Hate speech is spreading in all our societies and constitutes a threat to open, pluralist and democratic societies. It is of great concern because in our digital age of today it travels very fast and reaches millions of people. It takes many forms but can be a manifestation of racism disseminating ideas of superiority and often also inciting to hatred and violence; women and girls face sexist hate speech; sometimes hate speech is motivated by bias against a person's disability or by belonging to a minority.
We need to address robustly the phenomenon of hate speech - both online and off line - and the European institutions work hard on regulatory frameworks and guidance documents to help the EU Member States address the issue.
We are equipped with a Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, which sets the framework for a common response to racist hate speech and hate crime. It obliges Member States to penalise the public incitement to violence or hatred against persons defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin. It also requires them to ensure that the racist and xenophobic motivation is considered as an aggravating circumstance or can be taken into account in the determination of the penalties.
This legislation has been complemented by EU rules to protect victims of crime, enshrined in particular in the Victims’ Rights Directive. It obliges EU Member States to ensure a fair and non-discriminatory treatment of victims of crime, and pays particular attention to victims of crime motivated by hate and bias.
We have also taken a range of policy measures and actions, including the signature of a Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online together with Facebook, Microsoft, Google (YouTube) and Twitter, in May 2016. The Code's main objective is to ensure that illegal hate speech is expeditiously assessed and, where necessary, removed, in particular on social media platforms where hate speech features frequently and spreads virally.
The impact of the Code of Conduct is regularly monitored and most recent results show continuous progress by the IT Companies on the swift removal of illegal hate speech. Three years after entering into the Code of Conduct, evaluations show that IT Companies respond to notices within 24h and remove on average 72% of content notified to them, compared to 59% in 2017 and only 28% in 2016.
In addition to progress in terms of removal of illegal hate speech, the Code of Conduct has fostered synergies between IT companies, civil society and Member State authorities in the form of a structured process of mutual learning and exchanges of knowledge. This has contributed to improving the effectiveness of the notification procedures, the quality of the content management policies in the companies, and has enabled joint campaigns and projects in the area of education and positive counter narratives.
The encouraging results of the work under the Code of Conduct have attracted the attention of other IT companies. Since 2018, Instagram, Google+, Snapchat, Dailymotion and most recently jeuxvideos.com announced the intention to join the Code of Conduct which comes under the hashtag #NoPlace4Hate.
Against this background you can rest assured, Mr Secretary General, that the EU and its Member States will lend all our support to the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech. We will share best practice and engage in collaboration and partnerships, where possible.
In conclusion allow me a last word of encouragement to ensure close collaboration among all relevant actors in the implementation of this Action Plan and those in charge of other related UN initiatives such as for example the #spreadnohate campaign of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, or other linked Action Plans, such as the one for Religious Leaders to prevent incitement to violence that could lead to atrocities and the soon to be issued Action Plan to safeguard religious sites. All are relevant and contribute to the same objective of creating a true culture of peace. Collaboration amongst them will foster synergies and ensure greater impact.
I thank you for this interactive dialogue and wish you the best of success with this new initiative.