IGF 2022 Day 2 Open Forum #75 Combating Hate Speech – Answering the H & 5 W's Questions

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> MENNO ETTEMA: Very good. Okay, it's quarter past 2:00, I think 1:15 in Addis Ababa, and 8:15 in the morning in New York ‑‑

>> SIMONA CRUCIANI: Two hours ahead of you. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: There you go, so 4:15. I'm very happy for everyone to join this session on the W questions ‑‑ the what, why, and how are we going to combat hate speech together. This session is a one‑hour open forum, co‑organized by the Council of Europe and the UN Agency on Prevention of Genocide. And we will have a short introduction about two standard‑setting documents or two guiding documents, from the UN and from the Council of Europe, and afterwards, we'll split into working groups, or breakout groups, where we will dive more deeply into various elements of how to combat hate speech, through education, by using monitoring data, legislation, or support measures for victims. So, we'll work out breakout groups, and then we will come back in plenary to hear from the various groups what they came up with; how they think that the standards can be used; and what can be done in this area that they've been discussing and who has which roles to take, so it's multi‑stakeholder, typically for IGF, it's a multi‑stakeholder platform so it's important all actors have space in the room to discuss how they can contribute to combatting and preventing hate speech. That is the line for today. 

My name is Menno Ettema. I work at the Council of Europe in the Antidiscrimination Department and I was Co‑Secretary to the recommendation on combatting hate speech that has just been published, and I will moderate most today, and I am joined by our onsite moderator in the session. I will give the floor straight away to Julia Mozer, my colleague and Co‑Secretariat to the recommendation to quickly introduce the recommendation. Afterwards, I'll give the floor to Simona from the UN to discuss, to introduce the UN Action Plan on Combatting Hate Speech. I am checking if Julia's here. 

>> Menna, we will have statements of two minutes and then go to the breakout rooms, so please do not leave. Stay with us.  I'm just checking if Julia is here. 

>> DEBORA BARLETTA: She just joined. 

>> JULIA MOZER: Yes, I managed. Hello, everyone. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: The floor is yours, Julia. 

>> JULIA MOZER: Wonderful. Let me start by apologizing. I had some issues, as many others, to step in, but it is now a pleasure to be here. Thank you very much for giving me the floor. I'm Julia Mozer. I work for the Internet Division for the Council of Europe and was co‑Secretary of the Group that collaborated the combatting hate speech adopted by the community of ministers in May 2022.

I would like to discuss the recommendation quickly because I know the breakout sessions are then to go and focus on specific aspects that are set in the recommendation itself.  So, just a couple of information regarding why this instrument was considered necessary for European states.  There is more and more awareness that hate speech phenomenon is complex, it is deep‑rooted, and it is multidimensional, and one too many examples where witnessed about how it negatively affects different groups but also the society at large.  Also, in parallel with the digital developments, we have seen it increasingly present, not only offline, but also online, but equally resulting in interference with the human rights and violations of human rights and freedoms. 

So, the ambition of the Council of Europe recommendation was to combat hate speech by providing a comprehensive and multi‑stakeholder framework, identify and implement measures to prevent and to combat it, but also to promote a culture of inclusiveness and help those targeted by hate speech to assert their rights.  To achieve this goal, it was first crucial to create a common definition of hate speech, which was lacking, and at least be taken as a reference in order to apply the guidelines of the recommendation in a consistent and coherent manner. So, we now have a proposed definition of hate speech. 

What is important to realize is that it was a common agreement of the member states to have a broad definition, so something that was proposed to be open‑ended in listing all kind of grounds of discrimination but remaining open so that it can be interpreted not only in line with the volitive nature of the convention of Human Rights but also with the development of the hate speech phenomenon itself.

So, coming to the proposed measures, the member states are required to ensure that properly calibrated legal policy and other measures are to be applied against hate speech based on its severity, the harm it causes, and its impact. And for this very reason, the recommendation makes a distinction of hate speech, between hate speech that is prohibited under criminal law, hate speech that is subject to civil or administrative law, and other types of expression, offensive or harmful expressions which are not sufficiently severe to be prohibited, but nevertheless, can call for alternative responses. 

We will focus on the legal framework covering criminal, civil, and administrative law regarding hate speech taking place online during one of the breakout sessions, so the only thing, the only general remark I will make now is that the entire approach follows the principle of proportionality, requiring the fora inter alia to apply criminal sanctions only as (?). 

But to take a comprehensive approach, legal measures are also proposed alongside known legal measures, so promoting awareness‑raising, education, training, and the use of counterspeech and alternative speech and intercultural dialogue are measures proposed in order to address the root causes of hate speech, but also to inform about the harm that it causes. 

Other measures are provided in order to require states to put in place the effective support mechanisms needed for those targeted by hate speech, so including psychological, medical assistance, but also to raise awareness about their rights and enable them to report hate speech. 

Again, other measures are indicated in order to monitor hate speech, analyze trends, and make it available, also with a view to anticipate some forms of hate speech. Now, the fact that the recommendation addresses not only Council of Europe state authorities but also other key stakeholders is a peculiarity of this instrument but also something that was somehow a necessity for the recommendation to be comprehensive and to be effective.  In fact, it came clear that other actors, such as political officials, parties, media, Internet intermediaries and civil society organizations have a key role to play, and without their involvement, the states alone cannot ‑‑ are unlikely to make it. So, this was also the reason why in the very drafting of this instrument, we reached out and benefitted from the support of a variety of states authorities but also representatives of Internet platforms, non‑governmental organizations, partners, and international organizations, such as relevant agencies of the European Union and offices of the United Nations. 

Now I wish to conclude these preliminary remarks because there is much more debate to be done than focusing on specific sections, and therefore, I pass the floor to you, Menno. Thank you very much. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Thank you very much, Julia. And indeed, the breakout groups will come back more on various chapters. We should be joined by Simona from the UN agency, but I don't see her in the list at the moment. So, I take this that she has not managed because of technical reasons, so I'll take the opportunity to quickly mention that the UN also adopted an action plan on combatting hate speech. It's the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, to be precise. This is from 2019, if I remember correctly. Yeah, 2019. And it's basically guides the UN agency on what they should be doing to combat hate speech, but also as such, it is not only a plan for the UN agencies, but also for member states and other actors that the UN engages with on combatting hate speech.  And there's many different subchapters, and I think the original document was later worked out to a much more detailed framework of action.

And part of what I think characterized this action plan of the UN is the need to work multi‑stakeholder to have to convene all of the relevant actors to work on this, to engage with new and traditional media and to use technologies in the work. There's a very strong emphasis on using of education as a tool and counterspeech, of countermeasures. 

I think the underlying principles, of course, are for the UN to promote peaceful, inclusive, and just societies based on human rights and understanding. And to do this, they were engaged also in advocacy, very clear and precise external communication as UN agencies and building competencies of UN staff, but also in the member states to build the competencies amongst different partners to address hate speech.

I think what's particularly important to mention is that the UN declared 18th of June International Day on Combatting Hate Speech, and they had their first international day this year and it will again be next year, so it will be now an annual event that takes part. And I'll just put in the link to the UN Strategy in the chat.  There you go.

So, I apologize on the behalf of Simona that she could not be here, but I know several of our speakers have also worked with UN strategy, so they may be able to further elaborate on the strategy in breakout groups. 

As I mentioned, and as Julia also mentioned, the recommendation is recently adopted in May. The UN Strategy is already adopted a little bit longer, but it's still in the process of being rolled out and further made concrete, and that's why this session that we want to hold today at IGF is not about what are the problems of hate speech or why is the problem of hate speech, but rather to say, okay, there are recommendations out there, there are clear guidelines for it now by the UN and by the Council of Europe for the European space, and now what? How do we implement it? I mean, the document is only the starting point. The recommendations are a starting point, and we actually need to move to action. And the question is, how do we do that? Who does what and when and where and how? So, these are the W questions that are critical in the title. The W questions, the what, the where, the when, the how and the who, which we would like to discuss in more detail. Thank you, Sejal. She provided detailed guidelines in the chat, which I think is much more ‑‑ which covers much more than I was able to do in the last two minutes. 

To allow us to further deepen the discussion, to also learn from practices that exist across the globe, to also invite participants in an open forum, we'll have breakout groups the whole hour, so until 3:00 my time or 5:00 in Ethiopia. So, we have a half an hour. The participants online can choose between three breakout groups.  Breakout rooms. 

One is Legal Framework, which will look into how to provide legal framework covering criminal, civil, administrative law that can actually be human rights compliant and proportionate to the context and actually be a useful tool to combat hate speech.  That's Group 1. 

The second group is Support Measures, which will look into how to provide support for persons targeted by hate speech.  The third one is Monitoring. This is about how do we monitor hate speech effectively online in particular and how can we use such kind of data to more effectively address hate speech through policies and practices? 

And then we have a Working Group on Education and Counterspeech with the question, okay, how can education and the use of counterspeech actually be used to prevent and counter hate speech and how can this be more effectively implemented and supported for a long‑term, yeah, racks to hate speech. 

Then there is the last one, the onsite room, which is specifically for people that are in Addis Ababa. That breakout group will be guided by Jutta on the spot, and that allows you to look away from the screen for a moment and discuss between you, and then come back with ideas.

The idea is that we come back at the whole hour, so 5:00 in Ethiopia or 3:00 Strasbourg and then we have feedback from the working groups on what were the key points of action or examples of action that can be taken and by whom, so we'll have a quick round of all the feedback. And then, of course, it will lead to the final report. That's it from me for now. I'll see you in half an hour from now, and I invite everyone to choose the breakout room that they would like to join, including in Ethiopia, or if you want to join the onsite discussion, then you follow Jutta's lead. I'll see you in half an hour. 

>> Jutta CROLL: Okay, I hope this will work. Those of you who want to join one of the Number 1 to 4 breakout rooms, you may stay in room, but then separate a bit. Or otherwise, if we want to do together the fifth breakout, then I will just suggest I come a bit closer to you or you come a bit closer to me so that it's easier to discuss. And I think we are free to choose from the four issues in the other breakout rooms, what you are most interested in. 

>> STEFAN MANEVSKI: Maybe quickly to invite those who haven't chosen their breakout rooms, if you go to the bottom, there is a button "breakout room" and you can actually choose directly the room that you would like to go. By clicking on the button and then joining it.  Perfect. I see less and less people here, which is good news, because it means you are joining your groups. 

>> JOSEPHINE BALLON: Excuse me, is one of the organizers still here in the room? 

>> STEFAN MANEVSKI: Yes, hi, Josephine. 

>> JOSEPHINE BALLON: Hi. So, I went to the breakout session that I was supposed to speak at, but nobody was there, so, and there is I think still nobody there. 

>> STEFAN MANEVSKI: Which is the one? Is it on ‑‑

>> JOSEPHINE BALLON: I can also stay there and wait for a while. It's Support Networks, the second one. It was only me and my colleague that was there from my organization, yeah, and nobody else. I think, do you need me here? 

>> STEFAN MANEVSKI: I guess, yeah, it's a little bit tricky because I see that there are two people there, but I don't know who they are. 

>> JOSEPHINE BALLON: Yeah, that's me and my colleague. 

>> STEFAN MANEVSKI: Yeah, okay, I assume then. Um... yeah, I don't know. Probably if you can connect with the onsite room or somebody, then it could make sense, because then the other ones are ‑‑ yeah, we only have also one more participant in Monitoring as well, so it's not a lot of people in general in the different breakout rooms. If you can check, maybe ‑‑

>> JOSEPHINE BALLON: What should I ‑‑

>> STEFAN MANEVSKI: Problem merging the support measures ‑‑ yeah, I don't know if it makes sense to merge support measures with monitoring ‑‑

>> JOSEPHINE BALLON: Even have a half an hour and I have prepared something, so I don't want to crash another session. 

>> STEFAN MANEVSKI: That's the thing. Maybe if you can wait for a couple seconds there and then see if there is joining in, or stay in the main room and we can use this space for the discussion on Support Measures. 

>> JOSEPHINE BALLON: Okay. Then I wait five more minutes and if nobody joins, I go to the onsite room but assume that I'm not needed, okay? 

>> STEFAN MANEVSKI: In the onsite room, for sure, there are the participants who are there, so I guess you can connect with them directly and also exchange a little bit. I think it makes sense there. 

 (Breakout groups commenced.)

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Hello. It's 3:00 here, 5:00 in Ethiopia. So, asking people to wrap up their working groups. Jutta, can I ask you if the group is ready onsite? Jutta? Okay. I don't know, Jutta, if you can hear me, we came back to the plenary. 

>> BASTIAAN WINKEL: I see there are still ten people in the working groups, Menno. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Hmm hmm. 

>> DEBORA BARLETTA: Yeah, maybe they're finalizing. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Yes, I see. 

>> DEBORA BARLETTA: But maybe we can say "hi." 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Yes, definitely. I'll just ask Stefan to come back.  Yes, I hear Stefan saying that the group is coming back. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Jutta, are you there? Great.  Hi, Kathrin. Good to see you on site. Perfect.  Then if the central ‑‑ yes, exactly. Hello, Jutta. Welcome.  Perfect.  I can't hear you.  Yes, exactly.  Okay, I'm very sorry. Maybe the technician on site can check what's with the mic, but maybe we take the opportunity then to give a small round of feedback from the other working groups that have joined. I understood that not all working groups took place because of the limited amount of groups. 

One of the groups that took place was on Education and Counterspeech. Maybe, Debora, do you want to quickly recap what we were discussing there? I'm trying to see if she's hear. 

>> DEBORA BARLETTA: Yes. Thank you, everyone, people on site, especially. Quickly on Education and Counterspeech, it was really from the beginning the issue, or making people aware of what actually is or is not hate speech. So, we're responding. So, there was the need of how education can actually tackle that by increasing the notions, and you know, level up the knowledge of people in being able to respond. 

And then there was another observation, for instance, on the issues that we have when it comes to contrasting hate speech, you know, on finding, actually, the ways to enable, especially young people, to do so when we are in hostile environments, when basically there are older people that already kind of compromise the environments which we are in and, basically, don't allow us to do much. And so, there is, again, the need to have more recognition and work don't done by civil society and looking for coalition allies. 

So, we talked about recent Italian environment. So, even when there are not‑so‑good conditions, by putting together different stakeholders from different fields, they can all use education together to tackle these issues and to act to integrate what is the human rights‑based approach, as it's presented in the recommendation in the plan, to initiate actions, and to advocate for changing from different point of view, pushing together, as, for instance, different part of civil society, we talked about different roles of university, but also of cultural panel environment, not only those related to formal education, but different fields of our ordinary life and how they can integrate the efforts to integrate human rights‑based approach to ethically integrate this to fight hate speech and ask for regulation. So, I would say these were the main findings, but I'm very curious to hear from others. I don't know if you want to add anything, Menno.  

>> MENNO ETTEMA: I don't have much. We don't have much time, but just one point is that there was the question, freedom of expression versus hate speech, how to do that. And the point was here that education's actually ‑‑ a safe educational setting is a perfect moment to actually discuss responsibilities that come with the right to expression and right to opinion and also the question of how to address hate speech. Not everything is necessarily libel under criminal administrative law, how you could still take action on it, or you could still challenge certain things that are being said on how it's being said, often, and education is a wonderful tool to actually make people reflect on their behavior and behavior as a group, within a group, especially in a classroom setting, for example, in a youth group.

And there were some tools. I will share the tools that we shared. I'll put it in the chat as well for everyone to take.  Thank you very much, Debora, and the participants that were in our subgroup.

The Monitoring group just joined. A lively discussion, I assume, because you were a bit late, so that must be a good sign. So, I give the floor to ‑‑ who do I give, just to hear very shortly one or two minutes what was discussed in your subgroup? 

>> Stefan MANEVski: I'll try very quickly to summarize. Hello, everybody. I'm Stefan Manevski, also working with Menno at the Council of Europe. We had a very lively after‑lunch or before‑lunch discussion with three people, with Sejal and Maren, and I would like to thank them for this little exchange that we had in the group. So, I'll also try to summarize a few things, but then also feel free to take the floor, Sejal, if there is anything to be added, and also Maren, as well, from your perspective.

A couple of things we discussed on how to monitor hate speech so that, basically, that we can effectively use this data that has been gathered through policy and practice. And basically, there is a lot of complementarity when we speak about international standards, which are requiring qualitative and quantitative analysis, basically to look into different thought patterns within the country when it comes to hate speech, but also to make sure that the mechanisms are effective to react to that hate speech, this phenomena in general.

There were several calls that were made, both from ‑‑ well, our speaker, Sejal, also when it comes to the UN agencies, but I guess it's also beyond that. It's also this need to reach out to tech companies and try to work more directly with them, and the same time also Maren shared the optimistic view of how sometimes the UN regulations or European regulations in general, also both the Council of Europe ones are wider ones and also create this impetus with corporations or companies, because then it drives this cooperation in a certain direction, which goes more into discussing specific issues on how to prevent hate speech through the different online platforms.

Now, there, there is this question of what is the responsibility of tech companies to collect and disseminate data, how to make this data publicly available, but then also how to make this data also used from within the process of public policy and beyond those systems of programming.

We also discussed a little bit on the different international standards, how they also contribute on national level. There was also this optimistic view shared that it doesn't only help to set the direction, but very often, it's quite important to have this process of cooperation and share and have a bit of a wider view, when we speak about hate speech and the monitoring that is also useful to see how some developments and some policy actions or programs in different countries actually create results, not necessarily to one's own country, but also trying to compare with other countries. And this is particularly interesting and applicable in Europe, as this was more of our little discussion group. 

I covered a little bit this talk on transparency.  I think also this call of having widely disseminated, publicly available data, again, comes back into the same discussion. And I'm very sure I'm forgetting some of this, so I would like to invite maybe both the members of our group, especially Sejal and also Maren, if you have something to add, feel free to do so. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: If you want to add, please, be very, very short. 

>> SEJAL PARMAR: Yes. Thanks very much, Stefan, for that neat summary of what we discussed. I think another area where the Council of Europe recommendation provisions around monitoring are particularly strong is that it recommends that member states take appropriate measures to ensure that law enforcement effectively record and monitor complaints concerning hate speech and also set up an anonymized archive of complaints. And that body of information should be available or should be disaggregated but also should be available to relevant stakeholders wishing to access that system.

And also, it suggests or recommends that member states should establish a data access framework, allowing such stakeholders to access relevant information that the State has in relation to hate speech in the online environment, so I think that's really an advance that hasn't been seen elsewhere at the regional level. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Thank you very much for pointing it out, Sejal. And I do invite people to read the recommendation. It explains the memorandum where we elaborate much more on these kinds of conceptual thinkings. We'll put the link again in the chat in a minute.

I just want to check, Josephine, did your group have a meeting or not? Because I know that there were not so many participants. 

>> JOSEPHINE BALLON: No, we didn't. Nobody showed up. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Okay, great. Then I give the floor ‑‑ well, not great. I'm sorry. But then I go straight to the onsite Working Group. Jutta, can you ‑‑

>> Jutta CROLL: Thank you. We took the first breakout, which was Legal Framework, and we got an overview from several countries from South Africa where there is a comprehensive legal framework, but it's still difficult to criminalize hate speech online. There are no criminal sanctions on this. It's mostly working on a notice and takedown approach. 

We then learned that German law's very similar to the South African law, and we learned from Kenya that there is a legal framework, a national act that has implemented an institution that is independent from government and is charged with monitoring hate speech and also content that is based on ethnic differences. 

And we learned from Ethiopia, which is very interesting, they have also an approach that is comparable to the German Network Enforcement Act with a time frame of 24 hours after receiving a notice of hate speech, that hate speech has to be deleted from the platform.

Hate speech is defined as a crime, as well as misinformation. And for example, if an account has more than 5,000 followers and hate speech is disseminated, that would lead to an aggravation of the punishment. So, the wider the hate speech is spread, the more, the greater the punishment will be.

We heard from Sri Lanka that there is no hate speech law, but there are some laws that could be used to address hate speech. For example, laws about discrimination. Let me have a look at my ‑‑ I think that was the country overview.  We were also informed of the necessity to address hate speech with comprehensive laws, especially from Ethiopia, where it was said that genocide has been preceded by hate speech, so that makes clear the importance of addressing hate speech. 

We have two main takeaways for you for the report of the session. One is that, although we need a definition of hate speech that provides for like a global understanding, there still needs to be taken into account the local, regional, and national background, and that might make a difference to the definition of what is hate speech and what is not seen as hate speech. And then, everybody agreed that even though there is legislation in place in various countries, the implementation of the law is very difficult. Law enforcement is facing difficulties to collect evidence, whether it is hate speech or not, and even following up with those that have been disseminating hate speech is very difficult to have enough evidence to bring that to prosecution. So, that's from Ethiopia, from Addis Ababa. Thank you. 

>> MENNO ETTEMA: Thank you very much, Jutta. And it's also good to hear the context and experiences from different member states of the UN across the globe. With this, the time is up. I know it's way too short. However, through the links, you can also get in touch with the Council of Europe Secretariat, if you have further questions about our approach to hate speech and what's happening in other European member states. Same goes for the UN; you can contact them directly. Otherwise, through the contact form on their website, you can also get in touch. 

And on the IGF website interactive schedule, you can see the speakers and also connect directly with us through the chat function or the direct linking function. And yeah, I hope to continue this discussion on how to address hate speech effectively across the globe in partnership, because I think it's a lot about multi‑stakeholder and working together for more equality in human rights, online and offline.

Thank you very much for the technical support team and Jutta for helping us onsite, for monitoring, all the speakers, thank you for the prep work and for facilitating the discussions in the various breakout groups. Thank you very much, everyone. And with this, I close. 

>> Jutta CROLL: Thank you, Menno, for having us, and to all the people in the room. We will report back. Thank you.