Authoritarian calls to monitor “dangerous language” used on the Internet are growing in Finland, with one senior government official claiming he is pursuing such an initiative for the public’s own good.
According to AFP, Finland’s top prosecutor is looking to tweak the legal boundaries of Internet hate speech and give the police stricter guidelines.
“The goal is to deal with those possibly problematic debates the police encounter” in online blogs and comments, Deputy Attorney General Jorma Kalske explained.
He also noted law enforcement officials had come across a “relatively substantial” quantity of online content that could be perceived as hate speech or calls of action against certain populations and religious groups.
“It is a matter of drawing a line between voicing political opinions, expressing freedom of speech and what is called in colloquial language hate speech, which in criminal law terms is incitement to hostility against a population group,” said Kalske.
The Deputy Attorney General also stated that anti-immigration speeches and articles written by certain politicians might be considered “incitement against a population or ethnic group or religion.”
In Finland, hate speech is currently punished with a fine or up to two years in the slammer. Still, no one has ever been locked up due to the country’s hate speech laws.
The Attorney General’s office plans on presenting a new initiative that will clarify what, exactly, constitutes a hate speech crime in an online context in the next few months. His office is also mulling over more severe punishments for repeat offenders.
The new proposal comes just weeks after the fatal double attacks in Norway on July 22, which filled Northern Europe with fear.
The lone gunman in the attacks, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian rightwing extremist, had written a manifesto that he posted online before the attacks. He was supposedly inspired by other far-right bloggers; he was also allegedly motivated by far-right Finnish parliamentarian Jussi Halla-Aho.
Behring Breivik first bombed government offices in Oslo, killing eight people. He then went on a shooting rampage on the island of Utoeya where the dominant Labor Party’s youth wing was attending summer camp events. The massacre killed another 69 people, many of whom were teenagers.
So be careful what you say online if have an IP address that originates from Finland. If it’s too hateful you might soon become a target of the government.