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 have guided the work of the Expert Committee on Combating Hate Speech (ADI/MSI-DIS). It prepared a 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 was adopted by the Committee of Ministers in May 2022. It provides non-binding guidance for member States, building on the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and paying special attention to the online environment in which most of today’s hate speech can be found. Thematic factsheets on hate speech are issued regularly. 

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. A Committee of Experts on Combating Hate Crime (PC/ADI-CH) started its work in 2022.


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. A multitude of case-law judgements and decisions can be consulted online, as well as CM/Rec(2022)16 on hate speech and its Explanatory Memorandum which gives guidance for the various stakeholders involved.

An educational youth campaign, called the “No Hate Speech Movement”, was run by the Council of Europe between 2012-2018. This campaign aimed at combating online hate speech 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 and has opened the path for follow-up initiatives at both the Council of Euope and national level.

International legislation
Soft Law / Non-binding instruments
Reporting Mechanisms

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In focus

 Council of Europe (May 2024): Recommendation CM/Rec(2024)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on combating hate crime NEW

 Council of Europe (December 2023): Implementing the First Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime on Xenophobia and Racism: Good practice study

 European Court of Human Rights (November 2023): Thematic factsheet on hate speech 

 Council of Europe (November 2022): Leaflet on CM/Rec(2022)16 on combating hate speech

  The Recommendation CM/Rec(2022)16 prepared by the Committee of Experts on Combating Hate Speech (ADI/MSI-DIS) provides 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), the Recommendation builds on the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (and draws inspiration also from the First Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime) and pays special attention to the online environment in which much of today’s hate speech can be found.

 The Committee of Experts on Combating Hate Crime (PC/ADI-CH) started its work in 2022. The main aim of the Committee has been to prepare and draft a comprehensive Recommendation to address hate crimes.  The approach also built upon the work of colleagues in the field to help set forward-looking standards in areas such as human rights, criminal justice, victim support and services, civil society participation. On 7 May 2024, the Committee of Ministers adopted the Recommendation CM/Rec(2024)4 on combating hate crime.