Finnish police to receive guidance on Internet 'hate speech'

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Police in Finland are collecting together online comments to show to the Office of the Prosecutor General. His deputy says legal guidance is to be given on when Internet postings qualify as illegal "hate speech".

Deputy Prosecutor General Jorma Kalske says plans are afoot to present proposed guidelines on what is and is not accepted in an online context within months, and to consider heavier punishement upon repeat offenders. Current violators of the nation's hate speech law face fines or up to two years in prison, although there has never been a jailing.

"The goal is to deal with those possibly problematic debates the police encounters" on the Internet, says Kalske, noting there is a "relatively substantial" quantity to deal with. He claims comments some politicians had made on immigration constitute "incitement against a population or ethnic group or religion;" immigration-debate remarks are among the material police are sending for consideration.

"The amount of hate speech has increased to such an extent that it’s time to consider together rather closely what the law says on this and clarify at what stage internet writings need to come into the purview of criminal law, when it’s a question of a fine, when of imprisonment and so on," he says. The crux of the matter is "drawing a line between voicing political opinions, expressing freedom of speech and what is called in colloquial language hate speech," he told Agence France-Presse.