The LCHR concluded the first stage of online hate speech monitoring project

During the period from 1 July to 31 October, LCHR conducted the first stage of hate speech monitoring at online news portals, online versions of newspapers and magazines, social networks etc. The aim of the monitoring is to identify hateful content on the Internet, report about such content and check the effectiveness of reporting tools and methods. The monitoring is conducted within the framework of the project “NGO Capacity Building to Combat Online Hate.” The project team reported 126 hateful content materials, including comments.

In the framework of monitoring, the internet content is evaluated in accordance with terms of use of internet portals and with Latvian legal acts – mostly Article 78 and 150 of the Criminal Law.

Attention is paid to content which contains:

  • Public calls for violence, hate, discrimination;
  • Public defamation or slander;
  • Threats towards a person or a group of persons related to their race, skin colour, language, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc;
  • Racist intent and expression of ideology which proclaims superiority or derogates or slanders a group of persons related to their race, skin colour, language, religion, nationality, or ethnic origin.

Hateful content identified during the monitoring is reported using reporting tools available at the web sites and, in particular cases, emails are sent to the editors of websites.

The results of the first monitoring stage and conclusions:

  • The project team reported 126 hateful content materials, including comments.
  • 63% of reported materials and comments have been deleted. In specific cases, site administrators blocked those users who systematically published hateful content as well as their IP addresses.
  • The main target groups of hate speech are persons with dark skin colour, ethnic Latvians, Russians, Jews, and sexual minorities.
  • It was found that some online news portals and internet versions of newspapers providing information about topical events in Latvia and in the world have not introduced clear and comprehensive terms use, or rules for publishing comments, such as stating what kind of content is prohibited, and defining the right of the web site administration to delete the material if its content violates the terms. Development and publication of such terms, which would also refer to the liability for incitement to hatred defined in the Criminal Law, would be a preventive mechanism helping internet users to be aware of own rights and responsibility.
  • It was found that a number of internet portals do not have relevant online tools to report about comments, which violate the terms of use. Therefore, the only way to remove such comments is to communicate to the editors by email. However, the LCHR practice shows that in certain cases only the editors respond and remove the content. The absence of reporting tools makes reporting more difficult because it requires far more time and requires saving the hateful comments separately and sending to the site editors. Therefore, comments remain unreported and published online. 
  • The monitoring confirmed that the response and reaction time of the site administration to reported hate speech comments is affected by factors such as specific content of the article, number of comments and time of the day. Therefore, in some cases, portals ban function of commenting or make it available to registered users only.

On 25 September 2014, Latvian Parliament approved amendments to the Criminal Law. Article 150 stipulates liability for actions aimed at incitement of hatred related to person’s belonging to a certain social group. The punishment for such crime using computer is imprisonment, community service or pecuniary penalty. Therefore, it will be possible to prosecute persons who incite not only racial or ethnic hatred but also those who incite hatred related to gender, age, disability, and etc.  Thus, the owners and moderators of internet portals will have to turn attention to the wider range of comments.         

The project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway

The program is funded by the EEA grants and Latvia

More about EEA grants program „NGO fund” is available at the web site of the Society Integration Foundation EEA grants web page (in Latvian language) and 

Publicēts: 2014-12-18