Australia’s government will push for changes to its race hate laws, and the internet is far from pleased about it.
Conservative politicians and pundits have long pushed for alterations to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which protects people from acts intended to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” on the basis of race.
On Tuesday, the country’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced he would make changes: The word “intimidate” will remain, but “offend, insult and humiliate” will be replaced with the word “harass.”
Progressive politicians from Labor and the Greens have long been against changes to the act, arguing that it would significantly soften protections for people being discriminated against on the basis of race or ethnicity.
In response to changes to the act, Australian writer Benjamin Law — whose parents are originally from Hong Kong — tweeted his experiences of discrimination under the hashtag #FreedomOfSpeech.
Soon, the hashtag — referencing a phrase often used in defence of discriminatory behaviour — was trending around Australia, filling Twitter with people’s unsettling experiences of racism.
Turnbull said a press conference changes to the act would “strengthen the protections of Australians from racial vilification, and strengthen protections to free speech.”
Based off the experiences of many Australians on Twitter, the changes to law likely won’t do much to protect them from everyday racism, and “free speech” seems alive and well.