The Council of Europe defines hate speech as covering “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, antisemitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including; intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin.”
The internet is a social space where people should be free to communicate, debate and make friends. However, it is also the platform to harass and intimidate individuals on the basis of ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, and disabilities. The Guardian newspaper concluded that from a survey of more than 4.700 teenagers reveals almost half think cyberbullying and hate speech is a bigger issue than drug abuse, proving that something needs to be done during this digital era.
In 2013, 47.146 racist hate crimes have been reported in twenty European countries, however many remain unreported, producing unfair and inconclusive results. The 2015 Annual Bullying Survey found that the highest risk of hate speech online were the following groups: all types of disability, LBGT and low income backgrounds. It is very important to tackle hate speech before it gets out of control, there has been many cases of actual and attempted suicide in both teenagers and adults in relation to online cyber hate. According to the CDC, for every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts.
The European Commission Report found that in the years 2008-2009 the use of social networks had grown 35% in Europe, with a high percentage of the young population being members of social networking sites and other social tools. The Commission believes that European action is necessary because social networks connect people across borders, making it harder for local or even national measures to tackle the problem alone, and therefore difficult to punish those responsibles.
Hate speech on a national level
In 2014 Greece approved a hate crime bill that produces stricter penalties for racially motivated crimes, including fines and will raise jail terms of up to 3 years for those who commit attacks based on sexual orientation and ethnic origin. This bill can be found in the Greek Criminal Code (following the September amendments by law N4285/2014), more specifically, Article 81 which focuses on special aggravated circumstances.
This law is important as the official number of those prosecuted for hate crime in the country has increased since 2009, where only 2 were prosecuted with no sentencing, whereas in 2014 the number rose to 29 where 5 were sentenced. Although it is important to note that 71 hate crimes were recorded by the local police (1 homicide, 38 physical assault, 3 damage to property, 17 threats and 12 other relate hate crimes).
The No Hate Campaign
The no hate speech movement, launched 10th March 2013, was formed as a youth campaign of the Council of Europe for Human Rights online. Its aims are to reduce levels of acceptance of hate speech, the project is against hate speech, racism and discrimination in their online expression. It is important to remember, however, that this campaign is not to run to limit freedom of expression online, following the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 10).
The no hate speech movement has its own website (nohatespeechmovement.org) where individuals can go to research into the area, but also report hate speech that is found online. With the opportunity to join the movement and sign up for the newsletter there are many ways to get involved. Sarah Serrano Latorre used the no hate speech site to write about how anyone can make a difference and tackle cyber hate. In 2013 she pinpointed three simple steps: firstly, recognising hate speech; secondly, back up the content; and thirdly, report it. (more details can be found here – http://blog.nohatespeechmovement.org/take-action-delete-hate-speech-online/ )
The No Hate Speech Movement has now been set up for a number of years, and as a result national campaigns have been set up in 37 countries, educating people in a local level. But also, the campaign claims to have other results, such as; a network of national coordinators and online activists, an extensive group of committed partners at a European level, a functioning online platform and an important outreach in Facebook and twitter.
No Hate Speech Questionnaire
To get a better understanding of the personal impact of hate speech online, a questionnaire was produced in the United Societies of Balkans office, in Thessaloniki. The questionnaire was sent out over social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter to understand how often people come across hate speech and how this affects them whilst using the internet. It was found, that out of the 509 respondents, 92% (469 people) have come across hate speech online. With 75% saying that they do not believe that social media sites do enough to monitor hate speech and only 11% saying they do.
Which is important to consider as this is a high number of responders who believe not enough is being done online, and a distressing number have witnessed hate speech as defined by the Council of Europe. The final area to consider in the questionnaire is whether freedom of speech is limited by the rules and laws against hate speech, this did not come back with a definite majority, with many (nearly 27%) saying they do not know. Perhaps a more explanatory definition is needed, of both freedom of speech and hate speech in order to help people understand what the question is asking.
The European Day for Victims of Hate Crime
Not only does the movement create websites and blogs to tackle hate speech, they get involved with recognition days. For example, The European Day for Victims of Hate Crime highlights how hate speech may lead to hate crime. The No Hate Speech Movement is to present this plan to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe this year, with hopes of it being on the 22nd July, this date is particular relevant, as it is to remember the victims of the Oslo attacks and Utøya massacre, where 77 people died as a result of hate crime in 2011.
The petition can be found here – http://blog.nohatespeechmovement.org/petition/ along with all the details, including the official transcript to be presented.
European Commission – Safer Internet Day 2009 Report
- Brennan ‘Legislating against internet race hate’ 2003