for citizens (eSafety Commissioner, n.d.).

(eSafetyCommissioner, n.d.)

eSafety categorizes types of hate speech and explains definitions in detail to help victims quickly find situations that match their own and take action. Additionally, the site is educational, regularly posting blogs about hate speech to bring it to the public’s attention. While there are times when social media cannot detect or remove hate speech, the fact that users can turn to eSafety for help adds an extra layer of security for Australians online.

However, both eSafety and Facebook need to further take into account the existence of a digital divide for marginalized groups (e.g., people with disabilities, Indigenous people, ethnicity, etc.) and consider creating more inclusive environments. They are typically more vulnerable to hate speech and may not know how to seek help due to lacking digital skills.


In general, countries and social media platforms have begun to develop strategies to address hate speech while striking a balance between protecting free speech and combating hate speech is a complicated and ongoing challenge. Facebook needs more attention to hate speech governance in Asia-Pacific countries, quickly develop functionality in unofficial languages, and implement strategies with local experts in the Asia-Pacific region to create a healthy and safe online environment for its users. In the case of China, although there are laws in place to combat hate speech, it will take a long time to process the case after report to the police or appeal, and users need to have the confidence to deal with the psychological pressure in the meantime. Alternatively, a platform like eSafety could be created so that if social media does not remove hate speech promptly, citizens can ask for help like this before calling the police for legal support. Both countries and platforms should not only improve their policies on hate speech but also enhance the digital literacy of their citizens so that they can confidently and effectively face this complex online world.


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Australian Government. (n.d.). Right to freedom of opinion and expression. Attorney-General’s Department.

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Fu, H. (2008). Human rights and criminal law reform in the People’s Republic of China.

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Sinpeng, A., Martin, F. R., Gelber, K., & Shields, K. (2021). Facebook: Regulating Hate Speech in the Asia Pacific. Facebook Content Policy Research on Social Media Award: Regulating Hate Speech in the Asia Pacific.

Timmermann, W. (2008). Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal. IAGS, 3(3), 354-374. rel5010219

The Cognate. (2023, September 26). Rising tide of anti-Muslim hate speech in India linked to election seasons, reveals report. Retrieved from

United Nations. (n.d.). Hate speech ‘dehumanizes individuals and communities’ – Guterres. United Nations.

Wion. (2021, October 24). Facebook selective in curbing hate speech, mis-information and inflammatory posts | Social Media. YouTube.

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