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Diversity Volleyball player’s comments raise debate about free speech and hate speech against LGBTQIA+

Player Maurício Souza criticized the DC Comics comic book (Reproduction/Instagram)

Priscilla Peixoto – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – In the last two week, the now, former volleyball player of Minas Tennis Club Mauricio Souza, caused controversy in social networks after publishing a series of posts with criticism on issues involving gender and sexual orientation. The posts defended by him as freedom of expression did not please most of the public and followers of the former player who claimed “homophobia disguised as opinion”. CENARIUM talked to experts about what is the limit between freedom of speech and hate speech.

With an Instagram profile containing more than 330,000 followers, and among several comments that criticize the LGBTQIA+ community, Maurício Souza’s posts in which he rebukes the kiss between DC Comics heroes and a sign that mentions gender identity in front of a bathroom were highlighted.

Read also: Homophobia: shooting attack against LGBTQIA+ couple causes outrage in Manaus

“A is just a drawing, it’s no big deal. Go for it and see where we end up….”, published the player, who also argued, in another publication: “Nowadays right is wrong, and wrong is right. Not if it depends on me. If you have to choose a side, I stick with what I think is right. I stick with my beliefs, values, and ideals”.

Post made by volleyball player Maurício Souza (Reproduction/Instagram)

For the doctor in Communication and Constitutional Law, Luziane Figueiredo, it is first of all necessary to consider the period in which the Federal Constitution was written and understand the changes that have occurred up to the present day.

“Freedom of expression is a right assured in item IX of Article 5 of the Constitution of 88. Paying attention to the dimension of this right and the path taken is fundamental and, obviously, no right is absolute and the limits are, precisely, when the manifestation of thought violates the other’s right to image, intimacy, and privacy”, she explains, who is also a professor at the Amazonas State University (UEA).

In relation to hate speech, Luziane points out that, in Brazil, there is still no specific legislation on the issue, even with several attempts to pass bills. Figueiredo explains that to list, in a precise way, which are all the speeches, is still a difficulty in the country.

“Discrimination, homophobia, and racism are speeches supported by the Constitution itself, but it is very difficult to list all hate speeches. That’s why we analyze the situation in the concrete case and, suddenly, analogy, context, and the Constitution itself can be used”, Luziane reveals.

Negative impacts

According to Figueiredo, contempt or intolerance manifestations against certain groups, motivated by prejudice, can generate negative impacts that leave deep scars and, in more serious cases, even lead to death. “The impacts are catastrophic. We have as an example the fake news, which induce error and foster hatred. These are damages that can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis”, she adds.

A publication by journalist and columnist for The New York Times, Andrew Marantz, brings a discussion about the delicate line between freedom of speech and hate speech. In the article entitled Free Speech is Killing Us, the journalist points out that “using free speech as an argument (to justify hate speech) is as intellectually dishonest as it is morally bankrupt”.

The article also states that what is read, watched and heard on the Internet influences beliefs and feelings about the world. Publications relating the LGBTQI+ population to constant social disapproval and negative factors consequently generate rejection of this minority.

CNJ defends “limits”

On September 28, the National Council of Justice (CNJ) published a post on Instagram in which it raised the issue of freedom of expression and hate speech. In the material, the CNJ goes against the speeches of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) and the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) stating that if freedom of expression serves to hurt the other, and if it includes any kind of discrimination, it will soon be understood as hate speech, violating Item IV of Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.

Postagem do CNJ. Reprodução / Instagram
The publication of the National Council of Justice (CNJ), on Instagram, in which it raised the debate between freedom of expression and hate speech (Reproduction/ Instagram)

Comments and consequences

Following Maurício Souza’s publications, Brazilian National Volleyball Team player Douglas Souza disapproved of his teammate’s attitude and refuted the allegations. “Homophobia is a crime, not an opinion”, said he, who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community and was one of the main highlights during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Player Douglas Silva rebutted his teammate (Reproduction/ Instagram)

Due to the negative repercussions after the positioning of Mauricio, some of the main sponsors of the Minas Tennis Club team, Fiat and Gerdau, have positioned themselves against the phrases declared by the player. The official fans of the team also did not let go unchallenged and released an official note stating that the athlete will be ignored, on court, as a way of “not giving stage” for people who want to “reverberate prejudice”.

“This is very important for us. For more brands like this. In 2021, people don’t think that freedom of expression means being homophobic. Thanks again, I’m very happy, we expect attitudes”, Douglas said in a video on Instagram.

(Reproduction/ Instagram)

Even with all the notes and disapproval of the public, Mauricio Souza says he will continue to defend his “point of view”. In a statement released on the afternoon of Wednesday, 27, the Minas Tennis Club reported that the player is no longer part of the team.