On Racist Hate Speech and the Scope of a Free Speech Principle

In this paper, we argue that to properly understand our commitment to a principle of free speech, we must pay attention to what should count as speech for the purposes of such a principle. We defend the view that ‘speech’ here should be a technical term, with something other than its ordinary sense. We then offer a partial characterization of this technical sense. We contrast our view with some influential views about free speech , and show that our view has distinct advantages. Finally, we consider racist hate speech. Here, we argue that if certain theorists are right about what some racist hate speech does, then such speech should fall outside the scope of the free speech principle, and so, should be as regulable as any non-speech action.
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