For the first time in Belgium, a correctional court of Turnhout in Antwerp has convicted someone for posting racist and anti-Semitic videos and memes on social media.
The woman received a six-month suspended prison sentence and a €320 fine. For Unia, the national human rights institution, the conviction is an important precedent.
Between March 2019 and January 2020, the woman posted several racist and anti-Semitic videos and memes on her social media, including posts laughing at the 2019 terrorist attack in New Zealand’s Christchurch and inappropriate comments on a photo of the fire at the asylum centre in Bilzen.
Her internet profile also reportedly contained various neo-Nazi symbols. The woman was reportedly also on the radar of OCAD, the coordination body for terrorist or extremist threat analyses in Belgium.
In a press release, Unia stressed that this is the first time that someone has been convicted of hate speech via memes, even though there have been previous convictions of online hate speech in Belgium before.
“Within the right-wing extremist milieu, we see a shift from offline to online activism that equally threatens public order and social cohesion,” Unia director Els Keytsman said.
“Research shows that violent acts are encouraged by virtual activism on social media. This conviction, therefore, sends a strong signal and sets an extremely important precedent,” she added.