Last week, the European Parliament voted on a resolution to extend the list of EU-wide crimes to include ‘hate speech’, and it wasn’t good news for anyone concerned to protect freedom of speech and expression across the bloc. There were 397 votes in favour, 121 against, and 26 abstentions, which means that the only thing standing in the way of the proposal becoming law is now a vote in the Council of the European Union.
As FSU Communications Officer, Freddie Attenborough, has written for The European Conservative, it’s clear that this proposal, first outlined by European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen back in 2020, forms part of a longer-term trend across all of the EU’s three governing bodies towards lowering the criminality threshold for punishable speech, and enabling the bloc’s unelected bureaucratic elites to ‘go after’ any forms of speech they happen not to like for ideological reasons.
Across the documentation associated with the EC’s proposal, for instance, one finds various approving nods to the definition of ‘hate speech’ articulated by the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD): “A form of other-directed speech which rejects the core human rights principle of human dignity and equality and seeks to degrade the standing of individuals and groups in the estimation of society.”
Note that unlike every other international definition of the phenomenon—including the EC’s own definition—CERD’s definition severs the link between ‘hate speech’ and incitement to violence.
In a draft report endorsing the resolution, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee not only cites CERD, but also claims that “the fundamental right that is protected in the fight against hate speech and hate crime is human dignity,” that “future EU legislation to cover hate speech and hate crimes must protect human dignity,” and that the EU must “offer protection that does not exclude new social motivations for hatred, since it is the dignity of the victims that must be protected.”
But what might that look like in practice? Will carrying a placard stating “Transwomen are not women” violate the human dignity of someone with the relevant protected characteristics? Will Christians who take to social media to share their views on marriage and sexuality violate the human dignity of people who claim an eccentric gender identity for themselves or feel a particular sexual orientation? And what about situations, as in Ireland following the Dublin riots—where social media users identify the nationality of a suspected murderer—will that be taken to violate the human dignity of others who share similar national, ethnic or racial characteristics?
In fact, we don’t need to speculate on the basis of hypothetical examples.
The Finnish politician Paivi Rasanen’s recent, four-year long legal ordeal, in which she was charged under the country’s recently implemented hate speech laws for tweeting a verse from the Bible while challenging her local church for its decision to sponsor a Helsinki Pride event, already provides a worrying glimpse into the EC’s brave new world.
Worth reading in full — link is here.