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Hate speech

20 convicted in Netherlands for making sexist and racist comments about black politician

May 19, 2017

Twenty people were convicted of racist and sexist online hate speech in a Dutch court on Thursday, after a black politician, Sylvana Simons, faced online abuse from a reported 40,000 internet users. Only 22 people had been charged in the case, after the court decided to prioritize prosecutions of those who had made the worst comments and whose identities were verifiable.

“Freedom of opinion is great, especially if it fits into a social debate,” the court said in a statement. “But when this opinion is an insult, threat, riot or discrimination, there is a criminal offense.”

Simons, 46, had became famous as a television and radio host before announcing her candidacy for Denk, a pro-immigrant party that focuses on combating racism, sexism, and misogyny. After the announcement of her candidacy, Simons said she had been bombarded with racist invective. Further abuse came, she added, after she was seen protesting against Black Pete, a controversial Dutch Christmas tradition that involves children running around in blackface.

While the court said it hoped that the sentences would have a “deterring effect” on online abuse, the harshest punishment issued was for only 80 hours of community service. In that case, the defendant had been accused of digitally altering a video of a Ku Klux Klan lynching so that Simon’s face stood in place of the victim’s. Another 16 defendants faced fines of roughly $165 to $500, while three others were also sentenced to community service.

Just after the sentences were handed out, a phone outside the courtroom could be heard playing “Oh Susannah” — the same song used as a soundtrack for the altered KKK lynching video.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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