The Main Target of Hate Speech in Estonia Continues to be Sexual Minorities

In June and July, EHCR continued to monitor hate speech on social media to investigate whether social media platforms are addressing hate speech as agreed with the European Commission in May 2016. The monitoring is part of the international project SafeNet, which aims to reduce and analyze hate speech on social media. The project involves 21 NGOs across Europe.

Hate speech is monitored in two-month cycles using a uniform methodology in all participating countries. During the monitoring period (from early February to the end of July 2023), EHCR reported 194 cases of hate speech to social media platforms. As a result, Facebook has removed 61% of the reported cases, and TikTok has removed 44%.

Most frequently, the reported hate has targeted sexual minorities – 38% of hate messages have been directed towards this group. The second most targeted group is refugees (32% of reported cases). Racist statements make up 11% of the total reports. Additionally, cases of hate related to religious beliefs, ethnic affiliation, anti-Muslim sentiment, and gender-based (including identity and expression) hate were reported.

Although the hate discovered in June mainly concerned the LGBT+ community, which can be related to debates and the establishment of marriage equality, there was less hate compared to previous months. It is pleasing to note that in July, there was even less hate speech on Estonian social media, across all target groups. As minorities and attacks against them were not in the spotlight of politics and media in July, it seems likely that the political focus and hate speech on social media are interconnected.

The methodology for monitoring hate speech on social media is derived from the European Commission’s action plan. Specifically, in May 2016, the European Commission reached an agreement with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube to combat illegal hate speech online. Among other things, this agreement aimed to establish an effective system for reporting illegal hate speech on various social media platforms. TikTok and Instagram later joined this agreement.

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