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Keller G. Sheppard, Nathaniel L. Lawshe, and Jack McDevitt

Hate crimes are criminal offenses that involve elements of bias based on some individual characteristics of the victim, including race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and religion. The passage of laws criminalizing or enhancing the punishment for crimes featuring bias motivations has been met with intense controversy. In addressing criticism of such legislation, proponents of these laws highlight the considerable harms caused by hate crime. These incidents are considered especially heinous as they not only violate the civil and human rights of the immediate victim but also send a message of fear to the entirety of that victim’s community or social group. Prior scholarship on these offenses have employed numerous theoretical frameworks—psychological, historical, sociological, and economic theories—to describe why perpetrators target victims based on perceived group identity. Other work has provided insight into the causes of hate crime by considering factors distinguishing bias-motivated offenders from other criminal offenders. Conflicting legal definitions of hate crime add to the complexity of its conceptualization. At the international level, hate crime statutes are strongly influenced by the different social, cultural, and historical contexts across nations. Hate crime laws differ markedly across countries with respect to the specification of protected groups’ identities, treatment of hate speech, legal standards for establishing bias motivation, and utilization of hate crime statutes for criminal prosecutions. These differences, coupled with nationally distinct methodologies for recording bias-motivated incidents, have stymied attempts to engage in cross-national comparisons of the quality and extent of hate crime.


Majid Yar

The development of the Internet and related communication technologies has had a transformative effect upon social, political, economic, and cultural life. It has also facilitated the emergence of a wide range of crimes that take shape in the spaces of virtual communication. These offenses include technology-oriented crimes such as hacking and the distribution of malicious software; property-oriented crimes such as media piracy, theft, and fraud; and interpersonal offenses such as stalking, harassment, and sexual abuse. In many instances, these crimes serve to entrench and exacerbate existing patterns of victimization, vulnerability, and inequality, along lines of difference related to gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, and income. The anonymized and globally distributed nature of the Internet creates huge challenges for crime prevention, detection, and prosecution of online offenses.