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Pressure Group Releases Easy Guide To Prosecuting Online Hate Speech

An Austrian NGO has created a guideline for offended parties to easily report any anti-migrant ‘hate speech’ messages to police in order to prosecute those who post them.

Non-governmental organisation (NGO) SOS-Mitmench, or SOS Fellow Man, is a pressure group which was formed to combat what they call “anti-foreigner sentiment” and has been a fierce critic of the anti-mass migration Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) since its formation in 1992.

The group’s most recent project is set to tackle what they refer to as “hate speech” online; but according to them this includes not only incitement to violence but also insults and derogatory remarks, reports Kurier.

Alexander Pollak, spokesman of SOS Fellow man, claims that there has been a rapid increase in the number of so-called “hate postings” on social media and elsewhere on the internet. Along with speech that offends, Mr. Pollak said “there are also groups that use the Internet specifically to disseminate false information” – but was not clear on what information in particular  should be cause for legal action and prosecution from the Austrian authorities.

According to Mr. Pollak his organisation has been inundated by members of the public who have requested their help in trying to combat anti-migrant speech online. He claims that many people in Austria are anxious over comments on social media platforms and want to know how to report the posters properly to the police.

“They want to know how to respond to hate postings,” Mr. Pollak said.  He claimed that was the reason the group has set up a new page outlining the best ways to report offensive online postings to police and what type of speech would likely qualify for prosecution.

The guide on the group’s website claims that people who are victims of hate speech or see others who are being insulted should “not stand idly by” but rather take action by reporting what they see. The site says that people who observe hate speech should screenshot and provide links to anything they see online to help any investigation. Also listed are several links to places online where hate speech can be reported.

The prosecution for speech crimes in Austria and Europe has been on the rise since the start of the migrant crisis with many seeing the limits of what is deemed acceptable to be shrinking by the day. In Germany several high profile cases of speech on social media have led to arrests, raids on people’s homes, and convictions including PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann.

While some who have been arrested were legitimate neo-Nazi sympathisers, others have been convicted for merely criticising mass migration and the policies of European countries toward the migrant crisis.

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