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Regulating Hate Speech in Cyberspace An overview of this phenomenon and possible actions Sofie D’Hulster Centre for equal opportunities and opposition.

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Presentation on theme: "Regulating Hate Speech in Cyberspace An overview of this phenomenon and possible actions Sofie D’Hulster Centre for equal opportunities and opposition."— Presentation transcript:

1 Regulating Hate Speech in Cyberspace An overview of this phenomenon and possible actions Sofie D’Hulster Centre for equal opportunities and opposition to racism (Belgium)

2 Definition  “CYBERHATE” refers to the use of ICT to promote hatred, violence or discrimination….  …..against individuals or groups based on their skin color, so-called “race”, origin, sexual orientation, disability, handicap, faith, etc.  ….includes anti-Semitic remarks or remarks that deny the occurrence of the holocaust.  Appears in many ways: on blogs, websites, social network sites, chain mails, video’s, music applications, ….  Could be ‘incidential’ or with ‘malicious intentions’

3 Present Developments  The link between virtual and real world is now a “two-way freeway”. The profesionalized use of internet increases. The interactive networks are still on the rise with links to allied websites, such as Youtube and Facebook, … twitter… Newsletters, discussion forums and mailing lists are becoming increasingly important for the scene.  Internet is the key medium for extremist (right wing, islamic radicalized, …) groups for spreading the ideology, for targetting allies, for infiltration in social networks and mobelize youngsters...  Incidential racism or xenophobia is on the rise, citizans discussing about actual themes, overall we notice a climate of general distrust of Muslims and Roma, depicting Muslims as terrorists and security risks, as persons belonging to a ‘backwards’ religion…This social development impacted on the web, in chat boxes and newsgroups…

4  Besides this trend towards Web 2.0 activities, especially the availability of user-friendly music software and videogame authoring making the dissemination of hate, terror and recruitment for extremism very easy.  The 2007 report of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on "Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region" stated that online incitement is still on the rise and that the Internet is "increasingly used to transmit hate-motivated discourse and propaganda".

5 Monitoring cyber hate  Cyber hate Hotline; launched in 2006 in order to respond to the rise of racism and xenophobia on the Internet.  Awareness raising activities (in schools, on demand, but also for police and justice) ;  Advice and recommendations for policy makers, justice and practitioners.

6  The daily work of the hotline has shown that there is a huge willingness of users to complain about online hate mongers.  In 2010 the Centre monitored more than 500 complaints of online hate and discrimination, found by Internet users or staff on websites, web forums, in guest books, chat sessions, video clips or music files.  The centre reports a huge growth of hate videos on social network sites, on web logs and in chain mails. Anti-Semitic expressions and especially hate against Muslims is on the rise. Cyber Hate Hotline

7 Instruments to tackle cyber hate: Notice and Takedown, discourse analysis, legal action Three Belgian laws underpin the fight against online hate speech: the ANTI-RACISM LAW, or the law of July to punish certain crimes inspired by racism or xenophobia (amended by the law of May ); the ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW, or the law of May for fighting certain types of discrimination;   forbid persons to ‘incite to’ discrimination, segregation, hatred or violence against persons or groups of persons based on certain qualities (nationality, so-called ‘race’, skin color…). Malicious intention of the author is very important in the qualification of the concept ‘incitment’! the LAW AGAINST NEGATIONISM, or the law of March to punish the denial, minimization, justification or approval of the genocide committed by the German national socialist regime during the Second World War

8 1. Notice and take down  Procedure of notice and take down author is informed and motivated to take action to remove illicit material Effective because:  The Belgian constitutional system of cascading liability for press offences makes it possible for internet service providers to be held liable for racist statements and hate speech on their servers  Website administrators and owners of forums or blogs are increasingly often taking the initiative of imposing a code of conduct on their users (contains provisions about racism and xenophobia)  Web forums and newsgroups, hate videos on web 2.0 communities and trans-national neo-Nazi platforms are often hosted abroad so we jump over national law.  Refuse to removal could be an indaction for malicious intentions  Succesfull way of mediation  95% of cases solved!

9 2. Countering hateful chain mails  Most complaints concern hateful chain mails Sent to us by ‘general’ internet users, by seniors, employers, users who receive chain mails from friends and family… who look for counter actions without having to trace the original author or to action against the ‘mail friend’ We provide ‘evidenced based analysis’, ‘discourse analysis’, content analyses and facts and figures List of analyses can be consulted on our website Strong counter action!

10 3. Legal action  In case of … requests for removal are not acted upon Link with hate crime actions in real life Indication of malicious intent to spread hate, violence, …  The Centre has in its mission the possibility to file a complaint with the police or the public prosecutor  Doing so, we work together with a bailiff (an officer of the court who is employed to execute writs and processes and make arrests)

11 Examples of legal action - Neo-Nazi groups: currently we have a pending case about a neo-Nazi group: Bloed-Bodem-Eer en Trouw (Blood-Earth-Honor-Fidelity) - And two prosecutions: Assabyle, Vrij Historisch Onderzoek - In march three members of the Belgian Blood and Honour were convicted for oranizing an ss Memorial concert.  internet was used for overall communication to contact allies all over Europe and to spread practical information

12 Sharia4Belgium: Islam extremist group makes an interview on TV and publish it on their website →interview incites to hatred against homosexuals → We qualify the facts as violating our discrimination law and transfer a documented and analyzed complaint to the public prosecutor

13 But still facing problems  There is a wide disagreement about how freedom of speech applies to the Internet.International context: cyber hate is a global phenomenan  requires convention and international effort but lack of local political support  no priority for justice or police to tackle online xenophobia or racism Some politicians are reluctant to act, either because of free speech concerns or unwilling to enact legislation lack of legal liability of private sector: Many technical intermediates deny any legal liability and moral responsibility for the profusion of racist sites and content on their web pages,  commercial interest is always put in front!

14  companies as Facebook continuously question why revisionism should be deleted, or refuse to delete hate-groups and permanently refer to the First Amendment  sometimes lead to absurd situations in which a website that is convicted by a Belgian court sometimes remains accessible to the Belgian public because it is hosted abroad.  An important issue is advocating for is the harmonization of laws against cyber hate  2008/913/JHA Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia the legal system allowing a member state to fight racism, xenophobia and discrimination (specifically art 9). 2008/913/JHA  Convention on cybercrime of the Council of Europe  Additional protocol to the Convention on cybercrime (Belgium signed but didn’t ratify)

15 The strenght of a ‘glocal’ network!  Local: We have strong relations with civil rights organisations, anti fascist front, public organisations…to provide information on societal tendencies, rise of new websites, actions of extremists planned in real life…  Global: We are a member of INACH, the international organisation against cyber hate, a network to counter and address all forms of online discrimination. (18 country members, like US, Canada, UK, France, Germany,Belgium...). handling complaints about online discrimination, providing information and raising awareness, educating youngsters and teachers.

16 Awareness raising activities In Schools  Fostering media literacy and critical thinking is the most important instrument to tackle hate mongers and the spread of discriminatory content on the Internet.  debate about the limits of freedom of speech, the effects of hate speech, legal action, and individual responses.  We run 20 workshops per year  The largest group of internet users is between years old and is more than 2 hours online per day

17 On demand  workshops for newspapers and webmasters  Most newspapers have afterwards introduced restrictions to the comment functions in their discussion forums in an attempt to gain better control and limit racism, sexism and personal attacks.  For the latter, workshops focus more on the law surrounding hate speech on the Internet and how a moderator should intervene.

18 advice and recommendation  The Centre advises the authorities on how to carry out their responsibilities in relation to hate speech on the Internet.  monitoring developments in other countries to ensure local and national authorities are kept up to date on latest legal, policy and practical developments.

19 Examples  Chain mail with big impact! "Mass mobilization - No swimming pool for Taliban in Gent. On Saturday afternoon a swimming pool in Gent is fully booked for Muslim women. Nobody else can enter the swimming pool and some women are swimming fully dressed.“ An inhabitant of the city of Gent had sent this to her friends. An investigation lead by the Center and the municipality of Gent showed that the story was false and by far exaggerated. This practice had never existed. After the first version had been sent, a new one appeared rapidly with pictures of Muslim women in Burkini and the message 'no swimming pool for Taliban'. The Flemish extreme right party (Vlaams Belang) broadcasted a press communiqué on the subject, and some members of the party protested in front of the swimming pool against this discriminatory practice. The example illustrates what impact a chain mail can have in a whole city.

20  Lots of racist mails, stereotype movies or jokes are spread in mails  main subject is mostly Moroccan, Turks Muslims, migrants, asylum seekers etc. ex:  student is author of news letter ‘Combat everyone White’ and forwards the mail to all his school friends.  ‘all these cancer monkeys must rot in hell, this is our country, no French in Flanders, no islamisation or other diseases in our Country… we fight for our future and for our children.’ Ex:  students put swastika on a picture of two deceased Turkish students and add the text ‘another two Turks less’  Positive initiatives YouTube  red flag and security Centre  National newspapers in Belgium working together with the Centre

21 CONTACT Centre for equal opportunities and opposition to racism Koningstraat BRUSSELS Sofie D’Hulster tel: +32 (0) Free tel number:


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