For the first time ever, a Belgian court has convicted an anonymous Twitter user who harassed a woman on the social network, according to the annual UNIA report, presented on Thursday. “This is an important message in the fight against cyber-harassment,” stressed Patrick Charlier, director of the Inter-Federal Centre for Equal Opportunities, UNIA.
Of the record number of 2,017 cases opened last year in connection with discrimination, 326 were related to online hate speech.
Malicious speech on the Internet is increasingly denounced but often goes unpunished, says UNIA. “We therefore underscore more particularly the condemnation of a Twitter user in late April » for harassment by the Antwerp Correctional Court, Patrick Charlier stated. “Harassing and threatening someone anonymously no longer protects you against legal action.”
The Office of the Public Prosecutor sought out the identity of the man who systematically harassed a woman on the social media network, while UNIA supported the victim in her legal action.
Generally, the report indicates that victims of discrimination have been turning more and more to UNIA. Most of the cases relate to possible discrimination based on race (732). “Racial stereotypes have been constructed from our childhood through books, films, jokes… but also by things left unsaid, particularly about our colonial history,” said Charlier. “The increase in racism today is a dominant and worrying problem.”
After racism, the largest number of complaints relate to discrimination linked to a handicap (516 cases), discrimination based on religious or philosophical convictions (319 cases) and age-based discrimination (149).