Unboxing Hate Speech: European Impulses for Respect and Solidarity on the Web

Digital Conference, 18 February 2021

Hatred, exclusion and verbal violence are increasingly a threat to our democracies, not only, but primarily online. Hate speech violates human rights, assails the culture of debate and solidarity, and drives people out of public space.

What do politics and civil society in Europe need to do to actively counteract hate speech on the internet, while at the same time protecting freedom of expression? What role can the Council of Europe play? And what can we learn from one another?

We cordially invite you to help to unpack the toxic package that is hate speech and to develop counter-strategies.

Digital Conference

„UNBOXING HATE SPEECH – European Impulses for Respect and Solidarity on the Web“
18 February 2021, 10.00 to 16.00

The conference is being organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the German Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. It is taking place within the framework of Germany’s Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

All information and the conference programme can be found here: 

The public programme will be streamed live in German and English. You can participate in the discussion via chat and a number of surveys. In the Open Workspace you can try out practical approaches to counter speech with actors from the online community.


Conference attendees include Christine Lambrecht, Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection // Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs // Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe // Michael Roth, Special Representative of the Federal Government for the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe // Louisa Dellert, influencer and businessperson, and many more.

Why this conference?

Hatred, exclusion and verbal violence pose a growing threat to our democracies. Hate speech violates human rights, corrodes the culture of debate within our democratic, pluralistic societies and drives people out of the public arena. Words are often followed by deeds. Actively combatting hate and ensuring that the law is enforced online just as elsewhere, while at the same time defending freedom of speech, are key challenges for political institutions and civil society across Europe.

While hate speech is not a purely online phenomenon, the internet offers a significant echo chamber, whether in public forums or in closed groups. We must not accept this. We must work resolutely to ensure that legal limits are observed, including online, and to promote non-violent, democratic debate. This requires a coordinated effort by governments and civil society in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

As a guardian of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, the Council of Europe has a central role to play in tackling hate speech. Germany aims to support and advance the Council of Europe’s work during its Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers (from 18 November 2020 to 21 May 2021).

What part does the Council of Europe play in the fight against hate speech? What must be done to continue developing a Europe-wide strategy? What has been learnt in the member states with regard to regulation, supervision, law enforcement and political education? What work is being done by European civil society organisations?

Hate speech has many faces, and the counter-strategies must be just as multifaceted. We will unpack this toxic phenomenon, tackle its individual components and put together a package of counter-strategies.

Find the live blog of the conference and more highlights here.