New proposal to tackle online abuse of Belgian politicians

New proposal to tackle online abuse of Belgian politicians
Credit: Pexels / Magnus Mueller

The Francophone Green Party (Ecolo) wants to tackle social media abuse against politicians, either by criminally charging perpetrators in court or by limiting political party spending on social media adverts.

Ecolo co-leader Rajae Maouane told La Dernière Heure that her party’s proposals will allow women and young people “with different profiles” to express themselves online with "security", given that they are most often the target of abuse.

With frequent hateful comments appearing on politicians’ social media accounts, the issue is only set to become worse once the campaign for next year’s elections officially starts.

In that context, the French-speaking Greens will table two proposals in parliament.

Firstly, the party is pushing to change the Belgian Constitution to ensure that the authors of online abuse are charged criminally in court for their actions.

Currently, it is difficult to prosecute someone for posting hateful messages online – as their cases are tried as press offences. In Belgium, press offences that are an expression of racism, xenophobia or negationism are handled by a criminal court.

Aware of how radical a constitutional reform appears to be, the party has also proposed to limit on political party spending on social media ads to €100,000 per year.

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The green party leader explained that setting a threshold on party social media spending would prevent certain parties from "flooding social networks with hatred."

For example, the Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang spent €1.7 million on Facebook ads in 2022, often on adverts spreading hateful misinformation on immigration, targeting specific groups and inciting their base.

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