Hate speech and hate crime are growing and damaging phenomena across Europe. This is recognised in the work of the European Commission and of the Council of Europe. European standards for equality bodies recommend that their mandate be extended to include hate speech. Few equality bodies have an explicit mandate on hate speech, many have, however, interpreted their mandate to include hate speech. This situation can leave them lacking the competences and resources required to make an impact.
The Equinet Perspective ’Extending the Agenda. Equality Bodies addressing Hate Speech’ was written by Niall Crowley, with the support of Equinet’s Policy Formation Working Group.
Twenty five equality bodies in 18 countries reported on their work for this perspective. Many identified a high priority for work on hate speech given its prevalence and given it drives discrimination and harassment. The national policy context is not always conducive to their work, with inadequate legislative provision and enforcement frameworks that lack capacity. Most equality bodies did not report comprehensive strategies underpinning their work on hate speech. This limits their focus on root causes of hate speech and their engagement in alternative narrative work.
However, a wide range of action on hate speech was reported by these equality bodies. This involves casework, research, policy advice, promotion of good practice, and communication. Low levels of casework are the norm, though a few equality bodies reported significant levels. Casework is largely reported by equality bodies with a decision-making function. A concern to deepen the knowledge base on hate speech is evident in the research work of equality bodies. Policy advice has largely focused on improving the legal basis for prosecuting hate speech comprehensively and effectively.
Good practice work by equality bodies has had a particular concern with supporting better enforcement in relation to hate speech by the relevant authorities. Work has also been done to enable educational establishments to address the issue and to engage political parties on the issue. Positive duties on public bodies, employers and service providers are valuable in driving good practice on hate speech. Communication work has largely been limited to making the issue of hate speech visible as a public concern.
In looking forward, it would be useful if the European Commission and the Member States could:
It would be useful if equality bodies could:
It would be useful if Equinet could:
Equinet organised a capacity building seminar on tackling hate speech in November 2018. You can find the summary of outcomes and have a look at the presentations here.