Racial vilification and social media


Under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (‘the Act’), it is unlawful to publicly do any act which is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group if the act is done because of the race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin of the other person or group. This is potentially a powerful protection against any form of hate speech or racial vilification. However, there have not been many successful prosecutions under this section, with one study finding that in the first three years of the Federal Court hearing discrimination claims, there were only three successful claims of racial vilification. Other commentators have criticised the Act as setting up an ‘arduous task’ for complainants in comparison to other jurisdictions such as the United States and the United Kingdom.  Some recent developments have provided an opportunity to see how this legislation might apply to online content, particularly the user-generated content which is increasingly popular and is generally not subject to much control or modification.

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