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Join forces against cyberdiscrimination and online hate

The PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination today called on Council of Europe member states to take action to combat cyberdiscrimination and online hate through the adoption of effective legislation and awareness-raising and education programmes, as well as greater co-operation on the part of internet intermediaries. 

“Online hate is a reflection of hate in our societies, and its importance must under no circumstances be played down. It is crucial therefore that strategies to eliminate hate in the online environment acknowledge and tackle the hatred and intolerance in people’s hearts and minds,” said Marit Maij (Netherlands, SOC), when presenting her report on the subject.

Following her recommendations, the committee called for national legislation to allow for the effective prosecution of online hate speech, “while fully respecting freedom of expression and in particular the freedom to criticise the actions of public authorities.” It was also necessary to provide training to police, prosecutors and judges on the seriousness of all forms of online hate. Victims’ complaints should be “taken seriously” and they should receive “full support in dealing with its consequences”.

The text adopted unanimously also seeks to raise awareness in society about the extent and impact of online hate. Programmes should be launched to encourage responsible use of the internet, to combat cyberbullying and also to help victims to deal with it, while it should be ensured that such initiatives and programmes are sustainably funded and designed to have a lasting impact.

With regard to internet intermediaries, there is a need to promote efforts by such intermediaries to ensure that content that amounts to online hate speech is rapidly removed “without prejudice to the possibility of taking legal proceedings against its author”. The law should establish the responsibility and role of internet intermediaries as regards the removal of online hate-motivated content, using as far as possible a notice-and-take-down approach.

The members reiterated the Assembly’s call to declare 22 July the “European Day for Victims of Hate Crime”, in commemoration of the day of the terrorist attacks in Oslo and on Utøya Island.

The draft resolution and draft recommendation will be debated in Strasbourg at the Assembly’s next plenary session (23-27 January 2017).