Hate speech, populism, and fake news on social media
- Pleased that the Conference of Presidents decided to include a debate on hate speech, populism, and fake news on social media on the plenary agenda.
- Encouraged by the European Commission setting up a High Level Group on Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.
- Welcome the signing of the EU Code of Conduct with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube (IT companies) to counter illegal hate speech online.
- Stress the need to defend the right to freedom of expression, which, as the European Court of Human Rights has stated, is applicable not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.
- The issues of hate speech, populism, and fake news on social media are topical given the rise in racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and other forms of intolerance and the increasing use of social media networks.
- The spread of illegal hate speech online not only negatively affects the groups or individuals that it targets, it also negatively impacts those who speak out for freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination in our open societies and has a chilling effect on the democratic discourse on online platforms.
- Illegal hate speech, as defined by the Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law and national laws transposing it, means all conduct publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.
- Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube (IT companies) – also involved in the EU Internet Forum – share, together with other platforms and social media companies, a collective responsibility and pride in promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world.
- Broader society and in particular civil society organisations also have a crucial role to play in the field of preventing the rise of hatred online, by developing counter-narratives promoting non-discrimination, tolerance and respect, including through awareness-raising activities.
- Racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and other forms of intolerance should never be accepted or normalised and political leaders must lead by example on social media.
- In order to prevent the spread of illegal hate speech, it is essential to ensure that relevant national laws transposing the Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA are fully enforced by Member States in the online as well as the in the offline environment. While the effective application of provisions criminalising hate speech is dependent on a robust system of enforcement of criminal law sanctions against the individual perpetrators of hate speech, this work must be complemented with actions geared at ensuring that illegal hate speech online is expeditiously acted upon by online intermediaries and social media platforms.
- Call for the EU to put forward proposals to update and strengthen the Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA to cover all grounds in line with the Victim Crimes Directive.
- Call for constant monitoring of the voluntary EU Code of Conduct with IT companies.
- Call for the EU to put forward a proposal for hard legislation if IT companies fail to take to implement the Code of Conduct.
- Call for the IT companies to share best practices with other internet companies, platforms and social media operators.
- Call for the EU and Member States to ensure access to a representative network of civil society organisations partners and trusted reporters in all Member States to help provide high quality notices.
- Call for the EU and Member States to ensure training to enable civil society organisation partners to fulfil the role of a trusted reporter or equivalent, with due respect to the need of maintaining their independence and credibility.
- Call for IT companies to intensify their work with civil society organisation partners to deliver best practice training on countering hateful rhetoric and prejudice and increase the scale of their proactive outreach to civil society organisation partners to help them deliver effective counter speech campaigns.
- Call for the EU, in cooperation with Member States, to contribute to this endeavour by taking steps to map civil society organisation partners specific needs and demands in this respect.
- Call for the IT companies to provide regular training to their staff on current societal developments and to exchange views on the potential for further improvement.
- Call for the IT companies to intensify cooperation between themselves and other platforms and social media companies to enhance best practice sharing.
- Call for the IT companies, recognising the value of independent counter speech against hateful rhetoric and prejudice, to continue their work in identifying and promoting independent counter-narratives, new ideas and initiatives and supporting educational programs that encourage critical thinking.