Chicago Journal of International Law


The proliferation of laws prohibiting and punishing hate speech since World War II has raised serious questions concerning the limits of free speech. While all liberal democracies guarantee the freedom of expression as a fundamental human right, the vast majority also restrict speech deemed hateful or racially discriminatory. Similarly, many major international human rights agreements acknowledge free speech as an essential human right, but also limit that right when hateful. This Comment analyzes the current legal landscape surrounding hate speech laws and evaluates domestic and international practice to determine whether the regulation of hate speech has assumed customary international law status. Due to a lack of uniformity among and within states and the absence of opinio juris, or a sense of legal obligation, this Comment concludes that the international practice of restricting hate speech has not yet assumed customary international law status.