Federal justice minister Koen Geens intends to find a way to more effectively combat hate speech on social media, he announced on the VRT. Geens was speaking in reaction to the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, in which 49 people were killed in attacks on two mosques. The killer used social media to broadcast live footage of the attacks, seen by millions worldwide before the live stream was taken down.
However the plan to tackle hate speech goes back farther. Already, there are plans for justice ministers from the EU to meet on the subject later this month.
“At the moment there is a code of conduct between the EU and social media providers like Facebook,” Geens explained. “Whenever there is the least indication of hate speech, that is reported via the EU, and the providers asked to remove the messages. In most cases that takes place.”
The European Union nations do not however have a unified approach when it comes to hate speech within their own territory.
“There’s always a fine line between freedom of expression on the one hand and security on the other,” Geens said. Incitement to hatred and discrimination is illegal in Belgium. “In Germany there are now tougher laws on online hate speech, and France is also planning the same. I think the whole of Europe could follow.
Ministers are due to meet to discuss a common approach to the question on 25 March. “The EU can already ask providers to take down hate messages immediately,” Geens said. “But we’re not yet at the stage of dealing with legal sanctions, because of fears for free speech.”