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Dialogues on Democracy: Countering Hate Speech in Elections


In this edition of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) “Dialogues on Democracy,” Editorial and Communications Manager Adam Gallagher speaks with Vasu Mohan, IFES’ regional director for the Asia-Pacific and technical lead for elections, conflict and security, about his IFES white paper, “Countering Hate Speech in Elections: Strategies for Electoral Management Bodies.”

Hate speech has played a prominent role in elections around the globe in recent years, amplified by the proliferation of social media. For responsible electoral institutions, the problem is dynamic and complex. Remedies involving restrictions on free speech and on political and electoral rights are controversial, as they may limit fundamental rights in a democratic society. Indeed, some human rights activists and international institutions have insisted that the best response to hate speech is more speech.

Mohan discusses what led him and Senior Elections Specialist Catherine Barnes to write this paper, how it’s been used in places like Indonesia and Fiji, what is distinct about hate speech in elections and how it is often used against women, and the role of the traditional media.