Mapping of national responses to hate speech
In 2019, the Council of Europe developed its first project using systemic design methodology to support national governments in improving their strategic capabilities of addressing the rising use of hate speech.
The Spanish Ministry of Interior’s Hate Crime Office agreed to pilot this methodology in Spain. The Council of Europe is grateful for the co-operation and support of the Spanish Hate Crime Office without whom this project would not have been possible.
Member States of the Council of Europe are increasingly aware of the threat that hate speech poses to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Developing effective strategies to address it has become a major concern for national authorities and civil society actors across Europe. Such strategies should enable member states to significantly reduce the incidence and spread of hate speech, while respecting freedom of expression.
National authorities are developing different initiatives to address hate speech, including in the internet space, such as legislation, improving investigation and judicial remedies, dialogue with media and support to education and awareness raising. While such efforts are laudable, a comprehensive and coherent approach is needed within a human rights framework to achieve sustainable results.
As outlined in General Policy Recommendation No. 15 on Combatting Hate Speech of the European Committee on Racism and Intolerance, a comprehensive approach must reconcile freedom of expression and other rights which are jeopardized by hate speech, and increase society’s resilience against it. The recommendation provides an inclusive definition of hate speech and outlines key components needed to ensure a comprehensive approach to combatting it, including legislative and administrative measures; self-regulation; support to victims; education and awareness raising measures including through use of counter speech.
The evolving case law of the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe’s standards, and monitoring findings of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance provide the framework needed to develop national strategies and action plans on hate speech.
A systemic analysis of the national approach to hate speech maps how members of society are impacted by hate speech and the redress available to them. The analysis maps the interaction individuals have with institutions, public bodies, NGO’s and private sector throughout the process of addressing the hate speech.
This analysis is not restricted to legal redress but must encompass all possible responses as outlined in ECRI GPR no 15, for example self-regulatory procedures, public condemnation, victim support and educational responses. By breaking down a system into its component pieces and studying how those component parts work and interact to accomplish their purpose helps identify gaps, challenges and new actions and tools.
Based on the outcomes of the systemic analysis of the national approach to hate speech, a range of interventions can be developed. Member states can be supported to:
- Establish national platforms on addressing hate speech involving authorities, parliament, judiciary, law enforcement, equality bodies/ombudsoffice and NGO’s, Media and Internet businesses to coordinate legislative, capacity-building and awareness raising initiatives on hate speech and discrimination.
- Review national legislation, in line with European standards on anti-discrimination and hate speech, to provide for a comprehensive definition of hate speech covering also online dimensions; sufficient mandate for relevant authorities to take action; set up redress mechanisms and victim support frameworks.
- Establish ethical codes on discrimination and use of hate speech for parliament, authorities, media, education, private sector, and NGO’s.
- Build capacity of prosecutor authorities, law enforcement and judiciary to investigate and prosecute the most extreme forms of hate speech.
- Build capacity of authorities, judiciary, law enforcement, equality bodies and NGO’s Media and Internet businesses to identify and document hate speech, and expose the risk it poses to those it targets and democratic society in general.
- Improve disaggregated data-gathering on hate speech and discrimination, including update of reporting protocols used by the different stakeholders and associated trainings. Collected data can inform policy development but also awareness raising and counter-narrative initiatives.
- Build capacities for, and support implementation of, public campaigns to raise awareness on the risk hate speech and counter hate narratives, promoting diversity, human rights and democratic participation for an inclusive society.
- Facilitate coordination and good practice exchange with European counter parts and Council of Europe sectors.