Changes in the expression of prejudice in public discourse in Australia: assessing the impact of hate speech laws on letters to the editor 1992-2010
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This article seeks to fill a gap in the literature on empirical research into the experiences of countries with hate speech laws. We report on the results of a qualitative document analysis of letters to the editor published between 1992 and 2010 in Australia, a country with 25 years of experience of civil hate speech laws. The analysis demonstrates the tension between publishing views of members of the public and remaining within the confines of legally permissible expression. Positive findings include an awareness of the existence of hate speech laws; a noticeable shift in language use, as evidenced by the elimination or reduction (depending on the minority being targeted) of crudely prejudicial expressions; and an overall reduction in the proportion of prejudicial letters published. Contrarily, prejudice is still being expressed to a significant degree, at times quite virulently.
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