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Home >> Equinet Activities >> Events >> Not on Our Watch! Equality Bodies fighting Hate Speech

Not on Our Watch! Equality Bodies fighting Hate Speech

November 26th 2018

On 19-21 November, the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet) and the National Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR) co-organised a two-and-a-half-day seminar to build the individual capacity of equality bodies’ staff members to deal with hate speech both on and off line. The seminar focused on understanding the phenomenon of hate speech, as well as looking at how equality bodies can manage and prevent hate speech.

During the seminar, we looked at developing a common understanding of hate speech. Our first keynote speaker, Dr. Tarlach McGonagle, outlined the multiple levels of complexity of the term hate speech from a legal point of view, including definitional, regulatory and practical complexities. Following examples of research carried out in Denmark and Ireland, we have a better understanding of the characteristics and sources of online hate speech, as well as the possible role of the media in taking responsibility to ensure a civil debate and delete derogatory and offensive comments. We focused on hate speech in case law from the European Court of Human Rights, as well as how the European Commission’s Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online works from the point of view of a social media platform and that of an equality body.

After an inspiring keynote speech by Rokhaya Diallo who gave a stirring explanation of what it is to experience hate speech and how she and others have tried to deal with it, we moved on to looking at the different tools available to tackle hate speech. The ECRI General Policy Recommendation No.15 on combatting hate speech was presented, as well as a soon-to-be-released Equinet perspective on the different tools that equality bodies use to tackle hate speech.

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

Although only a few equality bodies have an explicit mandate in relation to hate speech, most equality bodies interpret their mandate to include a focus on hate speech. Tools they use to tackle hate speech include case work, knowledge development, policy advice, good practice support and communication. For more information on the work of equality bodies in relation to hate speech, read our Perspective here.

Practical examples of tools to tackle hate speech were given by a representative of the Estonian web constables, by equality body staff from Belgium and Romania on concrete ways to tackle cases and develop their hate speech strategy, and we had a look at how training and research can be used to help us prevent and manage hate speech. NGO participants showed how they develop alternatives to hate speech, as well as their offering of online learning to monitor and counter hate speech.

The discussion on regulating hate speech proved very interesting, with a critical voice regarding the increasing role played by large social media platforms. Speakers suggested that equality bodies can greatly contribute to reporting and monitoring hate speech, as well as creating knowledge. They could contribute to developing laws that are compliant with human rights and equality obligations.

The seminar was filled with moments of discussion and reflection, giving participants the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned and what they will take home to tackle hate speech more effectively on a national level. To that end, we got them thinking in particular about how to develop a strategy for alternative narratives, how to build a national network on hate speech, how to engage with hate speech in formal and informal education, and how to ensure the equality bodies’ mandate on hate speech.

A special thank you to the National Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR) for co-hosting the seminar with us!


Agenda & Reading List
Agenda & Reading List


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

  (Click to enlarge picture)


Facilitation: Namir Chowdhury

Opening and welcome

  • Tena Šimonović Einwalter, Chair of Equinet Executive Board & Deputy Ombudswoman, Croatia
  • Agnese Canevari, National Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR), Italy

Keynote Speech - Hate speech: is there coherence in the complexity?

  • Dr. Tarlach McGonagle, Senior researcher, Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

Session 1: What is Hate Speech

Chair: Astrid Eichstädt, Unia, Belgium

Workshop 1: Identifying Hate Speech

1. Hate speech in the European Court of Human Rights
Onur Andreotti, Lawyer, Jurisconsult Directorate, European Court of Human Rights

2. Identifying hate speech on social media
Louisa Klingvall, Fundamental Rights Policy, DG Just, European Commission
Kim Malfacini, Facebook
Roberto Burtone, UNAR, Italy

Keynote Speech: Hate Speech. My Story

Session 2: Tools to tackle Hate Speech

Chair: Kalliopi Lykovardi, Greek Ombudsman

  • ECRI GPR No.15 on Combating Hate Speech – Highlights for Equality Bodies - Tena Šimonović Einwalter, Croatian Representative of European Commission against Racism & Intolerance (ECRI), Council of Europe
  • Tools equality bodies use to tackle hate speech - Niall Crowley, Independent Equality Expert and author of Equinet Perspective on Hate Speech
  • The role of web constables - Andero Sepp, Estonian Web Constables

Workshop 2: Hate Speech in Practice

1. Dealing with a complaint - Promotion type equality bodies
Annelies Cardon, Institute of Equality between Women and Men, Belgium

2. Dealing with a complaint - Tribunal type equality bodies
Diana Ureche, National Council for Combating Discrimination, Romania

3. Preventing Hate Speech through Training
Udo Enwereuzor, COSPE Onlus

4. Managing Hate Speech - What we can learn from Research
Adam Puchejda, Kultura Liberalna’s Public Debate Observatory, Poland
Joanna Subko, Commissioner for Human Rights, Poland

Panel Debate: Regulating Hate Speech?

Session 3: Promising Practices

Chair: Petr Polák, Public Defender of Rights, Czech Republic

  • Equality Body Hate Speech Strategy - Astrid Eichstädt, Unia, Belgium
  • Alternatives to Hate Speech - Alessandra Coppola, No Hate Speech Movement, Italy
  • Active digital civil courage - David Scheuing, Love-storm, Germany
  • Monitoring and Countering Hate Speech - Melissa Sonnino, Facing Facts Online (CEJI - A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe)
Facing Facts Online course on hate speech – information available here
Registration to the course is possible here - Now available in English, French and German!
Animation video: What is hate speech?
Impact video: The harm of hate speech

Practical Application of what we learned

Participants were asked to choose a group and develop a project brief on:

  • A strategy for alternative narratives
  • Building a national network on hate speech
  • Hate speech in formal & informal education
  • Ensuring your mandate on hate speech

Closing Session

  • Anne Gaspard, Equinet Executive Director
  • Roberto Burtone, UNAR, Italy


Seminar: Not on our Watch! Equality Bodies fighting Hate Speech, Rome, 19-21 November 2018

Contact details

For inquiries regarding the seminar on combatting hate speech, please contact Sarah Cooke O’Dowd, Communication Officer by email: or telephone: +32 (0) 2 212 3184