Speech: Countering Hate - Nordic Conference on Hate Speech

Opening speech by Minister of Children and Equality Solveig Horne at Countering Hate: Nordic Conference on Hate Speech in Sola 21. June 2017.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Sola and this important conference.

I am happy to see so many here today.

Hate speech is more than just words.

Hate speech affects persons as well as societies.

Imagine being a 15 year old girl receiving hateful comments on social media from other pupils at school.

  • Or a woman wearing hijab getting hateful remarks on the street.
  • Or being gay and in fear of showing who you are because you are afraid of reactions in society.
  • Or that you get hateful comments for sitting in a wheel chair.
  • Or simply getting threats because you said your opinion in public.

Hate speech affects those who experience it, their friends and family, and the society as a whole.

Therefore, I am glad we are here today to discuss how we can combat this challenge. It is important to share experiences and learn from each other.

The Nordic countries have worked together on promoting gender equality for more than 40 years. 

The Nordic countries’ shared history and democratic traditions enable us to work closely and constructively together.

Hate speech, especially gender based, is a major priority in our Nordic cooperation and has been a topic for us for the last years.

Now we are eager to harvest some results of the initiatives taken under Denmark's and Finland's presidencies in 2015 and 2016.

Today's conference is one of the results of our joint efforts.  

Nordic and international experts, researchers, civil society activists, media and government representatives will discuss how we can combat hate speech.

Hate speech is causing deep concern all over the world, including our Nordic countries. Hate speech is not new of date, but with internet and the social media, the level of hate speech has risen.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right.

This is something we must protect. We need a debate where everyone can participate freely.

At the same time we see that hate speech can cause fear among those who are subjected to it, and causes people to withdraw from the public space. As a result, important voices are silenced in the public debate. This is a loss for democracy.

The Norwegian Constitution states that we as authorities shall create conditions that facilitate open and enlightened public debate.

Both individuals and groups must have an actual opportunity for expression.

One of the things we have seen is the damaging effect hate speech has, especially on women and girls who participate in the public debate.

They are called names, offended, ridiculed and even threatened with rape and violence.  Not because of their views, but simply because of their gender.

The online harassment of young people is also a cause for concern. Young people spend a lot of time on social media.

They connect with friends, they have unlimited access to knowledge and information. At the same time, we know that they are also exposed to the negative aspects of social media.

Many are bullied, are victims of hate speech or of sexual and other abuse.

Later today, we are proud to present the results of two (2) Nordic initiatives:

Knowledge is key in order to address challenges.
Research on hate speech is limited, in all our countries and internationally.  

That is why the Nordic Council of Ministers for Gender Equality in 2016 commissioned a report on hate and threats on the Internet – and especially the legal regulation in the Nordic countries.

Ms Moa Bladini will present the result of this study for the first time publicly here today.

Secondly, we also wanted to support young people who want to counter and address hate speech. That is why we under Norway's presidency asked The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs, to tailor information material for teenagers between 13 and 18 years in all Nordic countries. 

This is a huge challenge, given that we also have differences between our five countries. The directorate will launch the Norwegian version of this material later today.

Within a short time, we will also launch a new website on hate speech. This is one of the initiatives in the Norwegian strategy against hate speech that we launched last year.

The Strategy aims to prevent hate speech on the grounds of ethnicity and religion, disability, gender and sexual orientation.

The strategy covers many different areas, from the police sector to work life and the media sector. The strategy also contains increased efforts for new knowledge. Children and young people are a special target group.  

Since 2014, The Norwegian Government has supported the Council of Europe's campaign Young people combating hate speech online through the national campaign Stop hate speech online.

Later today, the campaign will present ways to counter hate speech.

I also look forward to hear the panel conversation where young people will discuss efforts to combat hate speech online. I am very eager to hear their inputs.

Hate speech is high on our national and Nordic agenda.

I hope that this conference will play a part in all our future efforts to prevent hate speech, whether our efforts be professional or personal.

I hope this will be an inspiring day for all of us. 

I wish all of you the best of luck with the conference.

Thank you.