Council of Europe: ‘No Hate Web — No Hate Speech’

Report of the symposium held in Strasbourg from 28th to the 30th of May 2015.

During the spring of 2014, populist speeches spread and coloured the European parliamentary elections of 2014 dramatically.

Leaders of the European section of the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), together with Michel Aguilar, president of the Human Rights Committee (HRC) of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations (CINGO) of the Council of Europe (CoE), decided to set up a symposium on hate speech, on line as well as off line, in order to make a survey of the various faces of hate speech. Thanks to the hard work of a very efficient team, the symposium, held under the patronage of the Norwegian Secretary General of the CoE, was very successful.

The opening session

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Michel Aguilar, chairing the opening session of the symposium

Official statements by the Italian Deputy Secretary General of the CoE, the French national chair of the LICRA and the Polish President of CINGO, all expressed the importance of fighting against hate speech. After that, the French governmental Human Rights Defender and the Luxembourg President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) took the floor for the official introductory speeches.

The first day held at the CoE

The first day was dedicated to young people. About 300 secondary school pupils and high school students attended the symposium. Conceptual sessions and workshops focused on good practice useful to face on line hate speech. Workshops led under several frameworks were really dynamic and full of life. The knowledge of the topic and the relevant vocabulary expressed by the young stakeholders, all along full of jokes, was impressive.

Main conclusions of this day:

  • The hate web spares nobody.
  • Social networks are broader than frequently thought. For instance, on line games are to be considered as a social network.
  • Against defamation, insult or a salvo of abuse: don’t hesitate to ask the author to confirm the intentional offense and immediately submit the messages received to the authorities.
  • Teach young people that defamation and harassment are punishable by law.

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From left to right: Gabriela Battaini-Dragoni, deputy Secretary General of the CoE, Michel Aguilar, president of the INGO Human Rights Committee of the CoE, Alain Jakubowitcz, national president of LICRA ,and Anna Rurka, President of the INGO Conference of the CoE.

The second day held at the CoE

Several conceptual sessions and workshops were held during the second day:

  • High-level representatives of Orange Group, Facebook and Twitter expressed their policies to avoid harassment against people and intended to reduce hate on the web.
  • A child psychiatrist and researcher in cognitive sciences set out motivations and standard profiles of people targeted by radicalism.
  • Academics held a quite interesting session on freedom of religion, freedom of speech and secularism as a pillar for democracy and living together in inclusive societies.
  • Several associations presented their processes for teaching human rights and good practice for living together to children from 5 years old until adulthood. Others expressed their training on how to manage the meeting of different beliefs without them either being diluted in each other or falling into violence.

To end this second day an official session gathered the actors of the day with the German Vice-President of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), which is an active body of the CoE. The mayor of Strasbourg then welcomed all participants in the council building of the city and finally the day ended with a reception at the French National School of Administration located in Strasbourg.

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From left to right: Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE, Michel Aguilar, president of the INGO Human Rights Committee of the CoE, and Jacques Toubon, the French governmental Rights Defender.

The third and last day

The third and last day was held in a beautiful big room situated on the main square of the historical city, by invitation of the mayor of Strasbourg.

High school pupils and participants of the second day gathered once again for a last meeting with the leaders of the sessions of the previous day. People were involved in interesting discussions on concrete good practice and training. A final roundtable summarised the main perspectives identified by this symposium, just before the official speeches of the closing session.

Follow up

Rather than a end-stage, this symposium forms the base on which the HR Committee of CINGO will launch a renewed working group on the fight against hate speech. This working group will gather from the CINGO session of June 2015 and consider both on line and off line hate speech. The various tasks of the working group will be performed in close collaboration with several other bodies of the Council of Europe.

No Hate Speech

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