Hate Speech on the Internet

The main duties of the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia include the protection of minors, users, human dignity, and the plurality of the media. These are the exact interests which are most endangered by online hate speech. For this reason, the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia advocates for raising awareness and finding effective approaches to combat online hate crimes.

What makes hate speech so dangerous to our society?

Hate speech is often excused by saying, “You have to be allowed to express yourselves these days.” People who defend their positions online using hate and harassment often invoke their freedom of speech. This right obviously applies to everyone, including those who harass others, but also those who are victimized by this harassment. However, hate speech becomes a danger to society when one person’s harassment infringes on another person’s freedom of speech. Poisoned discourse can lead to people no longer having the courage to express their opinions due to a fear of hateful reactions. Some newsrooms avoid entire topics or close their comment sections because they don’t feel confident moderating uncivilized disputes. This is where the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia comes in.

What can be done about hate speech?

In order to monitor the development and perception of hate speech, the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia regularly collects data from the forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis. It is striking that the topic of hate speech is considered increasingly problematic each year. There are various forms of hate speech which require different forms of combat. Hate speech is toxic to discourse and has to be managed by newsrooms firmly cracking down on hateful commenting and recivilizing the debate. Our guidelines and training materials can be useful in this context. In contrast, content providers must delete criminal hate speech, often without harassing users even realizing it and thus remaining completely unaware of their misconduct. Therefore, the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia initiated its “Verfolgen statt nur Löschen” campaign to promote the prosecution of unlawful comments under administrative or criminal law rather than merely deleting them.

If you would like to report hate speech, feel free to contact the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia: beschwerde@medienanstalt-nrw.de