Words that Wound: Rethinking Online Hate Speech in South Africa

Main Article Content

Bright Nkrumah


Online violence and hate speech in cyberspace have become a major concern among previously disadvantaged groups and human rights activists in South Africa (Cuyler 2011; Ndou 2015). The remarkable expansion of the Internet as a platform for communication has been outdone by hate-based activity in cyberspace and extremist websites. The mobility and anonymity that the Internet provides has made expressions of hate and harassment easy on an abstract platform, which is often outside the remit of conventional security agencies (Lange 2007). By using technological, legal and political frameworks, this paper examines the conundrums involved in regulating hate speech on the Internet. It assesses the complexities inherent in South Africa’s bilateral and/or multilateral partnerships, and challenges of unilateral domestic content legislation to regulate cyberspace. Whereas the state seeks to find common ground upon which to harmonise its approach to regulation, the paper examines how technological innovations can limit the harm triggered by hate speech. The paper recommends that there is the need for a broader mobilisation of citizens in order to reduce the harm often triggered by hate speakers in South Africa.


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How to Cite
Nkrumah, B. (2018). Words that Wound: Rethinking Online Hate Speech in South Africa. Alternation Journal, (23), 108-133. Retrieved from https://journals.ukzn.ac.za/index.php/soa/article/view/1240
Author Biography

Bright Nkrumah, University of KwaZulu-Natal

School of Social Sciences
Howard College