AS (2017) CR 05
2017 ORDINARY SESSION
Wednesday 25 January 2017 at 10.00 a.m.
Online media and journalism: challenges and accountability
Ending cyberdiscrimination and online hate
The following texts were submitted for inclusion in the official report by members who were present in the Chamber but were prevented by lack of time from delivering them.
Mr V. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – I want to point out that we are discussing this report after the No Hate Alliance was launched by our Assembly, which calls on us to take the responsibility of speaking out publicly against fear and hatred.
This subject is important for two major reasons: first, unfortunately, hate is not diminishing in the world or in communities around us; secondly, the Internet phenomenon, which by its rapid development and the way that it operates creates legal challenges in the fight against online hate speech, acts as an intermediary for hate to expand and get stronger.
While dealing with hate speech online, it is crucial that we take into account particular factors of the Internet such as permanence, anonymity and its cross-jurisdictional character. Naturally, national legislation is not always fully capable of addressing issues related to these mechanisms. Unfortunately, a lot of cases involving hate speech stem from user illiteracy, lack of knowledge or liability and the limits of freedom of expression.
What are the remedies in this case? I support the points raised in the report, but I would add a general societal response. We should not allow those serving wicked purposes to use the Internet to further strengthen this hatred. On the contrary, I think the potential of the Internet should also be used to combat this. Ads, information, notifications and banners could be placed on the Internet specifically by Internet intermediaries to warn, inform and prevent online hate from being disseminated.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, online hate speech is also growing and is being used deliberately for political purposes and to intensify tensions among nations. A clear example – I can refer to this because we witness it daily – is its use by Armenia against Azerbaijan. Armenia continuously and systematically pours out and disseminates online hate speech through digital media, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, and in so doing incites hatred. In this way, it damages the peace process, a precondition of which is the withdrawal of troops by the Armenian army from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, which Armenia continues to occupy against all international resolutions and judgments. The side that claims to be standing for peace should be combating hate speech instead of disseminating it.
I believe this report will send a message to member States, and specifically to Armenia, to fight hatred not only through words, which they use only in such international organisations, but in practice, so that it has an impact on peace in the region and on people’s lives.
Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – I would like to draw your attention to another aspect of the topics currently under debate that, in my opinion, should have been covered more broadly by the reports: the abuse of online media, as well as bullying and hate language in cyberspace. In today’s world, these are elements of a single phenomenon, a tool in the hands of some political parties and great powers seeking control over the masses.
Some, like Russia, embarked on a path to redeem global domination after the humiliation of the Soviet Union’s break-up. How do you do that not only in a nuclear age, but in a highly developed, globalised information society? It is called hybrid warfare. Sponsored NGOs and mainly State-owned media, as well as armies of fake social media accounts called trolls and bots, have become soldiers and weaponry of this new hybrid warfare in which cyber and media space serves as a battleground. There are no borders or limits for it – at least, not until now.
In a war, you need allies and collaborators from within. Nationalists, populists and far-right groups are gaining ground, reaping the anger among unemployed people and a middle class hit hard by the effect of globalisation, with the redistribution of jobs and wealth from the developed to the third world and a sense of insecurity given the migration crisis and so on. Your cybersoldiers carefully grow this anger, spreading hatred and intolerance. This has been so covert that it has taken almost five years and physical warfare in Ukraine and Syria for the free world to realise what has been happening and finally react to it.
The ultimate objective is the deterioration of the credibility and legitimacy of institutions – popular confidence in government, neighbours or good friends. People will be scared and doubt everything, including their own dates of birth. A thousand years ago, Aeschylus said that truth is the first victim of war. In a post-truth society, any action is challenged and information doubted, setting aside the values underpinning them. So-called experts spit out hypocrisy and distort facts, but they can become more credible than the Pope in Rome.
Our action must be co-ordinated, swift and target the core of the problem. Ayn Rand said that indiscriminate tolerance and indiscriminate condemnation are not two opposites: they are two variants of the same evasion. The actions that must be taken include ensuring account identity and proper regulation to enable accountability. Technology must provide the ability to track sources.
In this modern world, people demand security and peace of mind. They are ready to sacrifice their values and their long-term future for that. We should not be too slow in delivering a solution: capturing a nation can now happen a lot faster than you would ever think possible.
Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The discussion laid out in these two comprehensive and excellent reports is perhaps the most important discussion of all when it comes to the future of our media and their role in society and in the democratic process.
The question is: what kind of regulation and procedures should we have on the Internet and on social media to ensure that false news and hateful and xenophobic speech is not widely spread and accepted; to ensure that every person has the right to decide for themselves which personal information is added online – the so-called “right to be forgotten”; and, finally, to guarantee freedom of expression on the Internet when some of the big social media structures actually carry out censorship, for instance on certain pictures, which is not in line with freedom of expression? On top of that come the latest examples of the unacceptable hacking of the Internet in a bid to influence democratic processes.
The challenge is that we have so far accepted the idea that the Internet and social media are a kind of “Wild West”, where no regulations have been provided. But the challenge is of course also to answer the question: who should provide the necessary regulations given that the Internet and social media cross borders worldwide? Regulation is, however, necessary. We do need the same kind of rules as are today requested of traditional media also introduced to online media and structures; otherwise, we will not be able to avoid false news spreading, hacking or the spreading of hateful speech and discriminatory texts online.
Let me just remind you that a survey conducted by the Youth Department of the Council of Europe in 2012 shows that homophobic and transphobic hate speech is one of the most frequently encountered forms of hate speech online and it is now increasing – it often contains not just offensive language, but incitement to violence. We also know that hate speech is often directed against LGBTI and human rights defenders. A particular concern is the way in which homophobic or transphobic speech by politicians, in the media and online, combines to make the situation even worse.
For these reasons I fully support these reports. We need regulations and we need them now.
Ms KYRIAKIDES (Cyprus) – I congratulate the rapporteur on her research and detailed approach to online hate and its repercussions on our societies. I wish to commend this work, which is fully in line with this Assembly’s commitment to end the infiltration of hate into our societies and the No Hate Parliamentary Alliance.
Online media are a fact of life and we are all aware of the dangers associated with illicit content. However, these dangers are much more harmful when children or adolescents are targeted. I will base my speech on the radicalisation of children through cyberdiscrimination and online hate. We cannot censor all online activity, nor have governments the ability to monitor and scrutinise the content of all online chats and groups. Governments must, however, take advantage of all the existing instruments available such as the Convention on Cybercrime and its additional protocol and the recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance – the ECRI – as well as relevant ECHR case law. At the same time, investment in screening techniques and that identification of illicit material must constitute a priority.
However, it behoves those in the child’s immediate environment – parents, schools, civil society actors – to take preventive measures and appropriate action to guard and protect children against online hate speech, inflamed political discourse and extremist views.
Although there are inherent dangers linked to making generalisations, children or adolescents who fall into the trap are more often than not experiencing some sort of individual or family strain. Poverty, the lack of communication with parents or academic institutions, social isolation, academic difficulties and even curiosity could potentially lead a child to become interested in or adhere to online hate groups. It is precisely those with these profiles that extremists seek to lure, by providing them with a false sense of security and belonging through the adherence to a certain code of conduct. Brainwashing ensues once the profile has been trapped.
Adolescence is an even more critical time for children, as usually some will try out their limits or question ground beliefs and convictions. As this period is about exploring one’s identity and social environment, adolescents may become seduced by radical positions and ground-breaking rhetoric, elements of which they may circumstantially identify themselves with.
Therefore, education in human rights is of paramount importance, especially in schools, through official national education programmes. Human rights education on diversity, multiculturalism, tolerance and democracy is crucial. This is the counter-narrative to online hate and must be bolstered at all levels of education and through appropriate awareness-raising measures, so that children can develop their own tools in order to recognise and resist and even report abusive material.
Ms LAVIE (Israel, Observer) – The terrorist who took Daphna Meir’s life – she was murdered a year ago on her doorstep in front of her children – said: “I watched Palestinian television and decided to kill a Jew.” This murder exposes the severity of wild incitement on Palestinian media and the incitement on social media. The boy watched daily broadcasting, depicting Israel as a State that murders young Palestinians. During his investigation, he confessed that it was such content that influenced him to commit such a terrorist act.
Incitement against Israel and Jews has grave effects on terrorists who take lone action, and it has a direct link to their actions. The wave of Palestinian terror attacks carried out in Israel during 2016 carried with it various calls for violence that have been publicised online. These include the “Knife Intifada,” “before you stab, poison the knife,” and “slaughtering Jews.” These online statements serve as a basis for incitement and attacks against Jews. Many welcomed the attacks, called the terrorists “heroes,” threatened to carry out additional attacks in the near future and encouraged others to carry out similar stabbings, all done online.
Terror organisations and their supporters view social networks, such as Facebook and YouTube, as a convenient platform to spread their ideas and philosophies. These services remain a platform for incitement to terror and violence against Israelis and Jews. Posts, Tweets and videos feature praise for attacks; calls to carry out terror attacks against Jews and Israelis, including stabbings, running vehicles into crowds of people shootings and the like; guidebooks and operational tips on ways to make attacks more deadly – how to slit a throat, the most deadly way to stab someone and cause the greatest harm to human life and how to turn household and non-suspicious objects into weapons – and pictures of bloody knives, etc.We encourage you to end the distribution of hate on social networks and to end the violence that directly results from such materials.