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Public Figures Use Hate Speech to Incite Violence. How Do We Prosecute Them for It?

Incitement on Trial: Prosecuting International Speech Crimes (November 8, 2017)

International and national armed conflicts are often preceded by a media campaign in which public figures foment ethnic, national, racial, or religious hatred, inciting listeners to acts of violence. But how can the perpetrators of such hate be held accountable under international law for consequent atrocities? 

Richard Ashby Wilson’s book Incitement on Trial evaluates the efforts of international criminal tribunals to hold such inciters criminally responsible. The book identifies “revenge speech” as the type of rhetoric with the greatest effects on empathy and tolerance for violence, but notes that prosecutors have often struggled to demonstrate a causal connection between speech acts and subsequent crimes. Lastly, Wilson proposes an evidence-based risk assessment model for monitoring political speech.

Wilson was joined for a panel discussion by international criminal and human rights law expert Marko Milanovic and by Nadine Strossen, a former head of the ACLU, who has taught and advocated extensively on constitutional law and civil liberties.

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