Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic.
In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by race, gender, ethnicity, disability, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristic. In some countries, a victim of hate speech may seek redress under civil law, criminal law, or both. A website that uses hate speech is called a hate site. Most of these sites contain Internet forums and news briefs that emphasize a particular viewpoint. There has been debate over how freedom of speech applies to the Internet. Conferences concerning such sites have been sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also states that "any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law". Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as well prohibits all incitement of racism. On May 3, 2011, Michael O'Flaherty with the United Nations Human Rights Committee published General Comment No. 34 on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which among other comments expresses concern that many forms of "hate speech" do not meet the level of seriousness set out in Article 20.