Council of Europe proposes a comprehensive legal and policy framework to combat hate speech

Strasbourg 20 May 2022
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Council of Europe proposes a comprehensive legal and policy framework to combat hate speech

During its annual session held in Turin, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted the Recommendation on Combating Hate Speech, building on the case-law of the ECtHR and drawing upon existing Council of Europe texts such as ECRI’s GPR 15, and the legacy of the No Hate Speech Movement Youth Campaign. The Recommendation takes a comprehensive approach, considered necessary to prevent and combat hate speech effectively offline and online, comprising a coherent strategy and a wide-ranging set of legal and non-legal measures that take due account of specific situations and broader contexts.

For the purposes of this Recommendation, a definition of hate speech is provided in the Appendix which requires member States to ensure that a range of properly calibrated measures are in place to effectively prevent and combat the different type of hateful expressions, which vary in their severity, the harm they cause and their impact in different contexts.

A specific section concerning online hate speech recalls important principles that should be applied, such as procedural requirements for removal of hate speech, redress and appeal mechanisms, procedural safeguards regarding disclosure of user identity and cooperation with law enforcement and other relevant stakeholders, need for transparency and reporting requirements.

The text addresses key actors, other than the member States, playing a crucial role in preventing and combating hate speech. These are public officials, elected bodies and political parties, internet intermediaries, media and civil society organisations. The section on awareness-raising, education, training, and use of counter and alternative speech provides guidance on measures other than legal and regulatory to be adopted to address hate speech. It aims at triggering relevant initiatives and calls on various stakeholders which can play a crucial role in the development and implementation of such initiatives.

The recommendation also calls on member States to put in place effective support mechanisms that help those targeted by hate speech and requires them to ensure that their policies, legislation, strategies and action plans against HS are evidence-based and duly reflect an age- and gender-sensitive approach. The final section puts an accent on the importance of boosting national coordination and international cooperation with relevant stakeholders. The recommendation is accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum.

Following the decision of the Committee of Ministers on 16 March 2022 the Russian Federation is no longer a member of the Council of Europe. The website will be updated as soon as possible to take account of this development.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression"

Art. 10 European Convention on Human Rights


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