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FRANCE’S THEN interior minister Brice Hortefeux walks next to a tombstone desecrated by vandals with a Nazi swastika and the slogan ‘Jews out’ in the Jewish Cemetery of Cronenbourg near Strasbourg in 2010.(Photo by: REUTERS)
EU lawmakers, Jewish NGO join forces to fight hate crime
New project seeks to increase monitoring of hate speech.
The first vice president of the European Commission is set to participate in the launch of an effort to fight hate crime, scheduled to be hosted at Google’s offices in Brussels next week.

The initiative is the fruit of a new project called Facing all the Facts, funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Program of the EC, and coordinated by nonprofit organization CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe.

Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans will talk about the commission’s approach to dealing with hate crime and hate speech, at an event next Monday that will kick off an online training course to monitor such activity.

Law enforcement agencies from the UK, Italy and Hungary will attend the event, along with representatives from the EC, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Open Society Foundations and numerous civilian-society organizations that are stakeholders and collaborators in the initiative.

Noting a correlation between hateful discourse online and actual hate crime – including harassment, vandalism and violence – the initiative seeks to help law-enforcement professionals and civilian-society organizations better monitor and counter hate speech.

“EU member states are now accountable for recording bias-motivated crimes and ensuring that victims have access to justice,” said a press release released by CEJI on Wednesday.

Facing all the Facts evolved from an initiative called Facing Facts, which was founded in 2011 to increase the capacity of civilian-society organizations to monitor hate crime.

“This was needed because very few governments in Europe were recording data on bias-motivated crimes, and that which was recorded was done inconsistently across the European Union,” said Robin Sclafani, director of CEJI and founder and coordinator of the project. “We knew that the governments were not going to make big changes in their policies without civilian-society organizations holding them accountable. We had to prove the problem so that it would be taken seriously.”

Sclafani said various community organizations have banded together to address the problem of hate crime and hate speech, as well as law enforcement organizations, Internet industry leaders and the EC.

“Social media have become the primary medium for promoting hate and particularly antisemitism, and it becomes ever necessary to educate victims and help them monitor and combat this new evil,” said Mike Whine, government and international affairs director of the UK’s Community Security Trust, a partner in the project. “It is also vital to involve the social networks themselves to enable them to better understand how their platforms are misused and to help fund counter action. We are therefore grateful to Google, Facebook and Twitter for recognizing their responsibilities and for enabling our project.”

Facing all the Facts is set to run until the end of 2018, and will establish new e-learning modules for police, prosecutors, policy makers on hate crime and hate speech. These modules will become part of the e-learning platform called Facing Facts Online which is also launching the first e-learning course on hate crime monitoring for civilian-society organizations.
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