By now we live in a global world, wrapped in a network that feeds on our smartphones and PCs through chats, blogs, forums and it is through these channels that feelings of racial hatred, political, offensive behavior towards other people have found vent, generating a new concept of hate speech.
Hate speech on line represents a very complex legal problem to face and solve, because if it is true that our legal system has precise rules to defend against the crime of defamation, technology has a much higher speed than the evolution of law. The jurisprudence, however, is adapting to these new needs, stating that social networks and chats are equivalent to public places, even if the right to defend the victims often becomes a tortuous path, especially because the operators of online services are always foreign companies.
Many complaints are not followed up in court, as they are filed for purely procedural reasons, because a simple screenshot is not enough to report a hate crime on social networks, because in order for the image to have legal value and become evidence in a court of law, it is necessary to use techniques of ‘crystallization of evidence’ that preserve from possible alterations with Photoshop.
The European Commission with its General Policy Recommendation n.15 against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe (ECRI) of 2016, defines online hate, better known as hate speech, as: “the instigation, promotion or incitement of denigration, hatred or defamation of a person or group of persons, or the subjecting of such person or group to bullying, harassment, insults, negative stereotyping, stigmatization or threats, and includes the justification of these various forms of expression, based on a variety of grounds, such as ‘race’, color, language, religion or belief, nationality or national or ethnic origin, as well as ancestry, age, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and any other personal characteristic or situation.”
Subsequently in 2016, the European Commission and the largest IT players (Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube) signed and adopted a code of conduct to counter unlawful online hate speech, the implementation of which has brought the first positive results. 89% of content reported as offensive is evaluated and 72% removed within 24 hours by IT companies
; more than double the number compared to the period before the application of the code.
The goal of the European Union, member states, social media and other platforms is to all share a collective responsibility to promote and foster freedom of expression in the online world while ensuring that the Internet does not become a freely accessible repository of violence and hatred.
In this diverse and fickle world, there is not only the issue of individual responsibility, but also that of corporate responsibility for what is published on online spaces. This opens up a new market that is developing rapidly also for insurance companies and startups in the sector that are developing new products to cover what, more than ever, has become a common need. The main insurance companies have equipped themselves with insurance coverage for these crimes, in some cases extending protection, even to the author of the crime: because, especially in cases of cyber bullying and cyber mobbing, the damages caused by the author burden the family.
Even the world of startups is quickly adapting, using Artificial Intelligence to combat this phenomenon, starting from an analysis of the sentences issued in this field and creating a database to verify whether or not there are grounds for legal action. Thanks to an algorithm, the user discovers if he/she has actually been the victim of a crime and identifies the type of crime, leaving the rest of the way to the lawyers.
The world of Italian technology applied to legal services is booming, as the potential market for those able to simplify procedures and bureaucratic mechanisms is enormous, with a continuous growth of legaltech startups; today there are 39 in Italy and about 1,300 worldwide for a global value of over 1 billion in turnover.
The role of education in the fight against cyberbullying becomes fundamental; the fight against cyberbullying is fought through training, and for this reason software has been created that can analyze the social networks used by minors in search of traces of abuse, pedophilia, and hatred. Artificial intelligence also intervenes here, alerting adults with a “software, which, when it detects abnormal behavior, contextualizes only the incriminated post, and allows to intervene with full knowledge of the facts by downloading a report full of information. Tracks that allow, among other things, to ask the platform for the immediate removal of the offense, file a complaint with the postal police and possibly take legal action. It is possible to detect dimensions such as intensity, frequency and repetitiveness of the attacks”. This action cannot be separated from the involvement of schools, which must be an integral part of this process.
Surely these are only systems to contain the phenomenon, which represents an epochal problem of the new society, and certainly do not solve it at the source. We are faced with a new type of pathology that some define as abuse of freedom, also aggravated by the circumstance that often, but not always, the profile from which the attacks start is not anonymous, and this leads to believe that those who abuse their freedom believe, in their sub culture, that offending and denigrating someone on social networks is a title of merit in the virtual community to which they belong. On social networks, offenses, insults and protests receive likes, hearts, smiling emoticons and comments of approval, much more than comments of approval.
Establishing an obligation to identify those who use a platform by means of an identity document is not enough to solve the problem of online hatred, as the “lions of the keyboard” who tell, offend and insult, have a social profile with real name and surname and a lot of photos.
This new pathology can not be cured only with repression, but through education, culture, dialogue, which can contribute to the search for a solution that will not banish the phenomenon of hatred – racist or not – from the web, but will contain it and confine it, hopefully, to the margins of society.