What does Unia do to combat hate speech?

Freedom of speech is very important in a democracy. Nevertheless, there are limits to free speech. If you disseminate a message with the aim of inciting others to hate, violence or discrimination, it is punishable by law. At Unia we combat hate speech involving the types of discrimination that we are responsible for addressing. We do this in the following ways.   

We work together with the social media companies and moderators

Unia works together with Facebook and Twitter to combat hate speech. Both Facebook and Twitter will in the first place rely on their own terms of use when they receive a report. However, they are also required to comply with the national laws.

Thus, we made an agreement with Facebook that criminal publications must be removed within 24 hours of being reported. What if this doesn't happen? Then Unia will contact Facebook to find out why not. Likewise, if criminal speech remains online on Twitter, Unia can contact Twitter directly.

Finally, Unia can insist that moderators of online fora remove criminal statements. We provide them with tips and advice so that they can properly moderate the forum.  

We support victims of hate speech and hate campaigns

People who are the victims of hate speech can turn to Unia for support. We will jointly create a case file and evaluate what steps are possible.

But even if you are not directly victimised, you can report hate speech to us. However, you should keep in mind that Unia only has authority regarding statements of which the author and/or medium are located in Belgium. We recommend that you always send a link and a screenshot of the message to us. You can file a report here.

What kind of statements are punishable by law?

Legally speaking, most statements that are reported to Unia are not punishable by law because they fall under the protection of freedom of speech, even if they may be hurtful, shocking or disturbing.

When is a statement punishable by law, then?

How does Unia respond to a report?

At Unia, we will first of all endeavour to get the hate speech removed. In this way, the perpetrator of the hate speech will get the message that his or her statements are not permissible and the hate speech cannot be disseminated further.

Unia will only consider taking legal action in exceptional situations. Examples:

  • A group is organised with the aim of distributing hate and discriminatory ideas.
  • A person or group repeatedly incites others to hate or discrimination. 

Also in cases where someone repeatedly distributes hate speech but does not engage in dialogue with us and intentionally violates the law, Unia can decide to take legal action.