European Commission looks to criminalize hate speech and violence

The European Commission is trying to amend one of the EU's founding texts to better combat violence against women, the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities.

The Commission seeks to expand upon the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, according to Politico.

The group intends to sign a plan, which would criminalize misogynistic and homophobic hate speech and violence via policies for all of the EU, on Wednesday. The policies would allow the Commission to punish online and offline abuses, Politico reported.

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“In the last decades, there has been a sharp rise in hate speech and hate crime in Europe,” the draft seen by Politico said, noting an uptick in hate speech since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Hate is moving into the mainstream, targeting individuals and groups of people sharing or perceived as sharing ‘a common characteristic,’ such as race, ethnicity, language, religion, nationality, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex characteristics or any other fundamental characteristic, or a combination of such characteristics,” it added.

The drafted plan is expected to be presented later this week as the first step in a larger plan to improve the EU's rules to better fight hate, according to Politico.

The text said that it “may send mixed messages to the public that such acts are not being taken seriously and can be perpetrated with impunity," but added that a few EU countries that did not criminalize such speech caused “gaps and an uneven protection of the victims of such acts across the EU.” 

A later proposal that is meant to fight violence against women both online and offline is also expected to happen in March. Additionally, the bloc is working on a Digital Services Act that would require online organizations to more forcefully prohibit illegal content, Politico added.