Online hate and the contentious case of stirring up hatred offences




stirring up hatred, hate crimes, hate speech, incitement, cybercrime, Fomento del odio, delitos de odio, discurso de odio, incitación, ciberdelito


In 2016, as requested, the UK Government submitted written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee's inquiry into hate crime and its consequences. Among all the offences listed as part of what was called a robust legal framework to combat online hate, there was one set of offences surprisingly missing. The stirring up hatred offences (ss. 18-23 and 29B-29G of the Public Order Act 1986), at least comparable to those envisaged in Article 510 of the Spanish Criminal Code (that is, punishable hate speech), were laid incomprehensibly out of play. Hence, this research study first aims to determine whether this decision is understandable. Then, we will focus on some legal hotspots concerning those offences to visualise better how they operate in practice. Finally, by way of conclusion, a comparative endeavour will be made with the Spanish legal system, bringing to the forefront the conflict points already dealt with.

En 2016, tal y como le había sido requerido, el Gobierno del Reino Unido facilitó pruebas documentales a la investigación en curso sobre delitos de odio y sus consecuencias llevada a cabo por la Home Office Affairs Committee (comité multipartidista de parlamentarios que trata asuntos de estado). Entre todos los delitos enumerados como parte de lo que se denominó como un marco jurídico sólido para combatir el odio online, sorprendentemente faltaba un conjunto de delitos. Los delitos de fomento del odio (arts. 18-23 y 29B-29G de la Public Order Act 1986), cuando menos equiparables a los previstos en el artículo 510 del Código Penal español (es decir, el discurso de odio punible), quedaron incomprensiblemente fuera de foco. De ahí que el presente estudio de investigación pretenda, en primer lugar, comprobar si esta decisión es o no entendible. A continuación, nos centraremos en algunos aspectos legales conflictivos relativos a dichos delitos para visualizar mejor cómo operan en la práctica. Finalmente, a modo de conclusión, se realizará un esfuerzo comparativo con el ordenamiento jurídico español, poniendo sobre la mesa los puntos conflictivos ya tratados.


Author Biography

Iñigo Gordon Benito, UNESCO Chair for Human Rights and Public Authorities, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)

Iñigo Gordon Benito is a Lecturer in Criminal law and a member of the UNESCO Chair for Human Rights and Public Authorities of the University of the Basque Country ( His research activity is focused on hate crimes, hate speech and online identity theft. In November 2021, he defended his doctoral thesis entitled «Hate crimes and cyberhate in the Spanish Criminal Code. Special attention devoted to the generic aggravating circumstance of Article 22.4 and the aggravated subtype of Article 510.3». He is currently part of the Hate Crime Research Group working team, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, which runs from 1 September 2021 to 1 September 2025 (Title of the Project: Hate crimes in Spain: pending challenges; Reference: I+D+I PID2020-115320GB-100). In 2018 he carried out a research stay at Oxford Brookes University (UK). In April 2021, he carried out a new research stay at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (Germany). He has been certified as an Assistant Lecturer/Professor in May 2022. He is a hired postdoctoral researcher as of 26 June 2022.


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21-07-2023 — Updated on 03-10-2023

How to Cite

Gordon Benito, I. (2023) “Online hate and the contentious case of stirring up hatred offences”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 13(5), pp. 1734–1755. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl.1744.