Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms

Incitement to Violence

Cite this article as:
Monika Zalnieriute (17/12/2021). Incitement to Violence. In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio.

Author: Monika Zalnieriute

Traditional incitement to violence, enshrined in Article 20 of the ICCPR and criminalized in many domestic jurisdictions, has taken on new significance due to the proliferation of online platforms and the growth of global terrorism (Bayefsky, Blank, 2018)1. Social media and online platforms are a way in which to ‘amplify’ the harm of incitement to violence (Avni, 2018:30–31)2. While social media intermediaries provide a mechanism by which those inciting violence can access a broader and more diverse audience, the prohibition on incitement to violence is not meaningfully enforced (Matas, 2018:150)3. This can be explained by the difficulties democratic states face in balancing the problem of virtual hate speech with foundational principles of free speech (Guiora, 2018:142)4. Incitement to violence is the most ‘severe’ form of online hate speech, in that it ‘threaten[s] with violence, incite[s] violent acts, and intend[s] to make the target fear for their safety’ (Alexandra Olteanu et al., 2018:5)5.

Various factors can lead to incitement to violence over digital platforms, including an absence of or unclear legislation on the issue, a negative or stereotyped portrayal of minority groups in the media, structural inequalities in access to social media platforms, and the changing media landscape (Izsák, 2015:51–79)6. A modern example includes the spread of hate speech and incitement to violence via the internet in Myanmar, which played a ‘significant’ role in the Rohingya genocide (OHCHR, 2014; Human Rights Council, 2018, §74)7 8. Online service providers are beginning to acknowledge the role they play in the dissemination of material that incites violence; Facebook’s Community Standards claims to ‘remove language that incites or facilitates serious violence’ (Facebook 2020, pt. 1)9, Google’s User Content and Conduct Policy prohibits ‘Hate Speech’ which is defined to be ‘content that promotes or condones violence’ against an individual or group ‘on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or any other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization’ (Google, 2020, §3)10, and Twitter’s violent threats policy prohibits ‘statements of an intent to kill or inflict serious physical harm on a specific person or group of people’ (Twitter, 2019)11.

In the online age, the purpose of incitement to violence has shifted; what used to be ‘justification for action and recruitment to prepare for action’ has now become a simple ‘call to action’, and service providers must adequately monitor and protect against a risk of harm that they themselves have facilitated (Matas, 2018:163)12. As incitement to violence is an inchoate offense, in that harm does not need to be actioned but merely called for, the freedom which social media platforms provide to express opinions inherently inflates the possibility of violations. However, given the new and larger audiences accessible to those promoting violence, these platforms also increase the likelihood of incitement causing violence. Additionally, the growing prevalence of cyberbullying, virtual sexual harassment, and online stalking make clear that the act of violence itself in the age of online platforms is “still developing and not univocal” (Šimonović, 2018:5)13.


  1. Bayefsky, Anne F., and Laurie R. Blank, eds. (2018). Incitement to Terrorism. Available at:
  2. Avni, Micah. (2018). Incitement to Terror and Freedom of Speech. Incitement to Terrorism, 30– 36. Available at:
  3. Matas, David. (2018). Combating Incitement to Violence on the Internet through Service Provider Action. Incitement to Terrorism, March, 150–64. Available at:
  4. Guiora, Amos N. (2018). Inciting Terrorism on the Internet: The Limits of Tolerating Intolerance. Incitement to Terrorism. March, 135–49. Available at:
  5. Olteanu, A., Castillo, C., Boy, J., Varshney, K. (2018). The Effect of Extremist Violence on Hateful Speech Online. International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media; Twelfth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media
  6. Izsák, Rita. (2015). Report of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues. A/HRC/28/64. Available at:
  7. OHCHR. (2014). Myanmar: UN Expert Warns against Possible Backtracking, Calls for More Public Freedoms. Available at:
  8. UN. (2018). UN Human Rights Council. Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. 39th Session. Available at:
  9. Facebook. (2020). Violence and Criminal Behavior. Community Standards.  Available at:
  10. Google. (2020). Terms and Policies – Currents Help.  Available at:
  11. Twitter. (2019). Violent Threats Policy. Available at:
  12. Matas, David. (2018). Combating Incitement to Violence on the Internet through Service Provider Action. Incitement to Terrorism, March, 150–64. Available at:
  13. Šimonović, D. (2018). Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences on Online Violence against Women and Girls from a Human Rights Perspective. A/HRC/38/47. Human Rights Council.
Categorized as Entries

By Monika Zalnieriute

Dr. Monika Zalnieriute is a Senior Lecturer and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at UNSW Sydney. She holds a PhD in Law from European University Institute in Florence, Italy. Previously, Monika led a research stream on ‘Technologies and Rule of Law’ at the Allens Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation at UNSW Law Sydney, and held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Melbourne, where she worked on the digital rights and discrimination of marginalized groups online.

Leave a comment