SPAIN has joined nine other European countries in an action day against racist and xenophobic hate speech on the internet.

In the first of its kind, Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre coordinated the operation, led by Germany, which took place in Czechia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Norway, and the United Kingdom as well as Spain.

Law enforcement agencies made a total of  97 raids and interrogated an undisclosed number of people over offences such as dissemination of racist and xenophobic hate speech, calls to violence and incitement to commit offences. In Germany alone, officers searched 81 houses.

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Police targeted online hate

The coordinated action targeted communities and people spreading hate via the internet using different types of content such as posts, comments, and memes that spread hate and propaganda.

A Europol spokesman said: “The operation, targeting no specific organisations or groups, aimed at preventing hate crime, racism and xenophobia circulating online. Law enforcement worked together to also increase awareness of individuals and groups that the World Wide Web is not a legal vacuum.”

He warned that the day showed there was nowhere to hide for lawbreakers trying to hide behind the secrecy of the internet.

He said: “Supposed anonymity does not hinder law enforcement from taking measures against unlawful acts. This first joint action day on hate crimes sends a clear signal to individuals spreading violent hatred on the internet that their actions will be detected.”

Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre supported this initiative of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt) from the start with operational coordination and facilitation of information exchange. Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre monitored all contributions, provided analytical support and an overview on the operational activities in continuous and direct contact with the involved law enforcement authorities.

The action was supported also by Finland and other countries through awareness raising on national social media platforms.

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