Swedish government investigator Carl Heath has recommended the state crack down even harder on so-called hate speech online, as well as disinformation and propaganda.
According to Mr Heath, a researcher at Sweden’s RISE research institute, propaganda and hate speech are a threat to the country’s democracy.
“In times like these, where disinformation and propaganda influence how we make decisions, they pose challenges to our democracy, and they drive conflict. They create polarisation and make an open and democratic conversation more difficult,” Heath told broadcaster Sveriges Radio.
“In the light of what I see, the situation is serious, and we need to act,” he added. While claiming that Sweden has a robust democratic system, he went on to claim that in the last ten years, the democratic conversation has changed, mainly due to social media platforms.
“We have never had such a great opportunity to make our voice heard in digital media. That’s good, but at the same time, we see that digital platforms are also arenas in which we see disinformation, propaganda, and nastiness spread,” he said.
Swedish Social Justice Group Credited with Tripling Hate Crime Convictions https://t.co/d7PoUfc9QA
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 21, 2019
Sweden’s democratic system, particularly the voting system, has, in fact, been criticised by groups like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the past. In 2018, an election observer expressed shock at Sweden’s national election, claiming it was “undemocratic”.
“In all the many election observations I’ve been on, I have not seen anything that comes close to how undemocratic the Swedish voting system is,” Danish OSCE election observer Michael Aastrup Jensen said in 2018.
Mr Heath also said that the government needs to do more to crack down on so-called hate speech online. He said: “We see that far too many people are threatened and that far too few crimes are reported. This is an area that we see must be taken seriously.”
Swedish saw a surge of new hate crime prosecutions in 2018 due to the activity of the social group Näthatsgranskaren which reports alleged hate crimes to authorities. The Swedish Public Prosecutor’s Office stated that in 2018, the country saw 459 prosecutions — triple that of just two years earlier.