Education and the harm of hate speech

Legal theorists who argue in favour of anti-hate speech law all tend to claim that hate speech does significant harm to its targets. But they say little about how hate speech affects children. And this is an oversight, since children are especially sensitive to negative social influences like those that are broadcasted in public hate speech. This project aims to understand the ways that hate speech can influence children, and then on the basis of that, re-examine some popular theories about how hate speech harms its targets.

This research project helped to articulate the in-principle reasons why we’d expect hate speech to have a harmful influence on children, and then formulate hypotheses that could be used in social scientific inquiry to see if there’s evidence which supports this view of things. The project also showed why the case for holding hate speakers accountable for the negative influence of their speech makes more sense when thinking about hate speech’s influence on children, as opposed to its influence on adults.

This main aim of the project was to develop a knowledge base on hate speech to inform improvement of practices in education. More specifically, the project helped to clarify the role that schools may have to play in combatting the negative influence of hate speech.

Chief Investigator
Dr Bob Simpson

The Spencer Foundation

Date of Award


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