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.


“Defining Hate Crime” STAND UP seminar at European Parliament

A significant number of contributions made by European experts from the legal and police fields, civil society organisations, NGOs, policy makers and academia, were discussed in Brussels at the seminar “Standing Up Against Hate Crime”. The seminar was organised by the STAND-UP project at the European Parliament on 28 and 29 September.

The meeting aimed to find a common definition of “hate crime” in order to support the RIPP-cycle (reporting-investigating-prosecuting-preventing) and ensure the highest level of victim assistance within the framework of multi-agency cooperation.

During the two days of the workshop, relevant case studies across Europe were analysed during the meeting, including results obtained in the focus groups held in Greece, Italy and Spain. Proposals for standardised reporting procedures focus on using technology were also presented. In addition, experts discussed bias motivations behind hate crimes, the environment in which the hatred occurred and the application of intersectional approaches.

Defining Hate Crime: Towards a common European Definition / Wednesday 28th

The meeting held opened with a round table of experts on hate crimes.  Giovanni Gasparini, Deputy Public Prosecutor of Vecine on behalf of Sandro Raimondi, Public Prosecutor’s Office of Trento (TNJudPol) presented the STAND-UP project, followed by the summary of STAND-UP Deliverable D3.3 “Defining Hate Crime Report” by Eva Tzavala and Katerina Charokopou, Legal Advisors (Greek National Commission for Human Rights, GNCHR).

Following this introduction, the first day was divided into three sessions. The first one focus on tackling Hate Crime and Hate Speech. With this aim, Viktor Kundrak (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) debated around the question of ideal hate crime legislation, analysing  substantive offences versus sentencing enhancement provisions. The following presentation by Tina Stavrinaki, Vice-Chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) defined bias motivation of hate crimes.

The session closed studying mechanisms for countering hate speech in the area of particularly serious crimes and the online context by Menno Ettema, Programme Manager / Co-Secretariat of the former Committee of Experts on Combating Hate Speech (ADI/MSI-DIS), Council of Europe.

The second session paid attention to the international, regional and national framework on hate crimes, with special references to the need of harmonizing EU definitions and norms for countering hate crimes. This table included the presentation of Niels Letsrade, EU Internet Referral Unit (Europol), and Christel Mercade Piqueras, Officer, DG Justice (European Comission).

Finally, the third session focus on analysing hate crime in another context. On the one hand, an analysis of hate crime in the African context was presented by Fabrizio Lobasso, Deputy Director for Sub-Saharian African countries at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. On the other hand, Alberto Izquierdo Montero (Intercultural Education Research Group, Faculty of Education UNED) focused his presentation on visibilising the mechanisms of hate speech to critically read the wor(L)d in education. This session ended with Concluding Remarks by Eva Tzavala and Katerina Charokopou, Legal Advisors GNCHR.

“Defining Hate Crime Reporting: Cooperation between LEAs and CSOs” / Thursday 29th

The second day started with the opening presentation of STAND-UP focus on hate crime reporting forms by Giovanni Gasparini, Deputy Public Prosecutor of Venice (VEJudPol).

As on the previous day, the Seminar was organized on three sessions. The first one, analysed the definition of Hate Crimes based on the three Focus Group held in Greece, Italy and Spain in framework of the STAND-UP project.  Alessandra Brigo, Project Manager and Coordinator of the Gender, Inclusion and Human rights HUB at ALDA- European Association for Local Democracy, discussed about the challenges and models for fighting against hate at national level in these three countries.  This presentation was followed by a panel about “Best Practices to counter Hate Speech/Crime Between Penal Proceeding, Administrative Prevention and Mediation. A blueprint towards public-private cooperation and new training models” with Giovanni Gasparini, Deputy Public Prosecutor of Venice (VEJudPol), Viviana Gullo, Junior Project Manager (AGENFOR), Yuval Sanders, Managing Director of Falkor, and Sergio Bianchi, Senior Researcher (AGENFOR).

To conclude this session, a round table about “Coordinated responses to tackle hate crimes and the role of civil society organisations (CSOs)” took place with Vasiliki Artinopoulou, European Public Law Organisation (EPLO) and member of the SPT, United Nations as main speaker. The following discussants added key notes for understanding the importance of involving CSOs in a multi-agency cooperation model for countering hate in the EU:  Garyfallia Anastasopoulou, Racist Violence Registration Network; Lucía García del Moral, EuroArab Fundation -Spain (FUNDEA) and Sergio Bianchi, Senior Researcher AGENFOR – Italy.

The second session addressed the topic of technology to prevent hate speech/hate crimes. Luigi Ranzato and Nicola Cordeschi, Judicial Police of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Trento (TNJUDPOL) explained technology to prevent hate speech and prosecute hate crimes in the framework of public-private cooperation.

Lastly, the final session approached to religion and race in the context of hatred. Cristina Rodríguez Reche, Autonomous University of Barcelona, spoke on “Islamophobia as a challenge in a diverse Europe: the importance of the gender perspective” and Carmelo Ruberto, former Public Prosecutor of Rovigo, focused his speech on “Sinti ethnicity in the context of hatred: murder of C.E., of Sinti ethnicity, by her minor son (perpetrator) and G.A. (moral accomplice). 4 February 2022”.

The seminar concluded with some final remarks stated by Viviana Gullo, Junior Project Manager (AGENFOR) and Sergio Bianchi, Senior Researcher, trainer (AGENFOR).