Despite deterioration in some areas of individual liberty and free markets in which it used to be the unquestionable leader, the United States (U.S.) remains the world’s standard-bearer when it comes to freedom of expression. The U.S.’s commitment to an unrestricted marketplace of ideas is demonstrated, in particular, through its unique protection of “hate speech” and strict construction of the offenses of “incitement” and defamation. The Human Rights Foundation's (HRF) project aims to educate decision makers and the general public, on a global scale, about the value of such a high free speech standard by contrasting the successful American experience under the broad protection of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment with the pervasive misuse and many negative effects of different speech-restrictive laws across both modern-day authoritarian states and Western liberal democracies.

HRF will achieve this goal through systemic comparative legal research comprised of the following steps: 1) tracking the ancient origins of hate speech, incitement, and defamation law, their evolution through the Middle Ages, and their adoption by European nations and their former colonies; 2) explaining the First Amendment free speech standard and the rationales behind it, focusing on hate speech, incitement, and defamation law; 3) charting the pervasive misuse of hate speech, incitement, and defamation law by democratic and non-democratic governments across the world; 4) analyzing the (at times unintended) damaging effects of these laws by comparing their consequences with the successful U.S. experience; and 5) disseminating our findings to the global general public and key bodies—such as international human rights courts—with the ultimate aim of influencing the world’s interconnected legal systems toward a more robust protection of free speech.