Publication Date: July 2019
Publisher: Article 19
Research and Editorial Team: Article 19

The Background

In May 2019 the Italian regulatory agency on communications (AGCOM, Autorità per le garanzie nelle comunicazioni) issued a new regulation on respect for human dignity and the principle of non-discrimination in relation to hate speech, establishing new rules for audiovisual and radio service providers, as well as for providers of video-sharing platforms. Pending the implementation of the revised EU Audiovisual Media Service Directive (2018 AVMSD), the Italian authority has included the providers of video-sharing platforms services into the regulation.

ARTICLE 19's comments

Though welcoming the new narrowed definition of hate speech, the reviewers still recall that “any prohibition of hate speech should comply with the international framework”, which distinguishes several forms of hate speech according to its gravity. ARTICLE 19 objects that the Italian Regulation is still too vague and that the definition written in Art. 1(n) should be completed by mentioning the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Given that ARCTICLE 19 prefers self-regulation to co-regulation, and that the Italian situation has proved that self-regulation is not enough, there are some problematic issues in the co-regulatory mechanism suggested by AGCOM:

  • many references are unnecessary and misplaced, leading to misunderstandings;
  • the reference to “awareness campaigns” is confusing (who shall shape and run them?);
  • the reference to new codes of conduct adopted by audiovisual media service providers and/or by providers of video-sharing platforms is misleading, creating a disparity of treatment;
  • ARTICLE 19 regards the flagging of violations as a measure without a parameter which risks to remain a mere box-ticking exercise, without real efforts to fight hate speech;
  • finally, the obligation to send a quarterly report is seen as not efficient, as the definition of hate speech is still too vague.

In the Regulation, only associations can report hate speech: this limitation is seen as “disproportionately narrow” and possibly negatively impacting the efficacy of the reporting system.

Conclusions

ARTICLE 19 admits that a number of improvements are contained in the Regulation, but still calls AGCOM to “ensure that the Regulation is compliant with the international standards on freedom of expression” and encourages “AGCOM to provide clarifications on the interpretation of the Regulation’s provisions, in order to ensure legal certainty for all relevant actors”.

Tags: Hate_Speech Freedom_of_expression Journalism_education Media_freedom Italy Audiovisual_Media_Services Media_Law

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