Hate speech is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that has far-reaching and dangerous consequences for human rights, rule of law in democratic societies. Preventing and combating online hate speech poses specific challenges. The persistence and impact have been documented by the monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe and other international agencies.

Hate Speech not only affects the dignity and human rights of the individual directly targeted, but also of persons belonging to the same minority or group as those directly targeted. Hate speech leads to dangerous divisions in society as a whole, affects the participation and inclusion of all those targeted by it and threatens democracy. The targets of hate speech become increasingly excluded from society, forced out of the public debate and silenced. History shows that hate speech has also been intentionally used to mobilise groups and societies against each other in order to provoke violent escalation, hate crime, war and genocide.

  • In recent years, hate speech has increasingly been spread through the internet. Preventing and combating online hate speech poses specific challenges, as it can be disseminated as never before across the world in a matter of seconds.
  • The persistence and worrying increase of hate speech, especially online, and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights and democracy in Europe have been documented by the monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), various other intergovernmental organisations, civil society organisations, internet intermediaries, and other bodies.
  • In its recent country monitoring and annual reports, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) describes, based on detailed statistics and studies, the persistence and increase of ultra-nationalistic, xenophobic, racist, and LGBTI-phobic hate speech in various member States.
  • To avoid such dangerous escalation and rather establish and maintain inclusive societies, it is important that member States take effective and sustainable measures to prevent and combat hate speech.