The EU’s rulebook on hate speech might soon be seeing an overhaul, Politico reports.
As an early draft plan reveals, one of the EU’s founding texts might be subject to amendment by the European Commission. The Commission feels it currently doesn’t provide adequate protections for women, LGBTQ+ and other minority groups.
The Commission is expected to sign off on a plan on Wednesday to criminalize hate speech and violence through EU-wide rules. These rules would enable the Commission to put forward laws that punish misogyny and anti-LGBTQ+ abuse, online and offline.
Social movements like the #MeToo campaign and Black Lives Matter protests are thought to be strong catalysts for the proposal, but the draft communication blamed an intensification of hate speech, observed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as the cause.
“Hate is moving into the mainstream, targeting individuals and groups of people sharing or perceived as sharing ‘a common characteristic,’ such as race, ethnicity, language, religion, nationality, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics or any other fundamental characteristic, or a combination of such characteristics,” the text said.
With the proposal, the Commission seeks to enforce throughout all the EU capitals barriers to violence against women, the LBTQ+ community, people with disabilities and the elderly. Stronger legislation against racism and xenophobia is also on the table.
Another proposal anticipated in March is aimed at stamping out violence against women online and offline. The bloc is also drafting its content moderation rulebook, known as the Digital Services Act, which aims to force online platforms to crack down on illegal content.
While safety—both offline and online—is to be taken seriously, if pushed through, this new legislation could present other dangers that are hazardous to free speech. ‘Misogyny’ and ‘hate’ are already nebulous, elastic terms. How to legislate justice for these offenses raises concerns over how such legislation would affect freedom of speech. Where the right to express oneself without fear of censorship ends, and where hate speech begins, remains a delicate matter, not easily codified within criminal law.
The changes are expected to aggravate relations with Poland and Hungary, where previous attempts at legal incursions by the EU were firmly rejected.