Online content moderation – harassment, hate speech and (incitement to) violence against specific groups

This project analyses online hatred in selected EU Member States through collecting and analysing incidents of sexist and racist hatred expressed on selected online platforms.
Project Status
Project Manager
David Reichel
Project start date


This project addresses content moderation of online hatred against women and ethnic minorities, linked to harassment, hate speech, and incitement to violence and hatred.

This project will collect data using a broad definition of online hatred, including expressions of hatred online against women and ethnic minorities. The analysis will not assess the legality of the content. It will contribute to the categorisation and development of a typology of examples of online hatred through assessing the characteristics of hateful expressions online. This should lead to a greater understanding of the content and context of online hatred, as well as its scope and nature, in selected countries.

The results aim to guide fundamental rights-compliant online content moderation, in the EU, particularly in terms of countering misogynistic and racist speech online.


Online hatred has become an everyday reality for many population groups across the EU, in the form of hate speech, harassment, or incitement to violence or hatred. Companies running online platforms are striving to moderate the content on their services. Online hatred is pervasive and challenging to regulate due to the scale of online communication, which has increased considerably in recent years.

This project responds to ongoing legal and policy developments in relation to online content moderation, most notably the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Services Act. The EU’s Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA5 requires Member States to ensure that certain acts, including public incitement to violence or hatred directed against people with reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin, are punishable by law. The Framework Decision also covers situations where “conduct is committed through an information system”. In 2018, the European Commission published guidance on the practical application of the Framework Decision to support the common understanding of its provisions and concepts. Earlier, in 2016, the Commission set up a High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. This group supports EU and national efforts to effectively implement relevant rules, and set up policies to counter hate crime and hate speech.

The European Commission agreed a Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online with IT companies and social media platforms so they can help users notify illegal hate speech on social platforms, improve support to civil society and coordination with national authorities.

The Council of Europe also extensively engages in the area through its work on freedom of expression and hate speech. For example, from 2020 to 2021, its Committee of Experts on Freedom of Expression and Digital Technologies (MSI-DIG) explored the impacts of digital technologies and AI on freedom of expression. In addition, its Committee of Experts on Combating Hate Speech (ADI/MSI-DIS) prepared a Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to addressing hate speech within a human rights framework.


In four EU Member States, sexist and racist comments will be collected from social media channels. Comments will be collected by searching keywords. This includes words that are commonly linked to online hatred in relation to gender and ethnic origin for specific groups in the countries covered.

These comments will be analysed quantitatively and qualitatively to get a better understanding of how online hatred manifests itself in the selected countries.

Results of the project are expected in 2023.

See also