Confronting digital anti-Roma speech

The ERRC released a volunteer survey to combat digital anti-Roma speech by observing, recording, and reporting hate speech in four countries.

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On 17 May, the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) released a new volunteer survey titled ‘Roma rights defenders’. Between November 2020 and August 2021, volunteers conducted research in four countries: Albania, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. The study is the first release of an ongoing ERRC effort to combat digital anti-Roma speech by assisting and sponsoring volunteer organisations. They observed, recorded, and reported hate speech, and the ERRC president underlined that anyone who advocates anti-Roma hatred would encounter consequences.

The researchers developed communities of digital activists tasked with monitoring the denigration of Roma and discovered large-scale hate speech content in online media and social networks.

Despite their disparities, certain elements appear throughout the four different countries studied. Roma is frequently accused of petty thievery, organised crime, social welfare misuse, and fraud in target nations’ online comments. Affirmative action initiatives are often accused of being used unfairly by Roma.

In a study, Roma activists advocated for more precise definitions of hate speech, the ban on direct encouragement of violence against racial minorities, and the implementation of proportional punishments for hate speech. They also urge authorities to work with the media, educational institutions, and civil society to increase awareness and combat negative stereotypes and racial biases towards Roma. Social media platforms are also urged to fulfil their duty to remove hate and disinformation directed towards Roma communities and other ethnic minorities as soon as possible. According to the findings, it is not only required to combat the immediate threat of hate speech but also to change the broader context in which anti-Roma beliefs are acceptable in society, particularly in the United States.