Fabiana Ciccarella

Thesis title: Anti-migrants hate speech in the digital age: a comparative analysis between Italy and the UK

Start year: 2020

Contact: 19138299@brookes.ac.uk

Supervisor(s): Chara Bakalis, Professor Sonia Morano-Foadi

Fabiana Ciccarella

Research topic

My study explores how in the European context, during the digital age, myths about the number of migrant arrivals, their economic impact or their propensity to commit crimes are strategically promoted and exploited to influence public opinion.

Hate speech has exacerbated social and racial tensions, inciting attacks with deadly consequences all over the world. Indeed, the main challenge in democratic societies is to balance the right to free speech with the right to protection from hate speech, including the need to achieve proportionality when sanctions are imposed. However, sometimes restricting speech is necessary to avoid discrimination and violence. But it is difficult to identify the tipping point at which legitimate expression turns into hate speech.

Therefore, my study aims to explore whether the current legal system governing free speech and hate speech can be applied to the digital context. The investigation will explore international law, European law (EU and Council of Europe), UK and Italian legal frameworks.

The study will assess the theoretical concepts of protected characteristics currently used in European law (EU and Council of Europe), Italian and UK hate crime legislation. In particular, it will consider whether existing regulation in equality law and anti-discrimination legislation effectively protects migrants and refugees and whether protected characteristics can be applied in the digital context.

I will compare and contrast Council of Europe and EU laws and policies on hate speech against migrants and refugees, on the one hand, and study how they are implemented in Italy and the UK, on the other. The analysis of the UK will allow me to capture pre- and post-Brexit approaches to free speech and, consequently, hate speech.

My research will be empirical research with policy makers, legislators and other key informants such as NGOs and civil society organisations.

After analysing the legal frameworks at national (UK and Italy) and European (EU and Council of Europe) level, I will provide recommendations to policy makers and law enforcement agencies based on best practices.


European Law and Human Rights, Hate speech Law, Migrants and refugees, International Law, Italy, UK

General research interests

Cybercrime, equality and inequality, British Italian and European politics, Discourse theory and analysis

Academic school / department

School of Law and Social Sciences

Further details

Scholarship and prizes

  •  Fulbright Scholarship in American studies at the University of Bari Aldo Moro, Law Department, 2018
  • UniBa Scholarship thesis dissertation, Bodleian Law  Library, 2019