On 15 May 2019, with Resolution no. 157/19/CONS, the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) adopted a regulation containing provisions relating to the respect for human dignity and the principle of non-discrimination and to counteract hate speech.
Over the last few years, the Authority has registered a growing and alarming increase in the use of expressions of discrimination against categories or groups of people on the basis of their ethnic origin, sexual orientation or religious beliefs, in television programs from the main national broadcasters, as well as on video sharing platforms.
The scope of the Regulation
The Regulation has a twofold scope. On the one hand, it is addressed to audiovisual and radio media service providers who fall under Italian jurisdiction, establishing the principles to which they must adhere when transmitting information and entertainment programs in order to ensure respect for human dignity, the principle of non-discrimination and the fight against hate speech.
On the other hand, it is particularly aimed at the providers of video sharing platforms, who promote the adoption of forms of co-regulation and educational campaigns on the subject, in addition to the development of codes of conduct.
Initiatives to counteract hate speech
The Authority encourages the providers of private audiovisual and radio media services, albeit with a lower degree of commitment than that envisaged for RAI (the Italian public broadcasting company), to promote initiatives on issues of social inclusion and cohesion, as well as the promotion of diversity and fundamental human rights.
In line with these purposes, the aforementioned suppliers must also take a series of precautions, paying particular attention to the use of expressions and any graphic elements in those programs that may generate discriminatory effects.
Co-regulatory procedures are also promoted so as to encourage the adoption, by both audiovisual media service providers and video sharing platforms, of measures aimed at countering the online distribution of content in violation of the principles set out in the Regulation.
Video sharing platforms are, finally, invited to: (i) provide effective systems for detecting and reporting offences and their perpetrators, and (ii) send the Authority a quarterly report on the monitoring that has been carried out in order to identify online hate content. Such reports should also indicate the operating methods and verification systems used.
Violations of the principles and sanction system
Violation of the principles set out in the Regulations may be episodic or systematic. In the first case, the Authority limits itself to notifying the supplier in question of the violation detected, also giving notice thereof on its own website. In the second case, or in the presence of particularly serious violations, the Authority initiates a sanction procedure that may result in a warning to the media service provider not to repeat the illegal conduct. In the event of non-compliance with the warnings, the Authority may apply an administrative sanction of EUR 10,300.00 to EUR 258,000.00, which is provided for in Article 1, Paragraph 31, of Law No. 249 of 31 July 1997.