Hate Speech in Estonian-language Social Media Targets Refugees and Sexual Minorities

The Human Rights Centre is participating as a partner in the international project called SafeNet, which aims to monitor hate speech on social media and analyze its content. The leading partner of the project is the international network INACH, which fights against online hate speech, and it involves 21 NGOs from across Europe. Hate speech is monitored in two-month intensive cycles, following a unified methodology in all participating countries.

During the second monitoring period of the project (April – May 2023), the Estonian Human Rights Centre reported a total of 108 cases of hate speech to Facebook and TikTok. The majority of the hate was directed towards two groups/characteristics: refugees (40.7%) and sexual orientation (38.9%). Additionally, the hate speech incidents during this period involved characteristics such as ethnic origin, religious beliefs, racism, and gender identity.

In terms of the spread of hate speech, Facebook stands out based on the two monitoring cycles, as 99 out of the reported 108 cases occurred on that platform. However, Facebook is also a platform that actively responds to hate speech by having removed over half of the reported cases. On TikTok, all the incidents found during this period were related to homophobia, and several of them were extreme in nature, containing explicit calls to harm the group’s property, lives, and health. The Human Rights Centre’s staff, interns, and volunteers did not identify any content qualifying as hate speech on other social media platforms during this period.

The methodology for monitoring hate speech on social media is based on the relevant guidelines issued by the European Commission. In May 2016, the European Commission reached an agreement with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube to implement guidelines for preventing and combating illegal hate speech online. Among other things, this agreement aimed to establish an effective system for reporting illegal hate speech on different social media platforms. TikTok and Instagram later joined the agreement.

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