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Home >> Equinet Activities >> Publications >> Extending the Agenda. Equality Bodies addressing Hate Speech

Extending the Agenda. Equality Bodies addressing Hate Speech

January 8th 2019

Hate speech and hate crime are growing and damaging phenomena across Europe. This is recognised in the work of the European Commission and of the Council of Europe. European standards for equality bodies recommend that their mandate be extended to include hate speech. Few equality bodies have an explicit mandate on hate speech, many have, however, interpreted their mandate to include hate speech. This situation can leave them lacking the competences and resources required to make an impact.

The Equinet Perspective ’Extending the Agenda. Equality Bodies addressing Hate Speech’ was written by Niall Crowley, with the support of Equinet’s Policy Formation Working Group.

Equality Body Strategies

Twenty five equality bodies in 18 countries reported on their work for this perspective. Many identified a high priority for work on hate speech given its prevalence and given it drives discrimination and harassment. The national policy context is not always conducive to their work, with inadequate legislative provision and enforcement frameworks that lack capacity. Most equality bodies did not report comprehensive strategies underpinning their work on hate speech. This limits their focus on root causes of hate speech and their engagement in alternative narrative work.

Equality Bodies Prioritising Hate Speech

However, a wide range of action on hate speech was reported by these equality bodies. This involves casework, research, policy advice, promotion of good practice, and communication. Low levels of casework are the norm, though a few equality bodies reported significant levels. Casework is largely reported by equality bodies with a decision-making function. A concern to deepen the knowledge base on hate speech is evident in the research work of equality bodies. Policy advice has largely focused on improving the legal basis for prosecuting hate speech comprehensively and effectively.

Equality Bodies Taking Action

Good practice work by equality bodies has had a particular concern with supporting better enforcement in relation to hate speech by the relevant authorities. Work has also been done to enable educational establishments to address the issue and to engage political parties on the issue. Positive duties on public bodies, employers and service providers are valuable in driving good practice on hate speech. Communication work has largely been limited to making the issue of hate speech visible as a public concern.

Conclusions and Looking Forward

In looking forward, it would be useful if the European Commission and the Member States could:

  • enhance legislation on hate speech to ensure uniform definition, the coverage of all grounds, and a mix of criminal and administrative channels to address cases;
  • improve the policy context by developing multi-annual national action plans on hate speech;
  • and ensure equality body have mandates that explicitly enable them to address hate speech and are accorded the competences required for this.

It would be useful if equality bodies could:

  • explore and devise full and comprehensive strategies to address hate speech;
  • develop their communication work to include sustained and substantial action on promoting alternative narratives;
  • and engage with the European Commission Code of Conduct and secure funding for this work under European Commission calls for projects.

It would be useful if Equinet could:

  • enable peer learning and provide training for equality bodies to build their strategy on hate speech and, in particular, to innovate in responding to this issue.


Equality bodies addressing hate speech (2018)
Equality bodies addressing hate speech (2018)

Read the Word version here.


Further Reading

Developing strategies to combat hate speech
Developing strategies to combat hate speech

Equinet organised a capacity building seminar on tackling hate speech in November 2018. You can find the summary of outcomes and have a look at the presentations here.

Recommendation (English)
Recommendation (English)

Read our Recommendation on Combatting Discrimination and Hate Speech in Election Campaigns.