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On Wednesday, the Liberal government tabled a bill to reintroduce hate speech provisions into the Canadian Human Rights Act. It will be illegal, if the bill is passed, to communicate hateful speech in a way that is “likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group.” Under the hate speech provisions, journalists, bloggers, and social media users — in fact, almost everyone who writes anything on the Internet — would be liable, if anyone complains that their speech is hateful, to be investigated by bureaucrats for committing human rights violations and forced to pay reparations. All reasonable people agree, of course, that stirring up hatred against someone or some group of people is very bad, but unfortunately, these sorts of hate speech laws are rife with pitfalls. There is, first of all, the moral hazard problem. Similarly to how extravagant government welfare programs discourage people from earnestly searching for jobs, entitling people to financial reparations if they complain about hate speech creates the possibility that some people will originate complaints even when they are poorly founded, since the complainants do not face any downside financial risk.

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