Privately expressed forms of hate
There should be no illusions that expressions containing hatred and offensive language towards certain individuals and groups is a daily occurrence in the private sphere. Because of their general negative attitudes towards these persons (groups), some people tend to express opinions in harsh and offensive ways in their private communication.
example Two buddies share multiple racist jokes while playing video games.
This private communication will not usually be considered to be hate speech, as the aim of hate speech is to publicly invite groups of persons and even society as a whole to hatred. Therefore, it will not amount to a human rights violation and will not be punished. However, if unchecked, privately expressed hate speech feeds back into the public sphere, inciting further tension and other forms of illegal discrimination and abuse. Thus, the State should make efforts to ensure proper education about the harm caused by hate speech and discrimination.
Publicly expressed hate speech
In most European countries, publicly expressed hate speech is considered to be very serious and punishable. Estonia has not adequately criminalised hate speech. Nonetheless, Estonian Penal Code includes provision on prohibition of incitement to hatred. Activities which publicly incite to hatred, violence or discrimination against listed groups are punishable by a fine of up to three hundred fine units or by detention. However, the provision also includes a condition restricting the scope of the article making incitement a criminal offence only in cases where the victim’s health, life or property are at stake.
If the act of incitement causes the death of a person or results in damage to health or other serious consequences; or it is committed by a person who has previously been punished by such act then the incitement of hatred is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to three years’ imprisonment.
Hate speech can take different forms and can be disseminated not only in “real life” but also on the Internet. It can be classified in different categories. For example, hate speech aimed at incitement to religious or racial hatred.
example A group of people held an unsanctioned public meeting near a local church where they shouted slurs aimed at Christians.
Hate speech online
Online hate speech is tolerated more than hate speech expressed “offline”, namely, in real life, and is, unfortunately, more difficult to control. It is also easier for users to be abusive online than offline. Hate speech online is propagated and amplified by underestimating its effects and by the thought that users on the internet have some impunity or are protected by anonymity. However, such thinking is incorrect, as public authorities are also implementing the necessary measures to combat hate speech which is disseminated online.
example Several internet users posted hateful comments under an article about a gay couple getting married and adopting a child. The users were later tried and found guilty of incitement to hatred.
Most of the time, hate speech online will be considered to be equal to hate speech expressed “offline”, namely, in real life, and the users spreading hate speech can be held accountable. Because of the way that the Internet works, the platforms and portals that create the conditions for the dissemination of hate speech and do not remove comments containing it in a timely way, can be held accountable as well.
example A news portal faced fines because the portal did not take any action after receiving reports about hateful comments under articles posted on the news portal about Jews.
Denial, trivialization, condonation and glorification
Estonia has not criminalised some specific forms of hate speech such as public condoning, denying or gross trivialisation of international crimes and the Holocaust, when such conduct aims at inciting violence or hatred. Since there is no adequate regulation in Estonia, the presented information refers to international standards and practice.
The State has a responsibility to punish any intentional public condonation, denial, gross trivialization or glorification of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes directed against a group of persons or members of such a group, when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against it or them.
example During a TV interview, a person claims that the Holocaust led to the deaths of only a few Jewish people and not millions, thus disputing the existence of this crime.
Articles 91-92 and 100
Articles 6, 10, 14
Articles 19, 20
Articles 12, 17, 45
14 January 2020
20 February 2007
24 June 2003
20 October 2015
8 January 2019
30 October 1997
adopted on 8 December 2015