STAND-UP seminars on hate speech monitoring: background and approach

The STAND-UP Webinars foreseen for this month aim to promote and present the use of technologically advanced tools to combat and prevent hate speech, starting from the analysis of online hate speech, with a view to cooperation between public sector-Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) mainly-and the private sector (associations, NGOs and research centres).

Discriminatory behaviours, intolerance and hate are widespread in Europe towards individuals or entire communities based on biased motivations – race and ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or other peculiar features identifying those individuals. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Amnesty International and the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, the hate and discriminatory climate towards other minorities or sensitive groups grew significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic[1], which exacerbated social tensions and hate sentiments – against Asian people primarily, but also against Jewish, for instance,
always put in the spotlight by conspiracy theories.

Analysing the available data, despite the high number of hate crime incidents, “victims continue to avoid reporting” to LEAs (only one out of ten in Spain, for instance), together with a rise of hate speech, in particular in the online environment, resulting in companies and governments applying increasingly strict regulations.

The hate phenomena are inextricably connected, originating from hateful socio-cultural conduct based on a discriminatory foundation, marginalizing and harming – either physically or verbally – the targets.

However, the specificities of hate crimes and hate speech need to be distinguished, especially concerning the features of the online environment which shape how those phenomena manifest themselves. The criminal component can also lie in a comment on social media or in a text: the web analysis, in this sense, results prominent, not only in thoroughly understanding hate phenomena but also in preventing the escalation from online hate speech to offline hate crime.

The Regional OSINT Report drafted within STAND-UP will offer an insight into the partners’ countries, specifically investigating selected topics: xenophobia in Greece, Antisemitism in Italy and islamophobia in Spain.

The choice of the categories affected is the result of the debate rise during each national Focus Group, providing a broad perspective of the southern hate climate. While migrants and refugees are the most affected group, selecting hate incidents based on religion offers a socio-cultural framework of Italy and Spain which is inherently related to their historical roots. Moreover, both antisemitism and islamophobia actually cover other individuals’ features, as intersectional phenomena: from the religious aspect, they also encompass ethnicity and gender.