At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland this week, a European Union official predicted to a U.S. congressman that the U.S. would “soon” enact laws on “illegal hate speech” similar to those in the EU.
Věra Jourová, the vice president of values and transparency for the European Commission, tapped Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton on the arm and laughed as she made the prediction. It came as she discussed whether AI is capable of moderating online hate speech.
“For hate speech, well, we need the people who understand the language and the case law in the country, because what qualifies as hate speech as illegal hate speech — which you will have soon also in the U.S.,” she said, looking to Moulton, who smiled back. “I think that we have a strong reason why we have this in the criminal law,” she continued.
Her comment came about 31 minutes and 30 seconds into a panel discussion held on Tuesday called “The Clear and Present Danger of Disinformation.” The full discussion is viewable on the WEF website.
EU countries are obligated to criminalize hate speech based around race, skin color, religion, descent, nationality or ethnicity, according to the European Commission. That directive hasn’t been followed in Estonia, which is facing an EU infringement proceeding over its lack of hate speech laws, according to Estonia public media.
In the U.S., hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. It’s only criminal if it’s a specific, targeted threat or directly incites imminent criminal activity, according to the American Library Association.
More than 2,700 world leaders, including 11 members of Congress, are spending this week at the Davos meeting, where they’re discussing ways to manage the global system. This year’s event involves speeches and panel discussions on issues like recession fears, the Ukraine war and climate change.