|Subject: Hate speech on the Internet and in online media|
|The Internet and online media enable users to create, publish, distribute and utilise multimedia content in many different ways, thus providing an arena for creativity and communication. In the sphere of human rights, the language of hatred, as such, is not a new problem. However, there are fresh grounds for concern in the volume of hate speech online and its potentially damaging impact on democratic development. According to recent reports on various countries by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), there has been no improvement in the situation with regard to hate speech in Europe: indeed, in recent months it has worsened. The incidence of online racism, xenophobia and incitement to racial hatred in Europe is increasing.
1. Is the Commission aware of this negative trend in the use of hate speech on the Internet?
2. What tools does the Commission have at its disposal to counter the use of hate speech on the Internet without curtailing online freedom of expression?
3. What steps does the Commission intend to take to prevent Internet users, and particularly young people, from using hate speech and also from being targeted by xenophobia and racism?
|Answer given by Ms Jourová on behalf of the Commission|
|The Commission is deeply concerned about the increasing incidence of expressions of racism and xenophobia on the Internet and attaches great importance to the need of strengthening EU action in this area.
The Commission acknowledges that, due to its special character, online hate speech creates special demands on enforcement and judicial authorities in terms of expertise, resources and the need for cross-border cooperation(1). Always mindful of the overarching right to freedom of expression, the Commission is currently examining such issues within its work on the implementation of the European Agenda on Security(2) and the Digital Single Market Strategy(3).
Ongoing initiatives at EU level already assist Member States in increasing their knowledge and capacity to combat online hate speech. Among others, the Commission has been holding dedicated discussions and exchanges of good practices with Member States on the issue in the context of its Expert Group on racism and xenophobia(4). In addition, through the new Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme, the Commission supports projects aimed at the development of efficient monitoring and reporting mechanisms for hate crime, with a particular focus on the Internet.
To the extent that the Internet is used to provide audiovisual media services(5), Article 6 of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive(6) requires Member States to ensure, by appropriate means, that audiovisual media services provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction do not contain any incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion and nationality. The Commission is committed to ensure, within its competences, that Member States observe this obligation.