In the United States, as per the First Amendment, “hate speech must be likely to cause violence or harm before it can be deemed criminal.” However, in the European Union, “speech can be prohibited even if it is only abusive, insulting or likely to disturb public order.”
In October of 2012, #agoodjew was the third most tweeted subject in France, with most users tweeting phrases like “a good Jew is a dead Jew.” In January of this year, a French court held that Twitter must reveal the identities of such users, most likely so that they can be prosecuted. In 1990, France passed the Gayssot law “to repress racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic acts and criminalizes Holocaust denial.” Under that law, French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson was prosecuted. While he alleged that the law violated his freedom of expression, the UN Human Rights Committee believed otherwise. In France, “the dissemination of racist content online is punished by fines and terms of imprisonment”, which “increase if the dissemination was public,” meaning on website rather then sent via an email.
In 2012, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube all complied with German law, and either took “down material posted by a neo-Nazi group[,] or … block[ed] users in Germany from access to the content.” Many European countries like Germany, Belgium, and Austria have Holocaust denial laws. For instance, the “British Holocaust denier David Irving was convicted and imprisoned in 2006” in Austria.
Similarly, Spain made Holocaust denial a criminal violation up until 2007, “when a court ruled in the case of neo-Nazi activist Pedro Valera that Holocaust denial could not be punished with imprisonment because the act falls within free speech.” However, in January of 2013, a new bill was proposed that would make Holocaust denial a criminal offense, but only if it incites violence.
Are Holocaust denial laws more appropriate for European countries, and therefore America does not truly need such laws? Are Europe’s laws too harsh in your eyes? Should certain topics not be veiled by the First Amendment, or is that a slippery slope? Are there any topics that would be appropriate for America to ban, as Europe has banned Holocaust denials?