Online hate speech
Hate speech, whether online or offline, poses a threat to democracy and human rights. To address it constitutes an urgent challenge in all Council of Europe member States.
The Council of Europe standards and practices related to addressing hate speech will guide the work of the Expert Committee on Combating Hate Speech (ADI/MSI-DIS). It will be preparing a draft Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to addressing hate speech within a human rights framework, including in the context of an online environment.
The final recommendation will be adopted by the Committee of Ministers and will provide non-binding guidance for member State. It will build on the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and will pay special attention to the online environment in which most of today’s hate speech can be found.
Hate crime is partly covered by the Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention on Xenophobia and Racism, and thus addresses cyberviolence motivated by certain biases, but not if motivated by other perceived characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation or disability. The work of the Council of Europe and other organisations on discrimination and intolerance is also relevant. Key issues are the role of service providers and the question of hate speech versus free speech.
Free speech versus hate speech:
Countries have different views about the degree to which speech should be limited by society – that is, where to set the balance between one person’s fundamental right to express him/herself and another person’s fundamental right to safety.
An educational youth campaign, called the “No Hate Speech Movement”, has been run by the Council of Europe since 2012. This campaign aimed at combating online racism and discrimination by mobilising young people and youth organisations to recognise and act against these human rights violations.
The No Hate Speech Movement developed among other things an overview of reporting structure for hate speech and cyberbullying to national structures.
Recommendations / Declarations of the Committee of Ministers
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on preventing and combating sexism
- Declaration (Decl/29/05/2019) by the Committee of Ministers on the legacy of the No Hate Speech Movement youth campaign
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)2 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the roles and responsibilities of internet intermediaries
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)6 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on a Guide to human rights for Internet users
Resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
- Resolution 2275 (2019) The role and responsibilities of political leaders in combating hate speech and intolerance
- Resolution 2276 (2019) Stop hate speech and acts of hatred in sport
- Resolution 2144 (2017) Ending cyberdiscrimination and online hate
- Resolution 1967 (2014) A strategy to prevent racism and intolerance in Europe
Recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)
- ECRI General Policy Recommendation No 15, on combating hate speech, adopted on 8 December 2015
- ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 6, on combating the dissemination of racist, xenophobic and antisemitic material via the internet, adopted on 15 December 2000
- Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, 2003
- Council of Europe: Action against cyberviolence
- European Court of Human Rights Case law on hate speech
- Germany: Making use of not specific to the online environment provisions
- INHOPE: Against illegal content and activity
- Mauritius: Awareness campaign on cyberbullying and cyberviolence
- No Hate Speech Movement
- Norway: Action against cyberviolence
- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and its No Hate Parliamentary Alliance
- Singapore: Cyber wellness
- Slovakia: Criminal Code provisions applied to cyberviolence
- UK: Prosecution of hate crime
The Committee of Experts on Combating Hate Speech (ADI/MSI-DIS) held its fourth and final meeting in a hybrid format on 6-7 and 20-21 October.
ADI/MSI-DIS members and other participants held constructive discussions on the draft Recommendation on Combating Hate Speech and its draft Explanatory Memorandum. They finalised and approved both texts, which will then be transmitted to the Steering Committee on Anti-Discrimination, Diversity and Inclusion (CDADI) and the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI). The draft Recommendation and its draft Explanatory Memorandum will be discussed by the Steering Committees with a view to be approved at the occasion of their plenary meetings in December.
This recommendation will provide non-binding guidance for member states and other key stakeholders on a comprehensive approach to addressing hate speech within a human rights framework. According to the mandate given to the Expert Committee on combating hate speech (ADI/MSI-DIS), it will build on the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and pay special attention to the online environment in which much of today’s hate speech can be found.