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This chapter offers an outline of the Hate Speech Elimination Act and analyses some of its issues. When the Japanese Diet enacted the Hate Speech Elimination Act in 2016, it was the first law to directly tackle hate speech. The law is unusual because while it clearly declares hate speech to be impermissible, it imposes no penalties upon it. On the one hand, one might argue that the Act properly balances equality and freedom of speech; on the other hand, one might question its effect in combating hate speech. It should be emphasized that the Act requests the national and local governments to implement educational activities to eliminate unfair discriminatory speech and behaviour, as well as to raise awareness among the general public about the issue. Such government activities can be interpreted as a type of ‘government speech’, which can be used to discourage and deter hate speech while avoiding constitutional problems. As such, the Japanese Act may present a modest model that strikes an appropriate balance between freedom of speech and anti-racism.
Countries around the world are commonly troubled with the problem of hate speech, but their responses vary. Constitutional law scholars often use two models for analysis: the US model, which hesitates to regulate hate speech not directed at particular persons, and the European model, which favours regulation, including of hate speech not directed at particular persons. Most governments regulate hate speech broadly, meaning that the European model has so far held sway, but this simple classification has been under reconsideration recently. On the one hand, the United States strictly regulates hate speech targeting particular individuals and it does so by means of hate crime or harassment laws. It is also said to adopt a rigid distinction between private and public spheres, tolerating a wide variety of private regulation in broadcasting, universities, workplaces, and so on. On the other hand, some European nations are unwilling to execute regulatory laws, thus watering down their effect. The contrast between the US and European models is useful for researchers.
This book explains the past and present status of hate speech regulations in Japan. The United States and European countries have adopted different approaches to resolve their respective hate speech problems. Both of them, however, continue to confront the dilemma that freedom of speech and anti-racism are fundamental values of human rights. Therefore, some scholars criticize the US approach as too protective of freedom of speech, while other scholars criticize the European approach as impermissibly violating that freedom. Compared to these countries, Japan is unique in that it does not criminalize hate speech and hate crime other than in the recently enacted Kawasaki City Ordinance criminalizing some kinds of hate speech. Japan basically relies on a comprehensive set of non-regulative tools to suppress extreme hate speech. This volume analyses Japanese hate speech laws and suggests a unique distinctive model to strike a balance between both core values of democracy.
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