The “Jo Cox Committee” published in July 2017 its final report examining the extent, causes and effects of hate speech in Italy. It reveals the existence of a pyramid of hate at the base of which lie stereotypes, misrepresentation and hostile language. The upper sections of the pyramid relates to acts of discrimination, including hate speech and hate crimes.
Based on the analysis, the report makes 56 recommendations for the prevention and combating of hate. The recommendations are addressed to all the relevant entities, including the government, regulatory and supervisory authorities, EU institutions, international organisations, the media, the press professional association and the union of journalists, NGOs and similar agencies.
The 56 recommendations can be condensed under the following general headings:
1) address the serious gaps in the collection and analysis of data relating to hate at a national and international level, paying particular heed to the issue of sexism;
2) counter all forms of hate by promoting a national strategy that encompasses specific action plans to combat discrimination against individual groups, and implement the National Strategy for the Inclusion of the Roma, Sinti and Traveller communities;
3) approve several important bills currently under examination in the Houses of Parliament, including the bill on citizenship and the bill opposing homophobia and transphobia;
4) subsume sexist hate speech under the laws on hate and discrimination;
5) criminalise campaigns of hate (public insults, defamation or threats) directed against persons or groups;
6) draw on the experience of other countries while protecting the freedom of information
on the internet to evaluate the possibility of:
• demanding self-regulation by internet platforms for the removal of online hate speech;
• making internet providers and social network platforms collectively liable under law, and compelling them to take down without delay any content that has been flagged as offensive by users;
7) require social network platforms to set up offices with adequate human resources to receive complaints and promptly remove hate speech, to activate an alert function on webpages by which users can flag such material, and to set up helplines;
8) strengthen the mandate of the UNAR (Italy’s anti-racial discrimination department) by according it greater autonomy and even giving it the status of an independent authority;
9) promote a greater sense of responsibility among institutional and political figures who influence the public discourse by adopting regulatory instruments for the suppression of hate speech;
10) make victims of violence more aware of their rights, and enable anti-hate organisations to file civil suits against offenders;
11) give effect to and raise awareness of the provisions contained in the Anti-bullying Act (Law no. 71 of 2017);
12) support and promote “No Hate” bloggers and advocates and media outlets that offer counternarratives to hate speech or sponsor information campaigns against it, especially in the non-profit sector, schools and universities;
13) oppose stereotyping and racism by raising awareness and inculcating a sense of responsibility in the media, especially online, to prevent all forms of hate speech, which includes baseless, false and defamatory reporting;
14) set up an authority to guarantee accuracy of reporting, as envisaged in bills that have been presented during the current and previous parliaments, and exhort the press professional association and the union of journalists to enforce compliance with their standards of professional conduct.
The Committee on hate, intolerance, xenophobia and racism was set up in Italy in May 2016 and renamed the “Jo Cox Committee” the following July, in remembrance of the United Kingdom House of Commons MP who was murdered on 16 June 2016.
Chaired by the President of the Italian Chamber Laura Boldrini, the Committee comprises one MP for every political group in the House, representatives of the Council of Europe, the United Nations, ISTAT (Italian Statistics Institute), research centres and civic associations that investigate and campaign against hate speech, as well as experts. The final report was approved by the Committee at its session of 6 July 2017 after 14 months of work, including hearings with 31 people and a set of 187 documents (studies, research papers, monographs, data records, position papers).