Justice minister calls for education as an end to online hate speech

Justice minister Owen Bonnici said legislation is not enough in the fight against online hate speech, urging for the better education of children with regard to tolerance

Just minister Owen Bonnici was addressing an experts' conference against online hate speech
Just minister Owen Bonnici was addressing an experts' conference against online hate speech

Younger generations need to be better educated in ways of tolerance and respect in order to fight against online hate speech, justice minister Owen Bonnici has said.

Addressing an experts’ conference against online hate speech this morning, Bonnici said that to overcome the challenges with regard to this issue, it is not only essential to enact laws, but also to push education.

“Our children nowadays are internet savvy from such a young age, it is their world after all. They are the children of the digital age, of social media…To achieve great results, I believe it is essential to enact laws that combat online hate speech, but we have to do more. It is crucial to teach our children, from a young age, about respect and tolerance,” Bonnici said.

The minister cited a recent study commissioned by SOS Malta, which showed that one out of three people interviewed had been a victim of hate speech on social media.

“It is a well known fact that hate speech has increased in its intensity and also in its impact during the last few years, mainly due to the various technological developments,” he said.

While insisting that freedom of speech was a fundamental human right, Bonnici said that the current government has striven to create a distinction between mere criticism and actual hate speech.

“Discourse should not be aimed at fomenting hatred of others just because they have a different opinion or because to someone's mind they are different,” he said.

Bonnici said that last year, the government implemented several amendments in the Criminal Code in order to protect individuals against hate speech, adding that legislation, however, was not sufficient to solve the issue.

“We must also speak and educate against hate speech. I say this because this is clearly a responsibility we all have, as much as we have as members of our respective societies. We have responsibilities as members of the wider, global cyber community,” Bonnici said.

He reiterated that children must be taught about the values and the benefits that come from showing respect and tolerance.

“We might be different from one another in many ways but we are united in diversity,” he said.